This book is filled with silliness from page one and features Mario characters from all different Nintendo versions of the globally famous game. Author and illustrator Yukio Sawada selected some of his favorite stories from his Japanese Super Mario-kun series and put them together in this newly translated English collection, Super Mario: Manga Mania. Sawada has been creating manga since 1980, and has recently been recognized by the well-known Japanese 65th Shogakukan manga award in 2020. Manga Mania is a black and white, space travel filled graphic novel, which is read from right to left, as you would expect from manga.
This compilation is organized just as the games are, by stages instead of chapters. This is a fitting way to title them as these stories certainly do not need to be read in order. Each stage is a short story based off of a different Mario game, such as: “Paper Mario,” “Super Mario Galaxy,” “Super Mario Sunshine,” “Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time,” “Super Paper Mario,” and “New Super Mario Bros. Wii”. This collection is full of zany fantasy scenarios with every range of humor from cheesy to absolutely gross. Sawada stays true to the basic storyline given in the games themselves, and has a short description of this at the beginning of every stage so that the reader knows what the inspiration is for that particular tale. Little side notes given by Old Yukio provide some interesting background and bonus information.
Sawada does an excellent job of drawing exactly what you’d expect from a manga comic book. When characters are happy, their entire faces shine, and when they’re sad they pour tears. No dull expressions can be found anywhere. This book has jam packed pages filled with busy manga style artwork and tons of action words popping out of the page, often followed by excessive exclamation points. Many of the action words are in a made up, silly English, like “sparkl, wggl, smak, slrrp, hrrngh”, so don’t expect this to be a great title to choose to develop spelling skills. Backgrounds have little detail, instead the panels are filled with zoomed in characters so that the focus is on the dramatic facial expressions.
Don’t take any of the stories in this book seriously, instead prepare yourself for a lot of gag humor, ridiculous situations, and overdramatic characters. I think the translator, Caleb Cook has done an excellent job of navigating the differences in not only the Japanese and English languages, but cultural differences, and different styles of humor. Younger readers who enjoy reading manga and like Mario would likely enjoy this compilation. However, older readers or those who aren’t a fan of video games might find it a bit too illogical and overly silly. There are conversations in which characters are calling each other losers or dumb, and being excessively rude to each other, but I believe it’s meant to be in good fun for the reader. The author does include a parental advisory for the last chapter, which deals with the loss of a parent. However, this section is well-done and quite sentimental, it’s not inappropriate for young readers, just could be skipped if that’s a sensitive topic. Overall, if you’re looking to add a humorous manga title to your elementary library collection this one will surely get checked out.
Super Mario Manga Mania
By Yukio Sawada
Art by Yukio Sawada
Viz Media, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: 7-10
Series ISBNS and Order
Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)
Creator Highlights: Japanese
Related to…: Game to Comic