This is part of a planned series of posts analyzing, discussing and generally having fun with Super Paper Mario, my favorite Wii game. If you find it ridiculous that I am performing literary analysis on a very cheesy Mario game, you should probably ignore this.
HERE BE SPOILERS!!
And now, I present to you, the four central themes of Super Paper Mario, with their subthemes detailed underneath.
#1: The Various Powers of Love
You knew it was coming.
Love can be twisted and lead to evil, but it can also be very good
As for evil, most obviously, Blumiere’s grief over Timpani made him do evil stuff. Then, Bowser and Peach being married, partly out of Bowser’s love (or whatever you would like to call it) for Peach, resulted in the Chaos Heart. Finally, the Ancients caused various problems for themselves by going around and falling in love with everyone.
But, of course, there was also good – the example that everyone remembers is that Bleck and Tippi’s marriage at the end saved everything, but the forgotten and underused example is that Nastasia, perhaps out of love for Bleck, shielded him from Dimentio’s blow (taking it herself! sniff!) at the end and so made possible the happy ending! Then there are various other examples, like the old couple in Flipside (but which, of course, have their unhappy Flopside counterparts, which belong in the first paragraph).
If you count other sorts of love:
Francis loves hi-technicaaaal things, resulting in him kidnapping Tippi and annoying the unfortunate gamer for a whole chapter (evil)
Mimi loves money, resulting in her enslaving you to earn Rubees (evil)
King Croacus loves beautiful things, resulting in him similarly enslaving Cragnons to work in the mines (evil)
King Sammer loves entertainment, so he makes you fight lots of Sammer Guys until the end of the world interferes (sort of evil)
Squirps loved his mother and so faithfully…well, to some extent…followed her instructions (good)
Luvbi loved her parents, so she was able to reconcile with them (eventually…) before turning into a Pure Heart (good)
Love and Each Chapter’s Theme
As it turns out, you can, more or less, analyze each chapter in SPM as having its own sort of love that it focuses on. Some of these are a bit contrived (after all, to some extent, you can say every story ever written is about some sort of love – of power, of money, of praise, etc.), but others make an awful lot of sense.
Chapter 1 – Love of adventure despite lack of recognition (Bestovious, Green, Old Man Watchitt and O’Chunks all refuse to “properly” recognize Mario as the hero; Fracktail, meanwhile, recognizes Mario as the hero but is then messed up by Dimentio; Tippi recognizes Dimentio but he cuts her off before she can continue what she was going to say about him – but both Mario and Dimentio continue on their adventures without being dissuaded)
Chapter 2 – Love of money (Mimi)
Chapter 3 – Love of cool stuff (Bowser loves his cool castle that he has to leave behind to join the heroes; Francis obviously loves a lot of stuff that he thinks is cool, including Tippi, which fuels the plot)
Chapter 4 – Love of family (Squirps, who loves his mother, pesters/helps you the whole chapter; Mr. L – at least if you think he’s Luigi – flaunts his love of his brother to attack the heroes)
Chapter 5 – Love of things (the Cragnons love all the various modern things they have, which produce a lot of trash, which they then throw into the river, causing trouble; King Croacus loves BEAUTIFUL THINGS and enslaves Cragnons to produce more)
Chapter 6 – The foiling of love (Mario and co., with a sort of love for the world and the people in it, are foiled when it’s destroyed; Count Bleck has a great speech relating to his losing Timpani)
Chapter 7 – Fleeting love and true love (Luvbi teases Tippi the whole chapter about having a crush on Mario, which she perhaps does, but it’s not mentioned any more after this chapter, making it fleeting at best; at the end, Queen Jaydes and Grambi show how they have true love for Luvbi)
Chapter 8 – The triumph and power of love (Do I even need to give proof?)
And now for the next subtheme of “The Various Powers of Love”…
Love conquers all
The Pure Hearts regenerated three times – once when the other three heroes arrived; once when Bleck’s minions expressed their devotion to him; and finally when Bleck and Tippi married at the end. Those are some Pure Hearts. Then you could also attribute Luvbi’s unexplained reapperance after the ending to the all-conquering power of love. And, of course, it’s quite impressive that both Timpani and Blumiere managed to stay alive and find each other again.
#2: People can be more than they seem
(Or, rather, intelligent beings can be more than they seem, since the actual humanity of some of these characters could be disputed.)
Tippi, Bleck and Dimentio all had secret motives, backstories, etc. that one might not expect at first. Nastasia, too, seems pretty evil at first, but she becomes sympathetic, even tragic later on. And then you have Luigi. Even if you don’t believe that Mr. L is Luigi, you must admit – who knew that Luigi had it in him to be part of the final boss, Super Dimentio? Especially since Luigi is so timid at the beginning of SPM! Peach’s personality is also a bit surprising if you’re used to her Mario Bros./Mario Galaxy/etc. version. Finally, there are several minor characters that have more to them than you might think at first – Squirps turned out to be a prince; Luvbi turned out to be a Pure Heart.
#3: Light and dark must come together to make a complete whole
(Note that good and evil is sometimes personified as light and dark.)
The Light and Dark Progonistici (What am I supposed to call them? Prognosticuses? Prognostici sounds much better!) together revealed at least most of what was going to happen; alone, they would have been even more incomplete. Also, both Flipside (light) and Flopside (dark) were needed to find all the Heart Pillars, etc. And, at the end, you had the crowning Dramatic Coming Together of Light and Dark when Tippi (light) and Bleck (dark) got married – alone, the world wouldn’t have been able to be saved.
#4: Never give up hope
Just look at Blumiere, who gave up hope of finding Timpani or ever being happy again, and what HE ended up trying to do! And later on, he realizes that Timpani is alive – in the form of Tippi – but he’s given up hope of stopping the Dark Prognosticus’s prophecy, and perhaps has also given up hope of her ever caring about him again, so he does nothing. (One could also argue that he had become evil and so didn’t care anymore, but that doesn’t support my theory, so I’m ignoring it.) Then, the Light Prognosticus reminded the heroes to never give up hope. I quote: “Only those who have not abandoned hope can turn back the prophecy of doom. They walk forward into the future, no matter how dark and uncertain it may be.” Ah. How poignant. And, of course, the Ancients, like good fictional characters, never gave up on the power of love. Additionally…
Prophecies, curses and the like aren’t final, so don’t give up hope because of them
Remember Tippi’s little speech at the ending to a defeated Dimentio? Including this bit: “Nothing is decided entirely by fate, you know… All things determine their destinies.” Therefore, never give up because of fate! Also, we are told during the prologue that “no person, after obtaining this amazing book, ever found happiness.” Despite this, the ending very strongly implies that Bleck – who had obviously obtained the Dark Prognosticus – was happy. Apparently, the curse of the Dark Prog was not final. (Now, you can go for the loophole and argue that only people who got the Dark Prog were the ones who could never find happiness, and Bleck was from the Tribe of Darkness, and so he wasn’t a person, exactly – but again, this doesn’t support my theory, so I’m ignoring it. And there is another way out that is detailed in the Awesome Nastasia Theory, which I hope to post soon, but still, I’m handwaving it at the moment for the purpose of discussion.) And, of course, the Dark Prognosticus turned out to be false, so Bleck shouldn’t have given up on being able to stop the dark prophecy.
#5: Withholding information is dangerous!
Particularly if you do so using ambiguous language. After all, Blumiere’s father implied that he had killed Timpani, and then got destroyed and nearly caused the demolition of the universe because of it! If he had just said that he had cursed her to wander dimensions forever, Blumiere might not have been as annoyed. Additionally, the Prognostici had ambiguous language, which caused some confusion. (Though the confusion was partly due to the intelligence of the people trying to interpret the prophecies – “the ‘man in green’…I know not what this means… I must return to my study to solve this conundrum…” SUCH a conundrum!) Finally, near the end of the game, Tippi withheld from Merlon and the heroes what she was remembering about Count Bleck. If she had told them, perhaps they could have come up with a better strategy for the Final Showdown than just fighting him.
(Admittedly, this theme is a bit of a stretch.)