Hey, did anything happen to get revealed yesterday? I’m kidding, yes, the first official trailer for the Super Mario Bros. movie, of course. While half the internet is losing their collective minds over the vocal performance of Chris Pratt, another, more cultured subset of the interwebs has started theorizing that the upcoming film is looking an awful lot like an isekai. But what does that mean?
Even if you’ve never heard the word isekai before, chances are you’ve seen these types of stories. Hollywood films like Space Jam, Back to the Future, and even the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie are all isekai if you really think about it. So let’s break down what an isekai is and why folks online, including the MF’in Washington Post, think that the new Super Mario Bros. trailer places the film in that genre.
An isekai, literally translated as “different world” or “otherworld,” is a genre of storytelling typically found in anime like Sword Art Online and Re: Zero. The typical structure of an isekai story revolves around its main character, in this case, Mario, being suddenly teleported into a new world. Upon arriving in the new world, which is typically a fantasy setting, the main character is thrust into becoming a hero who, under the guidance of a trusty crew of allies, i.e., Toad, must cleanse the world from its imposing and evil overseer: enter Jack Bowser.
From the trailer’s opening moments, we see Bowser is not to be trifled with. Hell, they might as well call the movie Super Mario Bros: Bowser’s Fury Road, ‘cuz that man…er, turtle dragon…was looking downright unbeatable, immortal even. His dope-as-hell villain entrance was chock full of the ingredients that make for an isekai villain. You’ve got an entourage of evil minions, pun not intended, in Bowser’s legion of Koopas, and a comically evil lair made in his own image. After destroying the Ice Kingdom’s army of penguins, Bowser completes his role of being an isekai villain by procuring an all-powerful weapon in the super star, and practically begging anyone to dethrone him.
THE MARIO MOVIE’S AN ISEKAI????????
— Ian Mutchler (@TheFantasticIan) October 6, 2022
Obviously, that person is going to be Mario because that’s not only what isekai heroes do, it’s what Mario has done ever since the 1985 video game Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System first whisked him away to the Mushroom Kingdom. But Mario won’t be able to defeat Bowser on his own alone, which is where the isekai hero’s party comes in. Somewhere along the journey, an isekai hero gains more allies with their own particular set of skills. Thanks to the foresight provided by Shigeru Miyamoto’s Hollywood cast announcement, we know that those allies are probably gonna be Charlie Day’s Luigi, who we saw running for his life at the butt-end of the trailer, and Anya Taylor-Joy’s Princess Peach. Hopefully Peach isn’t too preoccupied with being kidnapped in the movie and manages to girlboss her way out of another castle to join Mario in kicking Bowser’s arse.
Meanwhile, just how Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong will fit into all this remains to be seen. Sure, he was the villain of Mario’s first game, but he’s largely been presented as a good guy ever since Donkey Kong Country dropped nearly 30 years ago. It seems like things could go either way, though my money’s on him joining forces with Mario before all is said and done.
While all evidence points to the Super Mario Bros. movie being an isekai, there is still one car-shaped elephant in the room: How exactly does Mario end up getting teleported into the mushroom kingdom? One Twitter account posited that since we’re hearing Chris Pratt’s normal Minnesotan accent, that Pratt himself is somehow turned into Mario, a la Jumanji rules, and now we’re following his adventures in the Mushroom Kingdom in the movie. Typically in an isekai, the process of being teleported to the fantasy world comes at the price of getting wrapped around the bumper of a moving vehicle, usually a white truck. To keep things in line with the lore of the Mario universe, I think it would be fitting for Pratt to become the titular character after a hit-and-run incident during one of those real-life Mario Kart outings. It’s the right thing to do.
I see a lot of folks calling the Mario Movie a Mario Isekai.
Y’all, it’s always been an isekai. Always.
— Fred Wood (@thatsmytrunks) October 6, 2022
The Super Mario Bros. movie is slated to hit theatres on April 7.
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