The Mario Brothers are two of the most iconic, if not the most iconic, video game characters ever created. The game franchise has had a whole slew of installments, most of which are remembered fondly. Some of which are reviled. Specifically, Hotel Mario on the CD-I and the “edutainment” titles like Mario is Missing and Mario’s Time Machine. Naturally, it has had some other media. Including one of the worst Hollywood movies ever made and some horrendous American cartoons from DIC. Was the character treated with any more respect by Japanese animated studios? Let’s look at Studio Junio’s Mario Brothers OVA from 1989 to find out.
Each episode tells a different story very loosely based on a fairy tale. Which I will be going over individually because this insanity merits close inspection. The first of these stories is Peach Boy Taro. In this variant Princess Peach is living with her grandparents, who are hammer brothers types of koopas and who never refer to her in familial terms at all. Instead, calling her Princess Peach or simply Princess. This brings up two major questions. 1. Why is she called Princess when there’s no indication that her grandparents are royalty of any kind? 2. How do koopas end up with a human granddaughter? True to Mario fashion, Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and his Minions, also called the Koopalings in some areas. After that happens, we get the Peach Boy parallels, with Mario springing from a giant peach as a mustachioed baby… that looks like a full grown adult. He’s raised by Peach’s grandparents and, eventually, decides to go rescue her after hearing her story from them. No, I have no idea how long this takes. His adoptive father gives him the family treasure, a gun, to help him. So, Mario sets off on his quest. Yes, Mario uses a gun in this OVA. There is something very wrong with that.
The next one covers Tom Thumb. Our story once again finds Mario as a mustachioed baby, but this time the size of a thumb. Eventually, he gets bored of hanging around at home and asks his parents if he can go out into the world. His father reluctantly agrees, sending him with a needle sword and a bowl boat. He’s caught in a storm and washes ashore outside of a futuristic city where Princess Peach takes him in and decides to keep him around, presumably as a pet since he rides around on her shoulder like a parakeet. While walking through town they encounter Bowser who wants Peach to marry him. She refuses and the tiny Mario is forced to step in and try to protect her. In spite of being smaller than Bowser’s foot and armed only with a needle. This is actually the least drug-addled of the episodes.
The final episode covers Snow White. In this adaptation, Bowser in drag is the evil queen. He asks his mirror who the fairest in the world is and it tells him he is… Go home, Mirror, you’re drunk. Later, Bowser repeats the question and the mirror diplomatically tells him that he’s the fairest in this land but that Princess Peach from the neighboring kingdom is the fairest in the world. This makes Bowser furious and he sends his minions to murder her. Being royalty, she is naturally unguarded and they almost succeed only to be stopped by the arrival of the wandering Mario. He takes Peach to the home of the seven Toads for safety. Her own castle was inadequate… why? Being Toads they naturally fail with Bowser in drag giving her the fateful apple. One more note, this is the only story where Luigi appears and he comes out of nowhere.
There isn’t much to say about the characters. They’re largely blank and the characterisation across the OVAs can be inconsistent. Although, to be fair, the characterisation in the games usually isn’t much better. The difference being that the games are about clearing boards and having fun and haven’t been focused on story, save for a few RPG installments. We aren’t playing through the animation so we need more from the characters to stay invested.
The art in this series is downright awful. No effort went into the art or animation. Animation gets repeated far more often than it should when you’ve got fifteen minute episodes. Mouths frequently don’t move when characters talk. The character animations don’t even look like they’re moving half the time. Rather, they look like a cardboard cutout is being dragged across a background.
The sound is another aspect that fails. None of the actors seem to be trying. Furuya Toru plays Mario and you know he can act. He was Chiba Mamoru and Yamcha. Although, given the scripts, I don’t think you’d try either. Sato Masaharu isn’t a bad actor but he’s really miscast as Bowser. The music is pretty bad too.
This has no ho-yay. So, this factor is 1/10.
This series raises a lot of questions. Questions like: who thought this was a good idea? How did this get made? Why did Nintendo green-light this? What were they thinking? And, of course, just how many drugs were they on? The scripts are horribly written whether you look at them as fairy tale or Mario adaptations. The basic factors like animation and acting are horrendous. It is kind of fascinating in its terribleness and there are moments that are so ridiculously stupid and over the top that they’re unintentionally funny. Still, I can only recommend it to the morbidly curious. My final rating is going to be a 2/10. Next week, I’ll move away from video game adaptations and look at Angel Sanctuary.