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In the first episode of the Pokémon anime, Pokémon - I Choose You!, Ash woke up late the day he was supposed to go to Professor Oak's Laboratory to obtain his first Pokémon. When he arrived at the lab, the three available starter Pokémon, Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle, had already been taken by other Trainers who arrived earlier. Seeing that Ash was disappointed, Professor Oak gave him Pikachu, who, at first, did not care at all for his new Trainer, constantly zapping him and anyone else nearby. He refused to go into his Poké Ball, and when Ash failed to catch a Pidgey, he laughed at him. However, by the end of the episode, Ash gained Pikachu's trust by protecting him from an attack by a flock of Spearow. After defeating the flock, Pikachu and Ash soon became inseparable, a moment that was capitalized on by catching a glimpse of an unknown Pokémon flying by. Ash then rushed to the next town in order to get Pikachu hospitalized quickly, as he had received multiple life-threatening wounds in the fight. In Pokémon Emergency!, Ash managed to get to the Viridian City Pokémon Center just in time with the help of Officer Jenny, who chewed Ash out for "mistreating" Pikachu. Nurse Joy agreed to heal Pikachu, and thanks to her, Pikachu managed to regain his health. At the end of the episode, Pikachu managed to gain enough of his strength back to send Team Rocket blasting off for the very first time. Pikachu participated in Ash's first gym battle with Brock in Showdown in Pewter City. It faced Onix, but since his Electric moves were ineffective, Ash forfeited. Ash and Pikachu later trained with Flint in order to increase the strength of Pikachu's Electric moves. Ash later challenged Brock to a rematch, where Pikachu's Thunderbolt attack managed to turn on the gym's sprinkler system, severely harming Onix. Despite Brock forfeiting the match, he still gave Ash the Boulder Badge. Pikachu's next major battle was against Lt. Surge's Raichu in Electric Shock Showdown. Lt. Surge laughed at Ash for attempting to defeat his Raichu with its pre-evolved form. Raichu's Electric moves did prove to be overwhelming for Pikachu, and had to be hospitalized. Later in the episode, Ash offered to let Pikachu evolve into a Raichu with the Thunder Stone that Nurse Joy had given him. However, Pikachu refused, wanting to defeat Raichu on his own terms. In Ash's rematch with Lt. Surge, Pikachu once again struggled. However, Ash soon found out that since Raichu was evolved so early, it did not learn any of the moves that it could only learn in the Pikachu stage, such as Agility. Through Pikachu's use of that move, it managed to gain the upper hand. Raichu responded with an extremely powerful Thunderbolt attack that Lt. Surge was sure could defeat Pikachu. Luckily, Pikachu used his tail as an anchor to absorb the shock, and used Raichu's own attack to defeat it. It was a tough challenge, but thanks to Pikachu, Ash received the Thunder Badge. In Abra and the Psychic Showdown Pikachu was sent out to battle against Sabrina's Abra. It proved to be a tough foe, using Teleport to avoid Pikachu's move. After a period of intense battling, Abra evolved into Kadabra, making it much stronger. In the end Pikachu was defeated. In Ash's rematch with Sabrina in Haunter versus Kadabra, before Haunter showed up, Pikachu selflessly fought Kadabra, only to struggle again. In Pikachu's Goodbye, Ash and the gang ran into another group of Pikachu, which was a very rare find. Pikachu tried to make friends with the other Pikachu, but received at lukewarm response. After saving a baby Pikachu from falling down a waterfall, Ash's Pikachu was accepted by the group. Ash was overjoyed by this at first, but soon began to feel sad because he thought that Pikachu would be better off with the rest of his kind. After stopping Team Rocket from stealing the Pikachu tribe, Ash decided it was best to leave Pikachu behind with the others. Pikachu refused to leave Ash, however, and quickly ran to catch up with him, followed by the Pikachu tribe, who supported Ash and Pikachu being together. In Riddle Me This, Pikachu faced off against Blaine's Rhydon for his seventh gym badge. Despite being immune to Electric moves, Rhydon was defeated when Pikachu aimed his Thunderbolt attack at the horn on Rhydon's head. Pikachu briefly faced Blaine's Magmar, but was recalled when Magmar almost pushed Pikachu in the lava below. Pikachu made friends with another Pikachu, nicknamed Puka in The Pi-Kahuna. This particular Pikachu had blue eyes and was an excellent surfer. Ash and the gang had to save both Pikachu when Team Rocket tried to steal them both. Ash used Pikachu many times during the Indigo League. Pikachu managed to defeat a powerful Arcanine in Fire and Ice by taking advantage of the icy field. However, he struggled against a Bellsprout in The Fourth Round Rumble, and despite trying his best, he was defeated by the skilled Pokémon. Pikachu later faced off against Richie's Butterfree in Friend and Foe Alike where it managed to launch a super-effective Thunderbolt. It then faced off against Zippo. Richie's Charmander, but was quickly overwhelmed by its Flamethrower and was knocked out. Ash decided to take Pikachu, along with many of his other Pokémon, to the Orange Archipelago with him.

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