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The apparent decline of Evil Teams

Srebak

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Whelp, I’ll come right to the point and say that it feels like the evil teams within the Pokémon franchise have begun to decline to a certain degree.

I mean, in the past, we have had villainous organizations that have had plans for world conquest and were involved in activities like illegal trafficking and inhumane scientific experimentations (Team Rocket), had goals of awakening and controlling titanic Pokémon that were actually capable of expanding either the land or sea (Teams Aqua and Magma, respectively), were actually planning to remake the entire world to their liking by controlling nearly godlike Pokémon that were capable of manipulating both Time and Space (Team Galactic), were attempting to almost completely divide all humans from Pokémon and even turn the most powerful of the latter into living weapons (Team Plasma), and were even making plans to destroy all of that exists in our world for the sake of making it fit into what they consider to be both “beautiful and better”.


But now, from the Alola region onwards, it has become as though that the evil regional teams have become somewhat of thin far cries of what they had once been. I mean, Team Skull was essentially nothing more than just a bunch of fancily dressed street punks who were all simply looking for trouble. And then Team Yell is nothing more than a group of incredibly overzealous fanboys.

What happened
 

RetroPokeFan

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To be honest I think Team Skull managed to work perfectly for the Alola region and fit the vibe with what S&M was going for. I still do think Guzma should have appeared much earlier but even then he still got some decent material to work off of.

Can't say the same for Team Yell though. Aside from them being really forgettable other than essentially being Marnie's fans the fact that the anime straight up brushed her and them off as quickly as possible under the rug doesn't help matters either. I still think Marnie could have been a great rival for Ash and heck, it could have even helped Gengar out instead of just being a punching bag up until that battle but alas it seems the anime staff just don't agree with me.
 

Sai

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I think this is more about the games than the anime, the anime doesn't create the villain teams. Team Yell were nothing more than cheerleaders for Marnie in the games they barely do anything.

In terms of the anime the Magma/Aqua conclusion was the worst handled one, so I don't know how things were better back then. If anything they improved the way the villains were handled not counting real life stuff that screwed the Plasma arc
 

Hidden Mew

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Team Skull and Team Yell clearly aren't evil teams. The Aether Foundation and Marco Cosmos are supposed to be the evil teams of their respective generations. They just have another group with a team name to throw people off on who the real villain group is. I love Team Skull, but it's really hard to see them as evil when they're just a bunch of punks looking ridiculous. Team Yell is just a group of Marnie cheerleaders who don't really do anything more than being annoying roadblocks.
 

Ghost Diplocaulus

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I wouldn't say that the evil teams have gone through a decline in the anime sense, because the anime has had a bit of a history in pushing the games' Evil Team plots aside: Team Rocket has never even been confronted properly outside of the mandatory TRio skirmishes, the Lake of Rage arc, and most recently the Meloetta arc, but none of those ever made any sort of dent in the organizations' operations; Magma and Aqua infamously had the shortest and most anticlimactic arc; Plasma lost pretty much all their nuance and went through a serious case of Adaptational Wimp as TVTropes calls it (particularly leader Ghetsis, who is considered one of the toughest final bosses in the games yet in the anime never even sends any Pokemon out); the Aether Foundation were straight up made into good guys with the exception of Faba; and Team Rainbow Rocket was never even a thing.

About the only evil teams that were truly represented well were Team Galactic and Team Flare. The Macro Cosmos is a bit of a weird case because while it does seem underwhelming in the anime, in the games it was pretty much the same, as only Rose and Oleana were any serious threat while the mooks barely even battled you.
 

A Wild Luxray

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When it comes to the evil teams, my problem is they're not taking enough creative liberties like they used to. They used to have anime exclusive elements to the plot, but now they're more so a carbon copy of the game's plot conclusion take the Aether Foundation climax and Darkest Day. Carbon copies of the games. Then look at Team Flare's plot using Zygarde instead of Yveltal or Xerneas. Even Team Galactic played out a bit differently and had characters like Hunter J.
 
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Hidden Mew

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When it comes to the evil teams, my problem is they're not taking enough creative liberties like they used to. They used to have anime exclusive elements to the plot, but now they're more so a carbon copy of the game's plot conclusion take the Aether Foundation climax and Darkest Day. Carbon copies of the games. Then look at Team Flare's plot using Zygarde instead of Yveltal or Xerneas. Even Team Galactic played out a bit differently and had characters like Hunter J.
I wouldn't necessarily mind them just trying to adapt the game's plot conclusion if they at least provided more setup to make it work. While they had more episodes to work with the Aether Foundation compared to the Darkest Day, I still didn't think it worked in large part because I don't think that they setup the conflict between Lillie and her mother, and by extension Lillie's development, felt natural. It often felt that they were trying to force in Lille's video game storyline onto SM Lillie when they both had different storylines and personalities. Lillie's Z-Powered form was a huge moment in the games because it showed her overcoming her mother's emotional abuse and gaining more self-confidence. Without that aspect of their relationship, it just looses all weight in the anime. If their plan was always to just adapt the game's climax, I think that they needed to establish Lillie's difficult relationship with Luasmine much earlier and make Lusamine more of an antagonist like she originally was. Making her a more overbearing mother too busy to recognize her children's feelings just doesn't really carry the same weight. Plus, I still hate how Lillie was upset over Lusamine choosing to evolve her own Clefairy. I think that was a terrible way to first showcase their relationship since Lusamine wasn't in the wrong for choosing to evolve her own Pokemon just because Lillie liked it better as a Clefairy.

The Darkest Day also really needed more setup and it's mind boggling to me that they didn't do that. People often complain about the plot and I can understand why to a degree, but I think it worked because there was a good amount of buildup to it through Sonia's research about the Galar legends. Interacting with both Hop and Sonia during those scenes made it easier for me to be invested in their characters, which made it more satisfying to see their roles during that climax. By only meeting Sonia once and not meeting Chairman Rose until the mini-arc, there's just not much to be invested in. Sonia becoming the new Professor was such a cool moment for me because you saw how she became more interested in Pokemon research throughout the game, so by not having her appear more, the anime really loses something. Removing Hop's role in this storyline definitely didn't help matters either, but to be fair, I think it was better to have Goh feel that role instead. Without introducing Hop much earlier in the series, they couldn't really do his storyline justice and including him for this climax definitely would have lacked a lot of the emotional impact it had in the games.

The anime taking more creative liberties with the evil team plot can definitely work and I do think that is the better approach. Team Galactic was built up so well throughout DP, had some really memorable moments like Hunter J's death and the climax was terrific. The Team Flare arc had some surprisingly intense moments and all of the main characters had a chance to really shine. Just copying the climaxes from the games could still potentially work, but they just need to have better setup to make it feel more natural and satisfying than it has been thus far.
 

VetProf

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But now, from the Alola region onwards, it has become as though that the evil regional teams have become somewhat of thin far cries of what they had once been.
It's less that the modern evil teams aren't as evil as they used to be, and more so that they're no longer blatantly representing themselves as evil teams from the get-go. As others have said, the Aether Foundation and Macro Cosmos were the actual villainous organizations in the past two generations, with Team Skull and Team Yell simply being gangs of mildly-annoying troublemakers. Even then, the Aether Foundation and Macro Cosmos technically aren't evil teams either; they're legitimate establishments that just so happen to be doing shady stuff behind the scenes. Putting Lusamine's unhealthy obsession with Ultra Beasts aside, Aether Foundation was and still is an organization aimed to preserve and protect Pokemon. All of the businesses under Macro Cosmos seem to be legitimate businesses too, even if Rose himself threatened the safety of the entire region at one point.

Then look at Team Flare's plot using Zygarde instead of Yveltal or Xerneas.
To be fair, there were some indications here and there that implied that Pokemon Z was supposed to be a thing, in which case Zygarde would've likely been central to Team Flare's plot just like in the anime.
 

Soniman

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Team Yell sucks a fat chode in the games so what was the anime supposed to do with obnoxious fans? There's not really a lot you can take a concept so shallow. And Team Skull were never evil to begin with. The last villian team played straight from the start was Team Flare snd well, I'd sing the praises of the Team Flare arc but everyone else already has by now lol
 

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Nah I wouldn’t say they declined in the anime. Team aqua and magma weren’t great, team galactic was better, team plasma would’ve been good but got screwed over, team flare was awesome and Aether were pretty similar to the games (and they were good there). Funnily enough Macro Cosmos doesn’t look good at first glance, but I think Rose is actually better in the anime cause of how lacklustre I found him in game. Even though they didn’t do much with him. The only ‘worse’ one is Plasma

I’ll admit I would’ve liked more team skull but they cleverly integrated Guzma into the Alola league, which made him one of the highlights there. And no offense but team yell kinda sucks lol, last weeks ep basically gave us the rundown on them anyway
 
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I think it has to do with the child-friendly policy of this anime. You can’t make a good villain if they are not allowed to do evil stuff and that requires a mature audience. XY felt like it was trying to be shounen but then someone up the ladder told them to dial it down and go back to being a safe and risk-free kid’s show. The next two seasons are pretty much saturday morning cartoons.
 

VetProf

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I think it has to do with the child-friendly policy of this anime. You can’t make a good villain if they are not allowed to do evil stuff and that requires a mature audience. XY felt like it was trying to be shounen but then someone up the ladder told them to dial it down and go back to being a safe and risk-free kid’s show. The next two seasons are pretty much saturday morning cartoons.
I highly doubt a child-friendly policy had anything to do with this, considering all the death-related scenes we've gotten in Gen 7 (both in the Sun and Moon anime and in the movies that aired during that time), and Journey's AU Rocket trio having caused arguably the most damage out of any evil organization we've seen in the anime. The writers can still have big bad villains in the anime if they want. It's just that, as far as the recent games are concerned, villains tend to be more discreet in their operations instead of just running around and blatantly doing evil stuff from the very beginning.
 

R1ke

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Besides the appeal of some of the ‘weaker’ ones (like team skull) is that they’re not actually that evil. They’re just people who got outcasted from society and made their own tribe. This made them more sympathetic and their low-stakes antics/constant banter made them genuinely entertaining. Not every team needs to be the same

Like Guzma not being this megalomaniac who wants to take over the world is what made him compelling in the first place
 
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I highly doubt a child-friendly policy had anything to do with this, considering all the death-related scenes we've gotten in Gen 7 (both in the Sun and Moon anime and in the movies that aired during that time), and Journey's AU Rocket trio having caused arguably the most damage out of any evil organization we've seen in the anime. The writers can still have big bad villains in the anime if they want. It's just that, as far as the recent games are concerned, villains tend to be more discreet in their operations instead of just running around and blatantly doing evil stuff from the very beginning.
All of those ‘death’ related scenes were dumbed down for kids though. Like i said safe and risk-free. Do you think pokemon can get away with villains like frieza, kira yoshikage or doflamingo?
 

Ghost Diplocaulus

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It's really funny to me that I'm seeing people say that the evil teams have to be "dumbed down" for the kiddies when the games themselves are aimed at the exact same age bracket. Pokemon is a very simple game, so kids as young as 5 and 6 can easily complete them. Also, the villains in the games aren't that much more violent than in the anime: sure, they do threaten it a lot (Ghetsis especially), but pretty much every time a villain is about to do something violent, they either get conveniently stopped before they can follow through, or they just challenge the player to a Pokemon battle, the implication being that the villain sent out a Pokemon with the intent to hurt the player character, so the player character sent out their own Pokemon to defend themselves. We actually saw anime-exclusive villain Hunter J do pretty much exactly that when she sicced her giant scorpion on a ten-year-old. And she appeared long before XY, which seems to be the saga most praised for being "shonen-like" as though the things it did hadn't already been done or at least attempted before.

Also, I would like to dispel this notion that good villains need to provide world-threatening high stakes, because it's absolutely false. What makes a good villain has nothing to do with how powerful or threateing they are. It has everything to do with how well they fit the theme and story you were going for: Team Skull don't need to be more than petty small time thugs because their story is that they're former Island Trial challengers who failed the challenge and were never able to bounce back from their failure. By contrast, Team Plasma is meant to be the completely anathema to BW's theme of opposites coexisting, so their whole plan revolves around separating Pokemon and human beings entirely with the absolute most wicked members like Ghetsis turning out to being planning to keep their Pokemon so that they can easily rule over literally everyone else completely unopposed. Both stories are perfectly valid, and wether one is better than the other doesn't have anything to do with one having higher stakes, but rather how each story was written and executed.

Finally, "mature" stories don't need to be hyper-violent, they just need to handle their themes well. A simple story about a girl escaping her abusive household can be just as compelling as a high-stakes story about a community trying to survive a zombie apocalypse.
 
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It's really funny to me that I'm seeing people say that the evil teams have to be "dumbed down" for the kiddies when the games themselves are aimed at the exact same age bracket. Pokemon is a very simple game, so kids as young as 5 and 6 can easily complete them. Also, the villains in the games aren't that much more violent than in the anime: sure, they do threaten it a lot (Ghetsis especially), but pretty much every time a villain is about to do something violent, they either get conveniently stopped before they can follow through, or they just challenge the player to a Pokemon battle, the implication being that the villain sent out a Pokemon with the intent to hurt the player character, so the player character sent out their own Pokemon to defend themselves. We actually saw anime-exclusive villain Hunter J do pretty much exactly that when she sicced her giant scorpion on a ten-year-old. And she appeared long before XY, which seems to be the saga most praised for being "shonen-like" as though the things it did hadn't already been done or at least attempted before.

Also, I would like to dispel this notion that good villains need to provide world-threatening high stakes, because it's absolutely false. What makes a good villain has nothing to do with how powerful or threateing they are. It has everything to do with how well they fit the theme and story you were going for: Team Skull don't need to be more than petty small time thugs because their story is that they're former Island Trial challengers who failed the challenge and were never able to bounce back from their failure. By contrast, Team Plasma is meant to be the completely anathema to BW's theme of opposites coexisting, so their whole plan revolves around separating Pokemon and human beings entirely with the absolute most wicked members like Ghetsis turning out to being planning to keep their Pokemon so that they can easily rule over literally everyone else completely unopposed. Both stories are perfectly valid, and wether one is better than the other doesn't have anything to do with one having higher stakes, but rather how each story was written and executed.

Finally, "mature" stories don't need to be hyper-violent, they just need to handle their themes well. A simple story about a girl escaping her abusive household can be just as compelling as a high-stakes story about a community trying to survive a zombie apocalypse.
I don’t know why you’re trying to make this an anime vs game thing when all i said was ‘death is dumbed down for kids in a kids show’. i’m arguing that pokemon being a kids franchise hasn’t produced good villains because they aren’t allowed to do evil stuff. XY to me felt like it was trying to do something with lysandre but they got rid of him before he could pull the trigger, same with hunter J. I don’t like particularly like them but i can give them credit for creating stakes, tension and urgency.

This might go into preference territory but i’ll take world threatning villains like Griffith, Frieza or Dio over literal comic reliefs like team rocket or the pilaf gang. I’m fine with psychopaths like Kira yoshikage and Johan liebert too. So Ghetsis > Guzma for me.

You’re right mature != gritty, but i think your definition of stakes is incorrect. ‘High-stakes’ is whenever your characters find themselves in a serious situation. ‘Low stakes’ is when there’s minimal to no threat. A girl trying to run away from her abusers is a dire situation, so is trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. A villain who poses no threat is no villain at all.
 

VetProf

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All of those ‘death’ related scenes were dumbed down for kids though. Like i said safe and risk-free. Do you think pokemon can get away with villains like frieza, kira yoshikage or doflamingo?
I don’t know why you’re trying to make this an anime vs game thing when all i said was ‘death is dumbed down for kids in a kids show’. i’m arguing that pokemon being a kids franchise hasn’t produced good villains because they aren’t allowed to do evil stuff. XY to me felt like it was trying to do something with lysandre but they got rid of him before he could pull the trigger, same with hunter J. I don’t like particularly like them but i can give them credit for creating stakes, tension and urgency.
You're moving the discussion goalpost away from "Pokemon villains nowadays are tame compared to Pokemon villains in the past" to "Pokemon can never have good villains because it's a kid show", in which case there's... not much room left for further discussion. Yes, Pokemon being a show that's supposed to be enjoyed by all ages means they can't have overly violent acts happening on screen, but that has next to zero correlation with the writing quality of the villains in the show. If you prefer violent villains with grand, world-threatening goals, then that's perfectly fine, but as you've said it yourself, that's mostly just a preference thing.
 

Ghost Diplocaulus

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I don’t know why you’re trying to make this an anime vs game thing when all i said was ‘death is dumbed down for kids in a kids show’. i’m arguing that pokemon being a kids franchise hasn’t produced good villains because they aren’t allowed to do evil stuff. XY to me felt like it was trying to do something with lysandre but they got rid of him before he could pull the trigger, same with hunter J. I don’t like particularly like them but i can give them credit for creating stakes, tension and urgency.

This might go into preference territory but i’ll take world threatning villains like Griffith, Frieza or Dio over literal comic reliefs like team rocket or the pilaf gang. I’m fine with psychopaths like Kira yoshikage and Johan liebert too. So Ghetsis > Guzma for me.

You’re right mature != gritty, but i think your definition of stakes is incorrect. ‘High-stakes’ is whenever your characters find themselves in a serious situation. ‘Low stakes’ is when there’s minimal to no threat. A girl trying to run away from her abusers is a dire situation, so is trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. A villain who poses no threat is no villain at all.
You're saying this in relation to the villainous teams being dumbed down, which this whole discussion is supposed to be about. And that doesn't mean that they have to suck just because they can't het hyper-violent like Griffith or Freeza. If you prefer the hyper-violent villains to comedic or low stakes ones, then that's absolutely fine. But it's an issue literally just about your personal opinions and preferences and not an objective measure of quality.

By the way, Freeza and Dio are technically kids' franchise villains; they're from shonen animes, and "shonen" quite literally means "young boy" in Japanese, so that should be a huge tell about who they're aimed at.
 
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You're moving the discussion goalpost away from "Pokemon villains nowadays are tame compared to Pokemon villains in the past" to "Pokemon can never have good villains because it's a kid show"
That was always the point. Maybe i should have used ‘franchise’ instead of ‘anime’ in my first post but the point is pokemon has never produced good villains. Lyandre and hunter J were close-but-no-cigar.

IMO a villain who does no evil stuff is not a good villain and i’ll die on that hill.
You're saying this in relation to the villainous teams being dumbed down,
No? I said ‘death’ was dumbed down.
By the way, Freeza and Dio are technically kids' franchise villains; they're from shonen animes, and "shonen" quite literally means "young boy" in Japanese, so that should be a huge tell about who they're aimed at.
isn’t shounen aimed at 12~18 year old boys? That’s technically for teenagers/young adults, not exactly “kid friendly” like pokemon. Also JoJo’s bizarre adventure moved to ultra jump in 2005 which is a seinen magazine.
 

Ghost Diplocaulus

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That was always the point. Maybe i should have used ‘franchise’ instead of ‘anime’ in my first post but the point is pokemon has never produced good villains. Lyandre and hunter J were close-but-no-cigar.

IMO a villain who does no evil stuff is not a good villain and i’ll die on that hill.
I think we've had a bit of a misunderstanding here. True, I guess the whole point of villains is that they do bad guy stuff.

But not every narrative needs an outright villainous antagonist, and not every antagonist needs to be a villain: Team Skull are definitely antagonistic, but they aren't villains and don't need to be because that's not what their arc is about. Just because a story isn't outright good vs evil it doesn't mean it's bad. An antagonist isn't badly written just because they're not outright villainous. The point of an antagonist isn't necessarily that they have to be the villain to the protagonist's hero, the point of an antagonist is just that they have to act in opposition to the hero, and villainy isn't always required for that (especially in stories where the protagonist is the villain, which can and absolutely do happen).

No? I said ‘death’ was dumbed down.
Well, in that case, if you didn't actually want to add anything to the thread's actual discussion topic, why did you bring up something so off left field? What does death being "dumbed down" in your eyes have to do with how the plots of villainous teams are handled?
 
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