Were Ash & Misty in Love?
When Pokemon came to the U.S. I was in 3rd grade; that's still young enough for kids to think the other gender has cooties. And yet kids still thought Ash & Misty were an item.
And why not? The two characters often had a certain chemestry. Sure, they argued, but they also genuinely cared for each other. Misty followed Ash without a good reason; sure, he burnt up her bike in the first episode, but that always seemed to be an excuse. They risked their lives for eachother when things went haywire; they both seemed concerned when the other was in serious danger. And so, inspite of the average grade schooler's revulsion to romance, most fans thought Ash & Misty would eventually admit to each other that they were in love, that they'd grow up, get married, & all that.
Run a web search for "Ash & Misty Love" & you'll find hundreds of fan pages, some listing every interaction between the two characters, trying to find romantic implications. Others are fan-fiction stories, where Ash & Misty finally do admit that they love each other. A lot of those lists of interactions take things too far for me; many of the interactions are the stuff you'd see between good friends. There are two scenes I do find romantic tho, even today. In the 3rd episode, after Ash catches caterpie, & caterpie evolves, Misty looks at Ash, kinda dreamy like, & says she never met anyone like him. The other scene is the one pictured above, the end of The Ghost of Maiden's Peak, where Ash seems really interested in dancing with Misty.
Apparently, years after he left the series, Takeshi Shudo, the shows former head writer wrote a blog post where he said Misty & Ash weren't interested in each other. He thought a romantic sub-polot would've distracted from Ash's adventures with Pokemon, so he gave the characters handicaps to prevent a relationship. Ash was too young to be interested in girls; Misty was there for marketing, so she found Ash too imature. Probelm is, that leaves some scenes without an adequate in-universe explanation. Why did Misty save Ash in Pokemon 2000? She knew the series woud end if he died, & that made her angry. Yeah.
In another blog post Shudo said he didn't care what people thought of his work; if they found something funny, sad, exciting, or boring they should act however they felt. I guess that gives us permission to find a scene romantic, if thats what we see.