“Team Rocket, blast off at the speed of light! Surrender now, or prepare to fight!”
To say Team Rocket has ever struck fear in the hearts of their adversaries would be… well, unlikely. Although they are the most infamous villains in the Pokémon universe, specifically Jessie, James, and Meowth, they hardly pack a punch. But what they don’t have in strength, they certainly make up for in courage. What they don’t have in success, they make up for in anti-success. They are the bumbling trio whose exploits have, instead of fear, filled our hearts with love, and their humor, camaraderie, and passion has inspired mountains of lore. So much so, that we often forget Team Rocket is actually a much larger criminal organization, especially in the video games.
Even if you’ve seen every episode of the anime, read every book in the manga, and played every Pokémon game you could get your hands on, there’s still plenty to know about Team Rocket and Jessie, James, and Meowth.
So prepare for trouble. Make it double. Or in this case, multiply it by fifteen and check out these 15 Awesome Things You Didn’t Know About Team Rocket.
15 The Only “Core” Game That the Trio Appears In Is Pokémon Yellow
Yep, that’s right. Out of the 20+ Pokémon “core” games (meaning a traditional Pokemon RPG), only Pokémon Yellow features the most popular members of Team Rocket— only once in two decades!
Adding insult to injury, they aren’t even referred to by name: when you encounter them in Mt. Moon, they’re only called “Rocket.” However, they do come with a Jessie & James sprite as well as their typical Pokémon load-out: Ekans, Koffing, and Meowth. Also, they’re here to steal your precious Pokémon fossil (sounds pretty Team Rocket) and they tell you to “surrender now or prepare to fight!” If you still have any doubts about if they’re ACTUALLY the trio, know that they’re super easy to defeat and sign off with “Team Rocket, blast off at the speed of light!”
14 “Rocket” Is Actually An Acronym
R.O.C.K.E.T., or “Raid On the City, Knock out, Evil Tusks” is the true meaning behind Team Rocket’s name. I know, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is an English acronym that was first introduced in the Japanese manga, so I’m sure a few things got lost along the way.
Although “Evil Tusks” aren’t the most scary thing I can think of, the acronym sure is a lot better than “Rarely Only Criminals, Kids End our Terror.” Or how about “Running Or Crying, Kicking our Empty Trousers.” It’s even better than “Rambunctious Organisms Creating Kidnappings of Extinct Things.”
Well, okay, maybe they are. I wrote those. I’ll try to be humble. Please hire me, Pokémon I know you tried, but come on.
13 The Voice Of Jessie Is Also The Voice Of Jigglypuff
Rachael Lillis, voice actress extraordinaire, has not only lent her talents to the dynamic Jessie of Team Rocket, but she’s also created one of the most memorable Pokémon voices of all time: Jigglypuff. She’s voiced Jigglypuff both in the anime and in a lot of the video games, including the Super Smash Bros. series. I wonder if she’s tired of getting asked to sing the song…
Additionally, she’s the voice of Goldeen, Horsea, Poliwag, Venonat, Torchic, Silcoon, Beautifly, Chansey, and Pikachu when the original Japanese voice was unusable in the anime— plus dozens more that I can’t fit in this list!
Oh, and this one small character. She’s friends with Ash for a couple episodes. Weird hair and clothes. Misty! Yeah, that’s her name. I wonder if she’s popular.
12 Meowth Is Based On The Japanese Lucky Cat
You think a Pokémon based on a Japanese Lucky Cat, or “Maneki-neko,” would be able to catch a break once in a while. The Lucky Cat is a very popular lucky charm and talisman in Japanese culture and, stateside, might be just as instantly recognizable. He’s also referred to as the “Money Cat” and the “Fortune Cat,” which might explain Meowth a bit better.
So why can’t Meowth have all the riches in the world? Why can’t he bring some good luck to Team Rocket? Irony, my friends. Sweet, delicious, irony. Or maybe to teach us a lesson. Money leads to greed, greed leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate… leads to suffering. Wait, I think that’s a Star Wars thing. Sorry, different list.
11 5 Of The Kanto Gym Leaders Were Originally Team Rocket Members
According to the manga, Lt. Surge, Koga, Sabrina, Blaine, and Giovanni were all members of Team Rocket. In the games, however, only Giovanni is a Team Rocket member… and [SPOILER] turns out to be the leader of Team Rocket! Come on, if you don’t know that by now… forget it, there’s no helping you.
Although that feels sort of like the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad out of Kill Bill, it’s easy to see why they chose to only make Giovanni the only Team Rocket member. It’s one of the biggest twists in the game! Plus, it’s adds a little weight to the sections of the game where you’re infiltrating Team Rocket’s bases and taking them out from the inside. Man, Pokémon is cool.
10 Meowth Learned To Talk To Impress A Female Meowth
Even the coldest of criminals are allowed to love. Unfortunately for Meowth, his love story didn’t work out so hot.
According to his backstory, Meowth once met a female Meowth named Meowzie and fell in love with her at first sight. She, like so many others in Meowth’s life, rejected him, saying he was too poor and that she preferred humans. Typical of Meowth, he wouldn't give up so easily, so he taught himself to speak and to walk upright, like a human. After his lengthy and difficult transformation, she still rejected him and called him a freak. Apparently, Meowth remembered the first human word he understood: “rocket”— and the rest is history.
What’s this? What’s this emotion I’m feeling inside? Empathy For Meowth? I suppose he’s entitled to that too.
9 Jessie And James Eventually Get Married
Leave it to the manga to contain the juiciest of details. In one epilogue of the manga, James confesses his love to Jessie. Shortly afterwards, they are shown getting married— with Jessie looking visibly pregnant.
In the anime, it’s never very clearly what the relationship between Jessie and James is. Some might argue it’s nonexistent and some have theories that relate to James’ affinity for cross-dressing, hint hint. However, in the ever popular manga, the tension had to eventually burst and we’re given a brief glimpse into the happily ever after story of Jessie and James.
I see their child pursuing a life of crime, just like their parents, and doing sort of a Kylo Ren thing where he/she struggles to live up to the exploits of Jessie and James. I mean, it wouldn’t be too hard, but any child of Jessie and James is expected to struggle just a bit.
8 Team Rocket’s Uniforms Are Based On Japanese Motorcycle Gangs
The Team Rocket uniforms are a cosplay favorite among Americans. In Japan, however, the pieces of the costume might be a little bit easier to come by. The uniforms are inspired by the Japanese motorcycle gangs called “Bōsōzoku,” which literally translates to “running out of control tribe.” They were mostly prevalent in the 1980s and 90s, when Pokémon was being created, but, in current times, their membership has fallen drastically.
The gangs were often illegally customizing motorcycles, driving recklessly, and participating in street races. To say they were a criminal enterprise might be a bit much, but you can definitely see where the inspiration comes from. If only Team Rocket had cool motorcycles…
7 James Has Been Voiced By Three Different Actors
Well, ignoring the fact that the Pokémon anime has been translated into almost 30 languages and employed dozens of voice actors internationally… In the English version, James has been voiced by three different actors: Ted Lewis, Eric Stuart, and Carter Cathcart.
While I’m unsure exactly why the voice actor for James has either left or been replaced, I am certainly sure that I never noticed. The first, Ted Lewis, was only in episodes 2 through 8, while Eric Stuart was in episodes 9 through 145, the first 8 movies, and a couple specials before being replaced by Carter Cathcart.
If you listen to a couple of voice comparisons the difference is clear… with Eric Stuart being the most popular James and the one we try most to imitate.
6 The Coin On Meowth’s Head Is Called A Koban
While it maybe be somewhat familiar to Japanese audiences, the Koban is completely alien to Americans. The coin is originally from the 17th century and went out of use in the mid 19th century. Well, I guess it could be fair to say that most Japanese kids might not know about it either…
In Japanese, Meowth’s signature move, “Pay Day,” is called “Neko ni Koban,” which translates literally to “gold coins for cats.” Cool, right? I guess the Japanese version of the anime is slightly more educational than its English counterpart. I mean, at one point when I was younger, I thought the coin on Meowth’s head was a cookie. It doesn’t even look edible.
5 Jessie And James Are Named After Jesse James, The Outlaw
Jesse James, the ultimate bad-boy of the wild west, was one of the most infamous train and bank robbers of the 19th century. During his time, even though his intentions were entirely criminal, he was hailed as a renegade celebrity. Strangely fitting that our favorite villains from the Pokémon series would be named after him.
Also in the Pokémon anime are two other Team Rocket duo’s named after famous gunslingers: Cassidy and Butch, after Butch Cassidy, and Annie and Oakley, after Annie Oakley. Perhaps there’s a certain subconscious association going on in the brain that allows us to instantly interpret these characters as evil or dangerous. Or perhaps the Pokémon creators are just having a little bit of fun with us. Probably that.
4 Team Rocket Has A Secret Oath
You might think you know this already. You might have it memorized: “Prepare for trouble! Make it double! To protect the world from devastation! To unite all peoples within our nation!” etc. and so on. But I gotta tell you, that’s just their motto— they actually have an entirely separate oath:
“Steal Pokémon for profit. Exploit Pokémon for profit. All Pokémon exist for the glory of Team Rocket.”
Well, I can see why it’s not as popular. It’s way more evil sounding and not nearly as melodic. I don’t think Jessie, James, and Meowth would be nearly as popular among the fans if they opened every fight with that crude statement. Yikes.
3 There’s A Flash Game Called Team Rocket Blast Off
Older Pokémon fans might know about this one, but I doubt many of the newer fans know about the 2006 flash game Team Rocket Blast Off. It is one of three computer games that were developed for the 10th Anniversary Perdue Farms Promotion: the games came on promotional mini-discs that were distributed in packages of Perdue Chicken Nuggets.
If that sounds strange, the game is even stranger. It consists of Ash and May trying to catch Pokémon tossed out of the trio’s hot air balloon. A myriad of Pokémon are thrown, and points are deducted for missing a Pokémon or catching a sandbag instead. Oh, and there’s only thre levels. The Pokémon completionist in me wants to check it out but… I think I’ll just pass.
2 Meowth Was Originally Voiced By A Transgender Voice Actress
Maddie Blaustein was assigned male at birth, but eventually transitioned to a female in the 1990s. She was an activist in the transgender community and helped organize support groups in the online game Second Life. Also, she was the voice of the beloved Pokémon character, Meowth.
Unfortunately, she passed away in 2008, but take one look at her voice credits and you can see that she led a wonderful career voicing a lot of influential characters across our favorite series’. Also, fun fact, she originally auditioned to the be the voice of James.
1 There’s A Never-Released Gamed Called Meowth’s Party
At Nintendo Spaceworld 2000, a now ancient video game trade show, a demo of a game called Meowth’s Party was shown to help illustrate the graphical power of the new Nintendo GameCube.
Well, to call it a game is a little bit of a stretch, because in the demo you could only move the camera around Meowth, who was playing a guitar in front of a crowd of other Pokémon. What makes it a potentially unreleased game is that it was developed by the same team that created Pokemon Stadium. Although we’ll never get to experience it again, the guitar playing Meowth lives on in Super Smash Bros. Melee as an unlockable trophy. The character model is identical and gives a brief description of Meowth’s Party.
Here’s to hoping it comes out one day!(?)