So lately, I've had the honor of watching the animated adaptation of Super Mario Bros. 3, a platformer for the NES you may or may not have heard of. Serving as a follow-up to the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, the Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 was animated by DiC, began airing the same year SMB3 released, and lasted for just a little under 4 months. How bad could it be?!
First off, I should mention my experiences were with the N Circle Entertainment COMPLETE SERIES COLLECTOR'S EDITION dvd release, which removes any licensed tracks and some cutting here and there with an episode featuring Milli Vanilli (Who I found out was an actual band! I've honestly never heard of them until this.) So my experience varies from anyone who may have caught it back in the day.
This is my first real foray into the animated Mario universe, being born too late to catch any of it on TV when it originally aired but too young to remember it while it was syndicated (I was born August '93). There was a VHS we used to have with 2 episodes on it that even as a kid, I thought kinda sucked. And that was at a time I thought Sonic Underground was cool as shit. Yep. I thought that fucking show was cool as shit as a kid. Let that sink in for bit. (That's another blog for another time!)
With all of that out of the way, onward to adventure!
To start, we've got a great opening here! In merely 33 seconds we've got all the details we need, King Koopa was defeated, he came back, brought his little brats, and we're going to be seeing power-ups and landscapes from Super Mario Bros. 3! Sounds awesome, right?! Noooot quite.
You actually do see a lot of what's promised in the opening, with Mario and friends fighting against King Koopa and brats...just not in the way you're set up to believe. I ask you, after that opening, what would you expect the first episode to be?
Showing how King Koopa returns and his first assault on the kingdom?
Seeing the beginning of a trek through all 8 lands to overthrow him?
A peak into the life of the Mushroom Kingdom about how he's already overthrown the Kingdom and usurped all of the kings?
I hope not, because it's none of the above! It's a TMNT parody! That's right, "Sneaky Lying Cheating Giant Ninja Koopas" is how we kick off the Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3. King Koopa waves his magic wand on 4 of his koopalings to make them grow from fun-sized dick heads to giant-sized dick heads. Who know kung-fu. (Or is it Ninjutsu? Taijutsu? ...Koopjutsu?) The obscenely long title and them knowing some manner of martial arts are about where the similarities to the TMNT ends, but it does come complete with a "I love being a Koopa!" line.
That said...Bob-ombastic Truthful Honorable Mega Kung-Fu Mario could be a great powerup...
It's a weird episode that sets the weird tone for the rest of what's a weird series. Weird encounters around weird, and often not very Super Mario Bros. 3-esque, elements that are just...weird. (Did I mention it's weird yet?) These are stories not about SMB3, so much as whatever shit stuck to the wall with SMB3 elements wrapped around it (With a few exceptions), if that makes sense.
There are episodes about capturing the President by transporting THE ENTIRE WHITE HOUSE into the Mushroom Kingdom, kidnapping Milli Vanilli (They're an actual band!), tourists going through a tunnel just showing up in the kingdom because fuck it why not, a mummy awakening and confusing Mario with her son, an ugly mermaid princess who wants to marry Mario, and other such classic SMB3 elements.
The most standout to me is the episode "True Colors." It's a racial episode where an entire village of Mushroom people are painted red and blue, and the dickhead Koopa Kids incite a color war. The shock filled cherry on top is the ending when Luigi asks if we'll ever learn to set aside our differences in the real world too. Mario seemingly sarcastically says "Yeah, whenever people become as smart as mushrooms!" It seemed like a funny little end note...but then he turns to the camera making THIS FACE. AND IT ENDS WITH THAT FACE. YOU'RE A RACIST AND MARIO HATES YOU.
"The Real World" is something that bugged me throughout the show. Why do they call it that? I mean, obviously to us it's because we know they're from a videogame, but the show never treats it that way, neither says, nor even implies it. Whenever they talk about their world, it's always just "The Mushroom Kingdom," "The Kingdom," or going back "home." Do they just accept they're in some make-believe world despite the fact that it clearly exists and interacts with ours? Again, yes it makes sense to the audience, but it doesn't make any sense in the show. Especially when it's constantly interacting with the "real world" and posing a very real threat to it.
But to give credit where it's due, the show isn't all bad, and really does try in certain areas. The first is that it really feels like a video-game inspired show, even with all of the "real world" nonsense. They'll use the game sfx and bgm (Or a remix of it), follow the game rules of being hit and losing their powerup from time to time, and even the scenery in the mushroom kingdom resembles something you'd see in the game (never quite as close as the opening, but still) complete with those pipes that are just...hanging in the air.
Being made up of 12-minute episode affairs helps too, I think. It keeps the stories from getting long and drawn out and instead opting for stories that are short and sweee-...well, short anyways! All of them also end with the final screen in the game (The curtain lowered down saying "THE END") while playing the end credits theme, which is a nice touch.
The final episode even ends the show on something of a high note with an awesome idea. The Brothers and King Koopa faceoff in Paris. Most of it is King Koopa giving the brothers the business now being able to use their powerups, but it's still cool to see, and in the final few minutes they even duke it out on an equal playing field using everything they can. But nothing's perfect, and out of all of the episodes to have problems in the release, of course it's this one. Through the episode there's a few times where it just cuts out completely, including the final showdown scene, which is disappointing.
King Koopa and his Koopa Kids are the ones who completely koop the show! (That is to say, they steal the show...they'll randomly throw "koop" around, it's weird.) For once we finally get to see King Koopa try to be a father figure to the kids. Even if it's as a monster father figure. He'll teach his kids to lie, cheat, steal, and apparently they'll go out to trip over old ladies for the hell of it. They're a downright horrible family, but they ARE a family nonetheless!
They also have the most personality to boot! Each of these kids have their trope and they own it.
Bully (Roy) is...well, a bully. Even to his downright horrible family!
Kooky (Ludwig) is an insane evil scientist, with a great maniacal voice.
Cheatsy (Larry) is an underhanded conniving creep. He's also FUCKING HIDEOUS JESUS CHRIST.
Kootie Pie (Wendy O.) is a complete spoiled brat whom I presume has cooties. And may in fact be a pie, the jury's still out on that one. (She's also secretly voiced by Tabitha St. Germain and HNNNNGGGGTHATWHINING)
Big Mouth (Morton) who's a complete motormouth. Kudos to the voiceactor for pulling it off.
Hip and Hop (Lemmy and Iggy) who are twins...eh, they're cute.
Apparently there were talks of a King Koopa show spin-off that never made it anywhere, which is a damn shame. If there's anyone who made the show worth it, it was these guys. Hell this show might have made me like them all even more!
So overall, are the Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 really that bad? Yes. They are. A lot of these stories are just stupid. They made Princess Peach a stinkin' shoebie. There are constant animation and coloring errors littered throughout every episode, and sometimes the animation is just downright shitty, not to mention inconsistent. And don't get me started on those songs. BUT, if you can look past all of that the Koopa family will give you one koop of a time.