Amazing meatball: Inugami Korone on Super Mario Bros.
What a virtual dog god can do for our perspective on classic games
It’s highly likely you’ve seen this phenomenon already. Virtual YouTubers. Vtubers. Anime characters facerigged to performers, streaming games online for a seemingly boundless audience. One of those culture things that it’s quite easy to dismiss. I was tempted to do so, as well, before Inugami Korone.
I don’t actually remember how I first encountered her. It was a video of her playing Doom 64, her little dog-god (hence inu-gami) avatar smiling away in the corner as she discovered and equipped the chainsaw. Shrieking with delight (“chainsaw woooow!!”), she rent her opponents into chunk salsa, squeals of joy giving way to a boastful “kakatte koi” and battle cries worthy of a rampaging Viking.
And that was it, really. I was charmed by this bizarre juxtaposition of cutesy Japanese aesthetics with Western ultraviolence. Korone’s bizarre catchphrase of “yubi yubi”, a call for the viewer to cut off their yubis (fingers) and send them to her. The macabre meeting the moe is not exactly a fresh concept, but Korone’s humour and timing really elevates proceedings.
What does this have to do with retrogaming? Korone broadcasts in Japanese, but has recently done a couple of “English only” streams in order to appeal to her growing overseas fanbase. Both times she has tackled the original Super Mario Bros. one of the most familiar games on the planet. And each stream, as she described her experience in a non-native language, was an utter delight.
It sounds almost exploitative, having a big laugh at “Engrish”. Borderline, well, racist. But it wasn’t like that. To hear this game that is utterly imprinted on my brain approached from a completely different angle was (and still is) a joy, and a fountain of creativity. With Korone’s limited English, every encounter became a new delight. Familiar and completely iconic scenarios that are almost household names became unusual, disconnected pop culture nods; Lakitu, by virtue of his “death from above” style, became christened Independence Day. Buzzy Beetle became Olive Boy. The stacked Hammer Bros. became, quite simply, Big Family. These things that we all take for granted, like the fire bars in the swimming section of 8-4, are finally called into question – water in the fire! Why!? You have to admit it’s a valid query.
The first stream came to a sadly abrupt end when Korone spawned a mushroom and excitedly exclaimed “ah! Kinoko!” before realising she had violated her “No Japanese” rule and morosely ending the proceedings. The second went off without a hitch, demonstrating her improved English skill as well as better playing of the game itself, an experience that transformed the way I look at Super Mario Bros. I won’t be able to see a Buzzy Beetle shell ricochet between multiple pipes without chastising it with “Olive Boy, calm down”.
I’m not generally a fan of “Let’s Plays” for reasons I won’t bore you with – mostly that they’re often just witless babbling. And, you know, there’s an argument that some of the “Korone noises” aren’t much better than that. But, in reality, they are much better than that, and people who say otherwise are wrong and disgusting. To hear Korone go into a shrieking panic as she chain-stomps a trio of Goombas, announcing “NO NO NO THREE BROTHERS” is, quite simply, something you won’t have heard anywhere else. I value this perspective. All hail Dog God Korone. Yubi yubi. X-Potato. etc.