Little Things: Kid Kool

Some mysteries are compelling not because they’re important, but because they’re so weirdly insignificant. For one example, consider the king’s butler in the awkward and rampantly detested Kid Kool and the Quest for the Seven Wonder Herbs. He's a miniscule oddity in a lousy old NES game, and that makes the enigma itch all the more.

Kid Kool’s interminable story sequences introduce only four characters: the ailing king, his butler, the titular Kid Kool, and, in the best endings, a princess. The butler doesn’t serve much of a purpose beyond rattling off the details of Kool’s herb-gathering mission and announcing the hero’s demise. The latter happens a lot in Kid Kool, because Kid Kool despises everyone who plays it.

But it isn't the butler's dialogue that's puzzling. It’s his appearance. His haircut, glasses, and snaggletoothed nerd visage clash with the King’s Garfield-like appearance and the mundane anime-kid design of Kool and the princess. And why do his shorts clearly say “T YAN”?

It all suggests that the butler is a caricature of someone, possibly this T. Yan individual. But who could that be?

The most obvious explanation would be that the butler is a leftover joke from Kid Kool’s original Japanese version, Kakefu-Kun no Jump Tengoku: Speed Tengoku. It was a vehicle for Kenji “Kakefu-kun” Sagara, a popular child actor in Japan during the late 1980s. Vic Tokai’s Americanization of the game replaced his Hanshin Tigers baseball cap with a spiky coiffure and changed his name to the less expensive Kid Kool, but the other characters were left alone. One clue crops up in the Japanese credits: the butler’s name is listed as “Dirty Echigoya.” It also lists the king’s name as Nioccory V of Poconioccory and his daughter as Josephine Nioccory, and I have no idea what that might mean.

Yet I think I know who T.Yan is.