The Rambleast Review: The Crumbling Psyche (“Videogame Cartoons Past Midnight And Why That’s A Bad Thing”)

Inspired by a discussion (or at least the world’s most respectful argument) with ex-pat Blast Processor Tom about the various pre-X animated endeavours of Sonic The Hedgehog, I decided there was no better course of action than to investigate the matter with a thorough analysis of each of the three programs’, erm, qualities. As I began my search, though, I felt I’d be doing the myriad* adaptations of videogames for the Saturday morning crowd a disservice if I didn’t run the gamut and cover the lot. So I ran the gamut and covered the lot. Hereafter lies the first instalment, wherein you’ll find out why it may end up being the only instalment…

As it happens, there’s not a show in this article that I’d not seen before in some form or another (from the tube to Youtube) and as such I was only surprised by how extensively my selective (at the best of times) memory had embellished their successes and glazed desperately over their more glaring faults. Essentially, the conclusion I came to (after several draining hours of what you could call live-blogging) is that these 22 minute excursions into mediocrity are most often nothing BUT faults, but I’ll let you discover that at your own sweet tempo as you commence… THE BLAST PROCESS VIDEOGAME CARTOON REDISCOVERY TO SETTLE A DISPUTE WITH TOM PARRY ODYSSEY!

Or BPVCRTSADWTPO!

I prefer “The Crumbling Psyche”, but to be honest neither is quite as catchy as I’d hoped for.

I thought, as an erstwhile devotee of the touted-in-high-school practice of sketching a plan for your exam essays, that it would be best to structure this effort in some way, so in addition to sketching down the assorted animated ignominies I planned also to devote a little section to each’s adherence to a set of qualifiers, including presence of catchphrases, target of appeal to gamers, introduction of characters and more. That fell by the wayside pretty quickly as encroaching zombification saw to it that my endurance was guaranteed only by a Herculean dedication to self torment.

While I may have the time to write this mother, I have not the time to consume each of the glanced-at series in their respective entirety and as such have, in the interest of fairness, watched the first episode only of each, except in the case of Mortal Kombat: Defenders Of The Realm, with which I have, for awkwardness’ sake, watched the last. As I figger, time spent watching 30+ episodes of the absurdly titled The Adventures Of Super Mario Bros. 3 is time as could be better spent sifting through my paradoxically ever-growing backlog of 80’s X-Men comics, discussing the merits of upgrading Mortal Kombat to Blu-Ray (conclusion: 100% MERIT) or finding more excuses not to start playing Skyrim, of which I am truly frightened at the prospect of committing to. So yeah, one apiece oughtta do it, even though I’m tempted to watch those Mario shows from start to aching finish, my mind and health be damned.

I’m a fair man, too, so I’m thinking of following up with a look at films based on games too, which presumably would take longer to compile but wouldn’t be as exhaustive as I’m not watching anything directed by Uwe Boll or starring Milla-Jovovich-post-Dazed-And-Confused ever again (and that INCLUDES The Fifth Element, sunshine!)

Enough! Let’s GO! Note that what follows is as-it-occurs-to-me waffle without the due benefit of hindsight with which some meaning may be extracted, wincing, from the meaningless.

3.40 a.m.

Kirby, “a perfect pink circle” according to his opening credits (above), seems like the best way to kick off my exercise in mental stamina, not least because the show is in Japanese and the Engrish translation is typically bonkers. Not content with subject matter as baffling as political turmoil and cross-species theft, even the theme tune casts aspersions about Kirb’s abilities (“But he’s actually strong/ Is he really?”, “But he can become anything/ Can he really?” ). Like Shawn Michaels, the unseen narrator is determined to reclaim her “lost smile”, possibly by inhaling “the power of the stars falling from the sky”.

And so, my mind is fried already, and I’ve not yet begun to dissect the wonders of the Sonic Triumvirate (a succulent word, no?) that ignited this inferno in the first place. Kirby awakes in a spaceship but it’s not immediately clear whether he’s fallen asleep on the job or been kidnapped, drugged and shot to the stars. Come to think of it, Kirby’s Adventure is so distractingly colourful and saccharinely scored that I can’t remember a thing about it, so that earlier promise of addressing the series’ appeal to their established fanbases won’t count for much here. I’ll let you know if Meta-Knight shows up, but other than that I’m as clued in as you, cherished reader.

A minute in and I am reeling a little from the gorgeousity of the animation and design and Kirby’s own appeal. The show is HIGH quality, and more than makes up for the abandoned paragraph I wrote about Genndy Tartatovsky being so talented he ruined kids’ TV forever. Another minute in and a giant landborne squid has begun terrorizing some sheep. Why is nothing simple? AH! One of the little ghostly enemies from Dream Land has appeared in a hat (you know the guys with the same face as Shy Guy from SMB2/ Doki Doki Panic?). So there’s a bone for the fans. I’ll be pissed if he’s not ingested and spat at a weeping tree, mind you.

This King Dedede chap has a good line in manic laughter. Seems the proper bastard and all. He drives a tank. That said, there’s also a mention of a ‘Holy Nightmare Corporation’ which is perhaps more worth worrying about. “Hurry out of here before we punish you without trial” takes the award for best line of spoken dialogue in this episode, and possibly across all episodes in ever. I’ve also spotted that curious little d-pad-on-the-forehead, a universal signifier of anger across all Japanese exports, it seems. A poor excuse for the Deku Tree serves up some exposition before Kirby confounds expectations by not appearing quite as heroic as prophesied, like your man Jesus they had a hundred years ago or whatever. King Dedede promptly hammers him into a ravine as a sort of trial by fire. He’s a real piece of work. It’s a miracle the kids (Fumu, Bun, Lololo and Lalala) work out that Kirby’s male at all, though his convenient invulnerability seems at least passively macho. I’ve always championed Kirby’s badassery, but Kirby Of The Stars (occasionally called Kirby: Right Back At Ya! for reasons unknown to man) seems determined to paint him as a figurehead for an extensive merchandising campaign aimed squarely at girls. The girliest of girls. Girly girly girls. You know, with double-x chromosomes and ovaries. But not bras. Not yet.

Sad child: she has received no Kirby schoolbag and her birthday is ruined

I told you I’d let you know if Meta-Knight showed up. I’ll do you one better by detailing his attempts to stab Kirby (he attempts to stab Kirby) and mentioning his assistants Sword and Blade (he has assistants named Sword and Blade). The presence of the Internet seems in itself defiant of the character’s Game Boy origins. Why is it that in programs governed by their own sets of rules and populated by wild, fantastic characters that the Internet is still a force for global evil?

Meta-Knight and his buddies do battle with the big squid from earlier, and also some smaller squids. It also jars a little how noticeably different the animation process for Kirby is, considering they’ve clearly used computers for him but everyone else is hand-drawn. Is that because he’s spherical? More importantly, could I mount a case for discrimination against its makers through the Greater Japanese Fictional Court Of Animated Minor Aesthetic Grievances? Probably best leave it.

Meta takes the time to explain that Kirby is fond of inhaling things, so those new to the character aren’t left out. Considerate. Well, not considerate enough to make a lick of sense, but thoughtful. There’s also a character with a floppy fringe and glasses named Oktacon, but sadly he isn’t Solid Snake’s similarly monikered, weak-bladdered buddy. The closing theme posits that Kirby can be sketched using only 9 circles and a triangle but the definition of circle is a little abusive to the fundamentals of circles (that they’re round) so I’d not put to much stock in it. It concludes with the headsploding “Oh good morning, Kirby is hungry”, which is neither developed or explained. I love watching Japanese cartoons this late. EXCEPT I DON’T.

3.50 a.m.

I’ve barely recovered before soldiering onto The Adventures Of Super Mario Bros. 3, which instantly bombards with music AND visuals from the game and manages to feel a bit like a half-remembered playthrough or a tepid nightmare unworthy of total recollection. It also features sound effects from the games and Bowser’s kids, but worryingly the Goombas have torsos and sport Japanese headdress. WHY? I have a bit of a problem with things referring to other things that they shouldn’t be able to (like the priest in the first episode of The Sopranos asking Carmella Soprano if her husband likes Goodfellas, despite no fewer than four ‘Fellas starring IN The Sopranos, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

I don’t handle it well. This show clearly has a touch of that so I’ve strapped myself in for a rocky session.

Anyway, this cartoon is distinctly 80s, all wacky voices and lamentable colour palettes. The background music is based on Koji Kondo’s game scores so it feels at least a little faithful to the game, though the floating blocks in the atmosphere feel wrong (as all get out) in animation and Toad (clearly a cipher for Benny The Ball off Top Cat) and Princess Daisy (who’s a bit of a peach, when she should just be Peach: the character) feel strangely out of place. Interestingly, Mario is a New Yorker in this series, years before Bob Hoskins’ attempts to immortalize him as a Brooklyner trickled all over our screens and into our socks not long before Charles Martinet made him an native of The Boot for all time.

“Let’s find us a couple of super leaves”, suggests Mario in a strange, recursive manner that made my mind lose its footing. More confusion ensues when the sun from World 2 of SMB3 attacks the brothers (who travel exclusively in leaps and bounds) after Mario claims it/he was in his eyes. I should admit that, unequivocally, I adore this brainrape of a cartoon. Its 10-minute episodes and total disregard for its audience’s sanity is particularly charming. A plant bites Mario and he loses his raccoon suit, exclaiming “I’m Super no more. Just plain old Mario”. It’s like he’s PLAYED HIS OWN GAMES. I have a hard time accepting this but advance regardless. Bowser turns, erm, ‘Prince Hugo’ into a poodle, and again, I’m not certain why, but I’ll be a monkey’s heir apparent if I’m not determined to see him returned to the weird mushroom-giant-thing he was beforehand.

In their discussion of where next to conquer, the kids suggest “Water Land” and “Desert Land” before Mario calls his scaly nemesis “Bowser Koopa” and my eyes slide slickly down to my cheeks and my brain takes a well-earned holiday. I was reliably informed later that in the coming chaos, Mario transformed into a giant kung-fu master while an inexplicable music number proclaimed that Bowser was a ‘sweat bandit’.

I’ve managed to find the video online, too, which is presented below for immediate (but unadvised) consumption. Note that the credits read “written by” when they should say “extracted from the malicious subconscious of”.

4 a.m.

Relentless as the tide, I move on to The Super Mario Bros Super Show, in which a differently-throated Mario calls me a paisano (and I should say that I have a serious problem enduring Italian insults from someone born and raised in New Yoik) before two human men appear and dance to that awkward white faux rapping from the days of its very infancy. It all plays out over a pleasant version of the original SMB theme, but again it feels vaguely nightmarish. There’s a live action segment I’ll not address as it seems counter-intuitive (its base EXISTENCE seems counter-intuitive) before the cartoon stuff starts.

The actors are different but the animation style’s the same, though this time it seems to be based on Super Mario Bros 2, with a distressed, blind Birdo accidentally flying off with Toad. Luigi says he’s “allergic to mountains” and I worry that someone actually worked on a script for this episode as I chuckle, a glaze ‘cross my eyes and sleep a foreign, forgotten concept. When Birdo answers the phone I worry that I’ve actually imagined this whole thing. Am I awake? Really. AM I? AM I AWAKE?

Mario makes copious reference to “Pasta Power” and his fondness for spaghetti, and you begin to wonder if the glorification of a such a ferociously high-carb diet is conducive to the positive development of susceptible young minds.

Benny…I mean, Toad… protests at Birdo’s persistent mothering and I thank God she’s not breastfeeding him.That bloody albatross from the later SMB2 levels drops a Bob-Omb on the gang and Mario quips that he was hoping for “a nice salami sandwich” and I can’t help but cynically think the last thing he was hoping for his hated airborne enemy to drop on him was a lovingly prepared delicacy. M’only sayin’. Luigi says “squadroon” instead of squadron and I laugh again. I’ve lost it. Then they throw onions from a bag at their enemies and everyone’s happy. Even I’m happy, and I’m SCREAMING INSIDE.

4.15 a.m.

A certifiable lack of self-regard spurs me onto The Legend Of Zelda, though I’ve promised myself a bowl of Frosted Wheat if I make it through this one alive. I have another episode of Super Mario World to watch later but I figure I best take a break from that whole scene as despite my blossoming love for that family of cartoons, they are making me hate my eyes a little.

The Legend Of Zelda appears to be another leg of the Super Mario Bros Super Show. Its opening titles present me with a Ganon whose face is a pig’s. I’ve not played the original Zelda games so I’ll roll with it…for now. Zelda makes reference to ‘both Triforces’ when she clearly means ‘all three Triforces’, but again I’ll roll with it ‘cause it’s not like I’m fit to hop inside my Toshiba Regza and slap some knowledge about HER OWN SERIES OF GAMES THAT’S NAMED AFTER HER round her chops.

The Legendary (ahahahahaha grantmesleeplord) theme appears as the show’s own, and Link’s incorrigible “Excuuuuuse ME, princess” catchphrase makes an appearance, setting it up for future use (and abuse) before the first episode’s even begun. WHOA! Link has some serious class issues. He laments living in Hyrule Castle and pines for the days of yore when he slept in mud and didn’t have a front-window seat for Zelda’s early-morning pricktease exhibitions, only to be attacked by a triumvirate** of Ganon’s Moblins. He uses a pillow as a shield as I wonder how he’s actually survived through puberty in the sort of hostile environment in which daily attacks from monsters are met with Spider-Man-esque quips and an unhealthy regard for personal wellbeing. Worse yet, he doesn’t bother to brush his teeth before shooting the bad prats out of existence with his newly-glowing purple sword (snigger). “Excuuuuse ME, princess”-count: two. Ganon’s minions apologise for their failure and he promises they’ll be sorrier, which is a flagrant assault on the English language right there.

He declares an intent to travel to Hyrule in style, and spends a silly amount of time conjuring up a quartet of skellingtons (best spelling) to carry his doom-laden rickshaw to the castle, ONLY TO TELEPORT THERE MOMENTS LATER. A 3-inch tall fairy puts the moves on Link despite being less than half the size of how his purely hypothetical reciprocation of lust would manifest anyway, before he leaps out a window, a hearty “ya-hoooooooooooo” reminding us that despite the archaic fairykingdom setting we are watching a cartoon made in the 1980s.

Maybe Link’s character feels like such a misfire because in the games he’s never afforded a single line of dialogue beyond his adorable grunting, shivering and screaming, but it’s more likely to do with the wiseguy-in-green Zeitgeist the Teenage Mutant Ninja Hero Turtles ushered in a few years before. Catchphrase count: three. Link just about snares himself a kiss at the end as Zelda tells him “don’t try to make a habit of this”, though as he makes the promise his fingers are crossed behind his back and you just KNOW he’s going to make all kindsa habits over the next 13 wackadoo adventures. He’ll make habits for his habits, while WEARING a habit. The episode ends with Ganon in a sort of celestial prison, though I imagine had I the werewithall to watch another episode I’d enjoy seeing his escape, or something.

Check back some day to see whether I can muster the strength of soul required to share my thoughts on the very Sonic cartoons that started this whole affair (thanks for the psychological torment, TOM) as well as that other Mario episode, Mortal Kombat and anything else I forgot about while writing the very sentence you are presently reading.

(Of course I’ll muster the strength. Please don’t confuse my comically exaggerated ordeal, orchestrated for humour, for actual mental disintegration. That would be horrible. A miscarriage of understanding.)

*Rambleast’s favourite word

**See? Succulent…

For more misappropriated anger at hardly deserving subjects, check out Rambleast at your own risk.

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