All of the main games in the Pokémon series have included a criminal organization that is causing trouble in the world. Throughout the game, you will often have to battle the minions of this unscrupulous group, before you foil whatever their nefarious plans are. The most famous of these wannabe mafias is Team Rocket. The reason they are the most well-known is partly because they have been represented in the Pokémon anime (with Jessie, James, and Meowth) since the 2nd episode of the series. Team Rocket are also the only criminal organization to terrorize two regions (Kanto and Johto) in the games.
The leader of Team Rocket is a mysterious man named Giovanni. He has been directing the efforts of Team Rocket since the beginning of the franchise. Giovanni is the first true crime boss of the Pokémon franchise and the effects of his plans are still being felt in the series to this day. We are here today to look at the powerful Pokémon Don behind Team Rocket. From his long history with Ash Ketchum, to the exaggerated reports of his death.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Giovanni, Leader Of Team Rocket!
15. He Is One Of The Longest Running Characters In The Anime
When it comes to the longest running recurring characters in the Pokémon anime, the top four are Ash, Pikachu, Professor Oak and Ash’s Mother. They debuted in the first episode and are all part of the story. Gary Oak and Misty also showed up in the first episode, but they no longer appear on a regular basis. The three members of Team Rocket were introduced in the second episode of the show and have appeared in almost every episode since. Jessie, James, and Meowth are just behind Ash & Pikachu in terms of overall appearances on the show.
Giovanni first appeared in episode 15 of the Pokémon anime. Team Rocket contact Giovanni to tell him of their plan to steal Pokémon aboard the S.S. Anne. He would then go on to become a recurring character throughout the rest of the series. Despite this, Ash never actually battled him for his Gym badge (he faced Team Rocket instead).
Since his introduction in 1998, Giovanni continues to appear in new episodes of the Pokémon anime. His most recent appearance happened in the 3rd episode of the Sun & Moon seasons, which was broadcast in November of 2016. Giovanni has been appearing in the anime for almost twenty years now.
14. He Is Silver’s Father
In Pokémon Gold & Silver, the rival of the game was a sullen and bitter child named Silver. Unlike Gary/Blue from the previous games, Silver had no love for his Pokémon and saw them as little more than tools. Over the course of the game, Silver would eventually see the error of his ways and become a great Pokémon trainer.
When Pokémon Fire Red & Leaf Green was released, it included a piece of dialogue that suggested a link between Silver and Giovanni. One of the Team Rocket Scientist’s would comment on how Giovanni’s son had red hair. This led to rampant fan speculation on who this child could be. Despite all of the numerous theories, most people agreed that Silver was the most likely option.
In Pokémon Heart Gold & Soul Silver, you could download an event Celebi that would take you on a trip to the past. This included a cutscene that showed Giovanni walking out on his young son, who was confirmed to be Silver. The player then had the chance to battle Giovanni, who was still in hiding after his defeat at the end of Pokémon Red & Blue.
13. He Created A Pokémon
There is a question among the Pokémon fan community that concerns the possibility of actually creating a Pokémon. You have examples of new Pokémon being created by messing with DNA (like Mewtwo) and dead Pokémon being revived from Fossils (like Omanyte and Kabuto). There are examples of Pokémon possessing household items (like Rotom and Banette), but it is questionable whether they count as being man made. Finally, you have Porygon, which is described as being made completely from computer programming. The general consensus is that it is indeed possible to create a Pokémon, but it is so expensive and time-consuming that no one bothers.
In the year 2000, there was a musical stage show called Pokémon Live. In this show, Giovanni created a giant robot Pokémon of his own. It was called MechaMew2 and it shares the name and design of many of the fake Pokémon urban legends of the day. MechaMew2 could use all of the moves known by any Pokémon in existence, making it unstoppable in battle.
MechaMew2 is eventually defeated by Mewtwo, who fills MechaMew2 with emotions. This causes MechaMew2 to self-destruct, in order to stop Giovanni. It’s kind of like the ending of Terminator 2 when Arnie sticks his thumb up as he descends into the lava… except done by a ridiculous looking machine that could be mistaken for a Power Rangers villain.
12. Two Banned Pokémon Episodes Concern Giovanni’s Quest For Meteorites
There have been many episodes of the Pokémon anime that have been censored and outright banned. There are even episodes that cannot be shown in Japan. With the exception of the Porygon episode that famously caused schoolchildren to have seizures, the reason certain episodes are shelved is usually due to the depiction of earthquakes and tsunamis.
When the Pokémon anime series reached the Black & White generation of games, there were two episodes made that have never been shown. These episodes focused on Giovanni and Team Rocket collecting Meteonite stones from the Unova region. This leads to a battle between Team Rocket and Team Plasma. The Meteonite begins to cause atmospheric disturbances that threaten to destroy Castelia City.
These episodes were produced within proximity of the Tōhoku earthquake & tsunami, as well as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. It was decided that these episodes be shelved permanently and for their events to be written out of continuity.
11. He Was Almost A Young Boy/The First Gym Leader
Despite being both the leader of Team Rocket and the final Gym Leader of the Kanto region… Giovanni is kind of a pushover. He specialises in Ground-type Pokémon, which have a double weakness to Grass and Water moves. This means that two-thirds of the choices of starter Pokémon will absolutely destroy Giovanni and his Gym.
The character of Giovanni and his placement in the order of the Kanto Gyms was once in question. The lead art designer of the series is a man named Ken Sugimori. In 2015, Sugimori uploaded pictures to his Twitter account that showed his original designs for the Gym Leaders in Pokémon Red & Blue. These pictures show a young boy that greatly resembles Giovanni, with the number 1 above his head. There are pictures of Brock and Misty, with the numbers 2 and 3 above them. This means that a child version of Giovanni was planned to be the original first Gym Leader of Pokémon Red & Blue.
10. The Giovanni Manga Backstory
Despite the global popularity of the Pokémon franchise, there have been many pieces of Pokémon media and merchandise that have never left Japan. The Pokémon Trading Card Game for the Game Boy had a sequel that vastly improved upon the original, that never saw an official English release. The first ever Pokémon manga series, Pokémon Pocket Monsters (that actually predates the anime) has also never been released outside Japan.
There was a manga series in Japan called How I Became a Pokémon Card. Each issue would come with a free card for the Pokémon card game, with the story being related to the artwork on the card. One of these stories followed Giovanni when he was a young boy. As a child, Giovanni finds an injured Persian in the forest. He cares for its injuries and even takes it to a Pokémon Center. One of the unscrupulous doctors at the Center tries to sell the Persian off. Giovanni saves the Persian and the two become inseparable. The comic cuts to years later, when Giovanni uses the same Persian in his battle against the protagonist from Pokémon Red & Blue.
9. The Censored Scene Of Pokémon Licking Giovanni’s Body
The Pokémon anime series has been censored for many different reasons. Some of these make sense, like removing realistic firearms or James’ inflatable boob outfit. A couple of the edits were more confusing, like changing all of the Japanese food items to Western ones (to the point of digitally putting hamburgers over the rice balls).
As the Pokémon franchise is intended to be for children all over the world, there have rarely been instances where sexual content needed to edited out of the show. The major exceptions to this happened in the “Beauty and the Beach” episode, with its aforementioned boob suit and old men making creepy innuendos to Misty.
One of the most unusual edits to the Pokémon anime that involved nakedness happened in the episode “Some Enchanted Sweetening”. In the Japanese version of the episode, Meowth fantasises about Giovanni being smothered in honey whilst wearing a speedo. This is in order to attract wild Pokémon, who lick the honey from his bare body. This scene was removed from the English dub of the episode, due to possible sexual connotations.
8. The Criminal Gym Leader
The first two generations of Pokémon games included Team Rocket as the villainous crime organisation who opposed the player. In later games, they were replaced by Team Aqua & Magma, Team Galactic, Team Plasma, Team Flare and Team Skull. The later Team’s seemed to have loftier goals, which involved things like controlling Legendary Pokémon and saving the environment. Team Rocket are all about taking over the world through intimidation and shady schemes. This might be why they are the most well-remembered of the crime organisations of the Pokémon world.
Of all of the members of any of the “Team” groups in Pokémon, only Giovanni managed to infiltrate the system from within. He is the only Gym Leader to also be the member of a crime organisation. The only person who has come close to this is Malva of the Kalos Elite Four. She is secretly a member of Team Flare, although this doesn’t equate to anything in-game (you still only battle her as a regular Elite Four member).
The question of what happens to Gym Leaders who are ousted was answered with the case of Giovanni. In the Pokémon anime, Agatha of the Elite Four takes over his Gym temporarily, until a new Leader can be found.
7. The Redemption Of Giovanni
In 2013, a new Pokémon anime series was released. It was called Pokémon Origins and it was a miniseries that showed a more faithful retelling of Pokémon Red & Blue. The third episode focused on Red taking on Team Rocket, culminating in his final battle against Giovanni. During this battle, Red manages to reignite Giovanni’s passion for Pokémon training. When Red wins the battle, Giovanni disbands Team Rocket and decides to start a new life for himself.
Giovanni’s redemption also happened in Pokémon Red & Blue. Once you defeat Giovanni in battle, he says that Team Rocket is finished and that he will dedicate his life to studying Pokémon. This was retconned in later games, as Team Rocket is still present in Pokémon Gold & Silver. When Giovanni is seen in Pokémon Heart Gold & Soul Silver, he is preparing to return to his former associates in Johto. It takes a loss against the player to convince him not to go.
6. One Meowth Seems To Love The Speedo Guy
Team Rocket have spent almost two decades trying to take Ash’s Pikachu. Jessie, James and Meowth have wasted most of their adult life trying (and failing) to steal one Pokémon from a child. Despite the idiocy of their plan, the members of Team Rocket have remained some of the most popular characters in the series. It just wouldn’t be Pokémon without Team Rocket interrupting whatever Ash is doing with their theme song.
The reason that Team Rocket want to steal Ash’s Pikachu is so that they can give it as a gift to Giovanni. After all of this time, Giovanni still humours their quest to nab that Pikachu. One of the longest running jokes on the show involves Meowth fantasising about what Giovanni’s reaction will be when they present him with the latest Pokémon that they want to steal. Oddly enough, these sometimes involve Giovanni in various states of undress. Along with the edited scene of Giovanni being licked by wild Pokémon, there have been other instances of Meowth dreaming about Giovanni’s (admittedly buff for his age) body.
5. The Plan To Fuse The Legendary Birds
The manga version of Giovanni who appears in Pokémon Adventures is a lot more effective at being a crime boss than his video game and anime counterparts.
In Pokémon Adventures, Giovanni has several other Kanto Gym Leaders under his control (Sabrina, Lt. Surge and Koga are all secretly members of Team Rocket). He uses them as part of a plan to capture and fuse the three Legendary bird Pokémon of the Kanto region into one. Team Rocket succeed in capturing Articuno, Moltres and Zapdos. The birds are fused into a Pokémon called Thu-Fi-Zer, who carries the strength of all three Legendary creatures. It takes an alliance of Red and his two rivals, Blue & Green, to stop the beast in its tracks.
Giovanni has been a recurring character in Pokémon Adventures over the years. The series has even delved into his relationship with Silver and shown their reunion. Silver claims that he wants to redeem his father. He may get his wish, as Giovanni would go on to become an ally of Red and helps him to protect the world from devastation.
4. Giovanni’s Mother Was The Boss Of Team Rocket Before Him
In Japan, it is common for a popular anime, manga, or video game franchise to receive a drama CD. These are usually radio plays that are based on the story of the property they are adapting. These can be used to gauge the popularity of a series, to see whether it is worthy of an anime/live-action adaptation. They can also be used to further capitalise on the success of an already popular series.
When the first Pokémon movie was being promoted, it received a five-part radio drama that was eventually released on the soundtrack for the movie. These radio episodes are known as The Birth of Mewtwo. They followed the backstory of the movie and retold the events of Mewtwo’s creation.
One of the revelations made during The Birth of Mewtwo is that Giovanni’s mother (known only as Madame Boss) was a former leader of Team Rocket before him. This means that Giovanni was not the founder of Team Rocket and only inherited the position from his mother.
3. The Incorrect Stadium Name
Ever since the first Pokémon games were released on the Game Boy, fans have been asking for a main game in the series to appear on a home console. When Pokémon Red & Blue were first released, this meant that fans wanted a Pokémon game on the Nintendo 64. We have still yet to see a proper console Pokémon game, though the Nintendo Switch might finally surprise us (if the rumours of Pokémon Stars are to be believed). The Nintendo 64 did have the Pokémon Stadium games, which focused entirely on battles, rather than capturing Pokémon.
In the original Pokémon Stadium game, you have to battle all of the Kanto Gym Leaders. This means facing off against Giovanni, who now uses a more varied team. Due to the character limit for names in Pokémon Stadium, Giovanni had his name spelt incorrectly. He was referred to as “Giovani“, due to his original name being one letter too long for the game to handle.
2. The Team Rocket Theme Park
In the first season of the Pokémon anime, the S.S. Anne is caught up in a storm. This leads to Ash, Brock and Misty teaming up with Team Rocket, in order to escape the sinking ship. The episode that follows this is considered to be one of the best of the early seasons. “Island of the Giant Pokémon” gives us our first glimpse into the mind of Ash’s Pokémon, as they are separated from their trainer on a deserted island. They team up with Team Rocket’s Pokémon, who reveal that they aren’t actually bad guys. Ekans and Koffing are actually just following orders, unlike Meowth, who is just an asshole.
All of the main characters are actually trapped on an island that is home to a huge theme park, called Pokémon Land. This theme park is host to giant robotic Pokémon, that tend to endanger their guests (like a mix between Westworld and Jurassic Park).
It is revealed that Giovanni is the owner of Pokémon Land and has spent billions on the production of the giant robotic Pokémon. This leaves us with a big question. If Giovanni owns several giant robots, then why doesn’t he use them to take over the world?
1. The Suicide Theory
The Pokémon franchise is no stranger to creepypastas (the Internet version of urban legends or ghost stories). The most well-known include numerous theories concerning Lavender Town. These range from the music causing kids in Japan to commit suicide, to haunted cartridges that will kill the people who play them (like a nerdier version of The Ring). Even the Pokémon anime is no stranger to this, as a popular theory postulates that Ash has been in a coma since being attacked by Pikachu in the first episode. This is why he never ages and never progresses as a Pokémon trainer.
When Giovanni returned in Pokémon Heart Gold & Soul Silver, the events of his battle sparked the creation of a theory that suggests that he killed himself. After losing to the protagonist, Giovanni leaves the cave in which the battle takes place. The sound of water splashing can be heard. None of the Pokémon on Giovanni’s team is able to use Surf or Waterfall. This has led to fans thinking that Giovanni was so broken after being defeated by a child (for a second time) that he took his own life.
There are several questionable parts to this theory. The first is whether we hear a water sound at all. Giovanni has a radio in his cave which turns on after he leaves. The water sound could be static instead. Also, if there was water outside the cave, then how did he get inside in the first place without a Pokémon that can use Surf/Waterfall?
With that being said, the battle against Giovanni in Pokémon Heart Gold & Soul Silver is the last time we have seen him in the series since. Giovanni’s only other appearance has been in the Pokémon World Tournament in Pokémon Black 2 & White 2. The canonicity of these is in question, however, as Red & Blue also appear in this mode, yet are still children.
As there has been a massive surge in nostalgia for the old Pokémon games (due to the success of Pokémon GO), we might yet see Giovanni return to the games. The reports of his death may have been exaggerated and he has simply been waiting for the perfect time to return.