Team Rocket’s Butch and Cassidy were introduced to Pokémon as friends of Jessie and James, but have now been absent from the anime for over a decade.
Aside from Ash Ketchum, arguably the most enduring characters of anime Pokémon is the Team Rocket trio consisting of Jessie, James and Meowth. The villains were reintroduced in the second episode of Pokémon and have featured prominently since then, even as the other main characters have alternated their departure over the years. In contrast, Jessie and James’s movie characters, Cassidy and Butch, have actually been completely absent from anime for well over a decade.
As iconic as Jessie and James are, it’s no secret that they’re a far cry from what fans of the Pokémon video game think when they hear “Team Rocket.” In the early games, Team Rocket is presented as a serious criminal organization that the people of the Kanto region legitimately fear. Jessie and James, on the other hand, are often portrayed as incompetent – albeit hilarious – people who will be humiliated by Ash and his friends every week.
However, the 57th episode of Pokémon, “Breeding Center Secret,” revealed that the anime version of Team Rocket could be a force to be reckoned with and that Jessie and James might just be the outliers. . That episode introduced Cassidy and Butch, the other two members of Team Rocket, who are basically more people than Jessie and James.
Apparently the basic idea behind Cassidy and Butch was, “What if Jessie and James were really good at their job?” The story said Cassidy and Butch were the star students at Team Rocket academy. Not only that, while Jessie and James try week after week to steal Ash’s Pikachu, Cassidy and Butch have been shown to successfully steal multiple Pokémon during the run.
The two Rocket detachments also have a pretty similar design, not to mention identical naming conventions. Jessie and James’ names are an obvious reference to the famous outlaw Jesse James. Meanwhile, Cassidy and Butch’s names are in tribute to a notorious wild west outlaw, Butch Cassidy.
Their fierce rivalry is always evident, Jessie and Cassidy in particular look down on each other. In fact, Cassidy regularly spreads rumors that Jessie, James, and Meowth don’t like Team Rocket’s leader Giovanni and that the trio is about to be fired.
Mind you, while Cassidy and Butch are certainly more competent than Jessie and James, they’re not exactly 100% valued either. After all, what they probably remember most is the running joke that Butch would get mad about people mispronouncing his name. Plus, while their work has a higher success rate than Jessie and James, sometimes Cassidy and Butch can just as difficult as their competitors.
However, right from their uniform colors, Cassidy and Butch have always been much more in line with what game fans have come to expect from Team Rocket. Nor are they just one-off characters. After their first episode, the duo went on to appear in additional episodes of the original Pokémon anime, as well as subsequent series such as Pokémon the Series: Ruby and Sapphire and the Pokémon Chronicles anthology.
Cassidy and Butch’s last appearance to date was in “Sleight of Sand!” – the 65th episode of Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl and the 531st episode of Pokémon overall – aired in 2008 (January in Japan, July in the United States). There has been no mention of the group since. But while Cassidy and Butch were not taken seriously from the show, their removal also makes sense when you consider exactly what happened after Diamond and Pearl.
In Pokémon the Series: Black & White, the original trio of Jessie, James, and Meowth have switched to a new shirt. Often considered the series where Team Rocket gets “serious,” Black & White sees comic book villains become much more believable as legitimate villains. During this period, their plans were well thought out, well executed and most importantly more successful than ever. Jessie and James are even shown wearing black uniforms more precisely in the video game like the one Cassidy and Butch always wear.
Simply put, now that Jessie and James have gotten really good at their jobs, there’s really nothing left for Cassidy and Butch to joke around with anymore. At one point, Giovanni even called Jessie and James his top-level agents, which meant that Cassidy and Butch were essentially forgotten. In the end, Jessie and James won.
However, their new powers did not last. By the time Pokémon the Series: XY came out, Jessie, James, and Meowth were back to their old, goofy selves. Even if it remains, Cassidy and Butch are yet to appear again – and it remains to be seen whether we will ever see the two making love on our screens again.