Sarah Natochenny Continues to Build a Legacy After Pokémon

Sarah Natochenny has been voicing the lead character in Pokemon, Ash Ketchum, for the last two decades.
Sarah Natochenny has been voicing the lead character in Pokemon, Ash Ketchum, for the last two decades. Photo by Noah Kalina
Pokémon started out as a video game concept in the mid-'90s and has branched out into an expansive media company with a product line that spans movies, television, board games, trading cards, toys, video games, musicals, and even a theme park. At the center of this world is Ash Ketchum, a boy who wants to reach the top of the Pokémon universe alongside his companion Pikachu.

When the show started in 1996, obtaining the title of world champion was a lofty goal for Ash but now, over two decades later, he is a Pokémon master and world champion, leaving him with nothing else to prove or accomplish except pass the torch to a new generation. Ash and Pikachu aren’t the only ones leaving the widely successful phenomenon. One pivotal person found out about the exit in a roundabout way.

“I found out he won at a convention,” says a laughing Sarah Natochenny who stopped by the Pasadena Convention Center for Retropalooza Houston this weekend. “I was genuinely excited. Then as the day progressed people kept asking me what I thought was going to happen to him. Then I heard rumors of Ash being done and, at first, I thought they were ridiculous but gradually it became a more and more plausible idea.”

Natochenny has been voicing the character since 2006. She has been the voice that has entertained and inspired generations of fans as the Pokémon community has grown into the behemoth that it is now. For Natochenny, who also voices characters in Yu-Gi-Oh!, Tokyo Revengers and Grand Theft Auto IV, the experience has been fulfilling, giving her the ability to speak to the world while still maintaining a life of normalcy.

‘It’s like having a little secret. I do get recognized because I do a lot of social media. But I get to be a part of something so big and still be able to walk the earth and not feel like everyone is staring at me. Don’t get me wrong, getting a higher profile comes with benefits but it is a delicate balance between fame and your private life.”

Natochenny continues to maintain that balance as she steps more into the public eye. Her time with Pokémon may be ending but she continues to work on other animation projects and make appearances at conventions while also acquiring more jobs beyond voice acting.

“I just had a podcast called Across From Jericho where I get to play a real live person. I’m also writing a live action movie about a voice actor who loses her job after 20 years. I’ve had the idea for a long time, but I’ve gone back and revisited it now that I’m actually living a similar situation.”

Ash Ketchum may have reached the pinnacle of the  Pokémon world, but Sarah Natochenny is still solidifying her place in the entertainment world. As  Pokémon  focuses on a new generation of main characters, the impact of Natochenny carries on. Her presence on the show may be missed but her legacy won't be forgotten.
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Houston Press contributor DeVaughn Douglas is a freelance writer, blogger, and podcaster. He is 1/2 of the In My Humble Opinion Podcast and 1/1 of the Sleep and Procrastination Society. (That last one isn't a podcast; he just procrastinates and sleeps a lot.)