Theives Can Be Decent People, Too

“I thought our goal was to conquer!” A powerful glow bathes the area in a blood red light as the Boss prepares to ravage the land. Three powerful legends fly above, waiting for commands. It soon comes as the Boss screams an order: “Now, destroy all of Unova!”. The trio flies off. His eyes glowing red, the Boss adds, “And no one can stop me!”. As the group opposing him realizes that another Pokèmon was needed to prevent the possession, time is running out fast… Battles raging in the sky as the protagonist’s Pokèmon desperately try and stop the legendaries, the Rocket Trio lunges for their boss, yelling “Save the Boss!” But were they only thinking of their Boss, or is there something bigger going on here? The Rockets are actually of quality caliber.

The team has, on many occasions, acted decently in many ways- even going so far as to help save the world. In the first movie ever produced for Pokèmon, the Rocket Trio willingly sacrifice themselves to near-certain death, just to help the protagonist escape and then save the world. Would truly evil people and their Pokèmon do such a thing for someone they hate? The Rockets repeated this event in a later movie. Once again, they saved the protagonist’s life, this time directly. They could have just let the protagonist fall to his death, but decided against it. There’s not much doubt that only an evil person would let a ten year old boy fall to his death. Then, in many of the story arcs for the anime, Team Rocket teams up with the protagonists far more often than other evil folks, and help take aforementioned evil people down a few notches. Lastly, in one particular anime episode, Team Rocket actually helps one of the protagonist’s Pokèmon get stronger– the Rocket Trio kept Charizard awake in a lake, because it’d gone in for the night to prove itself to other Charizards. The goal was to keep its flaming tail above the water, so the Rocket Team decided to aid it with that task. The next day, they built a mecha just to attack the Charizard tribe, so the protagonist’s Charizard could defeat the aforementioned mecha to gain acceptance. It’s highly illogical for evil people to help strengthen their opponent’s Pokemon. These reasons, combined with the fact that it’s been said that Team Rocket has affection for the protagonist and company show that the Rockets aren’t bad people; they’re just tricksters. Furthering the Rocket’s reputations as people who are not pure evil are their specific motives. Each member has specific thoughts and past events that fuel who they are.

The Rocket Trio is comprised of nothing more than some slightly bothersome beings who have fallen on hard times, and are trying to eke a living. Yes, they are criminals, and work for a criminal organization. However, the Rocket Trio has expressed interest in other things. During one episode, they shared what they wanted to do with their lives if they had the money to do so. Jessie (The only female in Team Rocket) had gone to a nursing school for Pokèmon, because she couldn’t afford regular nursing school. She ultimately failed the school, and became quite distressed- she had no other abilities or interests. James, the other human in Team Rocket, ended up failing trainer school after running away from home. These two have no money, as Jessie is poor, and James isn’t on good terms with his millionaire family (The family had tried to force him into marriage). Meowth, the only Pokèmon on the team, used to belong to a Meowth gang, but lacked monetary funds. Eventually, he was inspired to join the team because “rocket” was the first human word he understood, and perhaps because he was regarded as a ‘freak’ for being human-like. Team Rocket is simply trying to make ends meet in the only organization that would take them. The Rocket Trio even has to take side jobs, as the pay from their main job isn’t enough! And even if they were really evil and into their job, they still wouldn’t be a threat, because the team is so incompetent that they bungle nearly every operation and scheme. They’ve wasted plenty of their boss’s money and time, to the point where he’s considered firing them. To a greater degree than criminal activities, Team Rocket is simply mischievous and mostly harmless.

And now we get to the actual crimes of the Rockets. To start off, on one occasion, Team Rocket helped capture a legendary Pokemon, so their boss could summon the kami trio to control the region with. The Rockets almost permanently destroyed that region’s way of life by catching the one specific, necessary Pokèmon. Helping the Boss summon the legendary trio wasn’t a very decent goal to complete, but there’s a plot twist: When the team saw how the boss was affected, they went so far as to team-tackle their boss, trying stop the madness. Granted, they were thinking of saving their Boss– they even said it aloud. However, they were the only ones that could’ve acted at the time, and chose to act against the Boss. They were unnerved by the fact that the boss wanted to destroy everything, instead of controlling it. They cared enough for a human being who, yes, is evil, but was possessed at the time. He had no idea what he was doing. If they were truly evil, wouldn’t they help him, versus tackling him off a ledge? Only a person with decency in their heart could help out a possessed person threatening to ruin the land. It’s similar to how parents view the world. If their child is in danger, those parents would do anything to save them. In this situation, Rocket did what they needed to do to keep people safe, atoning for their mistake in the process.

And now we get to the next argument: Team Rocket often teams up with protagonists over other villains. But, one may question the Rocket’s motives. Could they have been teaming with the protagonists to take out the enemy teams quickly and efficiently?. This is quite a valid point! First off, in some battles, they wouldn’t actually have gotten involved at all. A memorable event includes the time that a detective asked for their help in destroying another team– Team Plasma. Team Rocket had been discussing involvement, but until that point, had decided against it. They only got involved to help a fellow person out. However, the common phrase “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” comes to mind. Teams that Rocket isn’t allied with have vastly different outlooks and goals (which tend to be much more negative than Rocket’s), so of course they want to help disband those organizations! The protagonists, who are against all of the criminal teams, simply happen to be useful and skilled allies with a common goal.

The last point countering this argument reminds all Rocket fans that they once tried to ‘buckle down’ and achieve more in the larger Team Rocket entity. Yes, this is an undeniable fact. However, keep in mind that as soon as they realized the boss was getting a little too drastic, they demoted themselves. It’s surprising that the boss didn’t fire them after being shoved off a cliff, but perhaps the Rockets putting themselves ‘lower on the ladder’ withheld his hand.

Team Rocket is comparable to Oliver Twist; they’re thieves only because they need to survive. Both examples are actually quite decent, though. With all the aforementioned evidence, it’s safe to say that the Rocket Trio isn’t pure evil. Yes, they do have a mischievous side, but when it comes down to what really matters, Team Rocket goes all out to help the protagonists, sometimes risking life and limb in the process.

Eurritimia - "Equipe Rocket" via Flickr

Eurritimia – “Equipe Rocket” via Flickr