Anthology of Evil: The Criminal Syndicates of Pokemon

By Deck Knight. Art by wekhter.
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Reality has always had its mobsters, drug lords, and criminal syndicates. Now imagine you live in a world where guns have been censored out of existence and every living thing around you is a potential weapon. The real question is, why isn't megalomania more common in Pokemon? My guess would be the "everyone is armed" theory. You may be able to build a criminal enterprise that spans an entire nation... but what are you going to do about that urchin from a city which has a total population of about eight? The numbers just don't work in your favor when you have an entire army of people who have to train their Zubat and Rattata, and all your primary opponent has to do is grind two or three Pokemon to mow over all your grunts.

Still, some of your efforts can be successful and you can rise to relevant dominance of a region under the radar. Unless you purposely disband, chances are you'll be just forgotten and your insanity can continue unabated. After all, once your opposition is a Pokemon League Champion, any actual heroing ceases; they have autographs to sign.

Team Rocket:

Evil Scale: 5/10
Leadership: 9/10
Successfulness: 10/10 (pre-disbandment)

Team Rocket's goal is very simple: "Steal Pokemon. Get Money." They are basically run-of-the-mill criminals run by a corporate overlord with megalomaniacal tendencies. They have ubiquitous presence throughout two regions, generally good security systems and tech, and are well established until one of their plans is discovered and subsequently ruined.

Giovanni is a very prudent leader for Team Rocket. He's well respected, his criminal enterprising slips entirely under the radar of any authorities, and generally speaking his grunts are of high quantity and quality overall. If anything, he disbanded Team Rocket as part of a parole deal once the Elite Four found out one of their Gym Leaders was a megalomaniac. No skin off of his back: he still wears fine suits, gets to enjoy his non-criminal hobbies, and somehow when the organization disbanded he left no one competent enough to attempt to seek revenge. Giovanni is the poster child for "guilty and free."

Obviously after its disbanding Team Rocket can't be called a success, but under the principle of "quitting as the champion", Team Rocket can be considered completely successful. They had a chokehold in at least two known regions, outposts in others, and even enough true believers to keep the threat alive after its initial breakdown. Giovanni himself was in a business meeting without the other party being held hostage at one point when you confront him. They basically owned the Silph building and had guards in broad daylight in several places in Saffron City. When it comes to sheer competence, Giovanni's organization takes the cake.

Team Aqua/Team Magma:

Evil Scale: 7/10
Leadership: 7/10
Successfulness: 8/10

These competing teams are ecoterrorists. If you ever wanted to see a death match between Greenpeace and the Animal Liberation Front, Ruby and Sapphire are here to provide it. I don't quite know how Maxie manages to have so many bases at sea, but more power to him. Archie is obviously a Navy guy.

It's difficult to argue with results, and both of these teams managed to accomplish their goal of awakening a Pokemon that would forever alter the Pokemon World's climate to their preference. Even more impressive is that they did it with scarcer resources, and lets be honest, part of the dive in leadership comes from the fact they were squabbling with the other team of ecoterrorists. This is what happens with evil goal divergence, you end up spending most of your time time trying to one-up your rival instead of getting your message out.

Both teams technically succeed in their goal, and as ecoterrorists some of the collateral destruction caused by the clash between Kyogre and Groudon was right up their alley, but in the end both of their win conditions nullified each other. They were successful insofar as they released their own corresponding legend, but they failed to prevent their opponent from doing the same.

Team Snagem/Cipher:

Evil Scale: 6/10
Leadership: 8/10
Successfulness: 8/10

Shadow Pokemon were an interesting innovation for a team to come up with. Their essential goal is the same as Team Rocket's, so they are primarily generic criminals as well, but you have to admire them for kicking the evil up a notch. Bringing out the darkness in Pokemon in addition to theft is a good scheme.

Cipher's leaders have their claws all over the Orre region. Their organization runs so deep that even Team Snagem is just a subsidiary part of their empire. Still, that leaves a lot of room for competing agendas among the top admins, so although as they have a single purpose and method, each of their various branches maintain independent operations. Even as some Admins or leaders fall out of favor, they are replaced by others.

The only reason Cipher doesn't ace the successfulness category is the decentralization pointed out above. They may be a single entity and may have their agents in every imaginable place, but they suffer from organizational dissonance. Each admin does their own thing for an unidentifiable master goal that not even Evice or Greevil seemed to be clued in on. Yeah, they want an army of Pokemon to take over the world. Who doesn't?

Team Galactic:

Evil Scale: 10/10
Leadership: 3/10
Successfulness: 3/10

Fundamentally altering the planet's climate is pretty high on the evil totem pole, but shattering all of reality is a slighter higher aspiration. Tragically though it seems the answer for Team Galactic was just overwhelming numbers thrown randomly at opposition with no regard for their ability to stop the threat. I guess if you think you'll be able to shift reality forever, stalling probably is the most viable strategy that would occur to you.

Cyrus is a terrible leader. Just awful. He sends a grunt out to offer terrorist threats to a small town, and only equips them with a single Beautifly and a Dustox. He's certainly quite sadistic, but merely being more evil just doesn't make up for the gross lack of competence in his organization. High volume can never make up for poor skill, and with the exception of his chosen admins, only Cyrus himself could put up a fight.

As far as results they got their gate to alter timespace open, but were unable to do anything about the time-space continuum. It was an all or nothing plan and unsurprisingly, they ended up with nothing. Cyrus may be an emotionless vacuum, but let's face it, he couldn't organize a stack of typeface letters in alphabetical order. Vacuous evil is no substitute for sound execution, and Cyrus learned that the hard way.

Team Plasma:

Evil Scale: 9/10
Leadership: 10/10
Successfulness: 3/10

On an ideological level, ridding every person of their own Pokemon through manipulation or theft when the entire world basically revolves around this interaction gets high marks for insidiousness. Add to that the fact your stated ideals are just a front for totalitarianism and the evil factor skyrockets. Team Plasma has a seemingly endless supply of conversionist goons in addition to a religious subtext to justify their crimes. Knight Templars is both the literal and figurative sense, and they take stock in fairly useful Pokemon all around.

Ghetsis is a complete monster. He mixes the leadership competence of Giovanni with the batshit insanity of Cyrus. His organization is well-funded, well supported, appeals to morals for its support, and he cruises the streets preaching his ideological pap even with every Gym Leader in the region chasing after him. Ghetsis is the Charles Manson of Pokemon. He takes a kid, rends him from his family and friends, names him after a single letter, and grows him up in the functional equivalent of a test tube environment, just so that he can have a pure hero to unleash a force of nature. It gets better: once his hand-crafted life-long hero is defeated, he calls him a sick freak and discards him immediately. Ghetsis is the kind of maniac you find in a Final Fantasy title, right down to his cape and absurd fashion sense.

Even for all his leadership and the chaos it caused, Ghetsis never really gets anywhere close to his goal. As far as anyone can tell, people think about releasing their Pokemon and rendering themselves helpless in the world for approximately five seconds before going back to their NPC status quo line. I suppose if he ever finds another hero and that caged child doesn't face any opposition, he might be able to go the brute force route, but it appears for now he's kind of stuck in a rut.


Organized crime never goes away, it just goes underground. Pokemon's extremely loose system of governance allows these kinds of groups to flourish everywhere they go. Even if they suffer setbacks, like a hydra once you cut off one head another two grow in its place. The rules of Pokemon's reality are such that no group can ever truly be eliminated, and it's pointless to try. Anyone with enough leadership or skill will in some way be able to manipulate the powerful creatures that inhabit the world to their ends. If you want to go play hero, that's fine, maybe you'll even get your own Pokemon Game! But don't pretend you'll ever completely stop them. You won't.

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