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Monday, December 10, 2007

Cap's Got a Gun

Apparently, a lot of folks were a little perturbed that old Cap'n America would be packing heat when he makes his return in January of 2008 (not the original Captain, but his replacement). I don't have any problem with a gun-wielding superhero, but then again, I don't have any deep nostalgic connection to Captain America like some comic-readers might.

I do, however, have just such a connection to my main man Mario, of the Mario Bros. And seeing him with a heater is just a little too much for me to handle.

(image from http://yellow.ribbon.to/~lajosjancsi/en/Koopalings/cartoon.html)
(I'd also like to point out how much that cover looks like the one for First Blood, right down to the bandana. 'course, Rambo wasn't nearly so fond of peaches.)

This wonderful bit of nightmare-fuel was provided to us from the ever-enigmatic nation of Japan, just as Mario's popularity was at its height. In 1989, on the crest of buzz following the release of Super Mario Bros. 3, some bright spark figured that what Japanese children would enjoy more than anything else would be to see Mario, the Princess, and big-bad Bowser re-enact their own versions of fairy tales.

The resulting animated masterpieces took several liberties on the original stories, but we aren't talking "the Little Mermaid doesn't die," Disney-type liberties here. We're talking about such changes that not only include everyone's favorite plumber going postal, but also such scintillating concepts as Bowser in drag.

One of these videos is based on a Japanese tale called "Momotaro," or "Peach Boy." In the original story, an old Japanese couple find a giant peach floating down the river. Wasting no time in devouring every bit of questionable food that comes their way, they crack open the peach only to discover a boy inside, who explains that his fruit-vessel is a gift from heaven, and that he is to be their son. He grows up, and as teenagers are wont to do, heads to the lair of a demon-king with his talking animal friends and defeats the evil horde pretty handedly.

So, when put into the role of alien peach-boy (which shines new and very comfortable light on his relationship towards Princess Peach), how does our boy Mario come to exercise his god-given right to bear arms? Turns out that before the magical peach fell into their laps, the old couple had a grand-daughter, Princess Peach. Princess Peach is kidnapped by the demon king, played wonderfully here by the King of the Koopas, Bowser. This provides the motivation for Mario, who is less a Peach-Boy and more a Peach-Guy-With-a-Mustache, to abandon his new home with the old folks and throw down with the giant, fire-breathing dinosaur.

Before he can set off on his grand five-minute adventure, though, the old woman gives him what is sure to be handy: lunch. Also helpful: the enchanted family heirloom, that just happens to be an assault rifle. One would think that the ancient geezers (who, for the record, appear courtesy of performances by the slender Sledge Bros.) shouldn't have had any problems with kidnappings if they had a freakin' Uzi stored away in their cottage. See? Gun-locks do cause more harm than they prevent.

Somehow, epic journeys and little Italian heroes seem less interesting when their problems are solved by pointing a gun at the bad guy. When Mario finally makes it to Bowser's lair, he just points the gun at him, and that's it: game over.

I can finally see why people are upset when they learned that Captain America would be returning armed with a pistol. Fights just aren't as interesting with a gun as they are when the combatants are armed with swords, or only the ability to jump on the other guy's head.

The good guy's not supposed to have the power of a gun - he doesn't need it. Mario should inspire you based on his courage and pluck alone. Dude doesn't even wear a cup under his overalls. A gun is a far more sensible weapon, especially given that is opponents can breath fire and whatnot, but this is fiction; good is supposed to triumph over evil regardless of the power differential. Any idiot villain can use the brute force of a gun to get what he wants - a real hero uses his brains.

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