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The Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter Character That Only Appeared In The Japanese Release

The heroes of the Marvel and Capcom universes have faced off in numerous video games over the years. While these two franchises might once have seemed like a strange pairing, their crossovers have since become a well-established staple of the fighting game genre. It's a common sight to walk into an arcade and see Wolverine bearing his adamantium claws at M. Bison, Spider-Man slinging webs at Zangief, or Ryo launching a Hadouken at Magneto. This has led to some pretty interesting pairings, and a few new characters have been added to the games as they have continued to evolve, but there is at least one character who was present in the Japanese version of the 1997 game "Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter" that hasn't made it to Western audiences: Norimaro.

Many fans of the game's international release may have never even heard of Norimaro. He wasn't originally part of the Marvel or "Street Fighter" lineup of fighters but was added as more of a gag character for the game. It seems that his addition caused some issues with Capcom's partners overseas, however, so Norimaro was never available as a playable character in any of the officially released versions of the game outside Japan. Here's who he is — and what happened to keep him from showing up on cabinets overseas.

Norimaro is a gag character

The character Norimaro was clearly designed to serve more as comedic relief than the power fantasies that most of the other characters represent. He isn't nearly as impressive to look at as most of the fighters in the game. He's a relatively small, bespectacled man in a purple school uniform with a nametag and white loafers who wears a satchel bag over his shoulder. He is designed to appear weak and small compared to all of the other fighters and has a lot of pretty ridiculous moves.

Norimaro's standard guard is to shield himself in fear though he can also hide behind his bag. His primary melee attack is to push enemies away and his ranged attack is to fling random school items from his bag at them. He has five special moves: Quadruple Jump, Super Fantastic Treasure, Great Fighting Jump, Rolling Powerful Arms, and Banana Slip. As fans might imagine, these involve Norimaro performing absurdist maneuvers like accidentally throwing plush toys as he seeks to hide or flailing his arms wildly at his opponents. Upon winning, he smiles and uses a camera to take a selfie with the character he has just defeated. 

Norimaro is a caricature, to be sure, but beneath all of the ridiculous humor, he's actually based on a real-life person.

Norimaro is based on a Japanese comedian

The character Norimaro is heavily based on Noritake Kinashi, a Japanese comedian, actor, singer, and artist who also voiced the character in the Japanese release of "Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter." Kinashi is most well known as being one of the members of the owarai comedy duo, The Tunnels, alongside Takaaki Ishibashi. They had a TV show that ran from 1991-2001 titled "Tunnels no Namade Daradara Ikasete." The duo also starred in the 1986 slapstick comedy "Sorobanzuku," which was about a pair of salarymen struggling against a rival advertising agency and engaging in a series of illogical hijinks. Kinashi's physical appearance and his style of humor seem to have been the primary basis for Norimaro's character in the game.

Comedy isn't the only thing that Kinashi has done in his career though. He's also played major roles in several other Japanese films in the years since, such as Butsukichi Konakai in "Urutoraman Zeasu" and the protagonist, Ichiro Inuyashiki, in the live-action adaptation of "Inuyashiki." He was also a member of the pop group Yaen (Wild Monkey), which participated in the boy-band craze of the mid-90s and later recorded a pretty catchy funk album.

Norimaro was removed from international versions

Gag characters in fighting games can be a bit of an acquired taste. Some fans love them as they add an element of absurdity to an otherwise self-serious world while others find them distasteful for more or less the same reason. It seems that the executives at Marvel who were overseeing the game fell into the latter category.

It was initially unclear why Norimaro was cut from the international releases of the game, but former Capcom graphic artist Katsuya Akitomo has stated on his Twitter account (translation via @gosokkyu) that this was primarily due to Marvel not wanting its heroes and villains fighting a joke-character. "Marvel was violently opposed; naturally, they didn't want some random unpowered gag character going toe-to-toe with their heroes. [We] pleaded desperately [and] tried to assuage them—'we'll only use him in Japan!'—and so he's missing from the overseas versions."

While this might be disappointing to Western fans who would have liked to try their hand at playing Norimaro, it makes sense that Marvel might not have been too keen on the idea of people watching Captain America and Thor getting beaten up by a silly man in a school uniform. Some fans didn't give up on seeing him in the game though.

Norimaro added back into the game by hackers

It's true that Norimaro has never officially appeared in any of the releases of "Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter," but that doesn't mean that certain innovative fans didn't find a way to make it happen.

It was discovered years later that most of the data for Norimaro's localization was complete and present in the game's files. Hackers deconstructed the game's code and re-added Norimaro to the Western version as a playable character. This included all of his English victory lines and the conversation with Apocalypse that each character has before the final battle. Some aspects of his moveset appeared to have been removed in this version of the game, however, such as a graphic of him appearing in a pink bathtub during his Hyper Combo. It also appeared that Norimaro's ending sequence was never properly finished. Instead, beating the game with Norimaro displays the text for Dan's ending with Captain America's name on the textbox.

It might not have been a complete port of the character, but even this incomplete version of Norimaro was still a welcome addition to fans who'd spent years wanting to see him in this beloved fighting game.