I wrote this comic thinking of it as the introduction to a nonexistent video game called Birdo’s Quest.
Birdo is the most popular character to come out of Super Mario Bros. 2, and has appeared in over 33 Nintendo games. Not bad for a character who started out as a joke.
Birdo (Catherine, or Kyasarin), first appeared in the 1987 Famicom game Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic (“Dream Factory: Heart-Pounding Panic”).
This game was adapted into the American Super Mario Bros 2, known in Japan as Super Mario USA, and is one of the classic games for the NES. Birdo appears as a very persistent miniboss, and you’ll spend a lot of time fighting her, in different colors and guises.
The manual misidentified her as “Ostro,” and said, “He thinks he’s a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth. He’d rather be called Birdetta.”
A Japanese advertisement for Super Mario USA had a costumed actor as Birdo, portrayed as a drag queen type with a masculine voice.
In Japan, the Satellaview (or BS-X) offered unique downloadable games via satellite radio for the Super Famicom (SNES). Games would be broadcast, television-style, with voice acting. These games can no longer be played with voices as broadcast.
"BS Super Mario USA" featured voice acting for Mario and friends. We met the King and Commander of Subcon, and the cinematics put heavy emphasis on the Birdos - pink, green and red - the "Super Catherines."
The three Birdos were played by masculine-voiced Japanese drag performers, or Okama, from the transsexual cast of Shiroi Heya (“White Room”), a night club in Shinjuku, Tokyo. There was an edge of adult humor, and even Princess Peach became angry and started swearing (bleeped out) by the end of the game.
This was not the most positive portrayal for a transgender character in a video game. Birdo was a joke, and one that was considered too adult for American players after awhile. In the US Nintendo tends to say Birdo is female, period.
The official Japanese site for Mario Kart: Double Dash states “Catherine appears to be Yoshi’s girlfriend… or does that mean boyfriend!?”
The Japan-only game Captain Rainbow is full of cruel, adult humor at Birdo’s expense.
And yet, Birdo has stuck around, and remained a popular character, often teamed up romantically with Yoshi, and long since reformed from her villainous ways.
To put it simply, Super Mario fans like Birdo, and she’s not going anywhere.
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