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Tanooki Mario

World of Nintendo
by yo go re

I spent a lot of money to get a really good Mario. Now I'm spending a lot less to get one of his special costumes.

If you find a Super Leaf, Mario grows a tail and transforms into Tanooki Mario, a very handy form indeed. His newfound tail works as a weapon to attack enemies, and as a propeller to slow his fall after a jump, almost like he's walking on air. In times of great danger, he can turn into a statue that's not just invincible, but invisible to enemies. If he transforms in mid-air, he'll slam down and be stuck to the spot. Moving platforms will still carry him, though, and he'll knock down anyone in his way.

The Tanooki Suit was introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3, and meant absolutely nothing to the majority of the world's population. No kid outside of Japan in 1990 had ever heard of a tanuki, so this was just Raccoon Mario with an inexplicable teddy bear body. We also didn't know that Furries were a thing, so that didn't seem weird.

The only visible skin in this suit is Mario's face, which, come to think of it, isn't that unusual - after all, he wears long sleeves and gloves, so you don't normally see anything below his neck. He's got the big bulbous nose and the curly mustache, and there's even a ridge that duplicates the brim of his usual hat - that's a feature introduced in Super Mario 3D Land.

Other than that, the costume really is just a typical fur suit: it covers him head-to-toe, has a cutout where the face pokes through, and is detailed only with a large, light-colored circular patch on the belly. Mario wears his trademark white gloves (which actually didn't show up in-game until Super Mario World, but quickly became standard), but that's the only evidence of his former clothes. The chest circle has a sculpted edge, the similar spots on the soles of his feet are recessed, and he has pointy ears on top of his head. Naturally, he has the "raccoon" tail, which curves slightly to its bushy tip and has sculpted stripes.

Standing straight up (and counting to his ears), Mario stands just over 4" tall, making him nearly identical in size to the SH Figuarts toy. Unsurprisingly, the articulation is nowhere near as good, but after King Koopa and Wario, we already knew what to expect going in. He's got hinged knees, balljointed hips, hinged elbows, swivel/hinge shoulders, hinged neck, and balljointed head. The balljoint sits so far into the head that it's barely even a swivel. The hinge moves forward and back a little, but why?

What's really insulting is the lack of wrists. The gloves are separate pieces, but rather than attaching by a peg and being able to swivel, they're glued onto gigantic T-shaped pegs ensuring they will never be able to move a millimeter. What the crapping hell, Jakks? Adding the tail's swivel joint couldn't have been so complex and hard to achieve that it required ruining his arms.

Like the other 4"-scale figures, Tanooki Mario comes with a secret accessory. Or two, if you consider the Question block box it comes in a second accessory. You may be able to guess that the accessory is a Super Leaf, the item that turns Mario into a Tanooki (at least in Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World). In Japanese folklore, tanuki use leaves in their shapeshifting magic, which is why that's the item that changes Mario. This one is sculpted almost ridiculously well, with lines between the colored segments and 3D eyes. All that, but we couldn't get wrists?

Jakks' Mario was never going to be as good as Bandai's. That wasn't even a question. But while he looks cute and has a nice accessory, his articulation is sub-par, meaning he's not even as good as he should have been.

-- 01/09/16

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