Thanks to Drew’s comments on a 1986 anime based on Super Mario Bros., I decided to watch it myself. Super Mario Bros.: Pīchi-hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen!, known in English as The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach, is not that hard to find online, with the version I saw having fan-provided subtitles. In this adaptation, Mario and Luigi run a grocery store, and apparently live in Japan. The latter is never explicitly stated, but it seems likely. Are they Italians who settled in Asia? Anyway, Mario is playing a video game that involves hitting things with a pencil, when Princess Peach comes out of the screen. He develops a crush on her, but it isn’t much longer before Bowser emerges as well and pulls her back in. Luigi thinks Mario dreamed the whole thing, until he sees a jewel that Mario saved from the encounter. According to a book he has, it can lead to a treasure kingdom. Luigi is very money-hungry in this film, a trait that I guess was later transferred to Wario. He also mentions later on that he can’t swim, which also appeared to be the case in the Super Mario Adventures comic. Wouldn’t that make it impossible for Player Two to ever complete the underwater worlds? Mario calls some phone number that I guess he got from Luigi’s book, and Kibidango, a creature that looks like a dog with a segmented body like an insect, shows up and leads the two of them to a pipe leading to the Mushroom Kingdom.
Once there, they meet the Mushroom Mystic, who tells them to find three magical treasures and save the Princess. I made a few posts some years back that included a character I called the Mushroom Guru, and it’s nice to see that there’s actually some sort of precedent.
The brothers and Kibidango journey through the kingdom, passing backgrounds that are reminiscent of the Super Show and some psychedelic scenes. Along the way, they face mood-altering mushrooms, a Koopa Paratroopa that wants to them feed to her babies (which, oddly enough, don’t have shells), a field of Piranha Plants, a weather-controlling Lakitu, and even product placement. Yeah, at one point Mario and Luigi eat Mario brand ramen, which they get from a block. Meanwhile, the Princess tries to overcome Bowser by using a trick from “Puss in Boots,” where she has him change into a tiny form and traps him in a box. It doesn’t work, but it is preceded by a scene where he turns into a scarecrow and some kind of ballerina, which is totally bizarre.
The fact that all the gold Luigi takes from the mine turns into rocks upon leaving might be a reference to fairy gold. It’s not like Luigi ever really learns a lesson about greed, though, and if they hadn’t gone into the mine they wouldn’t have gotten the star. By the way, the items work in ways that are reminiscent of the game, but don’t reflect it exactly. It seems as if their powers only activate when needed, as when Mario grows to giant size to take out a Troopa, and when he shoots fireballs at Buzzy Beetles. And yes, Buzzy Beetles are immune to fireballs in the game, so the Super Show writers aren’t the only ones who didn’t do really basic research into the games they were advertising. In order to defeat Bowser, Mario swallows all three power-ups and gains super strength. He conquers the Koopa King by spinning him around by the tail, which later happened in Super Mario 64. Kibidango turns out to be Prince Haru of the neighboring Flower Kingdom under an enchantment, and he and Peach get together. Is it just me, or does Haru look like a Playmobil figure?
There’s a lot of absurd cartoon humor in this movie, including a crescent moon turning full when Mario mentions a discrepancy, a sunken ship launching into the air when Mario and Kibidango blow on the sails, and Mario expressing anger by suddenly transforming into a Mexican bandit. That last gag and Koopa’s transformations might have made more sense to Japanese audiences, but I couldn’t really say.
The anime is interesting in being the first medium to show certain things, including Bowser wanting to marry Peach, and for that matter Mario’s attraction to her. Of course, neither of them end up with her here. Haru has never made it into the games, although Drew pointed out his similarity to Prince Pine from Yoshi’s Safari. Hey, maybe Haru and Pine could be a couple.