After the animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) launched a "Mario Kills Tanooki" campaign on Monday, Super Mario 3D Land developer Nintendo responded by saying that the game's Tanooki transformation makes no statement about the real world.
Nintendo is releasing the Super Mario 3D Land platform game this month with the return of the Tanooki transformation first seen in Super Mario Bros. 3. The protagonist Mario powers up with several animal-based transformations in Super Mario 3D Land, and the Tanooki transformation draws inspiration from tanuki or Japanese racoon dogs. Tanuki have supernatural powers in Japanese mythology (and in anime such as Isao Takahata and Ghibli's Pom Poko film).
PETA's website asserts that "in real life, tanuki are raccoon dogs who are skinned alive for their fur. By wearing Tanooki, Mario is sending the message that it's OK to wear fur." PETA even launched a Flash-based Super Tanooki 2D Skin game in which a skinless Tanooki chases Mario to "reclaim his fur."
Nintendo spokesperson told the Eurogamer site that Mario's transformations "have included a frog, a penguin, a balloon and even a metallic version of himself. These lighthearted and whimsical transformations give Mario different abilities and make his games fun to play." The spokesperson added, "The different forms that Mario takes make no statement beyond the games themselves."
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