RocketShipping (Japanese: コジムサ KojiMusa) is the ship between Jessie and James, and alongside PokéShipping and AmourShipping, is one of the most common pairings within the Pokémon fandom. It is also one of the few officially recognized by The Pokémon Company, with evidence found across multiple adaptations.
Jessie and James first appeared in Pokemon Emergency!, alongside Meowth as members of the villainous organization Team Rocket. From that point on, they have served as the show's primary antagonists over its history, frequently performing schemes to try and steal Pokémon from other Trainers, primarily Ash's Pikachu. It is frequently shown throughout the series that Jessie and James are shown to have a lot more physical contact than that between other characters, including hugging, hand-holding, and even sleeping on each other. They are shown to frequently share Pokémon who frequently show affection to the pair in similar ways, as well as equipment, such as their Z-Power Ring.
There is a wide amount of variation in how the character's relationship is presented depending on the language being translated. Notably, this includes James and Meowth fearing retribution when Jessie doesn't win Contests or Showcases in English, compared to being supportive and wishful for her success in the original Japanese versions. In the Latin American Spanish dub, James frequently calls Jessie “mamita” or “querida” (terms of endearment like “honey” or “sweetie”), “mi Jessie” (my Jessie), or by the pet name “Jessita”.
History of the RocketShipping Fandom
The RocketShipping fandom has undergone substantial change over the years, with peaks of popularity naturally coinciding with the occurrence of Shipping "hints" in the source material.
The first major event in the RocketShipping fanbase occurred when a member of TRHQ came across an untranslated graphic novel in a bookstore, the final volume of Toshihiro Ono's The Electric Tale of Pikachu manga. The epilogue of the manga contained two important scenes: one was a panel showing James confessing his love to Jessie; the other was a full-page illustration in which Jessie and James were married and Jessie visibly pregnant. Most importantly of all for fans, this was official and approved by Nintendo, some believed that it was only a matter of time before something similar happened in the anime series.
However, not long after this, the number and frequency of hints in the anime decreased, along with other changes in characterization. Around this time, a website named Pokemopolis was getting attention for rebutting the "evidence" found in the manga. Pokemopolis became a prominent anti-RocketShipping site in the fandom, as well as the main proponent of the theory that James is gay, and that Jessie and James are no more than friends.
In the side-story episode Training Daze!, the history of the Team Rocket formation was shown. Jessie was a loner who didn't work well in a team, with James being the first partner she was shown to trust. After having a heart-to-heart one night, they vow to be there for each other and make their team shine. After James is hurt during their mission, Jessie wants to give up but James doesn't let her, not wanting to let the team down despite his injuries. Jessie's dedication to James is shown again at the end of the episode where James prepares to sacrifice himself, but Jessie doesn't let that happen with a declaration of their friendship being more important than succeeding.
Early on in the series Jessie and James were shown to be close teammates, frequently seen protecting and encouraging each other when faced with hardships, whether it be declarations of friendship, commitment or compliments in the face of death and danger as seen when trapped aboard the S.S. Anne, during their encounters with Gastly during the events of The Ghost of Maiden's Peak or with Kaiser brandishing a gun at them during EP035.
The pair are occasionally mistaken as a couple, seen when DJ Mary casts them as a married king and queen during Air Time!. This is something they are only too happy to play up during their schemes, even disguising themselves as married couples in Wherefore Art Thou, Pokémon?. Meowth also comments during The Power of One' that "You two don't need the opposite sex because you got each other."
James is shown to be jealous when other men show interest in Jessie, such as Dr. Proctor in A Chansey Operation. He is also quick to comfort her when their poverty is at its peaks and helps and encourage her in her aspirations outside of Team Rocket, such as during Princess vs. Princess. Jessie desires to win the competition and the prized Hinamatsuri dolls. Despite her loss, James, Meowth, and their Pokémon dress up as the dolls, with James and Jessie dressed as the Emperor and Empress in their "doll" set.
Jessie frequently compliments him for his positive traits that help them towards their plans, whether it be picking locks, having a good memory, or doing well in Pokémon battles. She is also shown to be impressed when he exhibits talents outside of their work, such as his mastery of haiku's in Will the Real Oak Please Stand Up?.
A recurring story throughout the anime with James is his history of being engaged to a girl named Jessebelle. A woman who bears a striking resemblance to Jessie that he fell in love with at first sight. First highlighted in Holy Matrimony!, Jessie is crushed when she thinks James has abandoned her and Meowth to get his inheritance and marry Jessebelle. She is delighted when this is revealed that James decided to return to Team Rocket, swooping down in the Meowth Balloon to pick her up. When he tells her he wasn't able to get the inheritance, she brushes it off, saying they don't need it as long as they have their freedom. They shake hands to reaffirm their friendship. Their hands form a heart and the viewers are shown a prolonged scene of them gazing into each other's eyes as the music swells. They are so caught up in the moment that they forget to pick up Meowth.
Throughout the course of this series both Jessie and James are given the opportunity to depart from Team Rocket, James in the side story episode We're No Angels! (in the dub this was extended to Jessie as well) and Jessie during The Unbeatable Lightness of Seeing!. Both express sadness at this possibility and are happy when the other decides to stay.
In the previous season where James was seen getting jealous, of Dr. Proctor in this series, he is shown to be wary of Harley's intentions towards Jessie. Jessie is also shown to be jealous of women paying attention to James when he's dressed as Juan in Eight Ain't Enough.
In the Latin American Spanish dub of Game Winning Assist, when Cacnea affectionately attacks James he says, "¿Cacnea, por qué me quieres besar si sabes que ya tengo novia?"; or, "Cacnea, why do you want to kiss me if you know that I already have a girlfriend?". Although novia can mean both “girlfriend” and “fiancée”, James never uses novia when he is saying "fiancée." Instead, he uses prometida, an unambiguous word for "fiancée”. He always refers to Jessebelle as his "prometida," and Jessebelle in turn calls him her "prometido." By the same token, during James's brief engagement to Temacu, she, James, and Jessie all use the term "prometido". On top of that, James does not mention Jessebelle between catching Cacnea and Game Winning Assist, so Cacnea would not understand any reference to Jessebelle. Therefore, "novia" would mean "girlfriend" and can only reasonably refer to Jessie.
During the events of The Bicker the Better Oscar and Andi assume Jessie and James are a couple in the English dub (in the original they simply suggest that the two have a good relationship). James looks confused at this and Jessie just ignores it. Since they don't get upset at it like Ash and May do, it could be interpreted that Jessie and James find the assumption acceptable. This comfort can also be seen in Take This House and Shuppet when James comments "They say that you always hurt the ones you love!" during a fight, and in Sky High Gym Battle! where Jessie and James imagine themselves dancing together at the Team Rocket nightclub with the R insignia covered in hearts
There were also other small events between the pair, such as when the pair view Illumise and Volbeat perform a "mating" dance in Love at First Flight, that is said to bring good fortune to spectators who are in love. James sells his bottle caps in New Plot, Odd Lot! so that Jessie could buy a dress she wanted. Finally, James attempting to save Jessie from Regirock and Registeel by trying to carry her away in Pace - The Final Frontier!.
James history with Jessebelle surfaces again in Sweet Baby James when the Team Rocket visits one of his families estates. The housekeepers mistake Jessie for Jessebelle, Jessie is unimpressed by James's reaction to the thought of being married to her and further upset when he introduces her as his secretary in an attempt to cover up his being in Team Rocket. She spends most of the rest of the episode going against James's request to keep the peace and only becomes supportive again after James has been honest about their identity. Throughout their stay, the housekeepers continue to ask about Jessie, even when she isn't around and even approving of her after finding out they are members of Team Rocket, saying that “it seems like his friends are also good people”.
Jessie's Contest arc in Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl is a major source of development for her relationship with James. The hesitancy he feels towards her participation, carried over from Pokémon the Series: Ruby and Sapphire, eventually dissipates and he becomes increasingly involved, loaning her his Pokémon and on one occasion stepping in for her when she is sick. He repeatedly forgets to cheer her by her Jessilina alias and instead calls her Jessie before correcting himself, such as in Dawn of a Royal Day!. In Opposites Interact! James tries to get Jessie to let him watch her performances instead of selling merchandise. In the Latin American Spanish dub, James frequently calls Jessie by nicknames including his marigold queen or Jessie-Jess, which is Jessie's nickname from her days at Team Rocket Academy.
In this series, there were few instances of implied imagery between Jessie and James, primarily in Where No Togepi Has Gone Before!, where inside their base there is no bed in James's room, and a double bed in Jessie's. During Crossing Paths, once Jessie releases Dustox, James is touched by Jessie's explanation about this being Dustox's chance of love. The narrator also suggests that Jessie will find happiness too as the shot pans down to show Jessie and James, the English dub narrator changes "finding happiness" to "finding love".
The events of Noodles! Roamin' Off! features the Team Rocket going their separate ways, with Meowth joining a noodle cart, Jessie wanting to focus on being a coordinator, and James remaining with Team Rocket. A depressed James decides to try and capture a Shiny Metagross. When Jessie hears that James is in danger, she immediately drops the façade of pursuing her contest career and rushes to his aid, causing James to fall to his knees and cry, overjoyed she has returned. With the shiny MEtagross about to attack them, James apologizes for getting Jessie involved, which she brushes off saying they're friends. He goes on to say life wasn't wasted because he spent it with good friends, looking at her significantly. Closing their eyes for the final blow, Jessie says, “If there is another world after we die, let’s meet again there.” James agrees and smiles, no longer looking afraid. This is an addendum to James's implied promise in Training Daze to always be at Jessie's side.
During Two Degrees of Separation! while visiting one of James's families summer homes, Team Rocket decide to leave quickly before his parents and Jessebelle arrive. Although disappointed, James expresses the desire to live in a cottage in the future with Jessie and Meowth. Later on, during the episode The Treasure Is All Mine!, James refers to Jessebelle as his first love, implying that he'd fallen in love with someone else. To escape Jessebelle later in the episode he asks Ash to get Pikachu to use Thunderbolt on them to send them blasting off.
Pokémon the Series: Black & White is noteworthy for attempting to put Jessie, James, and Meowth in more serious, antagonistic roles. Their normal personalities and relationships are so much suppressed during the series that it inspired the creation of the Team Rocket's Secret Empire radio show, in the introduction to which James accuses Jessie of only speaking to him these days to confirm mission plans. This change resulted in a complete absence of shipping evidence until the Decolora Adventure portion of the saga when they start to revert to their prior selves. An example of this is in Danger, Sweet as Honey!, when Jessie freezes in terror at the prospect of being attacked by a swarm of Beedrill, James takes her by the shoulders to guide her out of harm's way.
In a progression of his involvement in Jessie's Contest arc in Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl, James is a bedrock of support for Jessie during the Pokémon Showcase competition. As before, he often forgets to call her by her stage name and is now frequently shown to be the loudest supporter in the crowd, to the point that it becomes a nuisance for the audience members seated near him. During the Pokémon Showcase Master Class, despite worrying she'd be angry at her loss, Jessie thanks her friends for helping her get as far as she had. Everyone tackles and hugs her, with James saying he'd follow her anywhere.
Pokémon the Series: XY generally had smaller moments between Jessie and James peppered throughout the episodes, such as pushing each other out of the way of danger. One such moment is during A Gaggle of Gadget Greatness! when Jessie struggles to open a trick wall, James whacks a hand against it, briefly trapping Jessie between his body and the wall until it opens. Annoyed, she tells him, "That was misleading." The frames are presented like a classic Kabedon scene, a trope often used in anime and manga for love confessions. In Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction when the trio believe they are about to get rich from Diancie’s diamonds, James's first suggestion is they could build a house with the money and Jessie follows this up by saying they might get a holiday home too.
Jessie again dabbled with the idea of parting with Team Rocket during A Fork in The Road! A Parting of The Ways!. After being separated during a blast-off, James and Meowth find Jessie telling Ash and company she is quitting Team Rocket to stay with Dr. White, who she has fallen in love with. Meowth is about to stop Jessie, but James tells him they shouldn't get in the way of her happiness. James then runs away crying as he reminisces about the life he has shared with his partner. After Jessie and James Pokémon are stolen by a hunter James pleads Ash and his friends for help. In the original Japanese, Serena begins to ask an ambiguous question of James about Jessie which he cuts off with an affirmative grunt before she can express the verb. Given the context, it is hinted that she may have been about to ask if he likes her as more than a friend. Jessie, having overheard the conversation Jessie chooses to return to Team Rocket and help rescue their Pokémon. When Meowth begs her to live for love, not evil, to which she replies that she is carrying out the evils of love and truth, quoting their motto.
Throughout this series, there were multiple subtle signs indicating how much Jessie and James care for each other, whether it be through their desire to protect one another from danger or support each other during competitions.
Key moments include in Fighting Back the Tears! when James gets poisoned by a wild Toxapex multiple times during the episode, with Jessie getting increasingly concerned. She determines that Jame's health is more important than getting a rare and powerful Pokémon. James is equally concerned when he protects Jessie from an Alolan Raticate's Bite attack in A Team-on-Team Tussle! or when he has to attack Jessie to free her from a Gengar's control in Why Not Give Me a Z-Ring Sometime?, even requesting Mareanie to do it gently so as not to injure her.
Whilst there are no competitions in the same vein as contests or showcases this series, some episodes feature Jessie wanting to pursue an acting career, which James supports and assists with, even admitting she looks beautiful before her audition in This Magik Moment!. At the conclusion of the series in the Manalo Conference both characters make it through the Battle Royal and into the battle portion of the competition. When Jessie loses in the first round she demands James win, giving him their shared Z-Ring. She also gives the announcers a biography for James calling him a "ferocious warrior who has traveled the world and conquered Gymss". Meowth pointing out that she's getting overexcited in cheering him on, much like James used to during her contests and showcases. After his loss, she struggles to tell him that she is proud regardless, offering a can of iced Komala Coffee and reminding him that Team Rocket always moves forward. James recognizes the offering for what it is from her and appears to be very touched by her action.
Throughout the manga, there is suggestive physical contact between Jessie and James and they also revealed to share a bed. In the epilogue, there is a panel in which we see a flashback to James confessing his love to Jessie and at the end of the manga, Jessie and James are shown to be married with a child on the way.
During Round Four in Spa Service, they are wearing their bride and groom clothing from the episode Wherefore Art Thou, Pokémon?. Unlike the episode, Meowth is dressed as a flower girl and the background music is "Treulich Geführt" by Richard Wagner, known in English as the "Bridal Chorus".
During the radio drama, Jessie says the only thing she can rely on is her partner, James asks hopefully whether she means him, however, she reveals she meant her Arbok, which upsets James. Later on when trapped and anticipating a fatal attack from an angry hoard of Beedrill, Jessie and James recite the lines of a famous Kabuki scene from a show called Kuruwa Bunsho (translated as Love Letters from the Licensed Quarter), where two lovers commit a double suicide.
A radio drama that aired in the latter half of 2012, Team Rocket's Secret Empire featured a lot of interaction between the three members of Team Rocket, the show was presented over several segmented stories where they portrayed different characters within them. The Team Rocket's Secret Empire Twitter account featured several in-character tweets that indicated how close Jessie and James are, including an interaction during one of James's occasional Q&A sessions on Twitter, a follower asked him, "Jessie is cute! Since you are together all the time, haven't you fallen in love with her?" James answered, "So (she's my) eternal partner, right!" (「永遠のパートナーだからな！」).
In the chapter "Space People No. 1", the opening drama of Episode 7, the aftermath of a rocket ship accident is explored. The character of James is frantically searching for Jessie's character and is distraught to find her injured and trapped under rubble. He is unable to free her despite his best efforts, so holds her as she dies. She tells him how happy she is that he is with her at the end and encourages him to save himself, as she believes their relationship is destined by fate and they will be reunited in another life. When asked in the final episode, Jessie cites this as her favorite opening skit of the series and James agrees.
In the final episode, the trio is asked to say what they like about each other. James is initially rendered incoherent and only able to describe Jessie as "good", before eventually saying they are a good balance. Jessie cites James always being there, saying that whenever she thinks she's alone she looks behind her and James is there. Although framed as a joke implying that James is creepily ever-present, there is also an underlying reference to the promise he makes in Training Daze! to stick with her.
- Scriptwriter Junki Takegami is responsible for writing what are generally considered to be the 3 most important Rocketshipping episodes: Holy Matrimony!, Training Daze and Noodles! Roamin' Off!. Interestingly, he also received joint writing credit with Shōji Yonemura for A Fork in the Road! A Parting of the Ways! in promotional material, although his name did not appear in the episode's end credits.
- Toshihiro Ono who created The Electric Tale of Pikachu manga, in which Jessie and James are shown married and expecting a child, continues to express his support for the pairing on his Twitter account.
- He is also infamous for producing an unofficial hentai doujinshi which fills in the details of how they conceived their child.
- In addition to numerous appearances with Meowth and their other Pokémon, Jessie and James have featured together by themselves in 3 TCG cards:
- Rocketshipping General Discussion on Bulbagarden Forums
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