On November 14, 2011, coinciding with Nintendo’s launch of Super Mario 3D Land, PETA released a spoof Flash game called Super Tanooki Skin 2D as part of their “Mario Kills Tanooki” publicity campaign. According to PETA, “Tanooki may be just a ‘suit’ in Mario games, but in real life, tanuki are raccoon dogs who are skinned alive for their fur.” In the PETA game, a skinned tanuki chases a blood-soaked Tanooki Mario to reclaim his fur.
PETA’s incendiary politics (and its inhumane 90+ percent kill rate of stray cats and dogs) aside, I enjoyed their 8-bit Tanooki game. Mario’s Tanooki Suit, which resembles a tanuki and gives him shapeshifting powers, first appeared in Super Mario Bros. 3 in 1990. In ancient Japanese folklore and popular culture (see Pom Poko), raccoon dogs are mischievous masters of disguise. My favorite tanuki is my part-Siamese cat Tanuki.