For a lot of fans out there, the hunkiest slice of man in the Mario universe is not the portly plumber, nor his brother Luigi, nor even their mischievous counterparts Wario and Waluigi. Nope, it’s good old Bowser.
Everyone loves a bad boy, after all, and they don’t come badder than Bowser. Or do they? After all, despite his numerous shenanigans over the course of the Mario series as a whole, one gets the distinct impression that everyone is kind of in on the joke, and that everyone is friends. Indeed, at the conclusion of Super Mario Odyssey, both Mario and Bowser have a brief bonding moment over the fact that they both managed to send poor old Peach running, fearing for her own sanity as the pair of them fight over her.
Who is Bowser?
Bowser is the recurring villain in the Super Mario series, first seen in Super Mario Bros. back in 1985 — prior to that, Mario’s nemesis was the giant ape now known as Cranky Kong.
Over the years, Bowser’s motivation for his mischief has been somewhat murky at best. One can assume that he has an interest in Princess Peach, given how frequently he kidnaps her, but at various points we have also seen him harassing the Toads, trying to take over the galaxy and kidnapping the tiny, fairy-like Sprixies.
Despite obviously having a decent amount of resources at his disposal, Bowser is always depicted as a rather incompetent villain who is very good at putting himself in perilous situations where he can easily be defeated. This has been the case ever since Super Mario Bros., where he could inevitably be found standing on the end of an easily retracted drawbridge, and can also be seen, among other places, in Super Mario 64, where he has a habit of standing on platforms with conveniently positioned bombs around the perimeter.
The fact that Bowser always joins in with the Mario gang’s other activities such as kart racing, tennis, golf and board gaming suggests that the whole thing is just a big bit of silliness, though — indeed, Super Mario Bros. 3 rather famously suggested that the whole rivalry between Mario and Bowser was just an on-stage play — and that he’s actually friends with everyone else.
Regardless of his motivations — if there even are any — Bowser is an iconic villain by this point, and I suspect he will be facing off against Mario for many more years to come.
Why we love him
Bowser has become very popular with the rise of social media and the Internet for a variety of reasons — and one which shouldn’t be discounted is the fact the “bara” community absolutely loves him.
For the uninitiated, bara is a genre of fictional media that depicts homosexual encounters between heavily stylised, typically highly sexualised men. Bara characters are usually very muscular in nature, but the definition extends to men who are simply large in some way — they have an imposing physical presence of some kind.
Bara contrasts with yaoi in that it is usually composed by gay men for gay men, while yaoi is often marketed towards women. The exact origins of the term aren’t entirely clear, but it seems that it came to prominence in Japan at some point between 1961 and 1971, which coincided in the rise in popularity of gay manga in Japan — and it gained a worldwide awareness from the ’90s onwards.
Bowser’s popularity with the bara community can be explained through a combination of his physique — which combines both muscular arms and legs with a distinctly portly body thanks to his nature as a turtle — and the fact that there is a lot of crossover between bara and furry fandoms. On top of that, he’s an expressive character with a lot of flexibility about him, making him a popular subject of fan artists.
Just be aware if you go searching for Bowser fanart that there are a fair few artists out there rather fond of depicting him as being in possession of a rather large… asset, shall we say. You have been warned… or informed.
Why you’ll love him
Bowser, like the other longstanding members of the Mario franchise, is one of the most iconic video game characters of all time. He’s been a constant presence in video gaming since the earliest days of the medium, and as such he’s instantly recognisable — and always a welcome sight.
On top of that, despite technically being a “villain”, one can’t help but like him — whether it’s his bumbling incompetence as discussed above, or his tendency towards Dad jokes seen in more dialogue-heavy entries in the Mario series as a whole. I suspect Bowser doesn’t necessarily mean to be as malicious as he might sometimes come across; he seems like the sort of person who just gets easily carried away.
Or perhaps I’m just lovestruck by big daddy Bowser. Oh well. There are worse ways to be.
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