How Toad’s Name and Gender Occasionally Caused Confusion for Japanese Fans

16 Comments

Greg recently sent in some more questions about Toad from the Super Mario Bros. series:

There’s something about the Super Mario series that I’ve been wondering about for a while now, and I was hoping that you might be able to help. For most English-speaking Mario fans, it’s common knowledge that Toad is both the name of an individual character and the name of an entire species.

I never thought too much about this until a few months back, when I realised that most of Toad the Individual’s early major appearances were from American sources, like the Saturday morning cartoon or the Super Mario Bros. 2 version of Doki Doki Panic. When I thought about it more, I realised that almost all of his other video game appearances, at least that I can remember, could just as easily be filled by a nameless Toad without anyone noticing. The only exception I can think of is Super Mario RPG, where only one of the Toads is identified as “Toad” in his dialogue box, but I’m not sure if that was in the Japanese version.

So, my question is: In Japan, is the name Kinopio associated with both a recurring individual and a species, or is it just the name of a species? In other words, does the Toad that we all know and love even exist in Japan?

You know, this is something I’ve wondered about too. Growing up as a kid in America, I always got the impression that Toad was a single character thanks to the American cartoon series, our version of Super Mario Bros. 2, and other such things. But once I learned Japanese and started playing various Japanese Mario games, I found myself confused.

Hey don't tell anyone but almost every image on this site has secret textHey don't tell anyone but almost every image on this site has secret text

Anyway, I’m actually not an ultra-expert on the Super Mario Bros. series or anything, but after a little bit of research here’s what info I can provide:

  • The name “Toad” is indeed “Kinopio” in the Japanese releases, as I’ve already covered in past articles and in my Super Mario Bros. localization analysis.
  • Japanese sites indicate that “Kinopio” doesn’t refer to just one person, but a group of people. (example 1, example 2)
  • Kinopio characters in most games do appear to be generic ol’ characters. I guess it’s kind of like how there’s not a singular Koopa Troopa character, but Mario games often have one as a playable character.
  • Super Mario RPG does seem to be the only exception I can find to this for now – there seems to be a character by the name of “Kinopio” who you see regularly throughout the game. But it’s been a long time since I played the English version and I don’t think I’ve played the Japanese version more than a few minutes, so maybe there’s more to that than I remember.

So I think for the most part you can assume that, yeah, Japanese fans view “Kinopio” as a group rather than an individual character. It’s interesting how this viewpoint is such a strong topic of discussion for people outside of Japan. I wonder why that is.

Incidentally, while doing some quick research for this, I did discover a few things of interest.

First, there’s apparently a secret code in the Japanese version of Super Mario RPG that was meant to tease players. It was even printed in some strategy guides, so I imagine it ended up as one of those schoolyard rumors that turned out to be true. Here’s a video I took of it:

Basically, if you do the code, Kinopio shows up and trolls the player a little bit.

The code is:

Go to the menu screen and then press: DOWN, UP, RIGHT, LEFT, SELECT, START, SELECT, START, B

And the resulting text says:

Secret code found!

Now, let’s take a look at your Status.

………Wow!

Nothing’s changed at all.

But, what about your experience points……

Nope, nothing’s changed.

There’s no point in looking for other codes,

and the result will always be the same.

I’ll play with you as many times as you like, though……

Secret Code END

I seem to recall hearing about this recently on ROM hacking boards, actually. This code doesn’t work in the English version, but it’s possible the code combination was changed. If anyone has more details, let me know.

More interesting than that, though, is that apparently Kinopios were originally meant to be the princess’ handmaidens – meaning Kinopios were meant to be girls originally! This is most clearly brought up in the Super Mario anime:

My first thought was to say, “Whatever, that’s just a cartoon movie, it doesn’t apply to anything.” But then I realized that the American cartoon series was pretty influential for fans. So I guess you can take it however you like, but at the very least it seems that a number of Japanese fans fondly remember Kinopios as being girls and wonder at what point they became guys.

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16 Comments
  1. That last part about them being girls immediately reminded me of the character Toadette. What’s she called in Japanese?

    Reply
    1. It’s “Kinopiko”.

      Reply
  2. Also maybe worth noting: “Kinopio” is a play on words, combining “kinoko” (mushroom) and “pinokio” (the Japanese rendering of “Pinocchio”).

    well

    at least I thought it was pretty clever

    Reply
  3. A “handmaiden” is potentially equivalent to a “retainer;” the word “retainer” usually has a military connotation, but it isn’t necessary. So it’s possible that this is what was meant by “Mushroom Retainer” in the first place, and it’s not just an anime connection.

    Reply
  4. I’ve always been under the impression that this Toad situation (also applies to Yoshi/Birdo/Kamek) is similar to Pokemon, in that the name applies both to a specific character, AND to the group. It’s the same way “Pikachu”, for example, can either refer to Ash’s buddy, or just it could refer to any ol’ electric mouse.

    Of course, I can’t read the Japanese fansites, so I’ll have to take your word for it.

    Reply
  5. Hi, I’m the one who sent the question about the NSMB series Toads. Thank you so much for taking a look into this! I’ve seriously wondered for years now if Toad the Individual ever really existed. I hope you can dig up a more definitive answer sometime in the not-too-distant future! 🙂

    Reply
  6. Isn’t Bowser/Koopa also female in the anime?

    Reply
    1. As far as I know, he’s only voiced by a woman. It doesn’t mean he’s actually female.

      Reply
      1. It’s common for male characters to be voiced by female voice actors. Most of the time it’s younger-looking characters that get this, but it’s not exclusively them.

        Reply
  7. In-game Toads wear vests and white pants/shorts/somethings, with no shirts underneath their vests. Games that feature Toad costumes for Miis, such as Nintendo Land and the Mario & Sonic Olympic series, change the costumes to add white shirts or change the pants into overalls to make the costumes wearable for everyone.

    Though I would very much like to live in a world where males are prohibited from being shirtless just like females (in the interest of reducing double standards), I wish to point this fact out and state that I have a hard time believing that Peach’s retainers were meant to all be female. Even in Japan, by turning on Super Mario Bros. and looking closely at the Toad sprite, it should be obvious that the Toads wear the outfit described above.

    They also wear that outfit in official artwork (look to the left of Peach and Mario):

    http://legendsoflocalization.com/media/super-mario-bros/misc/evil-mario.jpg

    Does Toad look feminine in any way in that artwork?

    Reply
    1. Oh wait, that artwork is American, I think.

      The Japanese boxart has Toads on it:

      http://legendsoflocalization.com/media/super-mario-bros/intro/boxart.jpg

      Reply
      1. Yeah, I’m still a little skeptical too, although at the very least the anime led a number of Japanese fans to think that Kinopios were originally girls, very similar to how the American cartoon led us to believe Toad was one guy.

        From what little I can gather from Japanese sites/message boards it sounds like the Kinopios were originally meant to be girls, but that’s clearly not the case from the artwork. So I’d probably chalk it up to being influenced by the anime. Unless maybe the topic’s come up in old Japanese magazines or guides or something, but that’s a big “if”.

        I guess maybe the moral of the story for me and others should be “don’t treat animated stuff as canon” 😛

        Reply
        1. Next you’ll be telling me the Super Mario Bros. movie isn’t canon.

          Reply
          1. …D-d-don’t joke about that. Dennis Hopper is best King Koopa. (May the former rest in peace, of course!)

            Reply
            1. And the latter rest in pumice?

              Reply
  8. First thought regarding Super Mario RPG (which I haven’t played, so not many others to override this) was Dragon Quest V (which…I’ve also not played enough). I highly doubt that you can give a right name the the recruited monsters who fight alongside you, rather they just being a cut of their kind’s cloth. I’d like to say that the AMERCAN (or other Western nationality) problem with Toad’s Japanese incarnation is that Toad is a rightly intelligent being. Maybe there’s some carryover from the uneasiness of considering slavery, but even in general, intelligent beings aren’t “some animal”, they are a person. However, these Kinopio seem to regard themselves as a people, taking their identity as what they are rather than the Western mentality of who we are. Or somesuch. May be talkin’ out my cap. Point is, two generi-Toads as your co-op buddies is a far cry from Super Mario Bros. 2.

    Reply

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