Gen Hoshino’s musical love letter to the Nintendo series is filled with fun for fans and newbies alike.

Nintendo has been pulling out all the stops for the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., with games, merchandise, and even bread appearing to salute the series’ sustained success over three and a half decades. And now, there’s even an official Super Mario Bros. 35th anniversary theme song, written, arranged, and sung by J-pop recording star Gen Hoshino.

Your first instinct might be to expect a modern pop remix of the Super Mario Bros. World 1-1 BGM overlaid with vocals from Hoshino. Instead, though, the 40-year-old Saitama Prefecture native takes a different approach. The allusions to the Nintendo franchise are subtle enough that a non-gamer could listen to the whole song, titled “Sozo” (the Japanese word for “creation”), without ever realizing that it was inspired by the adventures of a platforming plumber. Nintendo fans, on the other hand, will find plenty of nostalgia-triggering references from start to finish.

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Right off the bat, Hoshino strikes a piano key that produces the distinct sound of a Super Mario coin being picked up. More aural endorphins come in the form of the GameCube startup sound at the 0:34 mark, the Super Mario power-up pickup sound at 1:32 (accompanied by Hoshino growing bigger on-screen, naturally), a sample from the Super Mario Bros. World 1-2 “underground” background music at 2:02, a snippet of the Super Mario Bros. 3 level clear music at 2:36, and part of the Mario Kart Rainbow Road track at 2:58.

Even what at first look like random video effects turn out to be Mario Easter eggs. The above shot, for example, contains the date September 13, 1985, which is the day the very first Super Mario Bros. went on sale in Japan. Don’t blink, and later on in the video you’ll spot September 14, 2001, which was the debut date for the GameCube console and launch title Luigi’s Mansion.

Then there’re the lyrics, like when Hoshino sings “Hold the flowers and cards I’ve been dealt, and I’ll change destiny itself,” at 1:12. In Japanese, the words are “Kubarareta hana, tefuda wo nigiri, kaeru unmei wo,” making clever use of the components of the words “hanafuda,” Japan’s traditional “flower card” playing cards which were Nintendo’s primary product back in the days long before video games existed.

There are even parts where the words seem to be describing Mario and Hoshino both. “Let’s chase all the yellow magic till we count to a hundred,” work as a nod both to how Mario gets an extra life for collecting 100 golden coins and also to Hoshino’s Yellow Dancer album. When he sings “I was reborn. My billionth fresh restart” and “I returned from the brink of death. The meaning of life is to play with life itself,” he could be talking about Mario’s ability to come back after falling into a bottomless pit or being crushed by archenemy Bowser, but it also feels like an apt description for how Hoshino radiates joyful energy even after having to undergo surgery for a subarachnoid hemorrhage a few years back.

So whether you caught every single understated Mario shoutout in the video or if they all smoothly flowed right past you, there’s a lot to like here, and also a very high chance that you’ll be humming “Sozo” to yourself for the rest of the day.

Source, images: YouTube/星野源
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[ Read in Japanese ]