Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Weird Walk Through the Mushroom Kingdom

Hi. Here’s the third and final part of my little series on that obscure Super Mario anime from 1986. (Or, as the non-video game-giving-a-shit-about portion of my readers consider it, a last deep dive into geekdom before I resume writing about funny old people I meet at the grocery store.)

In the first post, I wrote about how The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach! probably caused the rumor that Toad used to be a girl. In the second post, I wrote about all the other elements from the movie that later appeared in Super Mario Bros. video games. In this one, I’m just posting all the spare images and videos that I didn’t reason to post anywhere else.

Looking without reading! Fun!

As if the movie didn’t feature enough musical sequences, there’s also one where Mario fantasizes about wearing a tuxedo and waltzing with the princess. You know — for the dreamy-eyed romantics in the audience.

I have Mario dressed like a Mexican bandito. See, because he felt angry, so he just transformed into this costume. See?

And here is Bowser attempting to woo Peach by dressing in drag.

Screenwriting at its best! I actually don't get why these would be the subtitles here, honestly. Jugem is Lakitu’s Japanese name, but I have no idea why these subtitles would be in English when most of the rest are not, at least per the video from which I got this still.

You can tell by Mario’s eyes that he’s overwhelmed by the prince’s flagrant disregard for gender norms.

“Don’t come back!”

Friday, September 19, 2014

Why the Super Mario Bros. Anime Matters, Even If You’ve Never Seen It

Yesterday, I got to explore a weird little Super Mario Bros.-related rumor that led me to The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!, a 1986 movie that received a theatrical release in Japan only. As far as obscure Mario lore goes, it’s a strange one in that it’s something that would have been extremely familiar to Japanese kids growing up around the time, yet it’s something few of their Western counterparts would have even heard of, despite the Mario mania of the late 1980s and early 1990s. We simply never got the movie here, and that’s a shame, since it’s a beautiful rendering of these games back before Nintendo had really solidified what Mario’s world looked like.

First up, we might as well fix that lack of international exposure right now. It’s fairly simple to find it online, and you even watch it right here.

It’s only an hour long. According to the Mario Wiki, it was paired in theaters with a video guide to playing the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2, the game we know in the U.S. as The Lost Levels. The game came out just a few weeks before the movie.

Watching the movie for the first time this week, I thought it was interesting how many details from the movie ended up working their way into the games. Some of it’s coincidence, I’m sure; the movie-makers were just exploring ideas that the game designers eventually would have had regardless. But some of them seem pretty spot-on. Today, I’m listing these off, as well as a handful of concepts that Nintendo maybe should have thought about incorporating.

For example, that same Mario Wiki article points out that the movie has a sequence where Luigi has a bad trip after eating the wrong kind of mushrooms. The scene could be a reference to the fact that The Lost Levels introduced nasty, trick mushrooms that hurt you instead of powering you up.

It seems plausible, even if it just makes me wonder how an eight-bit, pixelated psychedelic freak out might look.

The movie also features a scene where Mario and Luigi escape on a flying ship, years before the Super Mario Bros. 3 came out made airships a staple of the series.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lady Toad? The Gender of Everyone’s Favorite Anthropomorphic Mushroom

(Note: This posted ended up spawning two more about the Super Mario anime. Read part two and part three, if you like.)

Earlier this year, I found a great video game website, Clyde Mandelin’s Legends of Localization, that looks at the strange process of adapting video games made in one language for people who speak a different language. The site tends to focus on the little moments — the ones that didn’t necessarily make the game but the ones dedicated players nonetheless remember. For example, how do you save Lucca’s mom in the Japanese version of Chrono Trigger? Does that random scrap of paper make any more sense in the Japanese version of Final Fantasy VI? And what’s with this random Helen Keller joke? It’s always heartening to find someone else who not only cares about the little stuff and the odd stuff in old video games but who also spends time wondering about the decision-making process that led to them.

In one post, Mandelin writes about the strangeness of Toad not necessarily being the singular, distinct character we tend of think of him being. (This is something I wrote about a while back, and this flexible sense of “self-ness” is hardly unique to Toad — it works for Yoshi and Birdo too — or even unique to the Mario games.) Mandelin also brings up something I hadn’t heard before: the idea that Toad (or the Toads) were initially supposed to be female — the princess’s handmaidens, in fact.

He offers as evidence The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!, an anime released theatrically in Japan in 1986. Like The Super Mario Bros. Super Show here in the U.S., it was a loose adaptation of the original, barebones Super Mario Bros. plotline. It added a lot in. It had to. And in place of the Mushroom Retainers (Kinopio, in the orginal Japanese) that Mario rescues at the end of every level are these distinctly feminine mushroom people.

Here’s a scene where Mario and Luigi free them from a spell that had turned them into coins.

They seem a little more human, a little more articulated than the generic Toads you see earlier in the film.

Later, Mario rescues a second Lady Toad. Again, the movie clearly genders her. This is a female mushroom who’s giving Mario a peck on the cheek.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Two Rebecca De Mornays

In the past month, I’ve posted a bit about various pop culture mysteries, all of which remain unsolved. But occasionally I get to the bottom of one.

Back in 2009, I wrote about a strange recurring joke Seinfeld has involving a woman who introduces herself as Rebecca De Mornay. She appears twice on the show. Both times she causes trouble, and both times she introduces herself using her full name. But as I explained in the previous post, there’s nothing about her that makes that name especially meaningful, other than the fact that it’s shared by an actress who looks nothing like her.

Here are both those scenes, back to back.

The original post gets a fair bit of traffic from people who happen to catch those reruns and then wonder, “Wait, did that lady just say her name was Rebecca De Mornay?” and just recently someone left a comment that inspired me to track down the writer of that episode, Spike Fereseten, and ask him.

Here’s the explanation.

And there you have it. It’s just a weird little joke that Seinfeld tossed off. It’s not some weird dig at the actual Rebecca De Mornay, who was maybe friends of someone on the show or who maybe ran over one of the writer’s dogs or something.

Which would have been interesting, you have to admit.

Weird, old TV, previously:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Searching for Mr. Peepers

At the risk of alienating certain kinds nerds in an effort to talk to other kinds of nerds, I’ll just say this up front: This post is about Duck Hunt.

modified from sprites found here
“But Duck Hunt came out in 1984, Drew, you crazy idiot. Why bring it up today?”

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In Fact, I Will Tell You What’s the Matter

I present to you Ellen Foley’s inexplicable performance of her cover of “What’s a Matter, Baby?”

I... have some notes.

First, this is the opening frame of the video.

I’m guessing that’s Andrea Martin handing Ellen Foley the mike? And she’s dressed like a colonial-era witch for some reason? I don’t know why I pose it as a question; there is no answer, clearly.

Furthermore, I can’t tell if the dancing girls in the spinning, translucent cube look more like they’re the victims of some sci-fi mastermind who’s torturing them or if their gyrations are actually powering the spinning cube. In this latter case, the cube is still a torture device. Obviously.

Ellen Foley, it should be noted, is dressed like a gym teacher who is also a superhero. From Texas.

The effect they used to fade from the spinning cube action to Ellen Foley’s album cover yields the following disturbing image.

Not that the album art itself isn’t disturbing on its own...

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Big Hair, Big Trouble

I’ve made a mix. It’s for September. It’s not especially Septembery, but I suppose you can’t say it’s not a September mix. But if you’d like a peek at what music is informing my mental state, then this is the album for you.

I’ve also made album art. Go ahead and click it if you’d like to hear my selections. If you like them, you can right-click and save them, but I insist you buy the associated albums if you think the songs are worthwhile.

It’s very here and there, I know. It’s a good overview of what I listen to, but there’s no more solid throughline than “Oh, this is what Drew happens to be listening to nowadays.” Your mileage may vary.

Monday, September 08, 2014

“She Everywhere.”

I’m entering my third month of life in my new house. The move has presented me with a whole host of new experiences, new people and new ways I can hurt myself performing manual labor. And while I’ve learned a lot — don’t drop cement pavers on your big toe, for example — the biggest life lesson comes from the following short story.

One Thursday evening I was repairing some irrigation pipes in the front yard when my neighbor came by to make conversation with me. My neighbor is my new favorite person. She knows everything about my new neighborhood, and she relays this information — positive, negative, banal and bizarre — with the same inflection, as if she loves telling all stories, regardless of the content, and that none of her stories seem more or less strange to her than the other. They all have value. They must all be told. (In a similar sense, she also loves all colors equally, provided they look like ones you might see on some rare jungle flower, and I feel I don’t often enough see such chromatic boldness. You could learn a lesson from her, reader wearing head-to-toe taupe.)

One story had ended and another began with this sentence: “You know the house around the corner? The white one? With the pretty plants?”

I said that I did.

“Well, no one want to buy it when it for sale.”

The house is admirably done-up, and so I asked why anyone wouldn’t want to live there.

“The lady who own it before, she have no husband. And she out gardening one day, and she die back there. And, you know, no husband, so no one know. No one miss her.”

A shrug.

“And then they get her.”

I asked who “they” were. She seemed to search for the word.

“No eskunk… but the other one. You know…”

I guessed it was “raccoon.”

“Yes. Raccoon. The raccoon get her.”

I grew increasingly worried about the direction this story was taking, but my neighbor seemed unfazed by it. She looked as calm and pleasant as she might if she were just telling me about a neighbor who bought a lovely new hat or who maybe saw a blimp once. She continued.

“The police come and ask questions, ask if anyone hear anything. I tell them I hear nothing, and I ask what happened. They tell me they never see nothing so bad in their whole career. The raccoon, they eat her. They eat her for a long time. The police say ‘She everywhere.’”

This was a lot to have suddenly sprung on me.

“And so for long time no one want to live there, because that lady die there and that lady everywhere there. But then eventually, someone buy it. Two guys. No wifes. You know.”

I nod that yes, I do in fact know.

“And they move in and now it look beautiful. They make it such a nice house. But you know what?”

For this last part, she lowered her voice to a stage whisper.

“She still everywhere.”

And that, I suppose, is true, in both the metaphysical and literal senses.

Every night, when I see the English bulldog-sized mother raccoon skitter down the fence line with her two raccoonitos, I remember this story and remind myself that there’s a good chance all three of these have tasted people-flesh. I wonder how much of a difference they see between me and the unfortunate neighbor lady, who I did not get a chance to meet. And then I decide not to sleep with just the screen door protecting me from the rest of the world.

She everywhere.

Creepy stories, previously: