Over the course of the Pokémon anime’s 20-plus year history, main protagonist Ash Ketchum has had a fair number of traveling companions, from his original posse of Misty and Brock, to later additions like May, Max, Dawn, Iris and Serena. However, when discussing Ash’s fellow travelers, one character who tends to be overlooked is Tracey Sketchit.
Following the conclusion of Pokémon’s original Kanto-set “Indigo League” arc, Ash and company did not head straight for the Johto region. Rather, they took a detour in the form of the “Orange League” arc. During this time, Brock briefly parted ways with Ash and Misty. In his place, the anime added Tracey Sketchit, a Pokémon watcher who, as his surname implies, had a penchant for sketching Pokémon.
The “Orange League” arc is something of an oddity in and of itself. Its story is set on the Orange Islands, a region that is exclusive to the anime and has never appeared (or even been so much as mentioned) in the Pokémon video game series. The arc was presumably crafted by the anime’s creators as a way to buy time for the game developers as they put the final touches on the Johto region.
As the new third member of Ash’s traveling party, Tracey was a major figure throughout the aspiring Pokémon master’s journey on the Orange Islands. Tracey’s most prominent cinematic appearance came in Pokémon The Movie 2000: The Power of One, the franchise’s second feature film, which released as part of the “Orange League” arc. But when the arc wrapped up proper back in the main anime and our heroes returned to Kanto, Tracey decided to stay in Pallet Town as Professor Oak’s new assistant. Meanwhile, Ash and Misty reunited with Brock, and the trio headed to Johto.
Despite retiring from the main cast ahead of the “Johto League” arc, Tracey continued to pop in from time to time, and could often be seen working around Oak’s lab back in Kanto. He even got two more movies under his belt, making brief appearances in Pokémon 3: The Movie – Spell of the Unown: Entei and Pokémon 4Ever – Celebi: The Voice of the Forest.
While Tracey’s minor appearances in the anime continued well past the Johto era, his last time really being a featured player was when he starred in a few episodes of Pokémon Chronicles, a short-lived spinoff anthology series that put the focus on the franchise’s secondary characters. Back in the main series, Tracey’s final speaking appearance came in “Home is Where the Start Is!” — the last episode of Pokémon the Series: Ruby and Sapphire and, by extension, the end of Ash’s journey in the Hoenn region.
That being said, Tracey did go on to make a couple of silent cameos in the Sinnoh-set Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl and in the Unova-set Pokémon the Series: Black & White. His final on-screen appearance for a good long while came in Black & White’s 2013 finale — “The Dream Continues!” — in which he appears as a vision while Ash reminisces about all his friends before heading to the Kalos region.
After Black & White ended, Tracey was essentially removed from the anime entirely, having no appearances to speak of in Pokémon the Series: XY or Pokémon the Series: Sun and Moon, despite the show revisiting Pallet Town post-Black & White. However, it doesn’t appear as though Pokémon has forgotten about Tracey entirely.
Mr. Sketchit finally graced our screens again in 2017, albeit in a non-story-related capacity, appearing in the end credits of Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! as part of a sequence once again paying tribute to all of Ash’s friends. Just last month, an image of Tracey was even seen in a new episode of the soft reboot anime Pokémon Journeys: The Series — though it’s unclear if the show has any further plans for him.
It just goes to show that while Tracey may not be quite as iconic as some of Ash’s other traveling companions, he was still a significant player in the Pokémon anime’s early days, and it’s nice to see him come back around every once in a while.