by Jeremy Carden
Anyone who has ever watched the original Pokemon series has pondered this question: Why did Charmander stop obeying Ash after it evolved into Charmeleon and then Charizard?
My own personal theory as to why Charmeleon and Charizard refused to obey Ash was because he pushed it too hard.
In the Season 1 episode The March of the Exeggutor Squad, Charmander evolved into Charmeleon.
Melvin the Magician’s Exeggcute hypnotized Ash into helping Melvin capture a large number of Exeggutor using his Pokemon; Bulbasaur, Squirtle and Charmaner. Melvin ended up capturing them all but at the cost of Ash’s Pokemon battling until they were exhausted.
From what I can tell none of them knew that Ash was not himself when ordering them to attack such a large number of Pokemon at once without rest.
At the climax of the episode, the entire Exeggutor herd was stampeding into the city and the group’s only hope was Charmander’s Flamethrower. Ash was finally back to normal no longer controlled by Hypnosis, but again Charmander was exhausted from a barrage of Fire attacks.
Melvin mastered his Raging Fire attack which unleashed a large stream of fire from his magic wand. He combined it with Charmander’s Flamethrower and it was enough to stop the Exeggutor in their tracks and they went back into the forest.
Then Charmander evolves into Charmeleon and from that point on it refused to obey Ash.
A few episodes later it evolves into Charizard in what looked to be an attempt to rescue its trainer from an Aerodactyl.
However, this was not the case as it was just the urge to battle a strong opponent which led to Charmeleon evolving.
Time and time again Charizard’s refusal to battle has resulted in Ash losing important matches. One of the few times Charizard obeyed Ash was when it battled Blaine’s Magmar earning Ash the Volcano Badge. Brock pointed out that the only reason for Charizard obeying Ash was because it wanted to test its strength against a powerful opponent like Magmar. That always struck me as odd because if Charizard wanted to battle a strong opponent like Magmar, and won under the commands of Ash then how come it didn’t deem him as a trainer worthy of its power?
Moving on to the Orange Islands, Charizard once again refused to battle after Ash calls him out to battle a Poliwrath. Battling on his own terms, Charizard suffers a tough loss being frozen by an Ice Beam attack.
Charizard finally obeyed Ash after he takes cares of it all night in order to thaw it out. It seems that Charizard finally understood that Ash cared for it a lot and from that point on the two battled together as a team. If my theory as to why Charizard did not listen to Ash is correct: Ash’s love and care proved to Charizard that he DID care for him.
Seeing Ash do whatever it took to keep Charizard warm reminded me of how he kept Charmander’s tail from getting wet when it was outside in the rain.
Some people speculate that since Ash did not have enough badges he was not able to control Charizard. At the time of Charmander’s evolution into Charmeleon, Ash already had 6 of the 8 Kanto Badges. Charmander was the Pokemon used to defeat Koga’s Golbat for the Soul Badge.
The reason for this theory is because some fans consider Charmander somewhat of a “traded Pokemon” since it had a former trainer Damian. In the video games, if a Pokemon obtained in a trade is at a high level that exceeds the limits of the badges a trainer has on hand it will refuse to obey them. I don’t feel this is good evidence because Damian tricked Charmander into waiting for him on a rock, but it turns out that it was abandoned by its trailer. So technically speaking, Ash “caught” Charmander as a wild Pokemon.
Not to mention in the Pokemon League, Charizard flat out refused to listen to Ash. Despite having all 8 badges and making it to the fifth round of the tournament, Charizard took a nap. In the video games it is stated that anyone with 8 badges can command a Pokemon of ANY level without fail.
*Professor Oak speculated that Charizard did not see Ritchie’s Pikachu as a worthy opponent to battle.*
In any case, its refusal to battle resulted in one of the most shocking disappointments of any child born in the 90s: Ash lost his first Pokemon League Tournament.
This is why the Pokemon game mechanics do not blend so well with some of the things seen in the anime. It appears that a Pokemon will only obey its trainer in the show if it trusts the trainer and some Pokemon will only obey if they deem their trainer worthy of commanding them.
Overall, it seemed that Charmander began to look at Ash the same way it finally saw Damian for what he truly was: a trainer who only cared about it just because it was strong.
Although Ash cared for all of his Pokemon, making Charmander battle multiple times reaching its breaking point is probably why Charmander stopped obeying him after evolution. Need more proof?
Remember that Charmander attacked Damian with its Flamethrower when it decided it was no longer going to be treated wrongly because it was deemed by Damian as weak or battle to its trainer’s content just because it was finally seen as powerful.
After evolving, the first thing Charmeleon did when Ash hugged it was use a Flamethrower that nearly burned part of his head!
In The Problem With Paras, Charmeleon scored a direct hit burning Ash’s face.
Charizard has used its Flamethrower on Ash multiple times in the series whenever it felt that Ash was getting on its nerves.
After finally obeying Ash, Charizard would use his Flamethrower as a greeting when returning from its training in the Charicific Valley. This was just its friendly way of saying “Hello” to its trainer. Similar behavior is demonstrated when Heracross sucks on Ash’s head or Turtwig biting Ash on the arm or head.
Despite being one of Ash’s most difficult Pokemon to work with, the bond between Charizard and Ash is arguably close to the bond between Ash and Pikachu. Keep in mind that Pikachu was not Ash’s buddy when they first met. It took Ash risking his life to protect it from flock of Spearow for Pikachu to begin to trust its new trainer.
Do you agree with my theory?