This article needs to be updated.(September 2023)
|Purpose||To steal and use Pokémon for profit|
Team Rocket (Japanese: ロケット団, Hepburn: Roketto-dan, Japanese: [ɾo̞ke̞t̚to̞ dã̠ɴ]) is a fictional crime syndicate in the Pokémon franchise. Team Rocket is a primary antagonist in the original Pokémon video games Red, Green, and Blue, as well as in the long-running Pokémon anime TV-series. In the latter, Team Rocket is primarily represented through the trio of characters Jessie, James, and Meowth, who are major secondary characters throughout the Pokémon TV-series.
Team Rocket is portrayed as a serious crime syndicate in the video games series, stealing and killing Pokémon. In the TV-series, Team Rocket has a largely comedic role, as they repeatedly fail to steal Pokémon while operating increasingly flashy mecha. The Team Rocket trio in the anime is beloved by Pokémon fans who relate to their roles as young adults and their queercoding.
In video games
Team Rocket first appeared in the video games Pokémon Red, Green, and Blue, where they are portrayed as a serious and affluent crime syndicate. The games present Team Rocket breaking and entering, murdering a mother Marowak, and chopping off the tails of Slowpoke to sell on the black market. In Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal, it is revealed that Team Rocket's leader Giovanni had disappeared after being defeated in the original games, and the syndicate is disbanded. Giovanni himself reappears in the 2009 remakes Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver.
Each subsequent set of Pokémon video games has its own villainous teams, such as Team Aqua and Team Magma in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, and Team Galactic in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Team Rocket and Giovanni returned as a major antagonist team in the 2017 video games Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, as "Team Rainbow Rocket."
Team Rocket was introduced to Pokémon Go under the name of "Team GO Rocket" in 2019, allowing players to encounter and battle Team Rocket grunts.. Team Rocket grunts also appear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as DLC costumes for Mii Fighters.
In the anime
|Jessie, James, and Meowth|
|First appearance||"Pokémon Emergency!" (1997)|
|Last appearance||"The Rainbow and the Pokémon Master!" (2023)|
|Designed by||Sayuri Ichishi|
In the long-running Pokémon anime series, a trio of Team Rocket grunts Jessie (ムサシ, Musashi), James (コジロウ, Kojirō), and Meowth (ニャース, Nyarth) are major secondary characters. The three were the primary antagonists of early seasons of the series, where each episode they attempt to kidnap the protagonist's Pikachu. In the earliest produced episodes of the anime, the trio was halfway intelligent and at times were very formidable foes, however by the time season 1 was halfway over, the three would be reduced to mainly being comic relief. Team Rocket's Meowth is unusual within the Pokémon canon, as he is the only Pokémon creature able to speak the human language, whereas all other Pokémon in the series only utter syllables of their own names. Introduced in episode 2, Jessie, James, and Meowth work directly for Giovanni and are tasked to steal the most powerful Pokémon. The characters are presented as simple-minded, bringing slapstick antics to the series.
Jessie and James originally had an Arbok and a Weezing as their signature Pokémon, respectively. As the Pokémon series evolved, the Team Rocket trio uses an increasingly large number of vehicles and mecha. Most notably, they travel in a Meowth-shaped hot air balloon throughout the show, and use a Gyarados-shaped submarine in its early seasons. Later on, Team Rocket became known for their large number of mecha and gadgets. The Team Rocket characters have sympathetic backstories and share a strong camaraderie. They are not ideologically aligned with Giovanni and therefore frequently find themselves siding with the series' protagonists. Due to how frequently Jessie and James are shown to crossdress across the series, it's been speculated among fans that the duo may be queercoded.
In 2011, the Pokémon series was building up to an arc in which Giovanni faces off against rival organization Team Plasma, but the episodes were cancelled following the Great East Japan Earthquake.
In the English dub, Jessie is voiced by Rachael Lillis. During her audition, Lillis was instructed to make Jessie "sultry" while also keeping her "tough." Lillis did not expect Jessie to be a recurring character in the series. James was originally voiced by Eric Stuart. The two actors quickly started to play around with their voices, giving the characters a "prissy" attitude that contrasted with their inability to succeed.
Meowth was voiced by Maddie Blaustein for the first eight seasons of the series. James Carter Cathcart took over the roles of James and Meowth in 2006, and continued to voice the characters until 2023, when he retired from Pokémon due to oral cancer.
Team Rocket is the central antagonist in the 2000 stageplay Pokémon Live!, in which Jessie, James, and Meowth successfully steal Ash Ketchum's Pikachu and use it to train Giovanni's Mewtwo. Team Rocket characters frequently appear on cards in the Pokémon Trading Card Game.
Reception and legacy
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As comic relief characters, Jessie, James, and Meowth are very popular among Pokémon viewers. Yahoo!-writer Jay Castello notes that as Pokémon fans grew up, the struggle of "twenty-somethings who couldn’t quite find their place in the world or succeed at their ambitions" became increasingly relatable, and a sub-fandom dedicated to the trio sprang up. The LGBT community largely embraced Team Rocket's queercoding, interpreting them as bisexual drag artists.
Chris Carter of Destructoid called the English voice team for Jessie, James, and Meowth (Lillis, Stuart, and Blaustein) "some of the show's finest work." Blaustein was inspired by Meowth-focused episode "Go West, Young Meowth" to come out and transition as a transgender woman, a friend of her later metaphorically describing the character as "a human trapped in a Pokémon’s body."
The book Anime Classics Zettai!: 100 Must-See Japanese Animation Masterpieces reviews Team Rocket as the antagonists in the anime who actually provide comedic relief through the characters Jessie and James, with Meowth portrayed as a "clever cat" who stands out among other Meowths. The book also mentions Jessie, who possesses a charming allure, as the leader above James. Although the Team Rocket trio is positioned as antagonists, they are not hesitant to help Ash Ketchum and his friends on several occasions, especially when they find themselves in difficult and dangerous situations, as often depicted in the movies.
- Episodes 2 - 8
- Episodes 2 - 31
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