Team Rainbow Rocket

Official art of Team Rainbow Rocket’s castle.

…well, I…

…I mean, do I really need to-?

…then again, “Team Rocket is gay now” is pretty compelling

(what am I saying, “now”? look at Jessie and James; they were always gay)

all right, let’s try for a shorter one

In the aftermath of the resolution of the main plot in Ultra Sun and Moon, Team Rocket appears out of nowhere and takes over first Festival Plaza and then the entire Aether Paradise, renovating Lusamine’s mansion with a new menacing black-and-red colour scheme.  Only they aren’t Team Rocket anymore – they’ve rebranded, are now Team Rainbow Rocket, and are accompanied by a rogue’s gallery of villains from all the previous Pokémon games.  And they’ve got plans.  Apparently.  I know a lot of my readers haven’t actually played Ultra SMoon (which… well, fair enough; they’re not a big step up over Sun and Moon) so let’s begin with a summary of what exactly happens.

Continue reading “Team Rainbow Rocket”

The Pokémaniacal New Year’s Speed-Nuzlocke-stravaganza VI

4:37

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Thanks to the secret chemical compounds obtained/stolen from Team Rocket by Evil Steve, Dr. Chrim’s experiments on Specimen X have been successful.  Soon his true power shall be unleashed!

4:44

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Side effects may include dry mouth, nausea, sore throat, vomiting, psychosis, and transformation into a gigantic sea dragon.

Continue reading “The Pokémaniacal New Year’s Speed-Nuzlocke-stravaganza VI”

The Pokémaniacal New Year’s Speed-Nuzlocke-stravaganza V

New Year’s Day

1:16

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A haggling dispute with Slippery Sue’s contact at the other end of Rock Tunnel has led to bloodshed.  She and Evil Steve will need to find somewhere else to offload our stolen goods.  Meanwhile, Detective Doug thinks this was all a clever sting operation.

Continue reading “The Pokémaniacal New Year’s Speed-Nuzlocke-stravaganza V”

Anonymous asks:

I think anime Jessie would find Team Skull appealing, don’t you? What with her growing up poor and becoming a criminal to ‘stick it to the man’ as it were, that’s some Team Skull motivation right there! Not sure if she and Guzma would get on, though… Maybe a frenemy relationship with Plumeria?

Well, I’ve seen exactly one and a half episodes of the Sun/Moon anime, and Team Skull did not feature, so grain of salt and all that, but yeah, I actually think all three of our Team Rocket trio would find a lot to like in Team Skull as they’re presented in the games.  Jessie and Meowth would sympathise with their disadvantaged position in Alola’s society and respect their ambition, and I think James – despite his own privileged background – has enough of a rebellious streak to appreciate their desire for change.  Also, given that a lot of individual members of Team Skull are actually not particularly malicious, I kinda think James and Jessie would fit right in, with their “only evil because I’m supposed to be” attitude.  Jessie and Guzma would immediately battle to the death for control of the team though.

Anonymous asks:

What do you think shininess to do with Pokémon evolution, if anything? I remember in the Johto games, the shiny Gyarados was red because it was force-evolved from the naturally-red Magikarp, right? And is it a coincidence that Mega Charizard X has similar coloration to a shiny Charizard?

I’m sceptical.  Like, what happens at Lake of Rage, supposedly, is that they’re forcing a whole bunch of Magikarp to evolve.  The red Gyarados that you fight isn’t the only Gyarados there, it just happens to have caught everyone’s attention because… well, it’s red.  Team Rocket’s original plan in Mahogany Town (aside from perfecting their radio technology for their later plot in Goldenrod City) was to turn a tidy profit converting useless Magikarp into valuable Gyarados – not just one, but several.  Honestly they probably would have been better off without the extra attention drawn by the red one, but once people did start getting curious, they opportunistically started making a bit of extra money on top of that by setting up a toll booth near the lake.  Or at least, that was my reading of it.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Mega Charizard X and shiny Charizard are both black, but I don’t think that’s the direction of the causal relationship; I think they’re both black because of a third, unrelated factor – namely, black Charizard are super badass (also, none of the other mega evolutions have this relationship, and the only one who does, Charizard, also has another mega form that doesn’t).

Pokémon Generations: Episode 4

Maybe Origins encouraged me to set my expectations for this series too high.  After all, a four to five minute short doesn’t exactly lend itself to novel and nuanced interpretations of beloved but two-dimensional characters.  It seems quite plausible that I’m being overly critical here.

On the other hand “overly critical” is pretty much my schtick so let’s do more of it.

Continue reading “Pokémon Generations: Episode 4”

Anime Time: Episodes 69 and 70

Lights, Camera, Quack-tion – Go West, Young Meowth

We’re doing these two episodes together because the plot of the second follows directly on from the first, but to be honest Lights, Camera, Quack-tion is really not all that interesting an episode, and beyond giving a brief (hah!) synopsis of the story, as I usually do, I don’t have a whole lot to say about it.  Most of this entry is instead going to deal with Go West, Young Meowth.  That one is incredibly interesting because it’s the one that gives us Meowth’s backstory, and Meowth – the Pokémon who goes out of his way to act like a human – is in a position to say all kinds of neat things about what it means to be a Pokémon or a human.  So, not much time and a lot to say; pretty much par for the course around here.  Let’s get to it!

“Prepare for trouble!  No stun double!  To protect the movies from devastation!  To restore spectacle and imagination!  To make great epics of hate and love!  To direct the best films you've ever heard of!  Cleavon Schpielbunk!  Winner of the Golden Growlithe for best director at the Flea Collar Film Festival!  Lights!  Camera!  Hit your mark when I call action or prepare to fight; THAT'S RIGHT!”
“Prepare for trouble! No stun double! To protect the movies from devastation! To restore spectacle and imagination! To make great epics of hate and love! To direct the best films you’ve ever heard of! Cleavon Schpielbunk! Winner of the Golden Growlithe for best director at the Flea Collar Film Festival! Lights! Camera! Hit your mark when I call action or prepare to fight; THAT’S RIGHT!”

In Lights, Camera, Quack-tion, the kids are out looking for a good spot to settle down and train for a while when they blunder into the midst of a film crew, led by the legendary director Cleavon Schpielbunk.  Schpielbunk is known for artsy films that receive critical acclaim but suffer at the box office, like Brock’s favourite movie of all time, I Saw What You Ate Last Tuesday.  His next production is going to be called Pokémon in Love, and will only star Pokémon.  He’s looking for a Pokémon to co-star opposite his Wigglytuff, a foul-tempered, thin-skinned prima donna.  Several Pokémon audition: Pikachu, Psyduck, Vulpix, Jessie and James’ Arbok and Weezing, Meowth, a Raichu belonging to a trainer the kids met earlier, and a random Doduo, Hitmonlee and Tauros.  The first round of auditions, dance, eliminates the Pokémon we don’t care about.  The second requires a duet with Wigglytuff.  Meowth flat out refuses, telling Wigglytuff “I work alone,” and Arbok and Weezing’s cringe-inducing performances earn vicious Doubleslaps.  All the other Pokémon slink off, unwilling to risk Wigglytuff’s wrath… except Psyduck.  Schpielbunk shrugs and awards Psyduck the part, to a mixture of pride and bemusement from Misty, then explains the plot of his film.  Pokémon in Love is a tale of star-crossed lovers that essentially rips off a fairly significant portion of Romeo and Juliet; Misty comments that it doesn’t sound very original, but Ash and Brock are moved to tears (in fairness to Schpielbunk, Romeo and Juliet itself was basically ripping off the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe from Ovid’s Metamorphoses).  The climactic scene calls for Wigglytuff and Psyduck to try to end a battle between their feuding families, only for Psyduck to be killed in the crossfire.  While the crew films this scene, Team Rocket shows up and deploys one of their patented godawful machines to capture all the Pokémon – except Psyduck.  Misty shouts at Psyduck until his headache-based superpowers kick in, and he is able to free all the Pokémon and hurl Team Rocket off into the sunset.  Schpielbunk calls cut, and decides he somehow has basically enough for an awesome movie.

Continue reading “Anime Time: Episodes 69 and 70”

Pokémon Origins: Episode 2

The Pokémon Tower.

After defeating Brock, Red continues his journey through the classic storyline – such as it is – of the first generation.  Most of this is related to us through a voice over by Red himself, with the help of dialogue boxes in the style of the original games (all direct quotes, of course), covering his victories over Misty and Lieutenant Surge, his initial skirmish with Team Rocket, Charmander’s evolution to Charmeleon, and a variety of other minor events from the games (mercifully, he sees fit to leave out all the Pokémon he is capturing during this time – we’d be here all day otherwise).  Red’s narration is bland, conveying only the barest hint of his own feelings about any of the events in question, and gives little detail.  I find myself questioning why things like receiving a bike voucher from the chairman of the Pokémon Fan Club even needed to be brought up if no attempt is going to be made to elaborate on them – and find myself answering that the only effect can be to call to mind viewers’ own memories of those same events.  Maybe for some of us, the Magikarp Red mentions buying outside Mt. Moon became a valued team member when it evolved!  It reminds us, essentially, that this is our story too.  If the whole show were just Red’s rather dull, functional account, though, there wouldn’t be much point in watching, so the story picks up again with a sequence that the writers thought worthy of special attention: Red’s experiences in Lavender Town and the Pokémon Tower.

Continue reading “Pokémon Origins: Episode 2”

Anime Time: Episodes 36, 48, and 53

The Bridge Bike Gang – Holy Matrimony – The Purr-fect Hero

Ash’s location: San Francisco.  I assume.

We’re more than thirty episodes into this series and I haven’t had an entry about the villains yet.  Clearly this will not do.  Jessie, James and Meowth of Team Rocket are quite possibly the least threatening villains ever.  They certainly manage to cause the heroes harm from time to time, but they never accomplish anything.  I don’t think a single one of their plots ever bears fruit.  Luckily, the show’s writers understood that, gods bless them, and wrote Team Rocket as comic relief characters.  We often see them in brief asides, discussing how desperately they need to get something right, and they frequently break the fourth wall for comedic effect.  Anyhow, that’s enough of their general portrayal – these episodes all reveal things about the specifics of their characters, so let’s take a look.

 Admit it: you wish you could be half this badass.  And/or ridiculous.  Screenshots from filb.de/anime.

In The Bridge Bike Gang, Ash, Misty and Brock come across an epic bridge leading across an inlet to a place called Sunnytown, but sadly the bridge is not complete and they can’t walk across… only the cycle track is finished.  Because bicycles are by far the most valuable objects in the entire Pokémon universe, they can’t just go out and buy one, let alone three… but, luckily, Nurse Joy #148 needs someone to deliver some medicine to Sunnytown, and is willing to let her couriers borrow some bicycles.  The kids immediately agree and race off down the cycle track.  On the bridge, they are accosted by a gang of miscreant cyclists, who demand a Pokémon battle.  During the fight, Team Rocket arrive in their usual dramatic style to mix things up… and it turns out that the gang leader, Tyra, recognises them.  Apparently Jessie and James were once members of this very bicycle gang, after flunking out of Pokémon Tech, and were known as “Big Jess,” who would always swing a chain around her head as she rode, and “Little Jim,” the only member of the gang who still used training wheels.  They were, and are, regarded as the absolute height of badass.  For some reason.  Anyway, the gang members think they’re even more awesome now that they’re hardened criminals, so they’re more than happy to help Jess and Jim fight Ash and his friends… until Officer Jenny #270 arrives and scatters them.  The kids keep riding, even as a terrible storm gathers.  Meanwhile, Tyra encourages Jessie and James to ride out themselves, to renew their… er… legend… and show the gang what real riding is.  They do so on unicycles, because this will earn them unimaginable street cred.  Team Rocket and the kids, coming from opposite sides, both reach a drawbridge being raised to allow a ship to pass beneath.  Ash, being Ash, decides to jump it, in the middle of a violent storm, at the same moment as Team Rocket.  The kids… somehow bounce off their heads and narrowly make the jump, while Jessie and James plummet into the water below.

To be honest, all things considered I thought this was kind of a ‘meh’ episode, but it does have certain bright points; notably, we get a little bit of insight into what motivates Jessie and James in their life of crime.  They crave respect, anything to let themselves forget what failures they normally are, and will do blatantly insane things to cultivate the worship of Tyra and the others.  More importantly their dialogue in this episode suggests that they, like the bike gang, resent rules and value freedom above all else.  Jessie and Meowth can be genuinely spiteful at times, but Jessie at least often seems to be driven at least as much by a burning desire to flip off ‘the system,’ probably on account of her childhood spent in poverty.  Ironically she’s now part of a system anyway, being ‘evil’ apparently for no better reason than because it’s her job, making her something of a ‘punch-clock villain’ (James plays up this aspect a great deal more than she does, but Jessie has her moments too; when things are going particularly badly for them they seem like nothing so much as downtrodden nine-til-five office workers).  She claims to enjoy being villainous, but like James it takes precious little to distract her, and she takes to honest work surprisingly quickly in the episodes where she’s given the opportunity.  Left to her own devices, she would probably remain self-centred, arrogant and superficial, but not outright evil.  James, of course, has baggage of his own… and that’s what Holy Matrimony is all about.

 Okay... I think I actually know what this whole 'invisible costume' thing is about.  In Kabuki theatre, stagehands wear all black clothing.  The audience, by convention, ignores anyone wearing this kind of costume.  Incidentally, assassin characters in Kabuki plays would wear the same costume, so that the audience would think they were just stagehands until they struck, which is where the familiar image of the black-clad ninja comes from.  Isn't learning FUN!?

I love Holy Matrimony, because from the perspective of Ash, Brock and Misty the whole episode is one great big long “WTF?”  It all begins when they stop to look at a “missing person” sign by the road, and an elderly gentleman in a suit pulls up in a limousine to ask whether they recognise the boy in the picture (I presume he has been monitoring the sign in case anyone showed an interest in it).  The picture is years old, but it’s unmistakably James, so the butler piles them into the limo and drives them to an enormous mansion, which, according to the butler, is just the doghouse.  He leads them into the even more opulent actual mansion and explains that the master and his wife have just passed away, and that if their son, James, does not marry his betrothed within twenty-four hours, he will lose his inheritance.  Team Rocket, as usual, have been watching.  James is reluctant to get married, but Jessie and Meowth like the sound of this “fortune” business, so they dress up in ‘invisible costumes’ – flimsy black gauzy things – so they can manoeuvre James like a puppet.  These… seem to work on the butler, and they drag James inside, where his insane parents promptly spring from their coffins, very much alive, and reveal his fiancée, Jessiebelle – a terrifying Southern Belle version of Jessie, from whom James had fled as a youngster.

The psychological implications are nothing short of mind-boggling.

Jessiebelle brings James downstairs into what she claims is the family’s vault, but is actually some kind of exercise dungeon in which she plans to whip James into shape.  James’ parents reveal that they could see Jessie and Meowth the whole time, so they drop smoke bombs and flee while Jessiebelle calls out her Vileplume and drowns James and the kids in Stun Spore.  At this point, James’ childhood Pokémon, Growly the Growlithe, manages to break out of the ‘doghouse’ and charges in to save him.  The group retreats to the doghouse, where James explains everything to Ash, and when Jessiebelle and Vileplume arrive, Pikachu and Growly attack them together and chase them off.  James rejoins Jessie and Meowth, leaving Growly behind to take care of his parents, and Ash, Brock and Misty leave the mansion with Jessiebelle hot on their tail, begging them for help in finding James.

James and Growly being ludicrously adorable, by Bandotaku (http://bandotaku.deviantart.com/).

When James fills Ash in on his backstory, we learn that his parents arranged his engagement to Jessiebelle because they wanted her to teach him how to behave like a proper aristocrat, something he had absolutely no interest in doing.  He ran away from home rather than marry her, and eventually fell in with Team Rocket.  James likes wealth and luxury well enough but, as his final scene with Jessie makes clear, he’d rather be free than rich any day – presumably he hopes to get money and power as a member of Team Rocket, but even once Jessiebelle has been scared off, he’d rather stay a criminal than go home, where he could have those things, just for the asking.  It seems likely that he joined Team Rocket as a gesture of rebellion against the order of society as much as anything else.  As the same time, though, he does care for his parents in a somewhat neurotic way; although he professes to hate them and their upper-crust lifestyle, he would rather leave Growly at home to protect them than bring his loyal friend along on his journey.  What’s really interesting about Holy Matrimony, I think, is that it seems to take a broadly positive view of James and his life choices.  We’re almost certainly supposed to sympathise with him in his arranged marriage to Jessiebelle, whom he doesn’t love and can’t even tolerate, his relationship with Growly presents him as a genuinely decent trainer, and the final scene between him and Jessie on their hot air balloon even seems to suggest that the life they live really is the choice that makes the most sense for them.  As in The Bridge Bike Gang, they affirm that their freedom is more important to them than anything, and the episode seems to be okay with that.

Finally for today… in The Purr-fect Hero, Ash, Misty and Brock stumble into a primary school that’s been expecting some Pokémon trainers to visit, but the other trainers have cancelled at the last minute.  Brock immediately volunteers the group to replace them because he thinks the teacher is hot, and they let all their Pokémon out to play with the children.  Most of them have fun but one, Timmy, seems disappointed because the only Pokémon he wants to meet is a Meowth – the Pokémon that once saved him from a wild Beedrill.  Appearing just when we needed them, Team Rocket show up with their latest plan to steal Pikachu: present a Pokémon Magic Show and make him disappear, replacing him with Meowth and then escaping before Ash realises that they’re not really performers.  This they do, but unfortunately Timmy is so excited to run up and meet a Meowth that, in the confusion created by Weezing’s Smokescreen, he gets caught up in Team Rocket’s magic box and Pikachu is left behind.  When Jessie and James take him out and realise their mistake, Timmy is convinced that their Meowth is the same wild one who saved him long ago.  Jessie and James convince Meowth to play along, because “we’re not in the business of destroying children’s dreams!  Well, not yet…”  Meowth ‘saves’ Timmy and returns with him to the school, where Timmy’s classmates crowd around him excitedly, but the adoration goes to his head and a “that’s right!” slips past his lips.  Misty hears him and becomes suspicious, and Meowth flees back to Jessie and James.  Timmy follows, so Ash has to go as well… right into an ambush in a dead-ended rocky valley.  The ensuing battle starts a rockslide, which forces Team Rocket to retreat and nearly flattens Ash and Timmy, but at the last moment a wild Meowth appears and Mega Kicks a boulder in two, saving them.  Everyone returns to the school safe, and Timmy declares his intention to become a trainer one day, with Meowth as his partner.  Team Rocket’s Meowth tells Jessie and James that being a ‘hero’ was nice, but they need him more, so it’s for the best.

 Best.  Meowth.  Ever.

Meowth, distressingly enough, is the brains of the operation.  He’s normally extremely cynical, and quite honestly is probably more evil than either of his human compatriots.  Meowth gets a whole episode devoted to his backstory, Go West Young Meowth, much later in the series, and that will probably get an entry all to itself, so I’ll try to keep this short. The Purr-fect Hero brings out one of Meowth’s most important character traits: his desire for attention, affection, and adoration.  Meowth is incredibly prideful but also rather insecure; whenever he speaks directly to the Boss (whom he seems to regard as being formally his trainer), he is reminded, painfully, that he has fallen out of favour with Giovanni and been replaced by a Persian.  It’s hardly surprising, then, that he finds the prospect of being treated as a hero – deservedly or not – rather attractive.  After returning to Jessie and James, though, he seems somewhat exhausted and glad to have gotten away from it all, and his comment at the episode seems to suggest that he’s happiest being with people who actually need him, rather than the kids, who have only been tricked into viewing him as a hero.  Although traditionally ‘noble’ ideas like honesty and charity tend to make Meowth gag, his pride demands, in the end, that he earn the admiration he feels he deserves – besides which, he does seem to care for Jessie and James as well, though he rarely admits it and would generally prefer them to think he looks down on them.

Honestly, I’m beginning to wonder whether calling Team Rocket ‘villains’ is entirely warranted.  They’re antagonists, certainly, but their villainous actions typically serve as ‘spanners in the works’ rather than anything critical to the story, and although they appear in every episode, I imagine most of the plots could be reconstructed without them fairly easily.  Moreover, when an episode does focus on them, Jessie, James and even Meowth are normally portrayed in a fairly positive light, all things considered.  To cut a long story short (or at least, as short as I am apparently capable of making these things) I think the most natural designation for Team Rocket is ‘anti-villains’ – they have a villainous streak, but are in many respects genuinely sympathetic, and would probably live a much easier life if they just gave up and started backing the other team.

Team Rocket (part 2 of 2)

Let’s recap: Team Rocket disbands following the events of Red and Blue, squirming from the embarrassment of having their criminal empire taken down by what amounts to an angry, homeless, ten-year-old amateur toreador. Where police, private security companies and government agencies failed, your character succeeds – I will leave it to you to decide whether this is a reflection on the awesomeness of the average Japanese ten-year-old or the uselessness of the average Japanese law enforcer. Let’s not poke holes in the plot though; it’s shaky enough as it is and probably can’t take much more. Let’s look instead at what happens three years after Giovanni dissolves his organization, when Team Rocket returns in force, this time in the western province of Johto. Continue reading “Team Rocket (part 2 of 2)”