Gym leader battles are major hurdles for a trainer to clear. In both the games and the anime each gym battle serves as a vital checkpoint in showing just how far a trainer has come in their journey and the growth of their Pokemon as well. Each time a gym leader is defeated, the next one proves to be even tougher. This list takes a look at the best gym battles in the anime.
Honorable mention: Ash vs. Candice
This was a good battle on its own with each of Ash’s Pokemon putting in some work and it seemed to imply Ash was heading into stronger territory as the battle was four-on-four whereas other gym battles were three on three. Sadly that wasn’t the case as in the final gym battle they switch back to three-on-three making it questionable why they chose to go four on four in the first place.
5. Ash vs. Clair (rematch)
This is at the bottom of the list because while it is a good battle and Clair is a good dragon-type leader, there were all of four dragon types and few dragon type moves. Back then dragon was considered a prominent type in the Pokemon world and as far as Ash’s first real battle against a dragon leader goes it is quite a letdown that the Dragon type didn’t get to show its stuff. With that being said, the battle by itself is incredible. Snorlax, Pikachu, and especially Charizard prove to be major powerhouses of Ash’s team and put in some major work against Clair’s arsenal. This was also Ash’s first time using Charizard in battle since the early days of Johto and it was nice to see the fire Pokemon showcase its strength. It also proves to be quite poetic as Ash’s gym wins in the Johto region started with Charizard and ended with them as well.
4. Ash vs. Maylene
This was the battle that truly took a step up for Pokemon battles in Sinnoh. It set the stage for the new members of Ash’s team such as Chimchar and Buizel. It also gave a real threat of an ace Pokemon among the Sinnoh Gym leaders in Lucario. While Roark had his Rampardos, we all knew the writers were not about to make Ash lose to him twice. The same could not be said for Lucario, as this was the first battle against Maylene and Lucario back in the Gen 4 era was truly a threat. It establishes itself as such by subduing Ash’s Staravia and Chimchar respectively in no time at all. The Aura Pokemon overwhelms even Buizel, despite its best efforts. And in a rare twist the battle ends in a draw and it’s the only time we’ve seen a gym battle end as such and it’s an interesting outcome.
3. Ash vs. Blaine (rematch)
No questioning it. This is easily the best of the Kanto Gym battles. This was Charizard’s first real gym battle (yes I know Ash sent it out in the previous bout with Blaine but come on. It completely ignored him) and although he had no real respect for his owner it didn’t stop him from going all out. Charizard pulls out all the moves he can in this battle and it leads to some awesome imagery. The battle also established Charizard as a fiery and prideful Pokemon, which would carry through even after he started listening to Ash (shame that took so long).
2. Ash vs. Volkner (rematch)
This would have been better if Volkner used his Raichu as it shares a similar bond to Ash and his Pikachu. However, for what it is it is an engaging battle worthy of being the last gym. Volkner quickly establishes that he’s not someone to be taken lightly (despite not having battled trainers in a while) as his Electivire is able to dispose of Ash’s Torterra within minutes in one blow (poor thing will never win a battle will it). Even though Pikachu and Infernape are able to turn the tables it doesn’t prevent Volkner from laying on some hurting. The final bout between Infernape and Luxray takes a shocking twist as Infernape’s Blaze ability (which has led to it going berserk and stop listening to commands from its days as Chimchar) kicks in brutally injures Luxray (without Ash giving it any commands) and it nearly attacks Ash in the process. The power going out midway through battle really helps add to this, as Infernape is far more powerful than its pre-evolutions and horrible things could potentially transpire. Despite that, Infernape is finally able to control itself and overwhelm Luxray in an amazing bout that makes the battle as the episode titles “the eighth wonder of the Sinnoh World.”
1. Ash vs. Olympia
This is a visually stunning battle. The space aesthetic of Olympia’s gym gives the battle a sense of beauty that makes it far more distinct than the battle with Tate and Liza particularly with the use of the 3D camera background. Making it a double battle allowed Ash to show some unique combinations that a single battle wouldn’t show. And the way Ash utilizes both Frogadier and Talonflame to assist each other is incredible and it’s not through some made-up tactic (looking at you Thunder Armor) and it furthers the bond between Ash and his Frogadier which back then was a foreshadowing to Ash Greninja (something even Olympia possibly saw).
Are there any others that deserved a spot on this list? Any you agree or disagree with? Well leave them in the comments below!