Team Skull is my favorite thing about the latest generation of Pokémon. They’re not like the other “evil” organizations that we’ve had in previous games, who all had some weird world domination/annihiliation scheme. The Skullsters, however, are simply outcasts in a society that ultimately failed them.
In Alola, where the Sun/Moon generation of Pokémon takes place, there are no gyms. Instead, trainers set out on a journey to complete trials in order to be recognized as trainers. Except, not everyone gets to complete this Island Challenge. You can imagine what that might do to an 11-year-old’s self-esteem.
Team Skull exists to provide a home for these outcast kids and is led by the ultimate outcast kid, Ya Boi Guzma.
Guzma’s backstory is ridiculously tragic for a Pokémon game villain. He ran away from his parents when he was a mere child. But before that he too was like the player character: an enthusiastic kid who only wanted to be the best Pokémon trainer ever.
We don’t really know what happened, but the game heavily hints that he actually had an abusive father. You even get to meet his dad and he is not very nice. In fact, he has no remorse for the fact that his own son ran away.
Growing up with that kind of trauma molds Guzma into what he is today. No other adult in Alola recognizes him as a peer. They don’t even let him be a Captain so that he can have his own trial, despite the fact that he is a really good Pokémon trainer. Seriously, his Golisopod packs quite the punch.
Still, Guzma doesn’t give up on life and wallow in his despair. At some point, he probably decided to help kids like himself. Eventually, these group of outcast kids came to call themselves Team Skull.
Members of Team Skull aren’t evil. They simply act the way they do, because that’s what they think society expects them to act. They are pushed to the fringes and as such they do whatever is needed to be noticed.
But even then, they are not good at being bad. Honestly, they spend most of the game trying to steal a Pokémon, it’s the Yungoos of a pre-schooler. Seriously, they suck at being evil.
All this makes them kind of adorable.
In the words of Plumeria, who is basically the matriarch of Team Skull: “You have realized what idiots all these guys are, right? But don’t you think some dummies are cute in their dumbness?”
Pokémon Sun/Moon is weirdly more real than all the previous ones, because we get to see the cracks in the social order of the Pokémon world.
I mean, there had to be some problems with a society that lets 11-year-olds take FIRE-BREATHING MONSTERS on a journey around an ENTIRE COUNTRY, collecting items from TRASH CANS, talking to COMPLETE STRANGERS, and basically making BLOOD MONEY by making their monsters fight.
But now, things got a bit more real. Now we get to ask questions like: Okay, how exactly is a person’s worth decided in Alola? Is there some sort of an implied meritocracy? That doesn’t seem to be the case, since Guzma does merit being a Captain.
Instead, captains are chosen by island kahunas, who are chosen by the island’s guardian deities – one of the four Tapu Pokémon. Furthermore, a kahuna’s reign lasts basically until they’re dead.
Basically, Alola is governed by a theocratic monarchy, under the pretense of an equal opportunity meritocracy. In one word, that’s bullshit. Why do these Pokémon get to decide who gets to rule the islands? Once they’re selected, why do they decide to pick who gets to be a Captain? Shouldn’t that decision also be left up to the Tapu Pokémon?
In short, Team Skull did nothing wrong. It was the rest of society that failed them. The fact that they refuse to accept and do anything about it shows the hypocrisy of Alolan society.
It is, therefore, time to step up and rise up against the kahunas and their baseless authority! All Pokémon trainers deserve to be recognized as equals. Their success in the Island Challenge is irrelevant to their being treated decently.