Friday, October 20, 2023

Character Spotlight: Team Rocket

I try to do at least one villainous blog post each October and I knew this year I wanted to talk about Team Rocket. The problem became choosing between game and anime iterations of the members of Team Rocket. And then which Rockets to talk about! For now I’ve made the arbitrary decision to focus on the Team Rocket trio from the anime. So without further adieu…

Prepare for trouble

Make it double…


Let’s start with the femme fatale who sees herself equally as a thug and as a princess. Through various flashbacks over twenty years, we get instances of Jessie in nursing school, in a bicycle gang, and at Pokémon school. Eventually she joined Team Rocket and was partnered with equally inept James (not before developing a rivalry with Cassidy). When arriving in Hoenn, Jessie starts competing in Pokémon contests under an alias and constantly searches to be in the spotlight. She’s certainly attention-seeking, which I’m sure is no small part because of basically being abandoned as a kid. 


In contrast to poor Jessie, her partner in crime came from affluence, but was no less abandoned. Emotionally stunted (in my opinion) because of his parents’ constant direction, he was betrothed to overbearing Jessebelle. So he ran away and made his way to joining the same bicycle gang as Jessie and eventually joined Team Rocket. James has a certain kind of self confidence that I admire. Doesn’t matter if Jessie has talked him into crossdressing or if he’s befriending a new Pokémon friend. He just enjoys being himself, so I can only imagine that’s why he ran away from his engagement. 


An alley cat from the beginning, Meowth taught himself to speak and walk on two legs like a human to impress a girl… only to lose her to a Persian. That's probably a contributing factor behind his inferiority complex to Giovanni's Persian after joining Team Rocket. Probably doesn't help that the Boss shipped him off with Jessie and James and kept the Persian.

Team Rocket Blast Off

When the series began, our Team Rocket trio was menacing and had some standards for their captures. But it wasn't long before the bumbling buffoons became comic relief, going after Pikachu and any other minorly interesting Pokemon. With every episode, they had new gadgets, Meowth-shaped balloons, and ended up blasting off into the distance. Comic relief villains through and through. Other than about two-thirds of Unova (in which they were surprisingly dark), you were more likely to get solid puns than successful poaching. But that's why we love them. More chaotic neutral than any sort of evil. And they’re relatable. It’s fun to see villains in kids’ shows that are relatable, instead of just doing evil for the sake of evil. In fact, we have many instances when Team Rocket helps the good guys more than the bad guys (sometimes even against other Rockets). It’ll be interesting to see what kind of villain shows up on the new iteration of Pokemon–I’ve yet to watch it… not even sure if it’s dubbed. 

In the meantime, I’m going to continue watching Pokemon Sun and Moon on the Pokemon Channel. Maybe one of these days our anti-heroes will find something worth catching and keep it for more than five seconds. Happy spooky season to you and all your villains!

Bonus trivia/Reminder: Our Team Rocket trio appeared in the main events of Pokemon Yellow

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