Oddly enough, I think that the original series did it best with Charizard. I say oddly enough because while the original series is still enjoyable to watch, I think that the other series generally are better in quite a few areas in comparison. But the storyline with Charizard is different. It could have been handled better too, such as not having Charmeleon doing a complete 180 out of nowhere when it seemed quite content with Ash as its trainer when it was a Charmander, but I actually felt bad for Ash when Charmeleon wouldn't listen to him since he had used Charmander fairly often and not being able to use it felt kind of sad, something that I thought was absent with both Mamoswine and Excadrill. Plus, I thought that there was better buildup with Charizard listening to Ash when he started to use it more often during the Orange Islands and the episode where Charizard started to listen to Ash felt satisfying because of that buildup and how long it took for that to happen.
In second place, I'd go with Mamoswine. Personally, I think that the writers could have done more with Swinub before getting it to evolved. One reason why I wasn't a big fan of that storyline was because Dawn had done little with Swinub from its capture episode until it evolved. Since there wasn't much interaction between them, I didn't really feel sad for either one of them when it wouldn't listen to Dawn. While the way Dawn got Mamoswine to listen to her does feel similar to what happened with Ash and Charizard, the main reason why I put it over Excadrill is because of the way she and her whole team at the time helped Mamoswine, which made it stand out a bit more and felt a bit more touching. It also helps that Dawn still included Mamoswine when she wasn't trying to make it follow her commands, which shows that she wasn't willing to give up or basically ignore it and it was also something Ash did during the Orange Islands too. I would have preferred it if it took a bit longer for Mamoswine to obey Dawn since I thought that they ended that storyline a tad too early, but the episode in which it was resolved worked fairly well for the most part.
Excadrill's story has been the least satisfying storyline of this nature for me. While it was interesting to see Iris already have a Pokemon that wouldn't obey her from the start, instead of getting that problem during the course of her journey, I think that it also took away from any emotional attachment would have for the problem like they could have had with Charizard and Mamoswine. Since we didn't know what happened between Iris and Excadrill for so long and she would rarely use it, I don't see why the audience would be invested in the storyline as much as either Charizard or Mamoswine, who had least had some kind of relationship with their trainers before they stopped listening to them. The fact that Iris didn't even seem to try to keep Excadrill included in any kind of Pokemon group gatherings and only used it on screen when she was in trouble showed that she didn't put much effort into this problem, despite what the episode regarding their backstory said regarding how she tried to cheer it up after she left the Village of Dragons. Plus, I thought that was resolved way too easily and fast. Given how small Iris looked in that flashback, Excadrill was angry at her and/or didn't trust her for years and one apology, which I'll admit did look nice, fixed everything just didn't work for me. That should have been the first step to getting Excadrill to listen to her, instead of the only thing she had to do.
I actually voted Dawn/Mamoswine for a few reasons. First of all, because of the moment this storyline popped up for Dawn. This was right after the Wallace Cup when she was just starting to grow more confident in herself, in her ability as a coordinator and as a trainer and it was interesting to see her challenged like that. I like that her initial reaction was also to want to train Mamoswine as opposed to the reaction she had when she caught Pachirisu and it didn't obey her. As opposed to run away from the problem and think she wasn't good enough, she was fully ready to take the challenge. I liked that she repeatedly tried to get Mamoswine interested in contests, to include it with her pokémon. I like that she actually got better as a trainer, learned something to gain Mamoswine's respect, and that when she did, all her pokémon contributed. Finally, I loved that it wasn't the end of the problems and a complete 180 for Mamoswine. They still had to be more in synch and learn to work together.
Second would be Ash/Charizard, since it had what Dawn/Mamoswine lacked which was buildup on the relationship between trainer and pokémon, but lacked the overall meaning for Ash, the place in his overall growth and storyline and really came off as a 180 rather than a gradual thing.
Third would be Iris/Excadrill. Actually, I never understood why it was grouped with the other two since it's much closer in structure and theme to say May's Bulbasaur's contest debut. The Excadrill storyline was just a failure, because ultimately, the writers refused to commit to it 100%, because they seemed so averse to show Iris as being really flawed and really wrong in the battle against Drayden. Excadrill wanted to battle just as much as she did, she kept encouraging Excadrill, she gave up the minute it was unable to battle and seemed genuinely concerned for his well-being... so in the end, this felt like a Doryuuzu freak-out and once he realized that he had been wrong all along, everything was solved. Meh.
I'd say a tie between Ash/Charizard and Dawn/Mamoswine. Neither were perfect, because the former was dragged on too long and the latter probably could've benefited from a little more development, but they were both definitely handled better than Iris/Excadrill.
The latest storyline was just Iris calling Excadrill when she needed him and begging him to listen to her until she later decided to disclose the whole backstory to her friends and finally realizing the source of her problem from Cilan - who oddly figured everything out from second-hand when he wasn't present at the event - and then just by repenting to Excadrill, is suddenly able to convince him to practice a new move that will help them overcome the problem. Then Excadrill masters the attack over night and willfully obeys her again. And then everything is resolved.
So... yeah. One of the first two for sure. I'm just not sure which one of the two I'd pick.
I voted Ash/Charizard, if only because it's the one that stands out the most to me in memory. Nostalgia might have something to do with it too, though with Charizard it was an emotionally engaging character that actively changed over time that complemented its subplot, whereas Dawn's Mamoswine... while it had a personality, really didn't stand out at all until it fully evolved, so I really didn't care for that storyline as much. But the Dawn/Mamoswine story was still done well from a storytelling perspective, it was coherent and made sense and aided in the character development of both trainer and Pokemon, so it's a relatively decent second place for me. The consequences Ash suffered due to Charizard's disobedience opposed to Dawn's consequences over Mamoswine were much more severe, which overall made it a much more full-fledged story, even if it did drag out and wasn't resolved perfectly.
As for Iris/Excadrill... it really doesn't even compare to the other two. That subplot spanned across roughly 25 episodes, and past the point of the subplot's establishment, it was mentioned IN PASSING only a couple of times before the episode in which the subplot was resolved. And really, it was a badly-handled way of resolving the story because there were just huge gaping holes of questionable morals in the backstory in which they try to fake you out by pretending that Iris made some huge major mistake, but if you really think about it, she wasn't in the wrong at all and consequently she didn't change a bit alongside Excadrill. Now, there are at least a couple of aspects they COULD HAVE pointed out to put some genuine heat on Iris for it, but they were never ever mentioned and no one batted an eyelash at Iris' Paul-esque strategy of letting Excadrill get hurt while it was sleeping just to get it to battle. There was LOADS of potential in making this a huge turning point for both characters, but it was squandered and the lack of acknowledging it meaningfully during the 25-episode span really cheapened the effect of this subplot.
So... yeah. All in all, Ash and Charizard would be the best, Dawn and Mamoswine is a relatively decent second place, and Iris and Excadrill's subplot doesn't even deserve to be in the leagues of the past subplots.
Without a doubt Charizard. Not only was it the first one, but Charizard disobeying Ash had the more serious consequences - he lost in the Pokémon League because of it. Dawn and Iris? Nothing that serious. Also, it was only when Ash saved Charizard's life that the lizard decided to finally obey Ash; and before then, it had random moments where it wanted to battle by itself (Like VS Blaine's Magmar).
It's hard to rank either Mamoswine or Excadrill above the other, because quite frankly, they both sucked. Mamoswine's just seemed way too rushed, and Excadrill's was pretty much forgotten about until the Georgia episode.
Call it nostalgia or whatever you want, but Ash/Charizard was the best in my opinion. The relationship and history between the 2 of them is classic and timeless. I remember actually feeling bad for Ash when Charmeleon refused to listen to him. The lowest point of the relationship HAD to be during the Indigo Conference when Ash lost only because Charizard wouldn't listen to him. I thought that was a sad moment for every fan that was watching because nobody saw it coming. I don't know if Ash would've won had he defeated Ritchie, but the fact remains he would've at least gotten past Ritchie. I think that was an important moment for Ash as he seemed to realize how far he really had to go and that he wasn't some hotshot trainer. He was flawed and despite how far he'd come he couldn't even get his strongest pokemon to listen to him.
From there we go to the Orange Islands when because of his own rage and arrogance Charizard lost to that Poliwrath. Despite everything that had happened and the numerous times Charizard refused to listen to him, Ash proved he was a true trainer that would always stand by his pokemon and stayed up late into the night to help with Charizards recovery. It was the ultimate moment of heartwarming when Charizard remembered everything that he and Ash had been through together and finally realized that Ash was a worthy trainer.
From that first time they met to their victory over Gary at the Silver Conference and beyond Ash/Charizard is a relationship that is only surpassed by Ash/Pikachu in my mind.
"Strong Pokémon. Weak Pokémon. That is only the selfish perception of people. Truly skilled Trainers should try to win with the Pokémon they love best". -Karen
"For every pokemon there is a purpose and a time when it can shine under the sun." -Blue1225
I didn't think that Mamoswine costing Dawn a Contest was connected to its previous problem or as a serious consequence as Charizard costing Ash's match in the Pokemon League. It always felt like Mamoswine just lost its temper from being unable to use that Ice Armor combo that both Mamoswine and Dawn liked so much, and despite being a fully evolved Pokemon, Mamoswine didn't have a lot of battling experience and didn't know how to respond when something unexpected happens during a battle. So it just got too angry as a result of not being able to take control of the battle like it had in the previous match. Dawn losing that Contest felt more like it was a result of the lack of training with Mamoswine and/or Mamoswine's lack of battle experience than being connected to how it refused to listen to Dawn before.
Swinub-Pilowine-Mamoswine didn't take that long at all. There was only 20 episodes of it as a Swinub (and it hardly appeared during those 20), and only 3 episodes as a Piloswine. Ash's Charmander obeyed Ash for 32 episodes before it evolved into Charmeleon; and during those 32 episodes, unlike Swinub, it was used quite a bit. So we actually saw Ash bonding with Charmander, then BAM, it evolves.
Sure, their evolutions and learning to obey worked on similar timelines (Charizard only took about 10 episodes more), but Dawn's Mamoswine lacked the original relationship Ash and Charmander had; such as rescuing it after it was abandoned and whatnot. The writers should have given Dawn Swinub earlier so they could have actually built a solid relationship before it evolved and decided to disobey. It was that initial rush which ruined the whole Mamoswine subplot for me.
Why would they need to advertise an old Pokemon like Swinub? It was clearly just there for a while to show it obeyed Dawn. The Mamoswine story itself was handled fine, the ONLY problem is Mamoswine never got a full battle to itself afterward. It was always in double battles.
Charizard was handled the best, but Mamoswine certainly wasn't handled badly.
Aipom and Cyndaquill fairly well, despite both being from the same generation as Swinub and only Aipom having an evolution from the then recent fourth generation. Outside of the Giratina movie, I don't remember Swinub doing that much, if at all, prior to the episode where it evolved. They clearly gave it to her show she could have a Johto Pokemon that evolves into a fourth generation Pokemon and so it would disobey her, but they definitely could have had Swinub used much more often prior to its evolution so that I'd actually feel sad about the change in their relationship and thus feel more invested in the storyline.
Personally, I think that the Mamoswine storyline was decent at best. They really should have developed a relationship between Dawn and Swinub during the twenty episodes where, as Joshawott mentioned, Swinub didn't do much of anything, such as being used fairly often, or at the very least having more interactions with Dawn and the rest of her Pokemon, so that the audience could feel more sympathetic towards Dawn for losing what was once a pretty good friend on her team. That's how I felt when Charmeleon didn't listen to Ash after it evolved. Granted, it was still jarring and sudden compared to how it was as a Charmander, but I felt more invested in that storyline partly because of the relationship Ash had with Charmander as well as how long it took for Charizard to finally listen to Ash again. Maybe they could have brought in Swinub earlier so that Dawn could use it more and maybe have it used in the appeal rounds of one of her Contests so it could have some experience prior to evolving, but I think that they could have done at least a decent amount with Swinub during the twenty or so episodes between its capture and evolution episodes to make the Mamoswine storyline work better. The fact that Dawn still included Mamoswine went she was training her other Pokemon, letting it watch with the others during one of her Contests and had all of her Pokemon help take care of it when it was injured, to show that it wasn't a complete rehash of how Ash got Charizard to listen to him and that there was a whole bonding process with the whole team, as opposed to just Dawn and Mamoswine, are the main reasons why I put it above the Excadrill storyline. Plus, the Excadrill storyline was just handled so terribly and so easily resolved that I honestly couldn't see it being better than either of the previous storylines.
I thought the Ash/Charizard development was rather sweet.
Intially, how they find and help the abandoned Charmander is very cute, and I guess I rather liked how we are shown the development of Charizard disobeying Ash when it evolved into a Charizard. (So did Dawn's Mamoswine, but I preferred the depiction of disobedience in Charizard/Ash.)
Ash warming up his Pokemon, instead of looking after Number 1, and how he remembers how he caught Charizard, Charizard does too, and feels slightly remorseful for disobeying him in the first place, and when Ash discusses how he may not be a very good trainer, or anything, but how he hopes Charizard will obey some day because they'd be a great team together- That was just so heartwarming.
Then Charizard rescues Pikachu and maybe some other Pokemon, I forget, from Team Rocket! That was so pleasant to watch. It put me in a good mood, and the other two didn't really quite achieve that feeling as well to me.
"I shall have some peace there for peace comesdropping slow."- Lake Isle of Innisfree, W.B Yeats.
Definitely the Ash-Charizard story.
It was quite long - took up most of the OS until just before Johto.
Still, it was great to see one of Ash's most powerful pokemon come to understand his trainer and become the most reliable.