''A single thread in a tapestry though its color brightly shine, can never see its purpose, in the pattern of the grand design.''
Because Max was there for 195 episodes, and Cilan/Iris only 35. You know 'impact' can mean 'being with someone for a period of time'. If I was traveling with someone for a long time, they'd have a bigger impact on me no matter what they did.
Why are May and Max branded together? If they weren't, I'd say Max. As it stands, I'd say Cilan. Just because he doesn't really challenge Ash's personality or technique.
Why do people keep asking why are May and Max together? They were introduced in the same arc as siblings and left together.
- Satoshi/Ash Ketchum: 801 episodes
- Team Rocket: 736 episodes
- Takeshi/Brock: 633 episodes
- Kasumi/Misty: 282 episodes
- Hikari/Dawn: 201 episodes
- Haruka/May: 197 episodes
- Masato/Max: 192 episodes
- Iris: 141 episodes
- Dent/Cilan: 138 episodes
- Kenji/Tracey: 44 episodes
To me, impact can mean that they were a mentor to Ash, a coach, that they were coached or mentored by Ash, or that Ash and that character motivated and influenced each other.
Brock acted as the mentor figure in the original series. He taught Ash the basics of being a trainer, how to take care of pokémon, helped him come up with strategies. We see Dento sometimes fill that role in BW too.
May and Max were definitely mentored by Ash, which to me impacted the character, as we saw him mature, be more patient, etc. By being faced with real beginners, Ash was sorta forced to be the teacher, to get his act together. I would also group Dento in that category too, since he has expressed desire into learning how Ash bonds with his pokémon, and we saw in BW019 that he thinks highly of Ash as a trainer. That's part of what I feel makes Ash/Dento's relationship so fun, is that they're teaching each other and helping out one another, though, I'd have to see where they're going with it.
Dawn also impacted Ash a lot, by having someone as motivated as him, who experienced the same doubts as him, they could relate to one another and push each other to be better. Plus, they each inspired the other techniques and their style influenced one another, making both more versatile. They were there when the other was depressed after a loss.
So yeah... that pretty much leaves us with Misty and Iris. Misty wasn't the mentor that Brock was, nor did she learn anything from Ash. She wasn't a motivation for him, in that he was never inspired by her, or did she push him to surpass himself. I think Ash would be exactly the same person had it been just him and Brock during the original series. Same with Iris, though we'll have to wait until we see more of BW to group her in that category. So far, I have to say Misty, but Iris might soon join her in that category.
As for May and Max, they weren't always treated like a package, and either way this has nothing to do with 'packages'. You asked who impacted Ash the least, and both of them had different kinds of impacts so the results would most likely be different if you could just seperate them.
Moving on, I agree with Misty, sure she was great in the beginning, but it never seemed like she was all that much help to Ash. Just sort of a 'tag along friend'.
I know he inspired Max, but did that impact Ash in any way?
Assume you cannot drive. You catch a ride with a friend, and the two of you go to a party. You're shy, so you just sit and relax with some folk; your friend, on the other hand, is the life of the party. Because your friend drove you there, you cannot go home. Just because you're there with your friend and can't leave, does that still mean you both affected the party equally?
In this case, you're Max, your friend is May, and the party is Ash.
A Night Inside Ash. :PIn this case, you're Max, your friend is May, and the party is Ash.