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Kirby: Throwing It Right Back At Ya
A lot of people don't like the animated series Kirby was given. People seem to have that mindset that, if one likes Kirby, fans should have to like the series. The problem is, outside of the series itself, there is no foundation for such a speculation. Rather than say why the show is an inferior product, a lengthy discussion could be held on why it shouldn't even be placed on par with anything else. In fact, that's where I'm taking you now.
Video games have a sour history when it comes to expansion. Be it in the form of a television show or movie, the results are rarely favorable. Normally, it seems, the product has as much in common with a game as does the '80s cover art that accompanied these titles. It looks more like an existing piece, which sorta resembled the actual game was just associated with it or the artist had no idea what the actual title was, had a sentence or two description of it, and made something based off that.
Video games do not trek well onto the big screen. The most disastrous example of this was Super Mario Bros. and its ill-fated movie. The games follow a pair of plumbers who travel through a wide land, stomp on turtles and fungi, and save a princess. Oh, and one of them vaguely featured a dinosaur land, so, of course, that's what the movie entirely focused on. And evolution. *cough*
The Mario Bros. movie at least had a lot to do with the game series. They had Koopas and Goombas be pea-brained minions, they had human(ish) characters based on who would have been a familiar face, and had a lot of nods and homage to the games. The super jumping boots, for example. Over all, the thing didn't really feel like a Mario Bros. movie. It was more a motion picture that borrowed elements and referenced the legendary series.
I'm reminded of the Resident Evil movie, which, sadly, is being referenced not for being a video game movie. One of the motifs taken with the movie was Alice in Wonderland. Several characters and elements were inspired or in line with this classic work by Lewis Carroll. That's what the Mario movie more portrayed itself as, a film that borrowed from games more than was about them.
Truthfully, overall, I don't even think that movie was that bad. The only thing that drags it down is the alleged association with the video games. There are three things it was not, by my account: it wasn't great, it wasn't horrible, and it wasn't Super Mario Bros.
Video games just don't transfer well from one media to another, especially old ones. Typically, this is because they utterly lack plots, a plague they knew more back in the good ol' days. You didn't need one is the problem. Run through levels, collect items, kill bad guys, save targets. It was about the play, after all. Nowadays, video games seem more like movies with short segments of game play in between, but that's a rant for another day.
Let's look at some others: Street Fighter involved a counter-terrorist group who ... stopped... world... Wait, what happened to the fighting on the street? This was a really heavy embellishing as they threw all characters into the mix of one of the many story lines that intersected. It was a fighting game, however, and how true to that shallow storyline can one stick? Well, at least in Mortal Kombat it was kept a tournament for control of the universe. Take the exact plot, then fill in the details. That's a good strategy. A bad one? Double Dragon's invention of a dual drake amulet that gave power instead of using a kidnapped girlfriend. Or, as I call it, making stuff up!
What about other television shows spawned from cartridges. Well, Zelda followed the pantless Link and the made more prominent Princess Zelda as they went on adventures in Hyrule to, mostly, secure the Tri-Force. A lot of room left to wiggle in, and wiggled in fine. Mega Man had the blue bomber battle bad 'bots that Wiley would sic on the hapless city. That's... what he did. Good job. Sonic the Hedgehog, in his best of three old shows, tried to save the forest village from the ravages of Robotnik's mechanization, adding lots of new characters on top of Sonic and Tails who still fit the bill. He did save the animals, so they nicely expanded. Have a media-shift cookie.
So, not all shows wind up being bad. What do we have for Kirby, then? Well, how about he is made a mute, incompetent baby who only appears as a deus ex machina to get rid of giant problematic monsters while all focus goes on his irritating and unfit mouthpiece? ... That's what they went with.
I'll elaborate, but that sums up what they did wrong. They turned Kirby into a gun used to shoot down problems. Better yet, he's Voltron. Yes, Voltron. Five chromatic lions binding together at the end of an episode to kill a giant monster. It doesn't do anything much outside of appear and kill. It has no lines, no personality, but it's the reason you're watching the show.
What happened to Kirby? In the games, he was celebrated hero, a youth with a heart as big as his appetite who used courage and will to triumph over evil. Here, he's a halfwit toddler who doesn't even know what he's doing. Even in the mangas, Kirby is a fully capable and autonomous being. Why does he need a babysitter all the sudden?
The answer is Masahiro Sakurai, the man behind the pink puff in the first place. It's what he wanted Kirby to be. He wanted him mute, which immediately kicked him from being the protagonist of the show to the gibbering sidekick cute thing. Scooby Doo, Snarf, and countless others fill this broad and wrongly deemed necessary category, and now the hero of Pop Star was lowered to it.
Why? In Sakurai's own words, he wanted Kirby to be the next Pikachu. Hey, another video game reference! Well, rather than reaching the popularity of the yellow rodent, he just became pint-sized powerhouse who could blow away giant threats. Or... Blow in? This is what Sakurai wanted and many blindly accept his decision. Well, I don't. I see this as creator suicide.
Like many nerds, I grew up loving the Star Wars trilogy. Then, George Lucas apparently hated the fact that so many geeks and losers like his creation. So, ever so slowly, he began to ruin his masterpiece. Many people see "Episode One" as the downfall of Star Wars, but the signs were already there. Lucas began to re-work the originals with more computer graphics. They no longer possessed the charming animatronics. Other subtle little thefts began to take the character and charm out of the originals so that the sour taste of his new "vision" wouldn't make us gag so much.
Lucas liked the idea of the first three movies, and he made the original three. One set was good, one was not. All of the events were already written out and known for all the movies. It was just how they were brought into being that needed decided, and that was done in a different way. Whether it was beginners luck or a change through time, the latter made didn't live up to the latter ordered. Lucas, effectively, destroyed his own creation in the eyes of countless adoring fans. It happens, folks.
And, yes, I'm still talking about Kirby. It's all connected.
All of that, everything I mentioned prior, sums up the biting disappointment offered by "Right Back At Ya". It had nothing to do with the dubbing. It had nothing to do with the Americanization. I've lived through that with countless other Japanese imports, and, while it makes your eyes roll, it's tolerable. Kirby was handed off as a terrible product from the start. It was spitting on a pile of dirt -- it didn't and couldn't get any worse.
Kirby is the star of his games, his manga, and everything else with his cute, little face. Except, ironically, for the show called Hoshii no Kaabii, translated "The Star that is Kirby". In this, he gets second billing despite being the titular character and the reason for the show. No, he's second. Nevermind how he's fully capable in the countless games and manga. In this, he's a stupid pet to a pair of bowling pins with arms that attacks monsters. They turned Kirby into a Pokémon.
I really could go on about several misses and failures done in this animation's run: Meta Knight being inexplicably a good guy with arms, the use of a tired "born savior" gimmick, even sucking up mundane objects to get powers, Cappies being the bulk of the citizens of Pop Star, or the creation of waves of uninspired characters rather than use of in-game ones. But I don't have to. Those are just sprinkles on this crap-cake. All of these factors, all of the changes and follies, are eclipsed by one single fact:
This is not a Kirby cartoon; it is a cartoon that happens to have Kirby in it.
Kirby is just there. He isn't actively progressing the story, events, or characters in any way. All the occurrences are focused around his arrival in Dream Land, but an inanimate object could serve the same purpose. Kirby could be wiped from the entire show, and it'd be about the same. A spaceship could have just crashed and released, say, a floating, golden star. It'd had a pseudo intelligence and amazing power. Tiff pretty much called it like a Mega Zord to rebuke Rita's rampages, anyways.
How much would the series have changed if it was about a young girl who commanded a sparkling star to battle monsters? Not much, really. A greedy, nefarious emperor is a pretty basic character. Plus, Dedede had shifted to being friend not foe at this point in the games, so they didn't even really keep his character like his in-game one. Then, who's next? Meta Knight? That character was wholly changed/invented in the cartoon. They didn't even use the whole "He looks like Kirby underneath the mask", which is all he had going for him!
Nothing was really used from the games. Mirroring an enemy isn't anything new. Mega Man does that. A fat king with a whiny mollusk would in no way be associated with the proud penguin. The mysterious, wise enigma with a legendary sword who champions justice isn't anything like the Meta Knight who took Halberd out to conquer Dream Land. An ominous overlord of evil is a cliché none would pin on a character who, in all honesty, was just a Nightmare.
What would be missed? Would there be any loss if the title was just cut down to "The Star"? A small wad of clay was given to be sculpted into something. Of course, it's too small to do anything great with, so adding more clay is a given. However, this piece wasn't even worked with. It was immediately buried under a mass of earthen ideas to the point where it could have not even been there an no one would notice. Much like Super Mario Bros. movie, it's the association that drags its opinion down.
What really irks me is how much of a better job people do in a handful of minutes compared to the some two-thousand minutes the series ran in all. The five minute pilot for Kirby had him sleeping on an actual star, sucking up and spitting things out, Meta Knight fighting for evil, King Dedede working with Kirby, and a much more simplified and liked female co-star... probably since she didn't speak.
But, even aside from the official why-did-they-go-another-direction pilot, several fans go ahead and create perfectly suited animation where Kirby goes flying around Dream Land which looks not like it's just Earth along with, shock, his helpers who are established characters not made up for the piece. It's like something you might see in the mangas, which are more founded on the games, which is where Kirby came from. Hm, respecting the origin. Ain't that an unexpected twist?
What really cracks me up is that the entire animated series plays out like a bad fan fiction. If some internet author were to write the exact same thing, fans would take it down faster than Whispy Woods. Think about it. All the familiar and terrible fan elements are there. It's based on the exploits of one character but focuses more on these other, original characters who don't appear in the canon series and entirely clash with the established style. It has a different perception of who and what Kirby is. Some over-the-top plot is created that ties the simplistic Kirby to a prophecy, legend, and the main villain. 'Cuz "Luke, I am your father" is totally not overplayed. And, let's not forget the fan favorite Meta Knight. Looks like some poor, lonely fan girl just turned that character on its head, bastardizing everything he was, to turn him into... I don't even know what. He's not Meta Knight. That's for certain.
There's nothing more that can be said. Kirby is just another victim in the long line of butchering a video game franchise to churn out a buck. The part that confuses me is that, normally, fans snub these inferior versions. They are not defended, not appreciated, and are buried in the past as mistakes that we try not to think about. Why then, I beg you, is this mockery of the puffball still lauded and praised by those who claim to like Kirby? I'll repeat my words from earlier since they sum up this entire spiel so nicely:
This is not a Kirby cartoon; it is a cartoon that happens to have Kirby in it.
|Last Updated - July 31st, 2009|
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