I’m Not the Only One Seeing the Mario Movie/’One Piece’ Floating Castle Connection, Right?
Castle in the sky—but not THAT one.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie has been under a fair amount of scrutiny ahead of its release, whether fairly or unfairly so—mostly on the Chris Pratt point. When you’re adapting a beloved, multigenerational franchise, the nitpicks are inevitable, and while I personally do have my nitpicks, I’m actually on board overall. Give me the weirdly sexy Jack Black Bowser, the Full Girlboss Peach, and the Keegan Michael-Key Toad, please. I am nervous but mostly excited to watch them.
I tell you all this so that you know I’m not coming from a nitpicky, “assuming the worst” place, but rather a place of genuine confusion and bemusement, when I say that Bowser’s Castle in the Super Mario Bros. Movie trailers reminds me a hell of a lot of Onigashima in One Piece.
Let me explain. I noticed something in the extended trailer for The Super Mario Bros. Movie that was shown at the Super Bowl. We’ve seen Bowser’s Castle in previous trailers, but there’s a shot of Bowser’s Castle, which sits on an uprooted chunk of land, floating ominously towards the Mushroom Kingdom. And if you’ve read or watched the recent (or current to the anime) Raid on Onigashima arc from One Piece, that sight might be more than a little familiar to you.
Given the ever-increasing popularity of One Piece as it continues to take over the world (muahahaha), that comparison is going to be hard to ignore. Is it a coincidence? Who borrowed from whom? Or did both borrow from the best Mario games in the whole dang IP?
The One Piece context
RIGHT? It’s not just me seeing this, right?!
In the Raid on Onigashima arc, the primary antagonist, Kaido “King of Beasts,” announces the “New Onigashima Project.” This Project entails Kaido using his powers to lift the entire island that houses his castle into the sky. The aim is to plop Onigashima right on top of neighboring Wano’s Flower Capital, killing untold scores of civilians and establishing a new era of rule in Wano.
Onigashima is not yet close enough to the Flower Capital in the anime to give you an exactly equivalent shot to the Super Mario Bros. Movie, but the manga has something of the sort.
Now, to talk real-world timeline. In the manga, Kaido lifted Onigashima into the sky in the summer of 2020. The Super Mario Bros. Movie was announced in 2018. According to Wikipedia, at Illumination Entertainment, “production was underway by 2020.” Surely, prior to 2020, the plot of the film was already laid out, but if production was in early enough stages in 2020, it’s not out of the question that someone at Illumination was reading One Piece and decided to borrow the imagery of Onigashima floating in the sky.
The rich history of floating castles in Mario
On the other hand, the Mario games predated Kaido in One Piece, and you can’t deny Kaido’s castle looks like Bowser’s. The Illumination film stays true to classic versions of Bowser’s Castle. There are multiple versions throughout Mario game history, but the most famous version—and the one in both the film and the amusement park—involves Bowser’s face enshrined in stone, ideally illuminated by fire. Kaido’s castle is a big ol’ skull with horns. There’s a similarity.
There are also quite a few Mario games where Bowser lifts his castle into the sky. Many are hybrid airship/castle situations. Also, most of them are from Paper Mario games, meaning they come from the best iteration of Mario. (Yeah, I said it.) But there are two where Bowser rips his castle from the land, Kaido-style: Paper Mario: Color Splash (2016) for the Wii U, and Paper Mario: Sticker Star for the 3DS (2012). These versions of Bowser’s Castle look a lot like the one in The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
So … that’s probably where Illumination got theirs from.
So, is the similarity anything? Did you just waste my freaking time?
Well, “ominous floating castle” is definitely a trope. Neither One Piece nor any iteration of the Mario franchise, film or game, will be the last to do it.
Still, the stylistic similarities are striking. I think it’s highly possible that Eiichiro Oda, One Piece’s mangaka, was inspired by Bowser’s Castle from the Mario games. Obviously, so was Illumination. Still, it’s quite possible Onigashima became one of many references for Bowser’s Castle as the film was in production. Someone on Illumination’s team knows about The New Onigashima Project.
So, did I waste your time? Um … maybe? But to the people on the internet who will inevitably say, “The Mario movie stole from One Piece!” in the coming months, you can now confidently say, “Nah, dude, they both stole from Paper Mario.” Probably.
(featured image: Universal Pictures)
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