Team Rocket has had a rough career. Giovanni, their leader, doesn’t always appreciate them. They’re usually broke. And they usually lose. Well, not this time.
The official Pokémon Sun and Moon anime continues to delight with its antics, and that is especially true in this week’s installment. The set-up seems run-of-the-mill: Ash and co have a beach day, lapping up the sun and the waves. Team Rocket, meanwhile, has recently been contacted by head honcho Giovanni himself. He wants to know what their progress is, if they’re captured any good, strong Pokémon in the Alola region. They...kinda haven’t, at least, not enough to warrant an expedition into a new land. So they lie.
Sorta. The exchange with Team Rocket HQ motivates Jessie and James to go out there and see what they can find. That’s how they end up fishing for monsters nearby. Nothing really bites, so James decides to put on a scuba suit, which he can use to scout the waters first-hand. That’s how he comes across a Mareanie. Within the lore, Mareanie love to eat Corsola—and James’ helmet happens to be shaped like a Corsola (of course). The Mareanie attacks, and ultimately goes on to poison James. James’ face consequently turns purple, which causes the Mareanie to think James is also a Mareanie. IT THEN FALLS IN LOVE WITH JAMES.
...and that’s when Ash shows up. Team Rocket, as always, are sucked into trying to steal Pikachu—so they challenge Ash to a battle. Normally, an encounter like this would turn out the way it always does: Team Rocket getting its ass kicked, and then blasting off again. This time, however, circumstances aligned just right for Team Rocket to have the upper hand, and they didn’t even have to cheat to get it right.
The Mareanie, madly in love with James, fights with all of its might against Ash’s Rowlet. Mimikyu, meanwhile—who has been traveling with Team Rocket this entire time—absolutely HATES Pikachu, and gladly gives its all in trying to murder our favorite rodent. The power of love and hate combine to give Team Rocket the edge, and they actually defeat Ash, fair and square in a battle, as @pancakeparadox points out:
They can’t believe it. Team Rocket is in shock, they’re so happy that they finally beat Ash without any asterisks or hijinks involved—just a good, clean battle. James literally cries. Jessie just loses her shit.
Unfortunately, Bewear shows up and steals Jessie and James away before they can steal Pikachu, as is tradition with Sun and Moon’s literal running gag now. Bewear isn’t being an asshole though: it just wants to feed Team Rocket!
The entire thing is so good. Props to the anime, really: before the latest generation, I didn’t really care about keeping up with what was happening in the story beyond the games, but now, I find myself constantly amused and curious about the animated show. I can’t wait to see what happens next, though now that Team Rocket has won, the bar is set high.