Much as Pokémon trainers would love to believe that their pocketable monster friends are well taken care of, each and every single Pikachu-centric short has made it abundantly clear that Pokémon thrive and are at their best when the humans are just gone. Left to their own devices, the Pokémon get to be their whole-arse selves, which is wonderful.
Though we spend so much time talking about Ash Ketchum and how the child apparently can’t age, the real magic of the Pokémon animated series and films has always been the Pokémon themselves. Too often they aren’t given moments to shine that don’t involve them being made to fight one another in vicious battles. This is the reason that each and every one of the shorts and specials featuring the Pokémon without their trainers is a gem worth revisiting.
It’s always weird when the Pokémon anime goes out of its way to acknowledge and depict real-world cultural events like Christmas, but it’s especially strange that on some level, the Pokémon themselves not only know about holidays but feel the need to help humans engage in the whole seasonal production of it.
The Pichu Brothers — a pair of twin Pichu (Pikachu’s pre-evolved form) are the franchise’s quintessential bad children, which is why they’re featured so largely on this list. The pair of them insist on getting into trouble by dint of their own rowdiness, causing chaos both for the series’ Pokémon that have trainers and for wild Pokémon alike.
Meloetta’s Moonlight Serenade
As the Beyoncé of Pokémon, Meloetta commands a unique kind of power over its peers that in any other context would be the focus of a story. But there are times when Meloetta just wants to sing to its heart’s content, and a key part of making that happen is making sure that the appropriate berries to soothe its voice are readily at hand. As a star, Meloetta can’t be bothered to procure these berries by itself, which is specifically why Pikachu and friends are necessary.
It’s not often that we end up considering whether everyday human tools might lead to a Pokémon’s destruction, but the theme is incredibly present in Pikachu’s PikaBoo. The short film features the Pokémon playing an elaborate game with one another that, at one point, damn near gets an Oddish murdered by way of a lawnmower.
Pikachu, What’s This Key?
As the Pokémon franchised evolved over time, it increasingly began to incorporate more and more inanimate objects into its lore in the form of monsters like Klefki, an improbably typed, steel/fairy monster that’s basically just a set of keys on a ring. Strange as Klefki is, one of them made it possible for Pikachu and his buddies to have one of the most mind-bending journeys of their lives.
Eevee & Friends
Because Pikachu is the undeniable spokesperson for all things Pokémon, he’s received a lot of attention over the years, which is what makes Nintendo’s push to similarly elevate an Eevee to similar heights so refreshing. Even if you aren’t specifically the sort of person that ever went to bat for Eevee and its evolutions, this episode made it obvious that the Eeveelutions were, in a way, the kinds of Pokémon that aspiring trainers would be better partnered with. If only because they became themselves as a direct response to how their trainers interacted with them.
Trouble in Big Town
The Pichu brothers, much as they’re represented on this list, are not in and of themselves all that important. Their gravity, rather, exists within what it is that they represent about Pokémon — that they can develop deep, powerful relationships with one another that read as incredibly human.
Pikachu & Pichu
Under most circumstances, a trip to the big city would be cause for excitement for a Pokémon with any sense, but for Ash’s Pikachu specifically, said trip meant being confronted with a pair of its un-evolved peers who found delight in the idea of Pikachu being fatally hurt. [Editor’s Note: What? -Jill P.] They meant well, to be sure, but the Pichu Brothers’ earliest appearances, while delightful, were terror incarnate.
Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure
What Ash, the other trainers, and all of their collective Pokémon tend to forget is that Pikachu had an entire life before professor Oak captured him with the intent of handing him off to a child. What makes Rescue Adventure such a strong story isn’t just that it delves into bits of Pikachu’s history, but that it wholly features an entire community of Pokémon coming together in order to work a major issue (namely a missing egg). They speak to one another about their concerns and then turn said concerns into action.
Pikachu’s Vacation deserves the most recognition because it was the first of the shorts to truly illustrate just how human Pokémon could be when actual humans weren’t around. Pikachu’s rivalry with a wild Raichu was cute, for sure, but it also spoke to Pikachu’s larger beliefs that evolution wasn’t necessarily the right path for all Pikachu.