While Satoshi’s female companions have been replaced at the start of each new saga, the male companion, Takeshi, had been expected to remain on the cast having been present in every past saga (with the exception of the Orange Islands arc). This expectation was unmet in Best Wishes when Takeshi was written off the show at the end of Diamond & Pearl and replaced by Dent, the first Isshu Gym Leader. Many speculated that Dent would be similar to Takeshi but to what degree has this speculation turned out to be true? Although Dent and Takeshi have similar roles through their skills, and role in Satoshi’s group, they also have very noticeable differences.
At first glance, Takeshi and Dent started off on their journeys identically; Satoshi challenged them as gym leaders. After their initial battles, both Takeshi and Dent expressed that running a gym was not what they ultimately wanted to do. However, Takeshi and Dent’s goals are vastly different. Takeshi’s original goal throughout most of the series was to be a top breeder. His goal included raising healthy Pokémon via grooming, and specially prepared food based on a Pokémon’s preferences. It was never explicitly stated how one becomes a Top Breeder; this ambiguous definition is symptomatic of how rarely Takeshi's goal has been addressed over the years.
Dent’s goal is to be an S-class Sommelier, a job that entails evaluating the compatibility between a Pokémon and their trainer. Unlike Takeshi’s goal in the original series, Dent’s goal is explained early in Best Wishes. To become a Pokémon Sommelier, one must pass an examination given by the Pokémon Sommelier association. Sommeliers are then ranked by classes based on their score in that exam, with C being the lowest and S being the highest.
Comparing Takeshi and Dent’s goals, it's easier to measure progress in Dent’s. It has been stated that Dent is an A-class Sommelier, and thus the audience could easily compare his skill to other Sommeliers, while Takeshi’s proficiency as a Breeder against others is much harder to judge. The level of detail and the ease with which the audience can measure Dent's progress in his goal is what differentiates his goal from Takeshi’s, leaving much more room to the writers to develop Dent as a Sommelier than Takeshi as a Breeder. This difference only reflects how much focus Dent's goal as received compared to Takeshi's neglected aspirations.
Dent displaying his fancy cookware
Outside of their goals, Takeshi and Dent share another important trait: their culinary skills. Both are responsible for cooking for their companions while on the road, receiving praise from Satoshi, among others. While they share this role, the way the writers portray both characters as cooks highlights differences in their personality. Takeshi learned to cook to take care of his family, and as such he often relied on simple recipes and crude methods, such as making a stew over a fire, caring less about presentation than taste and feeding his friends. On the other hand, Dent, having learned to cook by running a café in the Sanyou Gym, strives for a higher level of sophistication, cooking over a gas stove, thinking up extravagant recipes such as a paella, and priding himself on the presentation of his meals with his silvery cloche.
Takeshi and Dent also share the skill of first aid. Both characters have helped people and Pokémon when they are either injured or sick. Takeshi has more knowledge of this than Dent, particularly with regard to the application of medicinal herbs and berries. In fact, in Best Wishes, this knowledge is something that Iris, rather than Dent, possesses.
Brock's instant devotion to women
Another similarity between the two characters is that both Takeshi and Dent have running gags. Takeshi would often overtly declare his love to beautiful ladies upon meeting them, only to have his advances stopped by another character on the cast such as Kasumi, Masato or Gureggru. This gag stayed fundamentally the same throughout Takeshi’s run on the show, with fairly consistent reactions from the women, who were surprised by Takeshi. Also, the exuberance of Takeshi's declarations was a stark contrast to his usual calm and reserved persona, making those scenes feel overall repetitive and jarring.
Dent’s gag is that he will often say “It’s _ time!” (with the _ depending on the situation), some examples being “It’s fishing time!”, “It’s detective time!”, and “It’s sleeping time!”, with over 10 variations to date. Whereas Takeshi’s gag was static, Dent’s is dynamic because of this variation. It's also interesting to note that the gag originated from Dent's goal, with the Sommelier declaring, “It’s tasting time!” before tasting a Pokémon to judge compatibility. That the gag is touched upon in Dent's goal makes it much more integrated in his persona and makes those scenes feel less like obvious attempts at making the audience laugh as just an expression of the character's individuality.
Finally, Takeshi and Dent share a few more things in common. Both have displayed extensive knowledge of the strategies employed by trainers and battle mechanics, such as type matchups. They educate Satoshi and his friends as well as the audience watching, serving the trope of “Mr. Exposition”. Aside from educating Satoshi and his friends, they both share advice when their younger companions are faced with tough choices or insecurity. An example is when Takeshi advises Hikari when she is unsure of letting Eteboth go to train for Pokémon Ping Pong. In Dent’s case, he tells Iris the reason for Doryuzu's fear of battling. Takeshi and Dent serve as the older, wiser friends that can be counted on whenever anyone needs them.
In comparing Dent and Takeshi’s characters; they are similar in some areas. They are the older and wiser members of the group, and have excellent culinary skills. They both embody a nurturing role when they take care of sick or injured Pokémon. However, even these similarities have slight variations under intense scrutiny. Their roles differ in the use of their recurring gags, and their goals. With Best Wishes to be at the end of its first year next month, will the differences grow more pronounced or will both characters take a similar path?