“Prepare for trouble and make it double. To protect the world from devastation, to unite the peoples within our nation. To denounce the evils of truth and love, to extend our reach to the stars above!”
Anybody familiar with Pokemon knows those words. Team Rocket is the first and most well-known team in the entire franchise, mostly due to their presence in two generations of games as well as almost every episode of the Pokemon anime. Jesse, James, and Meowth have tried for years to kidnap Pikachu and they are still no closer than they were when they started.
However, the anime has given Team Rocket a bit of a bad name. Team Rocket is mostly treated as a joke or a mere annoyance (mostly due to Jesse, James, and Meowth), but the reality of the matter is that the organization itself is much more threatening. From the first time they appear in the games, we are given a hint at just how cruel this team can be in the world of Pokemon.
The true evil of Team Rocket stems directly from their boss, Giovanni. This man, while starting out as a young trainer desiring to take on the Pokemon League, slowly became corrupted and began to see the many creatures of the world as tools for his cause. On his road to conquest, Giovanni has bossed Team Rocket in a totally evil direction and they’ve done some truly horrible things throughout the years. Keep on reading to see fifteen of their worst.
15. Stealing Pikachu
The first entry on the list is one of the most obvious ones. While the anime tends to make light of Team Rocket’s antics, the truth is that what they’re trying to do is a horrible act indeed. From the first episode, we see that Ash and Pikachu are going to establish one of the greatest bonds in cartoon history, and that they will always have each others’ backs. Enter Team Rocket- the organization that wants to cut off that friendship and take Pikachu for their own gain. Why they’ve continued following Ash and Pikachu all these years is beyond me, because it seems like they’d be much more successful trying to steal Pokemon from less competent trainers. Regardless of how silly the premise is, they are trying to break apart a bond that has been twenty years in the making. We all cried when Ash nearly let Pikachu go to live with its own kind in the first season, but imagine how much more painful it’d be if Pikachu was forcibly taken away from him. They’re horrible at their job, but the Team Rocket trio has nothing good planned for Ash and Pikachu.
14. Stealing The Master Ball
The Poke Ball was developed to capture Pokemon and effectively tame them so that trainers could begin partnering with their new friends and raising them for battle. As the Poke Ball technology developed, however, it was discovered that some Pokemon were harder to catch than others (especially legendary Pokemon). As time went on, The Silph Co. realized that in order to keep up with much stronger Pokemon, they needed much stronger Poke Balls. This led them to create an object known as the Master Ball. This Poke Ball was so well designed that it could instantly capture any Pokemon without fail, making it the number one device to use when trying to find rare creatures. Unfortunately it never got out of the prototype stage, and Team Rocket ended up invading the Silph Co. to steal it. Their end goal was to either replicate the technology or capture a powerful legendary Pokemon to use for their bidding. Thankfully, after Trainer Red ended up driving Team Rocket away from the Silph Co., he was given the Master Ball to use as he wished. If Team Rocket ever got their hands on a device like that, the results would be catastrophic.
13. Faking A Breeding Center
Another horrible act taken straight out of the anime, faking a breeding center, was a terrible scheme concocted in the heads of higher-ranking Team Rocket officials. This time, Jesse and James were not responsible, but instead their rivals, Butch and Cassidy. These two had much better schemes and almost got away with it. They pretended to be an excellent breeding center where Pokemon left there would be raised, taught new moves, or even evolved. Sadly, there were many trainers including Ash and co. that fell for this ruse and thus had their Pokemon captured. To make matters worse, once Ash and his friends found out and rescued their Pokemon, Butch and Cassidy managed to get them arrested for breaking and entering. Like Team Rocket trying to steal Pikachu, it seems small in the grand scheme of things, but when you stop and think about it, the act is truly disgusting. Here are many caring trainers that only want the best for their Pokemon, their friends, and while they have their Pokemon taken care of for a little while, little do they know that their partners have been put in cages only to be sold or used for warfare. It makes me sick.
12. Blocking Off Pokemon Tower
In the Kanto region, there exists the mysterious Lavender Town. Known mostly for its four-tone theme music, Lavender Town is the place to find all kinds of ghost Pokemon. In that town, there exists the Pokemon Tower, which is essentially a cemetery for deceased Pokemon. The tower is frequently visited, and many trainers go there to mourn the losses of their beloved friends. Because of this, grief is a natural and vital process for the people of Lavender Town. However, Team Rocket with their dastardly schemes in mind, decided to take over the Pokemon Tower for a time and use it as their base of operations. As such, anyone who tried to enter the tower was abruptly shown the front door, and if they didn’t comply, they were hurt as a result. It wasn’t until the trainer Red showed up and drove Team Rocket out that the people finally got to return to the tower. However, the damage done to those people was awful. Without being able to access the Pokemon Tower, they weren’t able to properly grieve for their losses, and in my experience, the people that don’t grieve properly are much worse off than the ones that do.
11. Cut Off Slowpoke Tails
When I was a young boy, it was difficult for me to imagine that Pokemon were essentially animals, and as such, their world was faced with the same problems that ours is. For example, there is illegal trafficking, illegal capture, and illegal violence just to make a quick buck. In the Johto region, Slowpoke tail is a delicacy and sells for a high price. Team Rocket decided to capitalize on this. In a small town in that region, there exists the Slowpoke well, where many of the lazy creatures roam and thrive happily. However, Team Rocket ended up taking over that well and captured all of the Slowpoke to forcibly cut off their tails and sell them. It was the first time in the Pokemon world that I genuinely wanted to destroy Team Rocket for harming those poor Slowpoke (and trust me, Croconaw at my side, I made them leave). Perhaps it’s a result of my love for elephants and the fact that they’re hunted for the ivory on their tusks.
10. Killed A Marowak
This is something that was delved into a bit more during the Pokemon Origins anime series. In the second episode, the trainer Red comes to Lavender Town after it was invaded by Team Rocket. He ends up at a center where abandoned Pokemon were rescued. The most temperamental Pokemon there was a Cubone that refused to speak or open up to anyone. It was there that it was revealed that the little Pokemon had a tragic past. It was being hunted for trafficking by Team Rocket when it was protected by its mother. The mother held off the criminals long enough for its child to escape, but sadly, Marowak gave its life to protect its offspring. When Team Rocket finally made their way to Lavender Town and the Pokemon Tower, a mysterious ghost began to appear to scare away any locals that might try to sneak in. After further investigation, Red discovered that the ghost was actually the spirit of Cubone’s mother trying to protect people from getting near Team Rocket. What leaves an impression in my mind is when Marowak sees Cubone and reveals itself, the young Pokemon cries for its mother, only to see her spirit drift away to finally be at peace. That was all because of Team Rocket.
9. Took Over A Pokemon Gym
While it’s true that many of Team Rocket’s members are a bit short on intelligence, the same cannot be said for their leader, Giovanni. He is fiery, smart, and devious. One of his best schemes of all time was choosing where to put their base of operations: the Viridian City Gym. You see, the Pokemon Gyms are the most well-respected and well-known buildings in all of the Kanto region, so nobody would expect an evil organization hiding in one. However, the horrible thing is not that Team Rocket hid in a gym, but that Giovanni became the gym leader. He fought trainers and gave out badges as proof of the victory.
If you’re still not on the same page as me, let me explain. Every Pokemon Gym is a milestone of a trainer’s journey. Each Gym Leader loves Pokemon in a different way, teaching each of their opponents something new about their partners. It is that knowledge and love that pushes a trainer to keep going forward, even when times are hard. Giovanni does not share this love for Pokemon, and instead views them as mere tools for his plans. When he gave out the badges, they meant nothing compared to the other Gym Leaders.
8. Experimenting On Pokemon
I say experimenting very loosely, because what Team Rocket really did to various Pokemon could easily be considered torture. We’ve already established that Pokemon are friends and partners, not to be misused in any way, shape, or form. Obviously, Team Rocket doesn’t feel the same way. This is a group that wants to be the best in all the wrong ways. In order to get stronger, they take the easy way out: experimenting on Pokemon. By experimenting on Pokemon and seeing what they respond to, how they function, and what they fear, Team Rocket gains a better understanding of how to fight meddling trainers and topple entire governments. During their time in the Silph Co., Team Rocket was forcing the scientists to perform cruel experiments on wild Pokemon to finish their work on the Master Ball. Then after the experiments were done for the time being, they would shove the Pokemon in small cages, where they would wait until they were needed again. Just imagine a small Jigglypuff or Clefairy sitting in a closed cage, trembling in fear of what kinds of tests awaited it.
7. Selling Pokemon On The Black Market
Team Rocket, as you probably know by now, enjoys robbing Pokemon from trainers and the wild alike, but if you think all of those Pokemon are used for their armies, you’re dead wrong. An organization like Team Rocket needs a lot of money to fund its projects and various members, so keeping the cash coming in is one of their top priorities. One of the worst ways they do this is by selling Pokemon on the Black Market. You see, there is a large difference between a rare Pokemon and a strong Pokemon. Team Rocket will seize every opportunity they can gain to capture a creature and determine its value. Once that gets out of the way, they will ship it off for the big bucks. Much of this concept was explored in the Diamond and Pearl series, where the hunter J captured Meowth and Pikachu to sell them for a hefty price. Getting paid a lot of money is half of the reason why Team Rocket hunts Legendary Pokemon so often. People in the games will go to great lengths to get a legendary as it is, so imagine what people in the actual Pokemon world would do.
6. Forcing Pokemon To Evolve
Team Rocket was definitely not as horrible during their run on the Johto Region, primarily due to their boss, Giovanni, going into hiding. That being said, they still did plenty of terrible things to put themselves on this list. One of their more despicable acts was forcing Pokemon to evolve. Anybody who has played Gold and Silver will know exactly what I’m talking about. In that particular region, there exists the Lake of Rage. In that lake, many Magikarp thrive and live freely. However, it was discovered that a gold Magikarp lived there, and Team Rocket captured it for their own nefarious goals. Through the use of machines (powered by other captured Pokemon), Team Rocket forced this Magikarp to evolve into what we know today as Red or Shiny Gyarados. While this Pokemon looks incredibly cool, the forced evolution sent it on a war path, and it even began terrorizing the locals. The Pokemon was so powerful that it took Lance, the Champion of the Johto Region, to actually calm it down and capture the beast. As a dragon tamer, he was the only one that saw the true nature of Gyarados.
5. Creating Dark Pokemon
This is a concept that has been explored a few times in the Pokemon world. When an evil organization captures a Pokemon for their own uses, often times that Pokemon will rebel or refuse to listen to them. Team Rocket (or at least one member of it) developed a way to compensate for this matter- by creating dark Pokemon. The way they do this is through the use of a Dark Ball. Any Pokemon captured in this ball will instantly become corrupted and imbued with immense power. Now this is not limited to just the TV show- the trading card game also showcased Dark Pokemon at a time, most likely corrupted by Team Rocket as well. In the movie Pokemon 4Ever, the Dark Ball was showcased in full glory, as it was used on a fearful Tyranitar to turn into a Godzilla-like monster.
While it’s true that Pokemon are used for battle, to create a Dark Pokemon is like unleashing a pack of rabid wolves. Moreover, it brings a great amount of pain to a Pokemon to be corrupted in such a way. It disturbs the delicate balance of people and Pokemon, and brings them further apart.
4. Corrupting Celebi
Those of you that have seen Pokemon 4Ever were probably yelling at your screens at me for neglecting a huge detail in the last entry. Don’t worry, that act was so heinous, that I felt it deserved its own spot. During that Pokemon movie, a Team Rocket member known as the Masked Marauder developed the Dark Ball. However, his endgame wasn’t just capturing Tyranitars and Scizors. Instead, he sought the Legendary Pokemon, Celebi. Eventually, he succeeded in his goals, and the disaster that unfolded was catastrophic. As a Legendary Pokemon, Celebi’s power is already beyond comprehension, but when corrupted and forced to use that power against mankind, all kinds of horrible things were sure to happen. The forest was destroyed as Celebi began a war path, and many Pokemon were robbed of their homes. To top it all off, due to it using so much of its power and fighting the corruption, Celebi expended all of its energy and even lost its life in the end (Spoiler alert). Luckily for our favorite little onion fairy, it was brought back to life by its incarnations from different points in time. Yeah, I try not to think about it too much.
3. Using Stolen Pokemon
Think back on everything I said earlier about how horrible Team Rocket was for stealing Pokemon. Now, keep in mind that all of those precious Pokemon, partners, and friends that they steal go through one of two processes. The first is that they are sold to the black market for high amounts of cash. The other is that they are used for the war Team Rocket wages on society. Think about that every time you play through the games and fight against any member of Team Rocket. How many of the Pokemon they use were stolen from other trainers? How many were taken from their homes in the wild? Their entire goal is to kidnap Pokemon from all walks of life, so they’re bound to use a large margin of them. After all, who knows how many of Giovanni’s Pokemon were stolen? What makes matters worse is that when they steal Pokemon, there is likely a process involved to twist its way of thinking in order for it to fight for Team Rocket. By the time they send it out to battle, it’s not the same Pokemon that was captured.
2. Creating Mewtwo
In a way, Giovanni was always destined to become the leader of Team Rocket. He didn’t have a very good home life, but not for the reasons you may think. Instead, there were a lot of rumors surrounding the whereabouts of the Legendary Pokemon, Mew. Giovanni’s mother, wanting to capture this Pokemon, disappeared in search for it, and never came back. Once he became the head of Team Rocket, Giovanni knew the risks in searching for Mew and decided that their best option was to clone it instead of capturing it. After finding a sample of Mew’s DNA, they were able to begin the process on one of the first artificial Pokemon to date: the Legendary known as Mewtwo. Unfortunately, the cloning process left a permanent scar on Mewtwo, and it was raised with the most savage heart of all Pokemon. Giovanni tested it by using it during one of his gym battles, but Mewtwo was much smarter than that. Its intelligence grew exponentially and it realized that it was only a tool used for dastardly purposes, so the Pokemon broke out of the lab where he was created, killing every scientist in the process. Team Rocket alone sought to create the world’s strongest Pokemon, and they succeeded.
1. Their Teachings on Pokemon
“Steal Pokémon for profit. Exploit Pokémon for profit. All Pokémon exist for the glory of Team Rocket.”
These are the words that every member of Team Rocket lives by. Everything they’ve done and everything they do is based on this philosophy as founded by Giovanni. Pokemon are nothing more than business items used to gain money and power in the world, no matter what region you are in. It’s these kinds of teachings that lead people to rob trainers of their friends, corrupt peaceful Pokemon, experiment on harmless creatures, and kill those that stand in their way. They may seem goofy and incapable in the games and the anime, but if given the opportunity to succeed, Team Rocket would bring true horror to people and Pokemon alike. It all stems from the idea of one man that Pokemon are no longer friends, partners, or a valuable part of their ecosystem. It’s unclear what made a man fall so low, but all that every trainer knows is that if a member of Team Rocket shows themselves, then it’s their responsibility to make sure that those criminals never show up again.