Giovanni is the primary antagonist of the games taking place in Kanto.
In the first games Giovanni appeared in, he served a dual role: one that was well known to the residents of Kanto, and one that was more secret. He was first shown as the leader of the villainous Team Rocket, the first of many criminal organizations to grace the Pokémon games. After the player defeated him and his team of Grunts at Silph Co., Giovanni fled to a hideout that the player is unaware of. Once the player returned to Viridian City, one of the major plot twists of these games revealed that Giovanni, in addition to his role as a criminal, was the final Gym Leader to be fought before the Elite Four—albeit one without a formal title. Here, he specializes in the Ground type. Once defeated, he disbanded Team Rocket and left the player with the Earth Badge and TM27 (Fissure). If talked to again, he then vanishes and is not seen again for the rest of the game.
Giovanni's role in Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen is much the same; the one difference is that defeating him in the Gym battle will earn the player TM26 (Earthquake), instead of TM27 (Fissure). He also implies that he intends to return to power one day rather than being moved to dedicate his life to the study of Pokémon. There is a side-plot in the Sevii Islands that revolves around Giovanni; a group of Team Rocket members are trying to continue the aims of Team Rocket, but they abandon this when they realize that their leader has been defeated once and for all.
In Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!, Giovanni's story is slightly expanded from his first appearance. During his first appearance, he is seen talking with Archer and giving him the permission to proceed with the plan to take over Silph Co. After being defeated for the first time, he gives the player the Silph Scope as a token of apology for mocking them, as opposed to just leaving the device behind before leaving, like in previous games. At the Silph Co., a part of his conversation with the Silph Co. President is shown, with Giovanni demanding him to hand over the Master Ball like they had previously agreed. In the Gym battle, Giovanni's reward TM once again contains Earthquake, although now, it's TM41, instead of TM26.
In Pokémon Gold, Silver, Crystal, HeartGold, and SoulSilver, a group of Team Rocket members tries to relaunch the old team. They take over Goldenrod Radio Tower, and broadcast a radio announcement intended for Giovanni. Only in HeartGold and SoulSilver is it revealed that Giovanni does hear the broadcast, from his hideout in Tohjo Falls - an event in the remakes involving a time-travelingCelebi allows Ethan and Lyra to travel back in time and defeat Giovanni at the same time the rest of Team Rocket is being defeated at the Radio Tower. Upon defeat, he will begin ranting about how he keeps losing to children and, like before, Giovanni will leave the room and disappear. Later, in Kanto, it is revealed that Blue took over the Viridian Gym after his disappearance.
The Celebi event also reveals some of Giovanni's background from the three years between Generation I/III and Generation II/IV. While it was mentioned by ScientistGideon in FireRed and LeafGreen that Giovanni has a son with red hair, the son's identity wasn't revealed until the time travel event in HeartGold and SoulSilver. As many fans speculated (and as was mentioned in the Pokémon Adventures manga series), this son is the rival of the Johto player character, Silver. Much of Silver's personality is a result of the treatment he received from Giovanni, which includes abandonment. Like many of Giovanni's other actions throughout the games, this reflects on his selfishness.
Giovanni reappears in Black 2 and White 2 in the Pokémon World Tournament, replacing Blue, who instead participates in the Champions Tournament. Giovanni returns to using Ground types exclusively. While the announcer usually introduces Gym Leaders by their title, Giovanni, who does not have a title, is introduced as "The Self-Proclaimed Strongest Trainer" (Japanese: さいきょうの トレーナーと なのるSelf-Proclaimed Strongest Trainer).
An Giovanni that appears in Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon as the Boss of the Team Rainbow Rocket who came from the world where Team Rocket has succeeded take over the world, featured in Episode RR. He is first seen during the Aether Foundation's broadcast from Aether Paradise, where he seizes control of the organization from Lusamine. He fortifies himself inside Team Rocket's Castle and stations versions of Archie, Maxie, Cyrus, Lysandre, and Ghetsis from other worlds as his guards, along with an army of Team Rainbow Rocket Grunts. After battling through his army, the player and Lillie find Giovanni holding an unconscious Lusamine inside his control center deep within the castle. He introduces himself and reveals that he plans to create an army of Ultra Beasts in order to conquer all worlds. For that purpose, he needs the Aether Foundation's resources, and intends to brainwash Lusamine into serving him. Feeling nostalgic that a child would challenge him, Giovanni battles the player with a party that includes Mewtwo, and is ultimately defeated. Accepting his loss, Giovanni abandons his plans for the Aether Foundation but swears that Team Rainbow Rocket will never fall. He leaves as Colress begins working to revert Team Rocket's Castle back into Lusamine's mansion, and is last seen reflecting on what he will do next before being warped away.
Giovanni appears in the anime as the head of Team Rocket. Unlike the members of other prominent criminal organizations, he is a recurring character in all of the series so far, usually keeping in contact with the Team Rocket trio.
Giovanni appeared in File 3: Giovanni. Red first recalled meeting him at the Rocket Hideout. They later encountered again at Silph Co. after Team Rocket had taken over the building. Seeing Red's arrogant and determined attitude to stop Team Rocket every time, Giovanni decided to put him in his place, and battled Red's Charizard with his Nidoqueen, winning easily before escaping with a helicopter, declaring that Red could never understand what he was hoping to achieve.
Giovanni as a child
Giovanni appeared once more as the Viridian Gym Leader. Giovanni accepted his Gym challenge, but Red claimed that he would battle him as the enemy of all Pokémon, instead of a Gym Leader. Hearing this, Giovanni put aside his usual Gym Leader battling team and took out his strongest pair of Pokémon, contained within Ultra Balls. The first one was Rhyhorn, which single-handedly was able to defeat four of Red's Pokémon before drawing with his Hitmonlee. During the battle, Giovanni started actually feeling excited, and wondered why he was feeling that way. When he saw the pose Red took while sending out his Charizard, he finally remembered his childhood passion for Pokémon and battling, and wondered how he could have ever turned into a person who only treated Pokémon as tools for business. After Red's Charizard had defeated Giovanni's last Pokémon, Rhydon, Giovanni offered him the Earth Badge as a proof of his victory. Red, however, refused to take a Badge from the Boss of Team Rocket. Seeing this, Giovanni turned to his minions, informing them that from that moment onward, Team Rocket would be officially disbanded. He then turned back to Red, now offering the Badge to him not as the Boss of Team Rocket but as the Viridian City Gym Leader. Red accepted the Earth Badge and left, heading for the Pokémon League.
As his battle with Red had reminded Giovanni of how Pokémon could be taken as fun rather than business, he decided that he wanted to find a new path for himself and his Pokémon, without being the Boss of Team Rocket any longer.
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Giovanni first appeared in The Chase. After the International Police had failed to find him during a raid at the Viridian Gym, he was seen standing on a hill near Viridian City, declaring that Team Rocket would never fall, before walking away. Along with his disapparance, rumors about Team Rocket's disbandment began circling around.
He reappeared in a flashback in The Legacy. Looker approached Giovanni's son Silver, hoping to find information on him as he had not been seen since his disappearance three years prior. However, all Silver could describe was his own last encounter with Giovanni three years ago, in which the two had a falling out that fractured their relationship.
In Pokémon Adventures, Giovanni serves much of the same role as he does in the games, although he now has Lt. Surge, Sabrina, and Koga as subordinates. However, Giovanni is much more ruthless than his other counterparts.
Giovanni as a kid in How I Became a Pokémon Card
An older Giovanni in How I Became a Pokémon Card
How I Became a Pokémon Card
Giovanni and Persian were revealed to have been together for a long time, as he rescued the Pokémon when he was a child.
Giovanni is the boss of Team Rocket in Pokémon Pocket Monsters.
Giovanni in Pokémon Zensho
Giovanni appears in PZ05, where he is watching Satoshi from the hidden cameras within the Silph Co. building. He orders one of his Team Rocket Grunts to try and stop Satoshi from reaching him. Two chapters later, he has taken the boss of Silph Co. hostage and threatens to harm him if he refuses to tell Giovanni where the Master Ball was. However, he is interrupted when Satoshi and Sabrina teleport their way to the top floor. Lapras uses Mist to blind Nidoqueen, but she launches a Poison Sting attack. One of the needles from the attacks hits Giovanni. Satoshi and the others manage to escape afterwards. In Viridian City, Giovanni was revealed to be the final Gym Leader that Satoshi challenges. Satoshi manages to defeat him and earns the Earth Badge.
While taking over the Silph Co., Giovanni used Nidoqueen to hold the Silph co. boss hostage.
Giovanni has owned this Machamp ever since he was a child. When it passed away, it turned him into a bitter person. The spirit of Machamp was called out by one of the Team Rocket grunts to deal with Satoshi. However, it was defeated by Gastly as physical attacks had no effect on the Ghost-type Pokémon.
Giovanni has owned this Nidoking ever since his childhood. He first appeared in Satoshi's flashback while Satoshi was in his house. At the Viridian Gym, Nidoking appeared in Giovanni's imagination where it was revealed that his passing during Giovanni's childhood turned him into a bitter person.
Giovanni's Pokémon Cards listed with a blue background are only legal to use in the current Expanded format. Cards listed with a silver background are legal to use in both the current Standard and Expanded formats.
Giovanni is the only Gym Leader in the games to appear outside of his Gym in Generation I, a feature that would become more and more common up to Generation IV, during and after which all Gym Leaders in the featured regions appear outside of their Gym in one way or another.
He is also the only Gym Leader not to use the "A Trainer Appears (Boy Version)" song.
In the English version of Pokémon Stadium, his name is misspelled "Giovani" (with one n). This is because the space for Trainer names only allows seven characters, whilst Giovanni's name has eight.
In the official Red and Blue guide from Nintendo Power, Giovanni was labelled to be a regional boss of Team Rocket (implying he's not the absolute leader). This was invalidated in Gold, Silver, and Crystal, where it was made clear that Giovanni was the absolute leader of Team Rocket (even having an office in Johto).
Giovanni is likely based on the boss of a Yakuza faction, possibly more on the bakuto factions than others, considering Team Rocket's former ownership of the Celadon Game Corner. Outside of Japan, this reference is localized, making him more akin to a Mafia boss (especially considering his English name being Italian in origin).
The teaser trailer for the debut of Team GO Rocket in GO contains the line "Earth is where I shall unleash my evil schemes next!" This is a reference to Giovanni's final line in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, in which he ponders "Now...what new world shall I unleash my evil schemes upon...?" before warping away from Aether Paradise.
Giovanni is the only character to be the leader of more than one villainous team.
From 榊 sakaki (a sacred tree in Shinto from which the Earth Badge bears a resemblance) and 坂 / 阪 saka (slope)