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Episode 44: "The Trojan Koopa"

CARTOON SUMMARY

Now they've done it; an SMBSS episode that spoofs the Illiad. Only there's no Achilles and Hector, and not even a shadow of Agamemnon. But considering how dreadfully annoying SMBSS guest characters tend to be, that is actually a very good thing.

The whole thing begins with Mario, Luigi and Toad braving the violent currents of a purple sea. Yup, for some reason the water's purple (so, is this the colouring gaffe of the century or is it -meant- to look purple?). They're sailing their spotless white bathtub (why does it always have to be a bathtub in this series?) in the direction of "the island of Koopos", which is the most Greek-sounding name the writers could come up with. This is where Koopa (natch) has imprisoned the Princess. A few more large waves mildly frighten them, until they crash ashore on Koopa's island. Oddly, the island looks like a tropical setting, even though this is supposed to be based on a Greek myth, but hey.

The Mario crew then employ a sophisticated strategy; they put their bathtub over their heads and hope that this will fool Koopa into thinking they're a walking bathtub. It almost works; the Hammer Brothers, who are Koopa's loyal assistants for this episode fall for it, but for some odd reason, Mario and co then decide to chuck the bathtub away and reveal their presence to Koopa. Koopa then does his token me-so-super monologue to the Princess, she whines a bit, and the Hammer Bros wiggle their hammers about. Note a subtle hint towards Koopa's rampant adoration for feet in that he has put a large ball and chain around the Princess' ankle. You're supposed to be working here, Koopa, leave the footsie fun for later. Anyway, ball and chain or not, the Princess remains confident that Mario and friends will save her. The three valiant travelers have arrived at Koopa's fort by now. Oddly, the fort is made out of lime green bricks. Either the background designer was drunk to the max, or it's the biggest colouring gaffe of the series, I can't tell either way. And the nasty Hammer Brothers chuck some whizzing hammers in Mario's direction, which is very frightening.

Mario then begins to employ several sophisticated strategies to try and get into Koopa's fort, all of which are doomed to failure. Primo, Mario tries to walk up the castle's wall with plungers strapped to his feet. It looks as if it works well enough, because the scriptwriters still have no clue how gravity works, but the Hammer Brothers use a pink stethoscope (probably something Koopa uses when he wants to "play doctor") to detect Mario's presence and knock away the bricks he's walking on, causing him to plummet to the ground. Next up, Luigi attempts to pole-vault over the castle walls, but the Hammer Bros destroy the pole just when he's about to vault, so that's knackered as well. Finally, Mario tries to launch Toad into the castle using a giant catapult. Oddly, Luigi wears what looks like a shapeless spinach green rubbish bag in this shot, while the "elastic" for the giant catapult sort of looks like Luigi's dungarees, but it's much more stretchable than normal dungarees should be. Surreal, man. But anyway, this goes pear-shaped as well; Toad -just- doesn't make the jump and Koopa chucks him back out of the castle.

Somehow, Toad survives the salto mortale out of Koopa's place, and does a little self-pity monologue. But it's just at that point that the Hammer Brothers show up, who are angry at the bad script. Luckily, they then just stand around while Maz and Lui recite a stupid little rhyme (the SMBSS's answer to "tsuki ni kawatte, oshioki yo", probably). With some rapid jumps, Mario then causes the Hammer Brothers to kill themselves. With them out of the way, Mario hatches another ingenious plan, "which might just work". Only just, mind you. Mario then asks Toad what Koopa loves the most in the world. We all know that's his feet, but Toad still gets the answer wrong. The imbecile.

We then switch to a shot of Koopa, who is overjoyed as he has just spotted the Mario gang leaving the island. The Princess refuses to believe that Mario would actually be clever enough to decide to just not bother about her anymore, but when she takes a look through Koopa's binoculars and sees her pallies pushing off in their bathtub-boat, she cries bitter, and badly-drawn tears. However, all is not what it seems. That's not really Mario, Luigi and Toad sailing away in the bathtub. Instead, it's the two hammer brothers, who have been tied up and dressed in Maz and Lui's clothes, along with a hilarious-looking Toad doll. These decoys have succeeded in fooling Koopa, who then notices another exciting thing; a clunky-looking statue of none other than himself, made out of bits of old caramel is standing in full glory in front of his crazy castle. Oi voi.

Koopa is dead excited about this and orders his Shy-guys to carry the giant wooden Koopa statue into the courtyard of his fortress. As everyone except Koopa has guessed by now, Mario, Luigi and Toad are hidden away inside this statue, pretending they're as smart as Ulysses. Koopa can't decide where he wants to leave his big wooden self, and the Shy-guys are getting tired from dragging the huge thing around (the Mario bunch aren't too pleased about it either). Koopa then decides to call it quits and go to sleep. However, in the meantime, the Hammer Brothers have decided not to just give up and go away; they somehow manage to "turn the boat around" and begin to row back to the island, using the head of the poor Hammer Bro in Mario's clothes as a peddle of some sorts (if this sounds strange, it's because this scene -is- strange). Also note that the H.B wearing Luigi's garb seems to have some colouring troubles here and there. And while we're on the subject, how come Mario and Luigi are still wearing their overalls if they supposedly used them to disguise the Hammer Bros? Bizarre, bizarre...

Anyway, it's night by now, and all the Shy-guys are asleep, so Mario, Luigi and Toad come tumbling out of the Koopa statue in a noisy fashion and make stupid puns. All of this fails to wake up the Shy-guys. Mario then states the obvious by reminding everyone that they should be verrry quiet. Well, that's knackered for one thing, Mario, as the Hammer Brothers have now made their way back to the fort, and they smash down the door to get in. This noisy action -does- wake up the Shy-guys, and it alerts Koopa as well. We are then treated to another typical SMBSS chase scene; no-one actually fights, they just run away while Koopa's flunkies chase them. Koopa himself just stands there and wobbles his arms about, and another corny song warbles along in the background. After a rather dull minute's worth of pointless running around the fort in a circle (it's about as adrenaline-rushing as a Jane Birkin CD), the inevitable happens; the Mario bunch find themselves surrounded by Koopa's boys and about to die a gruesome death, even though Mario thinks they'll be okay in the end.

And he's right. The Princess has been watching this dodgy scene from atop the fortress' tower, where she's still imprisoned by that funky ball and chain around her foot. She's tired of never getting to do anything and recites a sappy monologue. A Starman then falls from the sky, the Princess nabs it, and -surprise- she transforms. Take a moment to let that sink in; the -Princess- gets to transform and administer the episode's dose of arse-kicking. Believe it. For the curious, the transformed Princess is clad in a red-white-blue version of her usual dress (a bit like a messed up French flag *sniff*), and otherwise just looks like her usual self.

Anyway, just when Koopa's minions close in for the kill, the Princess breaks the chain around her foot (which will surely sadden Koopa) and hops down from the tower. She then introduces herself as "Princess V". Why Takeuchi doesn't sue is beyond me (well, maybe because this happened before Sailor V). At least, that's what it -sounds- like, but it's tricky to understand, as she suddenly talks with this funky echoing voice. It could just as well be "Princess Pea", "Princess Bee", or "Princess Peach". Depending on how you look at it, that may or may not make more sense (the Dutch subtitles on my tape do use "Princess V" as well but they're no reliable source). At that moment, the Hammer Brothers chuck their weapons at her, but she intercepts the whirling hammers and then kills the Hammer Bros with a piece of colour-changing tapestry (it switches from purple to pale pink somehow). The poor Shy-Guys are her next victims; she murders them in rapid succession in classic jump-on-the-head fashion. So now the battle's won and Mario does a little victory monologue. However, -shock!- Koopa then does something utterly terrible; he runs away. And the point is that he rips off that bathtub-boat, which is the only boat on the island. So now the Mazza bunch are stuck on this island, with the prospect of a slow and gruesome death. Of course, they could just run after Koopa and try to kill him before he -gets- to the boat, but that never seems to cross their minds. But it's okay in the end, as they can just use the big wooden Koopa statue as an improvised boat (apparently, it's entirely waterproof despite it's clunky look. Strange...the water still is purple, by the way). Koopa's bathtub, however, has sprung a leak and he's fighting for his life. Har har.

WHAT'S GOOD?
  • The Hammer Brothers are in there, with quite a lot of screen time as well.
  • The -Princess- transforms and actually fights! Gasp!
  • Overall animation is quite acceptable (not state of the art by any means, but free of complete and utter horridness all the same).
  • An SMBSS take on the Illiad could have ended up much, much worse than this.
  • Also note the participation of the Shy-guys.
WHAT'S BAD?
  • A few stupid witticisms and clunky bits hinder the script.
  • A few points of the plot make little sense, such as how Maz and Lui could build that big statue, complete with metal shell so easily, and how come it floats perfectly.
  • It's only a very, -very- loose reference to the Illiad.
  • Shame the Hammer Bros, and Koopa himself only get to do small amounts of actual fighting (in fact, Koopa doesn't fight at all in this episode, the wuss).
  • The boring and pointless chase scene is a complete waste of celluloid.
OVERALL
Surprise, surprise. After a long range of utterly disastrous episodes, I was expecting the worst. An SMBSS version of the Iliad does at first seem like a recipe for disaster; badly-drawn versions of Achilles and Hector spewing rotten puns around and acting like dopes sounds nightmarish enough, doesn't it? Thankfully, none of this occurs. Instead of throwing in stupid original characters and sticking closely to the Iliad’s storyline (which would have been doomed to failure), this only takes a few pages from Homeros' book (so to speak) and makes up it's own story for the most part. Okay, but this is still the SMBSS, so expecting the worst is once again a reasonable approach. But no, this is actually decent enough. Most of the animation and plot hangs together (despite the usual few flaws), and there are some good surprises in here as well, the Hammer Brothers and the Princess' transformation being the most noteworthy. The decent enough animation and plotline plus the big high points make this one of the most watchable SMBSS episodes. It's not quite enough to convince me that there might still be hope for this series, but it's a real breath of fresh air. Every now and then, it seems as if the SMBSS staff -do- know how to produce some okay animation. Only every now and then, mind you.

EPISODE RATING: 4.5/5.0

LIVE-ACTION SEGMENT
By mistreating a tomato plant that grows in a bathtub, Mario has miraculously found an oil well. Look, I never said it was going to make -sense-. An old geezer in a ludicrous hat then pops up. He's so wrinkled that the skin of his neck is dangling out from under his chin. He seems to be an oil-expert (he claims that he can "smell oil a mile away", unless it's Mario's cheap aftershave). According to him, Maz and Lui are now filthy rich, as opposed to just filthy. Oh joy. Being the limitless imbecile that he is, Mario then spends tons of money on various exorbitant luxury goods. Only he does so -before- receiving a check for his oil dough from monsieur Wrinkle-Neck. Of course, this spells disaster, but only the Mario Bros are dumb enough not to grasp that. They fantasies about all the luxury they can now afford. Mario: "we won't have to settle for second best anymore!". What, you're going to hire decent writers, Mario? All the while, they're huddled up in a cozy embrace on the couch. For those of you who actually pay attention during these live-action skits (what's the matter with you?), you'll notice there's definitely some electricity between Albano and Welsh. They're well-matched; they're both utter cretins. Boys, get a grip, you're supposed to be working here. It's bad enough having Koopa's libido running wild during the cartoon segments. Anyway, after Mario has bought himself a glittering polka-dot apron, they notice the predictable fact that their oil well has run dry overnight. A group of eery Men in Blue then barge in and rip off their priceless collection of cardboard boxes, and the wrinkly man tells them they're not getting any money. A banana-yellow kitchen mop with a climbing helmet (no idea who he's supposed to be) then pops up from the sewer and tells Luigi he has fixed a leaky oil pipe. The background music then goes missing during the "see you next time" bit. Maybe it killed itself out of shame.