I don’t know about you, but every time a new Pokemon game is announced, I always look forward to meeting the new companions and rivals we meet along our journeys. Although their constant need to challenge the player every few seconds frustrated me, as the years have passed, I’ve learned to admire the determination of these rivals – even if they pose no threat to my overpowered party.
However, I will always have an exceptionally soft spot for the sulky rivals, and their angst and unwillingness to accept defeat will always be charming to me. But among the mass of sore losers is a particularly underrated rival who has stuck with me since my first experience with Pokemon Sun & Moon.
Who is Team Skull?
Team Skull is the collection of rivals the player faces throughout Pokemon Sun & Moon, the same way Ash consistently stumbles across Team Rocket in the anime. Out of every rival group I’ve encountered during my time with the Pokemon franchise, I’d say that Team Skull is among one of my favorites.
The group comprises Pokemon trainers, or as they affectionately title themselves ‘misfits,’ who failed the island challenge. As the group increased in size, they took over Po Town on Ula’ula Island, which is where you’ll find their base and headquarters within the game.
Gladion confides in Team Skull within Sun & Moon after he leaves the Aether Foundation. He never shows much interest in Team Skull’s motives and never takes part in their rallies, but they still support him when he decides to go against his mother.
One of the reasons I love this group so much is because they don’t take themselves so seriously. Previous groups, like Team Galactic or Team Magma, have had quirks, but they tend to revolve exclusively around their mission.
Team Skull’s humorous approach to roles is a breath of fresh air in the franchise, and the same can be said for Team Shout in Sword and Shield. Additionally, they take Gladion in without a second guess, and even though he’s never declared a member, he’s still well-loved by all.
Gladion’s Role In Sun & Moon
In the Sun & Moon game, Gladion is the player’s main rival. So, you encounter him a lot across your journey. As you would with an opponent in any other Pokemon title, each time you cross paths, Gladion will initiate a battle.
When I was younger, I always felt like these battles came at really inconvenient times, like stepping into a route after finishing a gym battle or moments before entering Victory Road, so I grew up feeling quite frustrated about them.
Gladion was initially a member of the Aether Foundation in Sun & Moon. But, as soon as he noticed his Mother’s obsession with bringing Ultra Beasts into the world and harnessing their power for her own gain, he left the Foundation. But upon leaving, he stole one of the three Type: Null Pokemon his mother had created to attack Ultra Beasts. When he left, he had two intentions to pursue, which is why he became such a prominent character in the title.
With the ambition to stop his mother and free the two remaining Type: Null, he became an enforcer to Team Skull but was never declared a full member. Gladion will encounter the player for the first time on Route Five, which is where he will challenge you to your first battle. After your second battle on Route 13, he realizes you might be strong enough to help him stop his mother and asks if you would be interested in joining forces.
Upon beating the Pokemon league, Gladion takes the place of president at the Aether Foundation while Lusamine is away. In addition, Gladion becomes one of the potential challengers you face should you take on the Pokemon League for a second time.
During your time in Pokemon Sun & Moon, Gladion will challenge you to a battle five times, including the title defense sequence once you have completed the Pokemon League. While he starts with two Pokemon, he will add more to his party along the way and finish your encounters with five Pokemon in his party.
Gladion’s Role in Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon
While you’d expect a lot of Gladion’s role to be identical in the Ultra versions of Sun & Moon, several differences in the storyline affect his role. First, Lusamine isn’t as obsessed with Ultra Beasts, so Gladion does not need to stop her. Instead, he leaves the Aether Foundation with Type: Null to become stronger to protect Lillie and Lusamine.
After the player becomes champion, Gladion leaves the Alola region to train in Kanto and Johto. Instead of gifting you a Type: Null, he gives Wicke a Pokemon and a set of Memory Drives, which are then given to the player at Ancient Poni Path.
Much like the classic Sun & Moon games, Gladion will return to Alola about a month after Necrozma is defeated and becomes a potential challenger in the Pokemon League – should you want to face the challenge again. I’ve never plucked up the courage to face the Pokemon League in any game after the first time, so if you are brave enough – I wish you luck.
Gladion’s Pokemon In the Games
As I’ve already mentioned, Gladion intends to battle the player five times throughout your adventure in Pokemon Sun & Moon. As you progress through the game, he adds more Pokemon to his party and trains to coincide with your strengths.
Here is a list of every battle you will have with Gladion, followed by their location, Pokemon in his party, and their moves:
First Battle – Route Five
- Zubat – Level Seventeen
Moves: Bite and Wing Attack
- Type: Null – Level Eighteen
Moves: Tackle and Pursuit
Second Battle – Battle Royal Dome
- Type: Null – Level Nineteen
Moves: Tackle and Pursuit
Third Battle – Aether House
- Golbat – Level Thirty-Seven
Moves: Acrobatics and Poison Fang
- Sneasel – Level Thirty-Seven
Moves: Icy Wind, Metal Claw, Feint Attack, and Quick Attack
- Type: Null – Level Thirty-Eight
Moves: Pursuit, Crush Claw and X-Scissor
Fourth Battle – Mount Lanakila
- Crobat – Level Fifty-Two
Moves: Acrobatics and Cross Poison
- Weavile – Level Fifty-Two
Moves: Ice Shard, Night Slash, and Metal Claw
- Lucario – Level Fifty-Two
Moves: Aura Sphere, Metal Claw, and Quick Attack
- Silvally – Level Fifty-Three
Moves: Crunch, Crush Claw, X-Scissor, and Multi-Attack
Interestingly, Gladion’s Silvally’s move, ‘Multi-Attack,’ will vary depending on which starter Pokemon you chose at the beginning of the game. For example, if you selected Rowlet, Silvally would take on a fire type for the move, water for Litten, and grass for Popplio.
You can tell which type Silvally takes on because the tips of the top of its head will change color. I missed this feature when I played through Pokemon Sun & Moon for the first time, but it made so much sense when I finally noticed.
Title Defense Battle – Pokemon League
- Crobat – Level Sixty-Three
Moves: Acrobatics, Cross Poison, X-Scissor, and Stell Wing
- Weavile – Level Sixty-Three
Moves: Ice Shard, Night Slash, Brick Break, and Shadow Claw
- Porygon-Z – Level Sixty-Three
Moves: Tri-Attack, Dark Pulse, Ice Beam, and Thunderbolt
- Lucario – Level Sixty-Three
Moves: Aura Sphere, Flash Cannon, Extreme Speed, and Psychic
- Silvally – Level Sixty-Three
Moves: Crunch, Crush Claw, X-Scissor, and Multi-Attack
Upon completing this battle and defending your title against Gladion, when you visit Gladion in the Aether Foundation, he will present you with a level forty Type: Null.
This is the only way you can own this Pokemon within Sun & Moon, so it was a massive relief after thinking I was never going to find one in the wild! Alongside the Pokemon, Gladion will give you the memory drives used to change Silvally’s type.
In Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, the battles you share are almost identical, except Gladion adopts a Zoura for the first battle, and from battle three onwards, he has a Zoroark. Alongside Type: Null and Silvally, Zoroark is one of the Pokemon Gladion is most recognized for training.
In the Title Defense Battle, he also has a Venasaur if you chose Rowlet as your starter, Charizard if you chose Litten, and Blastoise if you chose Popplio. This refers to him going to Kanto and Johto to train instead of leaving the Aether Foundation to train in Alola.
Gladion In the Anime
In Pokemon the Series: Sun and Moon, Gladion is one of Ash’s many rivals met along the way. He adopts the same sulky personality as the game and is always quick to disagree with Ash’s ideas and upbeat personality. Although he debuts in ‘A Glaring Rivalry,’ episode twenty-seven in the series, the first time Gladion makes a cameo is in a family portrait towards the show’s beginning.
Following his debut, Gladion appears in these episodes of Pokemon the Series: Sun & Moon:
- Rising from the Ruins!
- A Dream Encounter!
- A Masked Warning!
- Night of a Thousand Poses!
- Mission: Total Recall!
- Faba’s Revenge!
- Family Determination!
- Revealing the Stuff of Legend!
- Rescuing the Unwilling!
- 10’000’000 Reasons to Fight!
- The Professors’ New Adventure!
- Filling the Light with Darkness!
- Full Moon and Many Arms!
- The Prism Between Light and Darkness!
- Securing the Future!
- Showdown on Poni Island!
- Memories in the Mist!
- Chasing Memories, Creating Dreams!
- League Offenders and Defenders!
- Battle Royal 151!
- The Battlefield of Truth and Love!
- Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Strategy!
- The Final Four!
- Final Rivals!
- Enter the Champion!
- Z-Move Showdown!
- Dreams of the Sun & Moon!
In addition, Gladion appears in a flashback in the Pokemon Journeys episode ‘That New Old Gang of Mine!’ when Lana reads a letter she’s received from Lillie, which explains how they are both still searching for Mohn. Gladion and his family debut in Pokemon Journeys in episode 111, where they arrive in the Galar Region and appear again in episode 112.
These episodes have more information surrounding Gladion’s purpose in Pokemon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon, which I appreciate as my first experience with the character was within those games rather than the base Sun and Moon, which I re-visited later.
He isn’t as crucial in Pokemon Journeys compared to his significance in Pokemon the Series. But this series introduces the shiny Nihilego, which thy nickname Lillie, and how the ultra beast has been living with Mohn.
Finally, Gladion appears in another flashback in Pokemon Evolutions. In the episode ‘The Eclipse,’ the flashback involves Gladion, Lillie, Selene, Hau, and Guzma witnessing Lusamine using Nebby’s powers to open an Ultra Wormhole in the Aether Paradise.
Gladion’s Pokemon In the Anime
On the occasion that Gladion challenges Ash to a Pokemon battle, his Pokemon vary from the party he has in the game. Because there’s more story covered regarding Gladion’s childhood, it makes sense why he has a few different Pokemon. For example, Gladion grew up with an Eevee as a companion, which the game overlooks entirely.
Here are the Pokemon that Gladion has in his party within Pokemon the Series:
- Eevee, which later evolves into Umbreon.
- Type: Null, which later evolves into Silvally.
- Lillie a shiny Nihilego and the only Pokemon Gladion has a name for.
Although these are the only Pokemon Gladion has on hand, he also uses a Noivern as transport and occasionally for battle. In addition, there are several occasions where he will adopt Pokemon for episodes. For example, in episode 87 of the Sun & Moon series, ‘Filling the light with darkness!’ Gladion adopts Lunala, one of the legendary Pokemon of the generation.
Additionally, he befriends Cleffa in ‘A Dream Encounter!’ after growing up alongside Lillie’s Cleffa, and then Lillipup and later Herdier for the same reason. The only instance you can see Gladion alongside these Pokemon is in family portraits shown within the episodes.
Seeing Gladion not so moody with his family is charming, especially after all the issues he faces toward them throughout the show. The portrait of Gladion, Lillie, and Lillipup can be seen in episode forty-six, ‘Deceiving Appearances!’
Gladion’s Role and Party In the Manga
Gladion makes several appearances in the Pokemon Adventure’s manga, once again taking on the role of a rival. He debuts in The Decision and the Tournament of Six, where he doesn’t make the greatest first impression since he turns up late to the festival tournament.
However, he makes himself well known after declaring he was checking out an Ultra Wormhole his Pokemon had sensed.
Gladion appears in thirteen chapters across two volumes of the Pokemon Adventure’s Manga, where he tends to be a battle partner or an accompaniment for his sister, Lillie. He’s just as miserable as in the game and anime, and it’s impossible to see him without Type: Null or Silvally. He’s fuelled by the same ambition to stop his mother and protect his family, and he’ll stop at nothing to do so.
Gladion’s Pokemon in the Manga are as follows:
- Type: Null
- Cosmoem – referred to as ‘Nebby.’
Interestingly, Gladion has Porygon in the manga rather than the Porygon-Z he has in Ultra Sun and Moon. Additionally, the manga is the only time we see Gladion with Lycanroc in his party, which is never explained. In a way, I think it’s because Zoroak hadn’t made its debut yet, and Gladion needed an intimidating wolf-like Pokemon to use in battle.
Gladion In the Card Game
Despite his significance in the game, anime, and manga, Gladion only has two trading cards within the Pokemon TCG. He exclusively appears in Crimson Invasion, having a standard Trainer card (number 95/111) available in both reverse and holo alongside its base version.
However, he also features a full art trainer card (number 109/111), which is significantly rarer than his standard card.
Both cards have the same ability, allowing the player to look at their face-down prize cards and take one into their hand. The Gladion card must then be shuffled into the remaining prize cards and put face down again. However, if this card isn’t played directly from the hand, it has no power.
Gladion also appears on two Silvally GX cards, both in Cosmic Eclipse. Number 184/236 and 227/236 show Gladion and his close relationship with Silvally, either in battle or outside. I love when Pokemon Cards showcase the trainer and their Pokemon and seeing Gladion smiling alongside his Silvally is adorable. Additionally, card sleeves showcasing Gladion and Silvally are available for purchase.
Question: Is Gladion a gym leader?
Answer: Despite playing an incredibly significant role in Pokemon Sun & Moon, Gladion is not a gym leader. Like the player, he is a trainer trying to become strong enough to fight against his mother. However, once the player has defeated the Pokemon League and Gladion has returned to Alola or the Aether Foundation, he will appear as a challenger within the Pokemon League. So technically, he reaches almost Gym Leader status after a while.
Question: How many Ultra Beasts are there?
Answer: In Pokemon Sun & Moon, there are eleven Ultra Beasts that the player can catch following the defeat of the Pokemon League. Nihilego, Buzzwole, Pheromosa, Xurkitree, Celesteela, Kartana, Guzzlord, Poipole, Naganadel, Stakataka, and Blacephalon are all obtainable via random wormholes across the Alola region. Additionally, Ultra Beasts made their debut in Pokemon Sword and Shield following the release of The Crown Tundra DLC.
Question: What starter Pokemon does Gladion have?
Answer: Unlike most Pokemon trainers, Gladion doesn’t have a typical starter Pokemon. It’s never explicitly stated in the game or anime which Pokemon was Gladion’s first. Still, it’s easy to assume that Type: Null was Gladion’s first Pokemon in the game since they have the strongest connection, and Gladion is quick to tell the player that he stole Type: Null before leaving the Aether Foundation.
However, it’s hard to tell which Pokemon was his first in the anime as family portraits show him with a variety of Pokemon, but he has a particularly close relationship with Eevee, and they have been companions since Gladion was a child.