Freezair asked a while back about the Watt character from the original Paper Mario game for the Nintendo 64:
So! First question. It’s about the original Paper Mario! In that game, there’s a partner character named Watt. According to the manual, the official strategy guide, and some dialogue in the game, Watt is female. However, when you use a Super Block to power her up, it refers to her as male!
Similarly, in Super Paper Mario, you can get a special rare card with Watt on it that also calls her male! So my question is, what was she like in Japanese? Was she definitely female there, or more gender ambiguous, and the NoA translators decided to go with female? But mess up? And why does it come back in SPM?
If you could be like Watt, and shed some light on the situation (see what I did there?), that’d be great!
I love me some Paper Mario, so let’s get investigating!
First, in Paper Mario, Watt is a baby… thing that lights up dark areas and can use electric attacks:
In Japanese, this character’s name is “Akarin”, which is a play on words with “akari” (light) and possibly “akachan” (baby), not to mention just having a cute sounding name thanks to the “rin” at the end like that.
Okay, so what gender is this character? Usually this is obvious just by looking at the Japanese speech style… but in this case, the character speaks in an extreme baby-like way in Japanese, which sort of obscures the gender aspect. Part of this speech style in Japanese is that “s” sounds or “sh” sounds generally become “ch” sounds, so things like “desu” becomes “dechu”, to give one example.
With that in mind, I scoured the Japanese script to the best of my ability and couldn’t turn up anything 100% definitive about Akarin’s gender. This is partly due to the baby talk overshadowing everything else, and also because a common part of Japanese baby talk/cute talk is that first-person pronouns like “I” or “me” are usually replaced with the character’s name.
Digging a little deeper, though, I was able to find that the official Japanese site has Akarin using “atachi” as a first-person pronoun. By itself this highly suggests that Akarin is female, especially given that “atachi” in baby talk would equal “atashi” in normal talk, which is unquestionably a female first-person pronoun.
Indeed, Japanese fan sites and even the Japanese Wikipedia article writers seem to reach the same conclusion as I have – that the use of this “atachi” pronoun makes it most likely that Akarin is a girl.
For reference, the key text there says:
Because of the “atachi” first-person pronoun, Akarin is believed to be a girl.
So it’s not set in stone, but what few signs there are point to Akarin/Watt being a girl.
What’s the deal with Watt’s gender in translation though? For the Nintendo 64 version, there are a couple of things at play:
- First, as the Japanese script doesn’t make Watt’s gender 100% clear, this might’ve tripped up the translators a bit. But given that the translators obviously had access to the creators and other internal resources, most of Paper Mario’s text DOES call Watt a girl:
Mario Story Paper Mario
- However, someone on the translation team dropped the ball, as there’s non-main script text that instead refers to Watt as a he:
Mario Story Paper Mario
When Super Paper Mario came out much later, the translators accidentally made a gender goof too:
|Super Paper Mario (Japanese)
|Super Paper Mario (English)
Here’s this Super Paper Mario text side-by-side:
|Japanese Version (basic translation)
|One of Mario’s allies that appeared in “Mario Story”.
|This is Mario’s good buddy Watt from Paper Mario.
|Very smart, despite being a baby. Was able to brightly light up the darkness.
|This guy was pretty bright for his age!
As we can see, the original Japanese text here made no mention of gender, but to make things flow more naturally, the translators assigned a gender to Watt. I don’t know if they lacked old documentation for Akarin/Watt or if they just decided to take a 50-50 chance at whatever Watt’s gender was. But the end result was that Watt’s gender was put into further confusion for fans.
Hopefully that helps clear some of the mystery up at least a little bit!
And don’t worry – I know the next question on everyone’s mind is about a certain shady character from Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door:
I’ve been hard at working compiling info and gathering images and videos for a really thorough and authoritative article, so look forward to that!