Seiyuu Spotlight: Mario desu.

Before I actually write this article, I’ll apologize in advance for all the YouTube videos being down (or mostly so). This is due to circumstances beyond my control which I’ve discussed on my Twitter. I’ll work on resolving it sooner or later.

In the meantime, this article will not be using my own uploads to avoid this issue. Thankfully it doesn’t need to!

Today I’d like to write a little bit about Toru Furuya, in regard to his history as the Japanese voice of Mario. I decided to write this after I noticed that one particular Japanese tweeter found the 30-second Satellaview ad and was actually shocked to hear Mario speaking Japanese.

… Has it really been that long? Has Mario been Charles Martinet for so long that we have a whole generation of people who never knew Mario had a Japanese voice actor? It’s very, very strange, from my perspective.

Toru Furuya’s been the voice of Mario in Japan for as far back as it was apparent that Mario was going to be Nintendo’s “Big thing”. Although I can’t tell exactly when this started, it became most apparent when the Super Mario Brothers anime movie, “Super Mario Bros.: Peach-hime Kyushustu Daisakusen!” was being promoted. Not only is Toru Mario’s voice in this anime, but various cross-media advertising featured him as well:

If you’ve been paying attention to these voices in the advertising, you may have noticed that ONLY Mario’s is familiar. Indeed, between productions of various Mario products the voices of Peach, Bowser, and various other characters changed, but Mario was almost always Toru Furuya.

Among some other spotlights for showcasing Toru Furuya as Mario is the Amada series, the Mario fire safety anime (clean rip pending), the Terebikko video “Mario to Yoshi no Bouken Land” (clean rip pending), and… um… I think the Super Famicom launch CM also had him singing, although I’m not too sure if that’s correct. Not so sure on the Mario Paint ad, but…

Ah, I’m overthinking this, huh?

Anyway, one particular thing to think about here is how the Satellaview highlights the transition between Nintendo using Toru Furuya in Japan, and switching to international voice-acting only in the following gen for the Super Mario series.

For reference, Toru Furuya is credited in BS Super Mario USA, Excitebike: Bunbun Mario Battle, and BS Super Mario Collection.
Interestingly enough, Charles Martinet’s Mario can clearly be heard in-game on Excitebike, but is uncredited.

As far as I can check, BS Super Mario Collection may very well be Toru Furuya’s last performance as Mario. Of course, I’m open for cross-checking facts here. But either way, it’s very strange, from my perspective. Toru Furuya is a very notable voice talent in Japan (if you’re not already familiar with his seiyuu history, check out his Wikipedia article), and it’s quite apparent he was placed as Mario for the sake of star power. Why did Nintendo stop using him entirely, I wonder? I would have thought Charles Martinet would have been alienating to the Japanese – heck, Charles Martinet was quite different from Lou Albano, who I grew up with as a Mario voice. (And Toru’s Mario has more relation to Lou Albano’s than Charles Marinet’s, for sure.)

Of course, ditching Toru Furuya wasn’t the only thing Nintendo did regarding Japanese seiyuu post-Satellaview. In general, their use was massively downscaled for mutliple console gens afterward. Zelda hasn’t had anything like the BS Zeldas since, and Fire Emblem games, while less impacted, have yet to have a whole narrative play out entirely voice-acted the way the BS Fire Emblem games had. Bizarrely enough, Nintendo tends to be a bit more willing to use seiyuu in games that didn’t have Satellaview releases, like Star Fox and Kid Icarus, but even then these games only come once every few years.

I do wonder what happened. Did the Satellaview sour Nintendo’s views on voice acting in a video game? Or was it something else?
Based on what I’ve read up on for the reasons Nintendo wanted to discontinue Satellaview’s support, the service bled them a lot of money.
Was dealing with the seiyuu a part of this?
Are seiyuu contracts getting in the way of rereleasing Satellaview games under the Virtual Console service?

This subject in particular… it’s the real dirty side of the Satellaview, isn’t it? Yet I feel like I need to figure out these answers sometime. When I ponder the scenario, I realize that whatever happened with the Satellaview influenced Nintendo’s approach to videogames to this date. There are many people that wonder why Nintendo doesn’t do such-n-such, and voice acting is a notable example here…. and I have every reason to think the Satellaview holds the answer, especially as it was the exception to the rule.

Discussion will be welcome. Feel free to comment.

1 Comment »

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