Iowans will get a chance to meet one of the “very best like no one ever was” this weekend at Des Moines Comic Con as longtime Pokémon voice actor Sarah Natochenny will be there to meet and greet with fans of the series.
Since 2006, Natochenny has been the English voice of Ash Ketchum, Pokémon’s eternal 10-year-old protagonist who is always accompanied by his faithful Pikachu. Natochenny, who is from New York City, fell into voice acting after quitting rhythm gymnastics at age 12.
“I won a bronze medal at the Junior Olympics the same year that Ash Ketchum won the Orange League,” Natochenny said, noting the weird similarities between her life and Ash’s.
However, Natochenny’s parents didn’t want her sitting around the house after she was done with gymnastics and encouraged her to go to acting school because she was “always performing and doing impressions.”
“Loved it! Did acting school for four years in New York as a teenager and then pounded the pavement,” she said. “I did improve in New York and then went out to find an agent and got an agent and got a manager who actually got me the audition for Pokémon when I was 18 years old.”
The rest is history as they say. Natochenny landed the role of Ash Ketchum and transitioned from being in front of the camera to holed away in the recording booth. According to IMDB, she has voiced Ash in more than 800 Pokémon episodes, 17 movies, and one video game.
“Pikachu’s Thunderbolt struck me clearly,” Natochenny joked about landing the role of Ash.
The Pokémon anime has aired since 1997 and Ash Ketchum was famous or rather infamous with Pokémon fans for never being able to win a major championship. However, Ash finally won the big one in November and it was emotional for Natochenny as well as longtime fans.
“I cried. I cried so much as I’m like ‘yay, I won, it’s over,’” Natochenny said. “Nobody told me this was going to happen—I found out when I was at another convention—and I was like, ‘yay!’ I was so genuinely so excited for him not thinking that this might be done here and we’re packing up for a new adventure.”
While victory is sweet, it does have its cost. The Pokémon anime is shifting to a new protagonist, which means Ash Ketchum finally gets to take a break after nearly 30 years of trying to catch them all.
Unfortunately, this also meant Natochenny had to move on. But she has no shortage of work and is currently voicing a character in the English dub of the “Tokyo Revengers” anime.
“I have a couple of things I can’t talk about unfortunately—I wish I could,” she said. “There a bunch of things I can’t say but follow me on social media and you will find out.”
This weekend’s trip to Des Moines will be Natochenny’s first visit to Iowa, but she already has a connection to the Hawkeye State.
“I did a state report on Iowa when I was 10 years old and I got an A on it. The state stone is the geode,” she said before admitting she does not remember much else about the report.
However, Nanochenny is excited about coming to Iowa to connect with fans here.
“We’re gonna do autographs, we’re going to do selfies, I’m going to tell all your kids to draw the Iowa state flag,” Natochenny said.
AT A GLANCE:
Event: Des Moines Comic Com
What: A convention for all things nerdy and pop culture related.
Who: Actors, comic book creators, cosplayers, former pro wrestlers and more.
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday, June 3, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday, June 4.
Where: Iowa Events Center/Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines
Tickets: Prices vary but start as low as $10.22 for children under 13.
by Ty Rushing
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