You may not notice it, but video games are often packed with cultural references. You may not notice it because, if you’re a westerner, many of these references come from western culture, mythology and religion, and are thus so familiar to you that you don’t think anything of them, like a local accent – maybe you’re fighting Medusa heads and vampires in Castlevania titles, or maybe you’re using the down of a phoenix to resurrect an ally in a Final Fantasy game. You may also not notice it because the references you don’t catch fly completely over your head.

I find customs and myths and even foreign pop culture to be very interesting, especially when they’re new to me. It’s weirdly inspiring. Right now, it’s inspiring me to try and introduce you to some of the neat stuff I’ve come across over my many years of studying the Bomberman franchise more deeply than any rational person ought to. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some Japanese myths and pop culture that made its way into Bomberman in the form of various enemies.

1. Gamera

GamebukuShogakukan

It’s the first image in the article, and I’m already at a loss for captions.

I’m starting off with a very basic catch here. In Super Bomberman 3 for the Super Famicom, the third boss is a large turtle-shaped robot called Gamebuku (“game” means “turtle”, and “buku” means “bubbling”). It has a habit of tucking its head and limbs into its body, emitting flames from its leg-holes, and spinning in circles. To be honest, I never thought anything of this until perhaps last year, because I am generally pop-culturally inept. Then, one night, while watching Mystery Science Theater 3000, it dawned on me.

It dawned on me like an ancient terrapin ass-blasting its way over the Nippon sky.

The boss is based off of Gamera, a popular kaiju (basically a giant movie monster) who has been around since 1965. Much like Gamebuku, one of Gamera’s trademark powers is the ability to tuck his limbs into his body, emit jets of fire from the holes in its shell, and spin like a ridiculous flying saucer. It also sometimes just shoots jets from its hind legs while putting its front legs forward like a weird Superman. Gamebuku doesn’t even do this in the game, but if you take a look at its official artwork, it totally does, securing the reference. To be honest, Gamera references are probably pretty common in media over there. They’re still making them. Just last year, Final Fantasy XIV introduced a turtle boss that also uses Gamera’s spinning technique.

…What if Superman did tuck his legs into his body and shoot flames from his hips to fly? Just imagine it. It looks insane, doesn’t it? Somebody needs to draw this and link it in the comments section… Shit, I’m digressing.

2. Matango

One type looks like fungi. The other looks like a fun guy.Shogakukan

One type looks like fungi. The other looks like a fun guy.

Here’s a more obscure one. Well, the reference is obscure; the monster is actually weirdly prominent in the series. Matango is a bipedal mushroom person that generally has the power to shoot deadly spores. It first appeared in Super Bomberman 3, then went on to reappear in Super Bomberman 5, Bomberman World, Bomberman Quest, Bomberman Story, and, arguably, Neo Bomberman (the enemy is unnamed and looks and behaves somewhat differently).

Even before Super Bomberman 3, though, Super Bomberman 2 featured a secret level called “Matango Jump”, which was full of mushrooms. But the Matango monster predates even that, hailing from an earlier Hudson Soft franchise. Here’s a bit of Bomberman history: Many enemy characters in the series actually came from the Hudson Soft games Neutopia and Neutopia II, mostly from the latter. Matango is one of these enemies, and even had the same basic tactics (walking around and shooting spores at the player).

…I’m digressing again. I apologize. Sometimes I get a little too invested in this stuff.

Anyway, as it turns out, the name “Matango” is a reference to yet another 60’s Japanese monster movie. Can you guess what it’s called? Just guess. It’s called Matango. It’s about a group of people who crash their boat on an island full of weird fungus. They feel weirdly compelled to eat the fungus, and, even though they’re aware that the urge is unnaturally strong and probably wrong, they still do it (this is some OCD shit…take right here). To make a long story short, the fungus turns them all into mushroom people. Oh, the humanity.

These are probably less-than-fun guys.

Though I admittedly know little about it, Matango seems to be another source of inspiration for various other media in Japan. For instance, it’s the name of a town of mushroom people in The Secret of Mana. It’s also in other stuff with which I’m unfamiliar, because I can read Wikipedia. Yeah. I suppose I could delve into this further, but there are more interesting things to discuss, like…

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