This section applies to the ILCOE.
Alan Ketchum is the son of Ash Ketchum and travels with Mark and May on their quest from chapter 26 onwards (with a couple of breaks), making him the third most prominent human character in the story.
- Age (current)
- On the tall side, but not remarkably so.
- Dark and spiky, similar to Ash's but a bit longer.
- The cap Ash had in the original series and whatever non-attention-grabbing clothes he can get his hands on. If you draw him or something, I don't really give a damn what you make him wear as long as it is appropriately plain. Alan does not wear anything extravagant.
- None. Sorry.
Since Ash has become something of a celebrity in his adulthood, Alan has always felt like he had big shoes to fill. His first Pokémon was a pet Meowth he named Pamela, but she was of course not used for battling then. When he was nine years old and was with his father in Cleanwater City, he happened to walk around the back of Rick's Gym, heard some strange sounds coming from the garbage, and discovered a barely breathing legendary Pokémon hybrid cub - a failed genetically engineered fusion of Raikou, Entei and Suicune created by the Gym leader and mistakenly thrown out. He kept the cub, which they named 'Rainteicune', as a second pet.
Once he was ten, he received a real starter - Charlie the Charmander - and headed out for the Ouen League, but after obtaining five badges, Molzapart appeared before him and persuaded him to release Rainteicune, and after this, Alan decided to abandon his attempt the Ouen League, largely out of worry for Charlie's wellbeing after Molzapart's attempt to devolve him into a Charmander had left him in an unstable evolutionary state; he released those of his Pokémon that wanted to leave and went home. The next year, after Charlie had learned to control his evolutions, he made another attempt, this time in Hoenn, but after traveling the region and collecting all eight Hoenn badges, he realized he really wasn't interested in participating in the League and instead went home to retire from training altogether, again releasing those of his Pokémon that wished to leave.
Ever since, Alan has been met with an irritating amount of surprise when he tells people that unlike his father he could never really get into the whole Pokémon trainer thing. At the time of the story, he is fifteen years old and thoroughly tired of not meeting anybody's grand expectations.
So Alan has a lot more issues than I realized for the longest time.
His core drive really comes from a huge inferiority complex. As a child, Alan absorbed the great expectations placed on him by people around him into a desire to be the best there ever was - an even greater, even more famous trainer than his father. He started his journey brimming with self-confidence, convinced he was going to replicate all of Ash's achievements and more while avoiding all of his mistakes.
But reality quickly began to crush his overinflated expectations. He wasn't automatically great - in fact, he was pretty mediocre. Telling himself he'd never make some mistake was a vastly different thing from actually managing to avoid it under pressure. Slowly, all his expectations crumbled under his feet, and in place of his confidence came a bitter feeling of failure. He'll tell you he quit training out of a lack of motivation, but that lack of motivation was really more of a crushing fear that if he participated in the League he'd only disappoint himself further. And after making that decision and trying to explain it to his Pokémon, it only made things worse as he began to feel that on top of not being any good as a trainer, he'd betrayed his Pokémon's trust for the sake of his own selfish weakness (prior to this, he felt pretty confident that he was a good person and the good kind of trainer, even if he wasn't that good at training). His tendency to be preachy about Pokémon treatment is in part a kind of overcompensation for his worries about this.
More generally, he has a massive hero complex and a tendency to try to put others' needs and wants before his own even to a fault, which of course stem from his idealized view of who he wanted to be as a kid. These are natural parts of his personality, but when he inevitably fails to be as much of a flawless hero as he feels he ought to be, he starts to break. That's the slow development that happens in chapters 54-66 with his disillusionment from the group and their mission.
The relationship between him and May is interesting because although they appear at a glance to be polar opposites, their issues are actually surprisingly similar - they both have an idealized image of who they want to be that they desperately try to live up to, deal badly with failing to do so, and wrestle with insecurities about their perceived failures. The difference lies largely in exactly what that idealized image consists of - Alan's role model was his father, a kind, brave, strong trainer who constantly helped others in need and saved the world on numerous occasions, whereas May wants more than anything else to be tough, invulnerable and hypercompetent. May presents something of a mental challenge to Alan, as on the one hand he feels like he can (and must) somehow fix her and her treatment of her Pokémon and this will make up for his own insecurities in that regard, while on the other hand, deep, deep down, he envies her talents at battling and secretly wonders if his Pokémon would have preferred a trainer like her after all, someone who would have taken them all the way to the League. And of course, that envy in conjunction with his problems with her causes him a lot of frustration, which feeds into his frustration with her treatment of her Pokémon and makes it bother him that much more (after all, if he can focus enough on how terrible she is to her Pokémon, maybe he can stop feeling like she's actually a better trainer than him).
When Alan finds out Tyranitar killed Taylor, all this spirals out of control: he immediately blames himself for not having noticed and fixed him somehow, and that makes him lash out at May all the harder as a scapegoat for his own feelings of guilt on top of his more genuine discomfort with the fact she indirectly caused someone's death. It is not a coincidence, though, that the moment this culminates in him leaving the group isn't until after they lose miserably to Raudra and Puragon: once again, like when he quit training, he simply can't bear that crushing feeling of failure and tries to escape it by running away from it. Even after his return, when nothing improves and everything just continues to go wrong, he considers quitting again in chapter 66, until thinking out loud and talking with Mark makes him finally realize that it won't actually solve his problems.
As with so much in this fic, of course, I didn't realize half of this until I was in the process of not even writing, but editing chapter 66. I knew about his hero complex and his determination to fix May for a long time, of course, but when he suddenly up and left at the end of chapter 55, it took me completely by surprise; my mental simulation of Alan just suddenly stood up and left them, and while I had a vague idea that the situation had simply become intolerable for him, I didn't realize the true significance of the timing. When I first wrote chapter 66, during NaNoWriMo, Alan had another sudden breakdown in an explosive rant about how much they were failing at everything; at that point I properly made the connection that Alan had always wanted to be a hero like his dad and that he'd hoped this quest would somehow get him everything he'd dreamed of. But originally, Alan's scene at the end of the chapter played out quite differently: he did run off to the Pokémon Center (the girls never left the restaurant in that version, instead relying on May's Pokégear to find Leah's number), and Mark found him there absent-mindedly stroking Charlie. He made a comment about not having been a proper Pokémon trainer, and Charlie objected, and ultimately Mark was completely extraneous to the scene and ended up awkwardly walking out as he realized Charlie seemed to have this covered.
When I edited the chapter, I realized the final scene didn't work at all as it was and decided to rework it to have Mark talking with Alan. This was a far better idea; however, even in the first version of the scene with Mark, Alan just sort of made that comment about not being a proper Pokémon trainer and Mark convinced him otherwise in a sort of trite and abrupt way. Eventually, however, it finally clicked that Alan thinking he was a failure as a Pokémon trainer was actually kind of the key to his entire character. Suddenly I realized that Alan hadn't just been unmotivated: his feelings about having quit back then clearly ran a lot deeper than that, like the reason he'd quit was something he absolutely loathed about himself. And then I realized that he'd quit for the exact same reason he was thinking about quitting now. Which also beautifully brought the conversation full circle: instead of Mark magically persuading him to let go of his deeply-held issues, he'd just make that connection himself and realize quitting had never gotten him anywhere.
And of course, then I went and reread the part of chapter 26 where Alan joins the group, where this happens:
Ash raised his eyebrow. “You never struck me as the type to have any interest in saving the world, to tell you the truth, Alan.”
Alan shrugged. “Sounds more fun than sitting here itching to know whether the world is going to be saved while thinking about how my father is yet again proving how much better he is than me.”
And I'd completely forgotten. Oh, Alan, all along you were way more interesting than I realized.