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It’s been over 10 years since Misty left Ash’s group as he continued on his journey to become a Pokémon Master. Now, she’s coming back in an upcoming episode. Here’s why fans like me are so happy to see her return.
Misty, a water-type Pokémon trainer, was the first companion Ash ever had when he left his hometown of Palette Town to become the best there ever was with his rebellious Pikachu. After an unfortunate encounter with a horde of ferocious Spearow, Ash needed to bring his Pikachu to a Pokémon Center for care. This is where Misty, a passing trainer, made her first appearance. It wasn’t exactly an elegant meeting, however. In order to save his partner, Ash steals Misty’s bicycle and it ends up getting fried by a lightning blast from Pikachu. This led to the now-famous “What about my bike!?” line from an angry Misty, who begins traveling with Ash solely for the reason of getting this ten-year-old boy to reimburse her for her destroyed property.
— Pokémon (@Pokemon) May 19, 2017
However, after Pewter City Gym leader Brock joins the party and they spend more time, we learn more about Misty’s personality and past. Born the youngest of four sisters and one of the heirs of the Cerulean City Gym, Misty always felt left out when it came to her older siblings. While her elder sisters Daisy, Lily, and Violet were considered the beautiful water flowers of the so-called “The Sensational Sisters of the Cerulean Gym,” Misty was much younger and more tomboyish than her siblings, and ended up ditching Gym Leader life in order to go out into the world and become a Water Pokémon Master. When forced to reunite with her family so soon after leaving (when Ash needs to win a cascade badge), Misty’s hesitance shows her dissatisfaction with being stuck in her sisters’ shadows.
Misty’s strained relationship with her sisters is brought up again over and over again throughout the series in quite the subtle manner. While the sisters only make one or two more appearances in the entire anime, Misty makes references to her past when something reminds her of it. For example, in one episode, Ash, Brock, and Misty learn about Queen of the Princess Festival contest that is being held in O-Hina Town. The competition commemorates the Princess Festival, which is the Pokémon universe equivalent to Hinmatsuri, an annual Japanese festival that celebrates little girls with displays of Japanese “hina” dolls (delicate and elegant traditional Japanese dolls). Misty is determined to win the competition and get the grand prize: a set of dolls. This is because she has memories of never having her own set—only being given hand-me-downs from her elder sisters.
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I started watching Pokémon when I was around 6, and as a tomboy myself, Misty was the character I related to the most. Up until Pokémon, the majority of the female characters I had been exposed to were demure Disney Princesses, who were quiet and only wanted peace. They didn’t have any flaws, and if they did—like Ariel from The Little Mermaid—they didn’t get punished for them in the end, always getting a happy ending.
What made Misty a compelling character is that she was outspoken, had plenty of confidence in herself, and also had flaws. She was a strong trainer, but had a temper. She had a feminine side, but couldn’t cook to save her life. She was a great mother to her egg Pokémon Togepi, but sometimes let her pride get in the way of her true feelings toward others. And these flaws of hers would cause problems, which she would have to sort out in order to reach a satisfying conclusion to the episode. While you might think that this characters is common now, in the 90s, characters like Misty were a rarity. She was a character girls could relate to and look up to.
Misty also wasn’t your typical children’s cartoon female character for the time—she didn’t just spout cute one-liners whenever the mostly-male party needed a touch of feminine flair. Misty had character development all throughout the series, with her reason for staying with Ash and Brock changing as the series progresses. While she initially just wants for Ash to pay her back for her bike, little by little, she ends up forgetting about her bike all together—wanting to stay with Ash because of their strong bond forged through plenty of fun times and dangerous situations. While she was constantly annoyed by Brock’s flirtatious tendencies, dragging him away from women troubled by his behavior almost every single episode, he was also the one in the group she related with the most due to his normally down-to-earth attitude and knowledge about the world.
And not only did Misty have a strong personality, she was also a pretty good battler too! She didn’t get as many chances as Ash to fight with her team of Water Pokémon, but she certainly held her own on plenty of occasions. In the anime, Misty won the Queen of the Princess Festival contest, ranked in the Top 8 in the Whirl Cup, and even won the Tour de Alto Mare in the movie Pokémon Heroes: Latios & Latias. Misty went so far as to coach Ash in battling at times, since his hotheadedness sometimes lead him off the right track. Oh, and we all know that Ash and Misty’s battle in the Cerulean Gym was utter bullcrap. Declaring Ash the winner because he could have used Pikachu to defeat her water Pokémon but didn’t? Seriously???
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Misty’s strong presence was sorely missed by fans after her departure following the end of the Johto League. While she returned for a guest appearance here and there for a while, her last speaking appearance was in 2006, with all her other cameos being in flashbacks. While her place as female party member was taken every season by a different character, including May, Dawn, Iris, Serena—and most recently—Lillie in Pokémon Sun & Moon, fans would constantly ask, “Where’s Misty? Is Misty coming back?” While it might be a guest appearance, Misty was and will always be Ash’s first female companion who helped him begin his long, long journey away from Pallet Town. It’s good to see you again, Misty. Welcome home.
And please, please come back sooner next time, OK?