Every so often, you’re fortunate enough to witness a cultural phenomenon occur in real time. And it can be a surreal experience.
Such was the case with the meteoric rise to popularity of the character who has become known by several names over the last few days, be it “Bowsette”, “Koopa-hime”, “Princess Bowser” or any variation thereof.
This is a phenomenon that demands some exploration! If only for a tailor-made excuse to look at some sexy fanart.
Header art by Pomu (Pixiv). Please support the many wonderful artists who have brought this meme to life, and check out Kenji’s awesome Twitter thread for many more pieces of artwork, complete with original sources!
Most people on the Internet are probably familiar with “Rule 34” by now, which states in no uncertain terms that “there is porn of it, no exceptions”. But a somewhat lesser-known (or less frequently cited, anyway) rule that is nonetheless followed fairly religiously is “Rule 63”, which states “for every male character, there is a female version, no exceptions”.
It’s not at all uncommon to see genderbent artwork of popular characters going in both “directions”; what is somewhat less common is the creator or owner of a character seemingly providing a ready-made excuse for Rule 63 to be implemented without any difficulty at all. But that’s what happened with Nintendo.
For the unfamiliar, Nintendo recently announced that Wii U platformer New Super Mario Bros. U would be getting a “Deluxe” release on Switch, featuring some new content. Among that new content was the ability to play as female Mushroom Kingdom inhabitant (and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker co-star) Toadette. And alongside Toadette came a brand new power-up: the Super Crown. This item, seemingly exclusive to Toadette, allows her to transform into a version of Peach named Peachette.
Hmm, thought Malaysian artist and Twitter user “haniwa”, also known as “ayyk92” on September 19, 2018. What might that mean for other characters? Well…
The original image is a reference to Super Mario Odyssey’s ending, in which Peach rejects both Bowser and Mario’s proposals of marriage, leaving the pair of them to bond in their misery despite having spent the entirety of the game at each other’s throats. If the Super Crown allows Toadette to “Peachify” herself, figures Bowser, surely it would work for him, too. And sure enough… well, you can see the results above. Both Mario and Bowser seem to be very satisfied with the outcome.
The comic strip exploded in popularity almost immediately, with haniwa being bombarded with notifications for Likes and Retweets on Twitter. They went from an account with 78 followers to one with well over a thousand in under a day… and at the time of writing, this figure has grown to more than 53,800.
Bowsette’s appeal is obvious. She takes the best qualities of Princess Peach, completely abandons that character’s wholesomeness and dials up the sexiness to 11. The fact that she conforms rather nicely to a number of popular memes relating to female characters, including “big tiddy goth gf”, “ｔｈｉｃｃ” and, of course, Rule 63 itself, also helps — as did the fact that Bowser in his original form was already a popular character to be depicted in pornographic material among the gay and furry communities. Now everyone, regardless of orientation, could enjoy Bowser in one form or another.
There’s an appealing element of “corrupting” something pure in there, too; although Bowser is a recurring bad guy in the Super Mario series, he’s still a Nintendo character and thus is never depicted doing anything really that evil. He’s even shown playing alongside Mario and friends in a non-antagonistic way in numerous spin-off Mario games, and so he’s had a “wholesome” element for a long time. Bowsette’s up-front sexual aggressiveness as depicted in fanart represents a significant corruption of that wholesomeness, and that is, it turns out, something that a lot of people are into.
Haniwa was understandably overwhelmed by their sudden rise to prominence over what they likely thought was just a silly piece of fanart when they first posted it. But they’ve remained humble and good-natured about the whole thing ever since, encouraging fellow artists and thanking them for their many and varied takes on the character — even going so far as to draw their own versions of variations other people have come up with since.
Probably the most remarkable thing about all this is how strongly Japanese artists have responded to the situation — and how they’ve taken the time to engage with and encourage haniwa after they expressed a certain amount of understandable fear over the situation in which they appeared to have found themselves!
This particular tweet is rather telling; it notes that “the appearance of Princess Bowser is what many Japanese people like”, before going on to list a series of characteristics that I’m sure many of us here have seen and enjoyed in game, anime and manga character designs over the years, especially those that specifically involve monster girls. In fact, so popular was “Princess Bowser” in Japan that it spawned its own Japanese-language hashtag — #クッパ姫 (kuppa-hime, literally “princess Koopa”) — that was the number-one trend in the region on Twitter for a brief period.
As this Twitter user notes rather charmingly…
I think I have something in my eye.
Interestingly, Nintendo’s stock price showed a sharp increase around the same time Bowsette was blowing up online — though said increase most likely cannot be attributed exclusively to a fanart phenomenon, particularly as the rise actually started a day or two before the original Twitter post.
That same weekend also saw the launch of the long-awaited (and much-discussed) Nintendo Switch Online service as well as revelations from porn star Stormy Daniels’ book in which she compared American president Donald Trump’s penis to “the mushroom character in Mario Kart” — which, of course, the mainstream media, ever hungry for any opportunity to bash Trump, decided to jump all over, causing both “Toad” and “Mario Kart” to trend on Twitter for all the wrong reasons.
Beyond this, the success of Bowsette also spawned a number of other Super Crown-related fanart memes, with by far the most popular being the ghostly #キングテレサ姫 (kingu teresa-hime, the Japanese name for “Princess King Boo”). Like Bowsette, Princess Boo (or whatever you want to call her) took many of her source material’s most recognisable characteristics and reimagined them in the form of a cute girl. As you can probably imagine, both “incredibly shy” and “terrifying ghost” lend themselves rather well to anime-style fanart.
This weekend of adorable nonsense has made the Internet and social media a genuine pleasure to be part of for once; as many people pointed out, the sheer volume of fanart and the popularity of the characters the whole meme spawned almost completely drowned out the obnoxious, overbearing sociopolitical discourse that has dominated Twitter in particular over the course of the last few years. It’ll fade with time and we’ll be back to the usual pointless raging at nothing, of course — but those of us who were there to see all this happen will always have fond memories of the joyous, magical moment that was the birth of Bowsette.
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