Meowth, the only non-legendary Pokémon who can talk, has been an integral part of Team Rocket in the Pokémon anime. Being one of the longest-running animated television programs of all time, Pokémon boasts of having over 1,100 episodes, 23 feature films, and numerous spin-offs. Airing since 1997, Pokémon zeroes in on the adventures of the show’s protagonist, Ash Ketchum, and his friends, which quintessentially include Pokémon battles, the discovery of legendary Pokémon, and mostly hilarious run-ins with Team Rocket, the anti-heroes of the franchise.
Meowth is part of the Team Rocket trio, along with Jesse and James, whose presence throughout the anime is driven by their need to follow Ash and his friends in order for them to try and steal Pikachu. In terms of personality, Meowth is known to be ambitious and conniving, as he has been known to hoodwink Ash and his team in order to lure them into traps several times. However, what distinguishes Meowth from other Meowths, or most Pokémon in general, is the fact that he can speak and understand human conversational cues fluently – why is that?
Meowth’s Ability to Talk Has a Tragic Origin
The reason why Meowth can talk in the anime is rather grim, stemming from personal tragedy and years of neglect. In a flashback sequence featured in “Go West Young Meowth”, one sees that his earliest memory as a child is being alone and hungry at Camp Pokéhearst. Due to a scarcity of food, or the fact that he was not properly taken of, Meowth accidentally tipped over a basket of baseballs, believing them to be food. This angers the resident baseball coach, who hangs Meowth from a tree as punishment. Whilst hanging, Meowth sees a movie named That Darn Meowth!, featuring a Meowth who was being given mouthwatering food at Hollywood. Believing Hollywood to be a paradise, he decides to venture there with renewed hopes and dreams–which would be where he finally learned to speak.
However, on arriving in Hollywood, Meowth is perceived as a stray Pokémon and chased constantly for stealing food from humans. A Meowth-gang decides to take him in, allowing him to live on the streets as a member and cause havoc across town. While Meowth experienced a considerable amount of neglect in his formative years, he held on to his idealism even in the face of adversity. One day, he encounters a female Meowth named Meowzie, who rejects him for being poor, saying that she preferred humans anyway. In an attempt to please her and evoke affection, Meowth went to painstaking lengths to speak the human language, even going as far to walk upright. However, Meowzie was horrified by this metamorphosis and called him a freak of nature. Heartbroken, Meowth remembers the first human word he learned, “rocket“, and was inspired to join Team Rocket, after which, he was assigned to a team with Jessie and James.
Could Other Pokémon Learn to Speak Like Meowth?
There doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special about Meowth, either the individual or as a species, that would make them capable of speaking when other Pokémon can’t. Other Pokémon such as Chansey have even been shown reading books at times, so a level of language comprehension seems to be possible for any sufficiently motivated Pokémon. It’s actually surprising that more Pokémon don’t have the ability to speak, since they seem to have the intelligence to do so. Even Pikachu could seemingly learn how to talk, although it might take a truly major event to push it to happen.
Hence, Meowth’s ability to speak in Pokémon has rather sad origins, as this transformation was triggered by the need to be accepted and acute neglect for years. Although Meowth and Team Rocket have been the source of comic relief for decades, owing to their hilarious escapades in the anime, their inner lives are tinged with sadness and a peculiar sense of loneliness. Despite their repeatedly failed missions, the Team Rocket trio was ambitiously driven to carry out whatever was necessary to please their boss, the head of Team Rocket, Giovanni. Did this desire stem from the need to be accepted? This is true, at least in Meowth’s case, who jealously wished to replace Giovanni’s Persian and be his “top cat” — which offers a glimpse at the Pokémon‘s innate desire to be loved.
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