Watch Ash’s Japanese voice actor from Pokémon anime perform the theme

Rika Matsumoto, the voice of Ash Ketchum in the original Japanese version of the Pokémon series, gave fans an absolutely electric performance of the opening title theme for Ash’s final journey. She performed it as part of The First Take YouTube series and it’s a must-watch for Pokémon fans and anyone wanting to brighten their day.

Ash and Pikachu will be retiring as the protagonists of the Pokémon series in March. Pikachu and the young trainer have been the main characters of the series ever since its inception in 1997. They will be the stars in the final episode, which airs in Japan on March 24, 2012. Ash’s final arc will feature notable reunions between Ash and other beloved characters like Brock, Misty, and of course, Team Rocket. In addition to an original story, the arc’s final chapter will be getting a special theme sung by Matsumoto.

The song is called, “Mezase Pokémon Master -with my friends-,” and you can check out the full recording on YouTube. Matsumoto exudes charisma and energy throughout the video. At the very beginning, she shouts in Ash’s familiar voice, which lends even more nostalgia to the performance. She’s accompanied by a full band and background singers, and nails it. As she ends, we see her clutching her own hands and smiling — it’s honestly heart-warming.

For those unfamiliar, Matsumoto’s work isn’t limited to voiceover. She’s also an accomplished musician who helped found the anison band JAM Project and performed other songs for the Pokémon series in the past. She’s sung Japanese themes in several films, including Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back — Evolution, The various seasons are also available.

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