Team Rocket

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Team Rocket
A red 'R' in sans-serif font
In-universe information
TypeCriminal organization
PurposeTo 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.[1]

In video games[edit]

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[2] 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."[4][5]

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.[6]. Team Rocket grunts also appear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as DLC costumes for Mii Fighters.[7]

In the anime[edit]

Jessie, James, and Meowth
Pokémon characters
James, Meowth, and Jessie, as they appear in the early seasons of the Pokémon TV series
First appearance"Pokémon Emergency!" (1997)
Last appearance"The Rainbow and the Pokémon Master!" (2023)
Designed bySayuri Ichishi
Portrayed by
Voiced by

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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[1]

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.[11]


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.[12]

Meowth was voiced by Maddie Blaustein for the first eight seasons of the series.[13] 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.[14][15]

Other media[edit]

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.[9] Team Rocket characters frequently appear on cards in the Pokémon Trading Card Game.[16][17]

Reception and legacy[edit]

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.[1]

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."[18] 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."[19]

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.[20]


  1. ^ Episodes 2 - 8
  2. ^ Episodes 2 - 31


  1. ^ a b c Castello, Jay (2023-04-08). "The Very Queer, 25-Year Legacy of 'Pokémon' Antiheroes Team Rocket". Yahoo! Sports. Archived from the original on 2023-05-03. Retrieved 2023-05-03.
  2. ^ a b Devries, Jack (2012-06-14). "Pokemon Report: Pokemafia". IGN. Archived from the original on 2023-05-03. Retrieved 2023-05-03.
  3. ^ Lucard, Alex (2010-03-18). "Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver – The Return of Giovanni and Celebi!". Diehard GameFan. Archived from the original on 2023-05-03. Retrieved 2023-05-03.
  4. ^ Barnett, Brian (2017-11-02). "Team Rocket Officially Returns in Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon". IGN. Archived from the original on 2023-05-03. Retrieved 2023-05-03.
  5. ^ de Coninck, Michiel (2017-11-02). "Pokémon Ultra Sun en Ultra Moon brengen Team Rocket terug". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on 2023-05-03. Retrieved 2023-05-03.
  6. ^ Thier, Dave (2019-07-17). "Team Rocket Is Coming To 'Pokémon GO' Very Soon With A New Update And Some Special Research". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2023-05-04. Retrieved 2023-05-04.
  7. ^ Bankhurst, Adam (2019-04-09). "Team Rocket grunts is part of the DLC Mii costume in Round 3 in SSBU". IGN.
  8. ^ Harris, Jeffrey (2008-02-04). "Pokémon: Indigo League Season 1, Volume 3 DVD Review". IGN. Archived from the original on 2021-07-09. Retrieved 2023-05-03.
  9. ^ a b O'Neal, Christopher (2020-04-01). "Pokemon: Why Team Rocket Wants to Catch Ash's Pikachu". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on 2023-05-03. Retrieved 2023-05-03.
  10. ^ York, Marc (2022-06-08). "Pokémon: Why Team Rocket Rarely Used Mechas in Season 1". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on 2023-05-03. Retrieved 2023-05-03.
  11. ^ Jiang, Sisi (2023-05-02). "Lost Pokémon Anime Episodes Rediscovered After 12 Years". Kotaku. Archived from the original on 2023-05-04. Retrieved 2023-05-04.
  12. ^ Liebnson, Donald (2000-03-23). "Anime Star". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 2023-05-04. Retrieved 2023-05-04.
  13. ^ Enlow, Courtney (2019-03-27). "Forgotten Women of Genre". Syfy. Archived from the original on 2022-11-12. Retrieved 2023-05-04.
  14. ^ Leung, Hilary (2023-04-19). "Pokémon: Team Rocket's James and Meowth Voice Actor James Carter Retires Due to Cancer". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on 2023-05-03. Retrieved 2023-05-03.
  15. ^ ** Winslow, Levi (2023-04-19). "Pokémon's Team Rocket, Professor Oak Voice Actor Retires Due To Cancer". Kotaku. Archived from the original on 2023-04-26. Retrieved 2023-05-03.
  16. ^ Nelson, Joshua (2021-06-16). "Pokémon Japanese Team Rocket Booster Box On Auction At Heritage". Bleeding Cool. Archived from the original on 2023-05-08. Retrieved 2023-05-08.
  17. ^ Dwyer, Theo (2023-04-11). "Pokémon TCG Reveals Pokémon Card 151: Giovanni". Bleeding Cool. Archived from the original on 2023-05-08. Retrieved 2023-05-08.
  18. ^ Carter, Chris (2019-07-09). "Team Rocket might be blasting off into Pokemon Go". Destructoid. Archived from the original on 2023-05-04. Retrieved 2023-05-04.
  19. ^ Levesley, David (2019-02-27). "The Inspiring Story of the Trans Actress Behind Your Favorite Pokémon's Voice". Them. Archived from the original on 2023-03-29. Retrieved 2023-05-04.
  20. ^ Camp, Brian; Julie Davis (May 2007). Anime Classics Zettai!: 100 Must-See Japanese Animation Masterpieces. Stone Bridge Press. p. 283. ISBN 978-1-933330-22-8.