Giovanni (Japanese: サカキ Sakaki) is the head of Team Rocket, and formerly served as the Gym Leader of Viridian City's Gym, known officially as the Viridian Gym.
The first time Giovanni had been seen in battle was in The Battle of the Badge. He used powerful Pokémon against Gary but later left the Gym to deal with an unexplained emergency, leaving Ash to battle Jessie. By the time Ash returned from Hoenn, Agatha was in charge of the Gym until a new Leader could be found. Giovanni's reasons for leaving it have not been explained. In Meloetta and the Undersea Temple!, Giovanni finally confronted Ash in a battle and won easily.
Despite being feared by Jessie, James and Meowth, he usually displays a very calm demeanor, even in battle. In spite of the trio's countless failures he did trust them to infiltrate the Unova region alone and to lead Operation Tempest which was described as the biggest mission in Team Rocket history. Although he is often seen stroking his Persian, he keeps the rest of his Pokémon in cages and stated to Mewtwo that they could never been seen as equals, as the latter was created artificially by humans. Although calm and cool, Giovanni is truly evil and ruthless, threatening to kill Mewtwo's clones if the legendary Pokémon didn't obey him in Mewtwo Returns and threatening to kill Ash and Pikachu if Meloetta didn't surrender in Meloetta and the Undersea Temple!. Immediately following the failure of Operation Tempest, Giovanni calmly ordered retreat, showing logic rather than recklessness.
Very little is known about his past in any timeline; he is generally shrouded in mystery. The Birth of Mewtwo reveals that his mother was the head of Team Rocket before him. However, this is presumed to be canon in the anime timeline only, as the games have no precedent for this. The radio drama revealed that Giovanni holds his mother in high regard.
While Giovanni very rarely takes the role of antagonist, his agents often have him in mind during missions due to the chance of power, be it through promotion or other means. This gave him a unique series of appearances, mainly during the Hoenn saga, where Meowth often imagined how the Pokémon in each episode could be used to help Giovanni and win the trio promotions. These boss fantasies never show his actual personality and occasionally even show Giovanni in chibi form.
His first appearance was in the episode Battle Aboard the St. Anne, showing to have a Persian as his "top cat" over MTR, and talking to Jessie, James, and Meowth through a TV screen. His face always remained hidden in the shadows, usually with only his mouth visible. In Island of the Giant Pokémon, it was revealed that he owns the theme park Pokémon Land, and the giant mechanical Pokémon in it. He was displeased to hear that it had been destroyed.
Up until his appearance in the episode The Battle of the Badge, his voice was altered with a vocoder effect, masking his identity. It can be inferred that they were trying to imitate the games, as in Generation I it is not outright revealed that Giovanni, the Team Rocket boss, is the Viridian Gym Leader. As this episode corresponds to the point at which players of the games would discover that the two were the same, Giovanni finally stepped out of the shadows, revealing his face in a Gym battle against Gary Oak, and eventually defeating him utterly using original series.
Unexplained events in the episode (other than that the events in question necessitated the use of Mewtwo) caused Giovanni to abdicate his position as the Viridian Gym Leader, handing the Earth Badge to the Team Rocket trio that constantly follows Ash (although his orders implied that he wanted the trio to defend the Gym from a possible attack). Through a combination of their own incompetence and Ash's willpower to win the Earth Badge, the Viridian Gym was destroyed at the end of the episode. Due to this, and perhaps other circumstances, Giovanni permanently resigned as Viridian's Gym Leader, as Agatha of the Kanto Elite Four had taken over the Gym temporarily when Ash next returned to Viridian City after his journey in Hoenn.
During his position as a Gym Leader, Giovanni appeared not to care for his Pokémon (aside from Persian), as they were all locked away in cages when not used for a Gym battle.
In the episode Showdown at the Po-ké Corral, Giovanni's building was blown up by Mewtwo. He and his Persian survived the explosion and he angrily told Jessie, James, and Meowth to do their job (ironically, they were about to quit).
Giovanni also appeared near the beginning of the movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back, as he was the one who had Dr. Fuji clone Mewtwo for him. After Mewtwo destroyed the lab, Giovanni told Mewtwo that he saw him as a valuable partner, putting armor on Mewtwo and using him to defeat Trainers in Gym battles (including Gary's Nidoking and Arcanine, as seen in the anime) and help Team Rocket in their attempts to steal Pokémon. Eventually Mewtwo confronted Giovanni about his treatment and Giovanni admitted that he didn't see Mewtwo as a partner but as a servant. This enraged Mewtwo and it was this incident which drove it to destroy Giovanni's base, allowing it to escape.
Giovanni is the main antagonist in the movie Mewtwo Returns, seeking out Mewtwo, who by this time was living in peace with the cloned Pokémon at Mount Quena. Once Giovanni discovered it, he tried to recapture it by threatening to use Mewtwo's cloned Pokémon friends in their experiments, experiments that he also claimed would certainly result in their death. He used two machines to try to make Mewtwo submit to his will, but though Mewtwo stepped into the orb, it was still unwilling to serve Giovanni, threatening to destroy his body first. Ash and the others were able to stop the machines, and it was around this time that they faced off against Giovanni and several Team Rocket soldiers. Their Pokémon fought as a distraction so Ash could get Mewtwo into the spring. Once Mewtwo was healed from its injuries, it moved the spring under the mountain to protect it, and then erased the memories of Giovanni and the other Team Rocket soldiers (excluding Jessie, James, and Meowth) of it, making him forget entirely about Mewtwo. Standing next to Domino and Persian wondering what they were doing, he got the strange feeling as though he had been utterly defeated.
During Advanced Generation, Giovanni was seen monitoring the actions of Team Magma and Team Aqua and ordering minor actions to Jessie and James. He also had minor roles in the Diamond & Pearl, approving of Jessie, James and Meowth's plan to set up in Sinnoh and appearing in Memories are Made of Bliss! when the recruiting the trio for an important mission.
In the beginning of the Best Wishes Giovanni took on a far more significant and antagonistic role than before, now being in regular contact with Jessie, James and Meowth and assigning them on various missions throughout the Unova region. He was now often seen with a secretary, that helped him in giving orders to Jessie, James and Meowth. Giovanni appeared traveling to Unova in A Venipede Stampede!. He was set to appear again in two following episodes, but these never aired and ultimately were retconned out of canon. He did not make any more appearances for a long time afterward, with Matori explaining that he was too busy to be in regular contact with Jessie, James, and Meowth anymore. During this time, his role as the trio's leader was filled by Dr. Zager.
After a long absence, Giovanni returned in Unrest at the Nursery!, making a brief appearance in his office. He then appeared in Meloetta and the Undersea Temple! spearheading Team Rocket's "Operation Tempest," a mission to capture Meloetta and use it to take control of Tornadus, Thundurus, and Landorus to conquer Unova. For the first time in the history of the series, he battled against Ash directly, with Persian defeating Pikachu. He then captured Ash, Pikachu and Meloetta and escorted them to the ruins in preparation for the next stage of the mission, using Meloetta's song to summon the Reveal Glass in the temple. At the beginning of Unova's Survival Crisis!, he used the Reveal Glass to summon the Forces of Nature and transform them into their Therian Formes before setting them against Ash, Iris, Cilan, Ridley, and Cynthia. However, during the battle, Meloetta was dislodged from the mechanism controlling the trio's power, and after looking directly into the Reveal Glass, Giovanni became possessed by the power and went insane, declaring against his followers' wishes that he would instead destroy Unova. With the power of the Forces of Nature, he began freezing the land in ice, but when he was saved from a possibly life-threatening explosion by Jessie, James and Meowth, the possession was broken. On Dr. Zager's advisement he then ordered a full retreat from the Unova region and was last seen flying off in his airplane to return to Kanto with Jessie, James, Meowth and Dr. Zager.
He reappeared in Farewell, Unova! Setting Sail for New Adventures!, where he congratulated Jessie, James and Meowth on their good work in defeating Team Plasma before telling them to continue doing their best for Team Rocket.
Giovanni appeared in The Dream Continues! in his new design, alongside Matori. After again praising Jessie, James and Meowth for defeating Team Plasma, he wanted to know what Pokémon they had brought back for him from the Decolore Islands. With Jessie and James having nothing to show for their time, Meowth quickly improvised and claimed that the Pokémon Jessie and James had used in Unova were for him, and he accepted them.
Giovanni appeared in A Battle of Aerial Mobility!, where he told the trio to work hard in Kalos. In Awakening the Sleeping Giant!, he appeared when Meowth's boss fantasies returned. However, unlike the previous fantasies, this one depicted him commanding an army of Snorlax to conquer the world and accurately reflected his personality.
He made an appearance in Heroes — Friend and Faux Alike!, where Jessie and James reported their progress in capturing Pokémon for him with their obtaining of Inkay and Pumpkaboo. Although, he was pleased with their report, Giovanni told them to keep up their good work.