Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

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A short news reaction post from me this week, but first a simple quiz for my dear reader. Name the common trait linking the following anime series: Engaged to the Unidentified, Hana Saku Iroha, Toradora, and A Certain Scientific Railgun.

If you guessed that those represent “perverted and vulgar anime content undermining public morality”, you apparently guessed right. Or so say China’s state officials, as they banned Bili-bili’s apps from most shops until all such corrupting content is removed.

There is worthwhile if genuinely perverted content on that list, like KonoSuba (Blessings to This Wonderful World), No Game no Life or Prisma Illya. And then there is drivel like Hand Shakers. But I do not want to argue over an imaginary line of “value” that would make a title of exempt from censorship. If you can see Engaged to the Unidentified or Toradora as immoral, the work’s values probably are not your main concern.

Part of the official statements regarding the matter bring up another point: “[Bili-bili’s anime lineup] contains morally problematic content such as incest, with certain titles earning tens of millions of views”. Would those shows be tolerable if they were unpopular franchises instead? Since they are aware that they are blocking exactly what people want to see or are interested in, I can only see this as China’s very mature “sweep it under the rug” approach I have previously discussed in my fanservice entry.

I believe the state has the right and moral obligation to protect minors from accidental and unintended exposure to controversial material. It is acceptable to err on the side of caution in pursuit of that goal. But when limiting the fully-aware choice of your adult citizens, you can only only end up a hypocrite one way or another.

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It has only been in the most recent years that I have been able to share some anime with my family. We had that indestructible Sony CRT TV for 20+ years, and there was no reasonable way to connect it to a laptop. But these days I can share some anime whenever I am back home for longer as long as I can find/prepare Polish subs for a given series (the only language my Dad and Mum speak). Anime recommendations for casuals and the older generation are always a popular topic, so here are my experiences.

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Mikakunin de Shinkoukei – Engaged to the Unidentified

Wait, he’s like…a werewolf, and they’re NOT going to talk about it!?

You will not often see this good old slice-of-life/romantic comedy show up in recent anime discussion, but it was a huge hit with my family. The genres are what my parents like best, and the comedy is mostly character-based and not hectic enough for the viewer to get confused or overwhelmed.

Hakuya’s: “What’s your favourite food? -> Anything Kobeni makes.” line struck a chord with everyone, as that is basically how my Dad works. He will eat whatever we feed him in whatever amounts we provide and it will be his favourite food for the moment.

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Death Note

It’s that Japanese thing, right? The moment you get attached to them, they turn out to be evil.

It is easy to go for the gritty and/or inaccessible stuff when you first share anime with people and want to prove how much more it can be than what cartoons are often believed to be. But Death Note is one title that can work just fine. It has depth if you want to read it that way, but generally works like a smart Hollywood thriller.

Mum loved Ryuuk and Rem most (as she did Madoka’s Kyuubey…). Dad would occasionally scoff at the screen: “Nuh-uh. As if they all could be that smart.”

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No way! How silly can those girls get!?

With the timing of its initial broadcast and the role it played in the anime world, K-On! found itself the target of all kinds of accusations, from objectifying female characters to trying to corrupt anime storytelling with the moe disease. With all that noise, it can be easy to forget how casual-friendly the series is, with its simple humour and a cast of lovable characters that can appeal to viewers of all ages and genders.

Mom surprised me when one of the scenes that stuck out most in her memory was that one time when Azusa and Mugi spend some time alone in the clubroom, and Azusa is not quite sure how to lead the conversation. Apparently, great team chemistry becoming uncertain on a person-to-person basis was something that rang true with her own high school memories. And that loving commentary on a time everybody has gone through is what makes the series a great choice.

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Akatsuki no Yona – Yona of the Dawn

I was about to suggest they just kill him with arrows, but he can swat away those too, eh?

One of those series nobody knows about and everybody loves after watching. Technically this counts as a reverse harem, but there is so much here to enjoy between the politics, action, relationships and a sprinkle of fantasy. I do not associate (reverse) harems with memorable main characters, but Yona’s development in the series is top-notch.

My folks particularly enjoyed the character of the pirate captain – an old lady with a kind heart and balls of steel. People randomly turning out to be dragons also became something of a family meme, so when I later asked my parents for any themes they wanted in our next series, they were like: dragons. So I showed them Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (spoilers: they loved that, too).

What were your ideas for introductory series into the medium? I will happily take inspiration from any recommendations, so feel free to share below.

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Be Your All

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Anime is full of incredible couples. Destiny-bound, society-defying and whatever else comes to mind. And to top it all off, they are usually far more than each other’s love interests. If the anime involves fighting, for example, you can almost always expect your couple to fight side-by-side at some point, either directly or with one half of the couple powering up the other half.

I feel silly writing that I sometimes wish for something else. It is no accident those battle couples are so common – they are awesome. How much of SAO’s success stems from Kirito and Asuna tearing through the battlefield hand in hand? Even if you hate the show to bits, you know which parts were good and which bad – and I am quite sure the latter involves Asuna being removed from the front lines. The original Nanoha series ending involves the main characters facing endless armies of faceless drones, and still manages to be exciting. How? Well, it is the first time Nanoha and Fate fight together as allies – which is as sweet as pay-off gets.

But in real life, I have all those weird half-relationships. In the “battlefields” of my professional life, I often work together with some nasty people. Still, many of those jerks are highly competent and reliable. What you get is a weird relationship of mutual trust where both sides know they do not want anything to do with each other in their personal lives, yet are happy enough to join forces whenever necessary. Of course, both parties have people they actually love and come back to after the “battle” is done.

Again, I cannot blame anime for only rarely reaching for those mixed relationships. The most straight example I can think of is Re:Zero. And “I love Emilia” is one the most reviled lines in recent anime history. People saw Subaru and Rem facing the dreadful timelines together, and they wanted the two to share happiness much more then they wanted to see the sideline-princess Emilia involved. What about Hibike Euphonium? With the main characters linked by such a tremendous bond, yet having it clearly stated that the bond was not romantic in nature, both the yuri and non-yuri parts of the fandom were left perplexed at what to think about some of the scenes.

And why do I bring this up? Because of this season’s Hanebado. The Ayano x Elena pair might as well be joined at the hip. There is only one problem: Elena will never ever join Ayano on the battlefield of badminton. The third episode of the series shows how Elena feels uneasy about Ayano’s badminton connections, knowing that she will never truly be part of that circle, and yet is willing to push Ayano into the arms of a potentially dangerous rival in the person of Nagisa, as long as it is all for Ayano’s benefit. Will Hanebado be the rare anime where two spheres of a character’s personal live remain separate and equally important, or are there other developments in store? I nervously await the incoming episodes.

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My Hero Academia is a series I struggle with. There is plenty in there to like, and there are just as many imperfections. The positives, everyone knows: the likeable and colourful characters, the mix of more Western tropes with anime aesthetics, and classic shounen action with high production values. The negatives? Me and MHA had several misunderstanding throughout the initial episodes. One of them concerned Izuku’s famous line where he describes the series as “a story about how he becomes the greatest hero”.

Do not get me wrong, the line mostly functions well in context. It a clearly articulated promise of a zero to hero story from a series which, as a long-running shounen, will require some time until the main character can start kicking ass. It is a refreshing step away from Izuku’s usually timid nature, and possibly foreshadowing that one of the areas in which he will have to improve is his lack of self confidence. It sounds cool. It has impact.

It does not exactly fit, though. Izuku’s circumstance of having inherited his powers from another means that whatever he achieves is the culmination of the efforts of several people. It seems off that Izuku would claim it is all about him at the end of the day. But that is just my approach to pride and modesty – I could accept the character reaching different conclusions. More importantly, the mechanics of Izuku’s power actually make it impossible for him to become the greatest hero ever. This is because looking far into the future, Izuku’s final act as a hero will be to find a worthy successor and give birth to an even greater hero. If he succeeds, he is no longer the greatest, and if he does not, that in itself is a significant failure as the holder of One For All.

But you know what? If there is one good thing I can say about this show, it is that it is constantly improving. Bakugou’s one-dimensional psychotic nature recently got some nice development, while individual arcs started building on each other. And somewhere between the second and fourth cours, Izuku’s introductory line also changed.


Yes, this is the story of how I became the greatest hero.


I continue to run toward my dream, standing up to any difficulties and saving people with a smile… in order to become the greatest hero!

I borrow the subs from you-can-guess-where, and first I will address the part of the change they actually reflect. That would be the transition in focus from the final goal to the journey. As mentioned above, the declaration that “the story ends with me becoming the greatest hero” works fine as a one-liner meant to capture the viewer’s attention. However, it is not entirely honest to what the series is about. The greatness Izuku seeks is a distant goal, not a foregone conclusion. The third season makes this very clear: while the great power of One For All is Izuku’s promised future, it neither removes the need to make the right choices, nor does it guarantee a happy end, as Izuku learns in his confrontations with the villains. My Hero Academia is about the growth of its characters, and the show itself has grown past its attention-grab stage and can now freely admit to that focus.

Another change in the line is one the subs try to cover up the best they can in order to preserve the “greatest hero” wording. I will not hold that against the translation – consistency has a value of its own in that world. But there are obvious issues that show up with that take even if you only look at the English text. If you have seen more than half the show, you might wonder when exactly Izuku manages to “stand up to any difficulties and save people with a smile”. He saves one boy – a significant event – and assists All Might and Bakugou. Other than that, Izuku spends the third season howling in pain and crying in anguish in an endless confrontation with his doubts and regrets.

Things make more sense when we realise that the “any difficulties/smile” part of the quote is not a description of Izuku’s present, as the subs would have it, but part of the description of Izuku’s goal – the greatest hero. Again, the avoidance in the translation is understandable. A too-honest approach might give us “…in order to become the greatest hero, who stands up to any difficulties and saves people with a smile”. This sounds awkward and weak as it is a classic case of less is more. If you leave things at “the greatest hero”, the audience is free to imagine all kinds of conditions the perfect hero will meet. If you add two of your own conditions, people will start to wonder: “wait, is that enough to become the greatest hero?”. It almost seems better to avoid this phrasing, except the transition is more than an awkward artistic choice.

Now, note that Japanese has no comparative and superlative. That is just not part of the grammar. If you want to compare things or point to something being “the most”, you add words that have that meaning. And yes, “saikou” is one of those words that can point to a superlative meaning: saikou ni utsukushii “supremely beautiful”. The thing is, the range of meaning is wider than that of the superlative. When we say saikou ni tanoshikatta, it is just a way of stressing that we had great fun. “The most fun I’ve ever had” would be a forced translation which tries to retain the superlative.

So the opening line might refer to great heroes rather than the greatest hero, an interpretation which is cemented by the appearance of an additional word in the new opening line, that being sonna そんな. The word (as well as its full form sono you na) means something along the lines of “like that/of that kind”. It points to the existence of a group or type of the “greatest”. In short, the new opening line goes like this: “I continue to run toward my dream: to become somebody who stands up to any difficulties and saves people with a smile, a true hero”.

This new line is much more in tune with what the third season presents us with. Of special note is the scene in which Endeavor unwittingly becomes the “greatest hero”. A victim of circumstance more than anything else, Endeavor is deeply frustrated with being given the number one without achieving what he really strived for. This reveals how meaningless a singular “greatest hero” is in the context of this series. Further yet, this interpretation empowers the numerous side stories of the other hero candidates highlighted in the series. An universal, if universally difficult, call to greatness means that both Izuku and his colleagues are challenged to move forward and grow stronger until they all embody their ideals.

Somewhere between the lines, My Hero Academia continues to shift and evolve, and so I have hope we can one day be reconciled.

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The Idol Paradox

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I think no genre betrayed my expectations quite as thoroughly as the idol genre. You see, I was late to watch 2011’s The Idolmaster because as much praise as the series received, it was about idols, and that was one industry I had no interest in. It takes a talented (or at least good-looking) individual and builds a cult of personality around them. Whatever performances those individuals give might be of value, but the real money the industry craves is not in a single CD sold so that somebody can listen to a song. It is in the dozens of CDs and paraphernalia that one person will buy to show their support for their idol of choice. And as the idol in question is simultaneously a normal human being and a product to be marketed and sold, there is a naturally duplicitous element to the idol trade. The images of idols are created to contain only what is pleasing to the audience, while in reality the idol might smoke, have a significant other and hold controversial views. If the truth behind the mask comes to light, there is inevitable outrage at the “betrayal”.

I dislike the idea of that masquerade, as do many otaku. Yes, there is that very real irony of anime characters being idealised far more than any real-life idols are. But here the non-existence of those 2D characters becomes an advantage – they do not live double lives. If one of them so happens to be a forever-cheerful, angelic existence, then that is who they are, unrealistic though that kind of character might seem. Anime characters neither betray the audience, nor are they ever forced to lie or hide inconvenient facts(*1). Which is why there exists a significant divide between the idol and anime fan subcultures, despite both being seen as similar from the outside and described with the shared label of otaku.

So I avoided watching idol anime for a long while, expecting those titles to be about outwardly perfect characters showing off their perfectness to an imaginary audience, all while laying the foundation for an excessive amount of merchandise to be sold to the newly-ensnared fans. Basically, the real-life idol industry as-is except with the difficulties and expenditures of finding and raising a worthy idol-candidate taken out of the equation. And certainly, that is one way to look at what the genre is. In an entry from way back, illogicalzen argues that anime idols are most often a powered up version of their real-life counterparts. While the idealisation of real-life idols mostly plays out on the stage and through interviews and the like, anime idols can take it a step further, showing off perfect and pure personal lives. Indeed, the vanilla anime-idol represents that kind of ideal: a kind and humble soul filled with dreams and a pure love for singing and dancing. For those characters, the idea that it is all just a job, that they can be back to being themselves after forcing a fake smile for a few hours, is entirely alien.

That said, the anime idol also manages to be the very antithesis of their real-life counterpart. While the audience of a real-life idol mostly comes in contact with a finished product, the anime idol is most often a diamond in the rough. In their raw states, those would-be idols can be clumsy, devastatingly shy, or otherwise unfit for being a target of mass admiration. Their growth into somebody worthy of the coveted idol title is a long and arduous journey, and that journey will usually take up the bulk of a series’s runtime. The live performances, so important for real-life idols, return as a high-point, but only take up as little as a few percent of the total screen-time. Even then, the significance of those moments is completely different. One of the great achievements of The Idolmaster is that the viewer naturally slips into the perspective of a producer: when the idols struggle through a last-minute choreography change or come face to face with debilitating trauma, the emotional payoff is not primarily in the beauty of the dance and songs presented, but in the pride and relief that they pulled it off without a hitch, bringing them one step closer to their dreams.

This difference in focus allows idol anime to touch upon topics which might be no-go for a real-life idol. One striking image is that of anime idols with their oxygen masks on in-between musical numbers – a raw admission of how far they are pushing themselves that never quite makes for a simply cute picture. The same goes for internal conflicts and dealing with hiccups without letting the audience know that something is off.

But more importantly, our ability to learn of the anime idols as individual people and come to like them despite their shortcomings means that anime idols can afford to exhibit personality traits unbefitting their real-life counterparts. Last week’s money-grubber list contained Cinderella Girls’ Futaba Anzu, a girl who is in the industry for the money, period. She also happens to be a huge sloth, and were there a surefire way for her to win the lottery and get rich that way, she would likely be quitting the idol industry asap. The same show also features Maekawa Miku, a serious and studious girl with a firm belief about what an idol should be, who strives to give that image justice even if it is far removed from her everyday persona. It is a kind of duality which would seem dishonest were we not privy to Miku’s personal thoughts and moments. In AKB0048, several members of the titular idol group realise that one way to the top is to push everyone down the stairs, and several episodes of the show revolve around the dilemma of taking or not taking that path. In Wake Up Girls, one of the main characters freely admits that the whole idol thing is a stepping stone towards a different career path they actually want to pursue. A focal point of Girlish Number is the frustration of voice actors confronted with the realities of their dream industry. Increasingly, anime idols are allowed to be and feel like imperfect human beings.

All things considered, the transition into 2D represents an opportunity either to further idealise an idol, or humanise them. If the genre continues to thrive, it will be interesting which path it chooses to take. At the same time, the anime industry seems to have found a way around the issue of idol distrust by increasingly turning their seiyuu into quasi-idols. But that is another topic altogether.

(*1) In rare cases, character development can be seen as a form of betrayal by some extremist fans. Famously, one Kannagi character caused an outrage and book-burning after a past love interest of theirs was revealed. Still, this kind of occurrence is more of a curiosity than a common thing in the anime fandom.

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Money! Everybody loves money. Some people like it too much and become jerks or commit crimes to get their hands on more cash. You can always count on the wealthy villain to scoff at the poor protagonist, and even the rival basketball team will probably hold their training sessions in an air-conditioned hall, unlike the scrappy protagonist team. Which is why anime characters are advised against having any financial interests. But rules are made to be broken, so here are some of my favourite money-grubbers!

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Mizutani Shizuku (My Little Monster/Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun)

Shizuku’s career goals, with her target yearly salary clearly specified, is some of the first information we get about her in-show. Her ambition serves as a source of motivation, and Shizuku spends a lot of her time studying.

We get a very good idea of what led Shizuku to those life priorities – the positive and negative role models of her life. But the best part of her character development is that when romance shows up in her life, Shizuku is not “cured” of her materialistic tendencies, she just steadily learns how to reconcile them with the emotional part of her heart.

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Zeno Zoldyck (Hunter x Hunter 2011)

The entire Zoldyck family are assassins for hire who are very good at and serious about their profession. While money is often presented as replacing morals, the Zoldyck family seems to go by the credo of “with great fortune comes great responsibility”.

To prevent soiling their family name, Zeno is ready to accept a suicide mission… for exactly as long as it takes other members of the family to assassinate his client. At the same time, the elderly assassin is interested in no more bloodshed than what he is paid for.

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Futaba Anzu (Idolmaster Cinderella Girls)

With a life motto of “you work you fail”, Futaba Anzu hopes to become a top idol as quickly as possible and then live off royalties for the rest of her life. For all intents possible, her motivation as an idol is as cynical as it gets.

But smart though she is, Anzu fails to notice that her producer is constantly forcing her to work hard as an idol using the illusionary carrot of great fortune. And Anzu’s self-interest does not conflict with her supporting her idol kouhai in their respective carriers, ensuring that we eventually warm up to this endearing sloth.

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Scrooge McDuck

So I could put Bakemonogatari’s Kaiki here, but he just got a mention in the monologues entry, so I will bring up this duck instead. Potentially my first fictional idol.

This crazy miser might be the wealthiest duck in the world, but he never really intends to spend any of his fortune. To begin with, Scrooge’s quest for great wealth started with the then-worthless lucky dime he earns as a shoeshine, and his attachment to the piece of metal is greater than his love for his amassed fortune.

All in all, Scrooge’s bank account serves merely as a scoreboard in his game against the challenges of this world. And he keeps on winning, old age be damned.

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Not the nipple dilemma.

As the dear reader might already know, there is a Mario (Super Mario Brothers) film in the making. It will be produced by the studio behind the Minions, and therefore likely to be all CG graphics (fitting enough, considering Mario’s usual game appearances).

So far so good. The issues start when you consider what the film will be about. You see, Mario is a borderline radioactive character – hold him for too long and you will get burned. Originally called Jumpman – a man who jumps – he has not changed much since his first appearance. Yes, he did receive an Italian name, voice and heritage, but even that was not something initially intended. For the most part, Mario is a blank slate.

This is problematic, because if you are going to make an hour long film about a character, you will be forced to decide who they really are. What kind of personality do they have? How do they speak when they have actual lines, not only “let’s-a-goes”? And if at all possible, Nintendo would surely like to proceed without deciding on any of that. They have one disaster of a Mario film behind them already, and they have seen other game adaptations stumble.

In games, being vague can work out fine. You can earn goodwill through gameplay, and entice the players to fill in the blanks with headcanon. When Kantai Collection first got an anime adaptation, the reactions were divided as soon as viewers were shown the heroines “ocean-skating” – the anime’s take on how warfare between anthropomorphised warships is supposed to look like. The series did manage to make that interpretation work, mostly, but it did also lead to some of the worst choreographed battle scenes ever, as our heroines have long talks while standing still on the open sea, all while technically being under fire from some particularly miss-happy enemies.

So I have this unfortunate vision of Nintendo trying to eat its cake and have it too – presenting Mario as the film’s protagonist while never allowing him to do anything that would develop his character. It is doable, to an extent. But a protagonist who is constantly just reacting to the actions of others quickly becomes a drag. God forbid they remedy this by inserting a supposed audience-surrogate in the form of a kid joining Mario on his adventure under some flimsy excuse of a plot point.

What would I do in Nintendo’s place? Have the film revolve around Mario not as a character but as a so-called MacGuffin – a goal and victory condition.

The film would open up with a montage of Mario’s adventures in a variety worlds (desert, swamp, snowy peak…) – all still shots from afar and no spoken lines, only as long the opening credits and musical number. The final shot of the montage would freeze and transform into a postcard delivered straight into the hands of Princess Peach, who is going about her duties in the Mushroom Kingdom.

As Peach is showing the postcard to her followers, the film’s protagonist enters the scene. That being either “a Toad” (with some appearance quirk to make him stand out from the crowd) or captain Toad. You get one scene to set this character up – if you want a zero to hero growing up story, have him run in with an urgent message only to trip and fall flat on his face. Whatever you choose, the scene is cut short by the the sudden appearance of none other than Bowser (surprise, surprise).

With a flying fortress and an army of goons, Bowser quickly overwhelms the Kingdom’s defences and kidnaps Princess Peach. Again, you get an opportunity to develop the main character. If they are supposed to start as a coward, they hide and watch powerlessly as the ordeal plays out. If they are to be a more plucky kind, they attempt to interfere… and get swatted away to the same effect. As Bowser’s forces retreat, the torn remains of Mario’s postcard float down right underneath the protagonist’s feet. With Bowser at large, there is only one hero who can make things right again.. and somebody has to find him!

Setting the story up this way has several major advantages:

You play to the setting’s strengths. The world of Mario has plenty of breadth with all its fantastic locations but limited depth with how most Mario games explore different places and only offer a little information on them. The protagonist’s journey in search of Mario can take them through several of those locations.

You use as many characters as you want with no commitments. It would be a terrible waste to have Yoshi, for example, not show up in the film. However, similarly to Mario, giving the characters too much spotlight or allowing for new character interactions might be a risky deal. With the option to confine a given character’s on-screen appearance to a given location, it is a great opportunity to show them off without risking any complications.

You can actually develop the protagonist. With the protagonist being either entirely original (a new Toad) or a minor character (Captain Toad), there is no risk of their character development hurting the franchise in the long run. Conversely, there is full creative freedom in this regard, allowing both for simple and accessible, as well as more nuanced development for the character.

With Bowser’s minions hot on his trail, (Captain) Toad makes it through several worlds. Finally, he is able to pin down Mario’s location… only to get caught just as he is about to deliver the message about Peach and Bowser to Mario. However, even as he is being dragged away to Bowser’s castle, we catch a glimpse of Mario taking note of the commotion.

As the protagonist is thrown before Bowser and all hope seems lost, there are sounds of fighting taking place off-screen. For a moment, silence returns, and then everyone’s eyes move to one point as the door to Bowser’s throne room open, revealing a familiar silhouette clad in red. At this point, some ten minutes before the ending credits start rolling, there is no need for explanations or exchanging threats. The situation is clear enough, and there is only one way things can proceed. As Mario takes a step into the throne room, Bowser orders all his henchman to take out the plumber. Mario wordlessly takes them all on, dodging, jumping, kicking and punching with moves straight out of a Matrix film. Enraged at the sight of his underlings being effortlessly taken out, Bowser spits out a torrent of fire from his jaws as he joins the fray. Mario evades the attacks, and the fire starts spreading throughout Bowser’s castle.

It is then that our protagonist, completely forgotten by the villains, springs to action. He releases Peach and the other prisoners, and he and Peach proceed to guide the others to safety as more and more of the castle becomes covered in flames. In the meanwhile, the clash between Mario and Bowser escalates. The scaled antagonist brings out a Bowser-mech, hoping to crush Mario with its overwhelming weight and power. But he still has no luck catching the agile hero. Every missed blow is a wall or pillar toppled, but Mario continues to elude Bowser even as the castle starts to crumble.

We cut away to a shot of Peach and the Toads making it out of the castle just in time as the structure finally gives in. There is a moment of panic and worry for Mario’s safety, until somebody points high towards the sky. Bowser and Mario emerge from the dust above where the top of the castle was just moments before, Bowser’s mech heavily damaged and Mario covered in dust. Seeing that Mario has nowhere to run, Bowser unleashes one final attack. But Mario brushes past it and lunges forward towards the mech’s exposed weak point. And in that moment, as Mario’s fist is about to connect and draw the curtains on the story, turning the screen black and letting the credits roll, we are treated to the one and only line Mario speaks in the film:

“Here we go!”

This gives us additional advantages:

Despite Mario’s short appearance, he gets to hog the spotlight when it matters. There is no limit to how cool and over the top you can make Mario in his battle scene. This, coupled with Mario’s limited presence in the rest of the film, makes it easy to present Mario as a larger-than-life hero who swoops in and single-handedly solves the biggest problems, albeit appearing a tad late – all exactly as it happens in the games. At the same time, the protagonist gets to protect his friends as he helps them evacuate from the burning castle – showing that there are more ways than one to be a hero, regardless of a person’s strength or ability level.

Mario is kept from talking too much. By making the one line Mario speaks be the cherry-on-top of the film’s climax, you automatically make it memorable, doubly so if it is one of Mario’s already memetic one-liners. Mario’s voice actor, Charles Martinet, has made many such one-liners famous, but many people find his longer speeches as Mario somewhat awkward. The above approach turns all that from an issue into an advantage.

After that, all you have to do is add an appropriate stinger after the credits (the audience is likely to expect one) and rake in the cash. Unless you have any ideas how to make something even better?

(P.S. There is also a Sonic movie. But Sonic already has SatAM and Sonic X to prove that it can work just fine in a variety of styles so it should be fine. Theoretically. Maybe. Do not get me started on Detective Pikachu.)

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