Personality & Development: Ash's Bulbasaur

Reviewing the characterization of anime Pokémon
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  • Thursday, June 2, 2011

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This column has been written by Thomas Smithurst. It expresses the views of the columnist, not necessarily those of Bulbagarden networks.

My favourite Pokémon from season 1 was indeed Ash's Bulbasaur. He showed intelligence, sensitivity, and comic traits throughout his time on Ash's team and still flourishes with personality whenever he returns to show for a brief stint. Also, Bulbasaur is one of Ash's most notable Pokémon, being the only non-walking Pokémon to refuse to evolve, the only one to return to his team mid-region after being left at Oak's and being the only one of Ash's Kanto team other than Pikachu to stick around through most of the Johto series (as you can read all that in his trivia section). What I find most notable about Bulbasaur is that he had many distinct relationships with other characters besides his Trainer; Squirtle, Heracross and May's Bulbasaur, etc., all giving Bulbasaur chances to show a diverse personality and truly enjoyable character.

High five for Bulbagarden.
He’s an aggressive one.

As I’m sure you all remember, in Bulbasaur's debut episode, we saw him protecting a “Pokémon rest stop” known as the Hidden Village. Now the impression I got from his behavior in this episode was that like the Oddish at the Hidden Village, Bulbasaur had been abandoned by his original Trainer. In fact, it was not until I re-watched the episode that I found that that was never stated, although, if you’ll pardon the speculation, heavily implied, especially when he concluded Ash had abandoned him and his comrades while they were lost on the island of giant Pokémon. In this case my proposed idea of the internal working model, that I mentioned in my previous column, may apply. However, I am not suggesting that Bulbasaur is a young Pokémon; he may have been when he was abandoned, but Bulbasaur was apparently protecting the Hidden Village for a very long time. Furthermore, Bulbasaur was already shown to have a strong bond with Melanie, so perhaps his internal working model did not have him resent humans completely. As with Pikachu and Squirtle, Bulbasaur began to trust Ash after witnessing his bravery and care, and allowed Ash to battle him.

When Bulbasaur joined Ash, by no means did he stop protecting his friends. Bulbasaur often took it upon himself to assure the safety of his friends and keep the peace; Bulbasaur even had a tendency for saving people’s lives with Vine Whip. These actions gave him many leadership qualities that not even Pikachu had. A few times he has been able to exceed Pikachu to calm a situation, most notably being the one to finally get Togepi to settle when the others couldn’t with his Bulbabye.

When Bulbasaur returned to Oak’s to quell the fighting in the gardens, he had an immense time to shine, as he was given his own episode where Ash was not even a co-star. On his mission to keep all the Pokémon happy, Bulbasaur showed initiative and social skills, organizing the construction of a lake and recruiting all of the necessary help to make it. One must question why all the Pokémon who had previously been at each other’s throats, happily work together so that one family may move to a new territory? Bulbasaur does not need sunglasses to command respect, it has been found in research into social psychology that the biggest factor for obedience is that the person obeying fears the consequences of not obeying the figure of authority. Bulbasaur first stopped a battle between the other Pokémon by demonstrating his SolarBeam attack. Pokémon are known for battling one another so it is reasonable to suggest the Pokémon feared Bulbasaur “punishing” them. This seems even more likely, seen as the Pokémon begin fighting again every time Bulbasaur left, but quickly mellowed whenever he returned. It’s plausible that however gentle a soul Bulbasaur is, he commands his respect with an iron fist (or vine).

Cheering for his best friend.

As you know, I’m a fan of the friendship between Bulbasaur and Squirtle. While often Squirtle is louder and more outspoken than Bulbasaur, showing him in the light of a side-kick sometimes, Bulbasaur usually gets coaxed into Squirtle’s endeavors and acts up a lot more. What seems to reoccur is that Squirtle will build up a lot of anxiety with other Pokémon and begin the fight; Bulbasaur will typically try and calm Squirtle, attempting to turn a blind eye, but the other Pokémon, already annoyed by Squirtle, carry on the fight, offending Bulbasaur in some way. Both at the Silver Conference with Meganium and at the theme park with Snubbull, Bulbasaur lashed back twice as hard as Squirtle and the disputes escalated way beyond what they should have been. Similar to peer pressure, it is Squirtle’s mischief that gets Bulbasaur to lose his temper, showing sneaky Squirtle has a little bit of control over his friend.

Bulbasaur's initial response to May's Bulbasaur was to care for her as he would any other vulnerable friend. However, with that little bit of teenage thinking most fans have concluded, their relationship may be something a little more. Of course I will be explaining what I mean, with a little bit of psychodynamics in a future column where it is better suited; May’s Bulbasaur’s column. Unfortunately that issue may be a few months away considering I’m going through the Pokémon characters of season 1, you’ll probably guess who’s next, but until then, I bid you all adieu.

Personality & Development
By Thomas Smithurst
Ash's PikachuAsh's SquirtleAsh's BulbasaurAsh's Charizard
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