We've covered many different Trainers in our Trainer Spotlight series, but now it's time to talk about the first. Red is the official name given to the player character in the original Pokémon video games, Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. This is the character that countless players adventured with when Pokémon first debuted, and he's had a lasting effect on the series.
Even today, Red is making an appearance alongside his sync pair partner Charizard in Pokémon Masters for iOS and Android devices. But let's go back and take a closer look at the original Pokémon Trainer who hails from Pallet Town.
In the Video Games
The Pokémon role-playing games allow players to rename the main character, but despite this, the protagonists always have a default canon name. In Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue, the hero's name is Red. Red is a silent protagonist, meaning that he doesn't talk during his adventure. Because of this, his character is defined solely by his actions and what other characters say to and about him.
Red's journey begins like those of so many other budding young Pokémon Trainers—he leaves his home to travel the Kanto region, catching Pokémon and battling other Trainers in order to become skilled enough to challenge the Elite Four and the Pokémon League Champion. At the start of his adventure, he meets Professor Oak, who gives Red his very first Pokémon and eventually a Pokédex, which Red uses to collect data on every Pokémon he encounters.
Professor Oak also gives a reminder that Red has a rival, Blue, and the two have been competing against each other since they were infants. Blue pops up at multiple points throughout Red's story, challenging our hero to a Pokémon battle.
Throughout the course of the game, the player—and by extension, Red—builds a team of powerful Pokémon and grows their abilities as a Trainer. But Red's adventure doesn't remain a lighthearted romp. Eventually, Red crosses paths with the villainous Team Rocket and proves his bravery when he steps up to help squash the organization's nefarious plans. Once Red makes it to the Pokémon League, he discovers that his rival has become the League Champion, but his experiences have prepared him to take on the boastful Blue.
After his initial adventure, Red goes on to become a bit of a lone wolf, occasionally popping up in other Pokémon Trainers' adventures. In Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee!, Red can be found at the Indigo Plateau, and players can challenge him to a battle.
In the Johto region of Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver, Red dramatically awaits atop Mt. Silver, ready to challenge anyone who can find him. An older Red even shows up in the Alola region in Pokémon Sun, Pokémon Moon, Pokémon Ultra Sun, and Pokémon Ultra Moon, where he and Blue have set aside their differences and run the Battle Tree together.
Red has now returned to the world of Pokémon video games with an appearance in Pokémon Masters. The Trainer appeared in Professor Oak's new storyline alongside his longtime rival, Blue, and he's now starring in a special event of his own alongside his sync pair partner Charizard. Check out the game to play through Red's latest adventure, but don't expect him to be too chatty. The hero from Pallet Town may have grown a bit, but he's still just as terse as ever.
In Pokémon Adventures
If you've ever wanted to see more of Red, the Pokémon Adventures manga is the place to go. Like his rival Blue, the best place to see Red develop and grow as a character is in this ongoing series. The comic's story vaguely mirrors that of Pokémon Red Version and Pokémon Blue Version but builds off the main story beats to give greater depths to Red's personality. Of course, it also doesn't hurt that Red is a lot chattier in this medium.
When we meet this version of Red, he already has a Pokémon partner: Poliwhirl. He's bold, brash, and more than a little overconfident—although he doesn't quite have the skills to back up his attitude. We see him clash early on with Blue, who is far calmer and more collected than Red. It isn't long before Red approaches Professor Oak to get some advice on becoming a great Pokémon Trainer, but he accidentally releases several Pokémon from Poké Balls that the professor has stored in his lab.
As the two hunt down the wayward Pokémon, Professor Oak is impressed with Red's battling instincts when Red helps the professor's Bulbasaur defeat an aggressive wild Machoke. Professor Oak entrusts Red with the Bulbasaur and a Pokédex, officially beginning Red's quest to become a Pokémon Trainer.
Red's journey continues through Kanto, where he catches a troublesome Pikachu in Pewter City and faces off against the region's Gym Leaders. These encounters are more elaborate than what we saw in the video games, and Red's compassion toward Pokémon is tested just as often as his battling skills.
During Red's journey, he has multiple encounters with the villains of Team Rocket, who are a fair bit darker and savvier than their counterparts in other media. Due to the group's increased competence and more elaborate schemes, the stakes are much higher. But thanks to Red's dedication to becoming a Pokémon Trainer, he takes down Team Rocket and defeats Giovanni. Like his video game counterpart, he also manages to best Blue at the Pokémon League. The journey has helped Red grow as a Trainer, allowing him to calm his impulsive nature and put more thought into his battling technique.
Eventually, Red moves out of the starring role in Pokémon Adventures, but he returns when the comic reaches the FireRed and LeafGreen chapters. Here, Red teams up with Blue to track down Professor Oak, who has been kidnapped by Deoxys. Thankfully, both Red and Blue have matured enough during their travels that they're able to get along better now.
Whether he's the main character or just popping in for a cameo appearance, Red gets his chance to shine in Pokémon Adventures. If you haven't given this manga a read, it's a terrific expansion of Red's character and the world of Pokémon as a whole.
In Pokémon Origins and Pokémon Generations
Red doesn't appear in Pokémon the Series—the role of the eager young Trainer from Pallet Town is instead given to Ash Ketchum. But he's the star of the four-episode miniseries Pokémon Origins, which follows the storyline of Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. This version of Red is certainly enthusiastic, but he's also a bit careless. He can be clumsy, and when he attempts to catch another Trainer's Pokémon, it's clear that he needs to learn a few things about the protocols of raising Pokémon.
Red can also be a bit brash. His rival Blue easily goads him into a Pokémon battle that Red's Charmander is certainly not prepared for. Likewise, Red's tendency to react without thinking allows Blue to easily counter Red's attacks and emerge victorious.
Despite his failings, Red is determined to improve his skills. With work and perseverance, Red improves his bond with his Pokémon, allowing them to battle more effectively. Perhaps not surprisingly, this comes into play when Red crosses paths with Team Rocket and when he goes on to challenge Blue to become the Pokémon League Champion. Pokémon Origins provides an excellent summarized version of Red's story.
Red also makes a couple of brief cameo appearances in the Pokémon Generations miniseries. He shows up in the first episode, “The Adventure,” where we see him catch Pikachu in Viridian Forest, and he arrives at the end of the third episode, “The Challenger,” to take on Blue, who has just become the Pokémon League Champion. We don't learn much about Red as a character in Pokémon Generations, but the episodes are certainly a blast to watch.
In the Pokémon TCG
Red has been a major part of the world of Pokémon since the beginning, but he's only recently made an appearance in the Pokémon Trading Card Game. His first card, Red's Challenge, debuted in the Sun & Moon—Unbroken Bonds expansion. This Supporter card allows you to search your deck for any card you want and put it into your hand, but you must discard 2 other cards from your hand first.
Not content with just one Pokémon TCG card, Red reappeared in the Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse expansion on a TAG TEAM Supporter card alongside his longtime rival. The Red & Blue card lets you search your deck for a Pokémon-GX that evolves from 1 of your Pokémon and immediately evolve it. You can also discard 2 other cards from your hand for a bonus effect: searching for 2 basic Energy cards and attaching them to the Pokémon you just evolved.
Both cards let you take control of your deck to get specific cards that you want into play. Perhaps it's meant to reflect Red's ability to sync with his Pokémon to turn battles to his favor.
Red makes one other appearance in the Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse expansion: on the card of his partner Pikachu. Here we see Red at Professor Oak's lab, choosing Pikachu as his first partner at the start of his journey. It's a beautiful illustration that highlights one of the most important moments in Pokémon history.
As a plucky young kid filled with determination and enthusiasm to spare, Red is very much an archetypal hero. He may not be perfect, but his heart and willingness to become the very best that he can be drive him ever onward. Even if his appearances in Pokémon media are limited these days, every “main character” that has shown up in the world of Pokémon owes a debt to good ol' Red.