Spoiler: But it is not. Nevertheless, his death was planned, and it would have been even sadder and more beautiful than you now imagine. Promised.
You’ve probably seen “Pokémon – The Movie: Mewtwo vs. Mew” and think, yes, we’re talking about the scene in which Ash jumped between Mew and Mewtwo – and almost died. Correct? No, not at all. Ash shouldn’t die there or as a young lad: Pokémon screenwriter Takeshi Shudo wrote down some intimate thoughts shortly before his death in 2010, and much of it related to his work as a writer of Pokémon films. He shared memories of a time when he was every day Drunk alcohol and taken pills had to be creative enough for writing.
And he talked about how the first film was supposed to end: After the events in Mewtwo against Mew should Ash as an old man be shown, who in his last minutes remembers his adventures as a child. It would be nice memories, because Ash was never as happy in his life as when he was a child. In his mind he would finally hear his mother’s voice advising him to sleep – after all, a new adventure awaits him the next day. When he wakes up, he’s again a boy who gets up and goes out and doesn’t try to become the greatest Pokémon master, no: but to find out the meaning of life for himself. Because that’s what it’s all about, right?
Ash would therefore die as an old man who only remembers this great journey. In addition, it is indicated here that he never became Pokémon World Champion, yes that maybe it should never be his goal, to catch them all. A few months ago, Shudo’s words were translated bit by bit on the Pokémon fansite LavaCutContent, where you can also read the full text.
Why was the end now shaped differently? Probably since such an ending would have been too sad and serious; and also because it would have ended Ash’s journey far too quickly. At that time, Shudo didn’t think that there could actually be several parts – but when that was decided, he had to come up with a different ending, that which we now know.