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Cilan is one of three Gym Leaders in Striaton City, along with his brothers Chili (Fire-type specialist) and Cress (Water-type specialist). The gym, when not in use for battling, doubles as a cafe run by the three brothers.
All three use a Level 12 Lillipup in their line-up, along with either Pansage (Cilan), Pansear (Chili), or Panpour (Cress), each of which is Level 14. The player character battles the brother that specializes in the type strongest against the player's starter Pokemon; thus, Cilan is fought if the player chose Oshawott as their starter Pokemon. Defeating the Striaton Gym Leader, no matter which one is battled, earns the player the Trio Badge and P$1680. The Leader also hands out TM83, which contains the move Work Up, an attack that raises the user's Attack and Special Attack stats.
Cilan plays a greater role in the Pokémon anime. Ash challenges the Striaton Gym to a best-of-three battle in which all three Leaders would face Ash in a one-on-one battle, with two wins by Ash earning him the badge. After Chili and Cress go 1-1, Cilan loses the deciding battle to Ash's Oshawott, despite having the type advantage. Later, Cilan decides to leave the Gym and join Ash on his journey in order to further improve his ability to determine the compatibility between trainers and their Pokémon.