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One of the maddest shows on the planet, which was originaly broadcast in Japan from 1986 to 1989 where it proved a hit there. Then in the 2000s it was syndicated internationally and became a massive hit everywhere else. It was to Japan what The Crystal Maze was to the United Kingdom, or what Fort Boyard was to France. Except this turned the wackiness to a(n) (un)considerable degree.
One hundred and forty Japanese contestants take part in a series of madcap challenges, hosted by Japanese actor/comedian Takeshi Kitano. He envisioned it as a live action Super Mario Bros. game and this was evident as the budget grew.
Challenge (who do the UK version) reportedly only bought this as a weekend filler, with Craig Charles doing very humorous commentary. One hundred and twenty-two regular episodes, ten double-length specials and twelve "Best Of" specials were produced from the source material, which says something about how popular it became. There were reportedly plans for a DVD release which were shelved, though the show can still be found on Virgin1 in the wee hours of the morning, or on the internet if you know where to look.
The ultimate aim of the game is to storm the eponymous castle. This has only ever been accomplished once in the Challenge version— the prize, which had been the subject of much speculation up to that point, was revealed to be a small box. Craig Charles speculated that it contained the contestant's teeth. It was achieved nine times overall, with a prize of 1 million Yen (which was about $8000 or £5000 back then.)
This program provides examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: Several versions changed the original Japanese format of breaking up the challenges with comedic sequences by merely focusing on the challenges with gag dubbing over it, persumably to fit it better into timeslots. There has been demand for uncut versions of the show to be broadcast.
- Anachronism Stew: Appears as the result of Rule of Fun. A Japanese medieval castle, with correspondingly-suited count, his geishas and advisor, plus General Lee/Tani/Tennant; all mixed up with such modern and futuristic stuff like lazerguns, karaoke bars and American football fields.
- Art Evolution: As the budget grew, so did the sets and the quality of them. The best example would be for the finale, whcih started off as a water fight, then added carts with paper rings and finally Frickin' Laser Beams with light senstive targets on them. They also gained a fixed campus with permanant obstacles and lakes before the show finished.
- Broken Heel: As Craig Charles put, the general purpose of the contestants was for them to fall down in a variety of ways for our amusement.
- Curb Stomp Battle: One of the final assaults on the castle was ended after just five seconds -- only two competitors were left by that point, and so Takeshi and his men concentrated their fire and took out both the two remaining competitors and the General almost instantly.
- In the episode when Takeshi was recruiting monsters and the contestants were dressed up they allowed every. single. one to take part in the storming of the castle, no matter how many times each of them had failed during the show up to that point. So it was twenty people v two hundred.
- Some Tug of War and Sumo Rings matches were these as well, depending on the luck, such as somebody playing tug of war with a traitor or a small woman trying to fight a sumo wrestler.
- Defictionalization: The show was originally devised as a recreation of Super Mario Brothers.
- Demoted to Extra: Takeshi himself in most of the foreign dubs, to the extent that he practically qualifies as The Ghost. Since his main role was as narrator in the Japanese original though, this was kinda inevitable.
- Difficulty Spike: Happened when the paper rings and water guns originally present on the go-karts in the final battles were replaced by laser targets. The paper rings usually took several close range hits to pierce, but with the laser targets the contestants could be zapped from the other side of the arena and instantly eliminated.
- Dungeon Bypass: One competitor, faced with the Square Maze, decided that rather than go through the doors and potentially encounter one of the two goons waiting to throw him out, he simply climbed to the top and walked across the borders of the rooms straight to the goal.
- Every Year They Fizzle Out: Out of the 140 contestants that would show up each time, you would be lucky to see more than 10 make it to the end, there were even fewer people who actually won the thing.
- Nine throughout the entire show.
- Fake Difficulty: Several challenges were much harder than they look. Occasionally someone would find a way around it.
- Fan Nickname: The Spanish version had a lot of them: El Chino Cudeiro (see They Killed Kenny below), Pepe Livingstone (the field reporter with the safari hat), El Grano de Café (The Coffee Bean), Pinky-Winky, El Primo de Harry Potter (Harry Potter's Cousin), Dolores Conichigua and Gacela Thomson, among others.
- Gag Dub (MXC)
- Craig Charles in the UK version, who displayed what seemed to be only a fleeting idea of what the show was about, but hey; Rule of Cool.
- In 1989-90 the show received a Gag Dub in Italy under the title "Mai Dire Banzai" (Never Say Banzai): clips from the show, with original audio, were edited along with clips from another show, The Gaman, and shown together to give the impression of a single huge contest. The Italian hosts, Gialappa's Band, faked being broadcasting live from Japan and their humorous commentary treated Japanese people as an entire nation of masochistic nutjobs. Finally, every character were given a mock-Japanese name, from "Pokoto Pokoto" to "Mashiro Tamiji" (the latter one was the guy with the giant papier-maché head, treated by Gialappa's as if he were the mind behind everything).
- Ren-TV, the Russian channel was pretty close to creating a full-length Gag Dub which kept all of the original cutscenes intact... and filled the remaining part with references to more familiar cultures. Sadly, only one episode dunned like this is available online.
- Game Show: Well duh!
- Luck-Based Mission: The series ran on this trope, almost.
- Such challenges like The Final Fall, Sumo Rings and Tug Of War are the more or less true embodiments.
- Sumo Rings was really only half of an example. Contestants drew by luck who they would have to fight but after that it was really up to them. The tougher fighters (an actual sumo wrestler and Animal) have been beaten at least once each and the weaker ones (the potato and the weak man) have both beaten contestants.
- Nintendo Hard: After all, it was an attempt to create a live-action Super Mario Bros.. It took some time for the budget to come around.
- And the Final Showdown was as hard as you expect. There were times where as many as 20 people have made it to the final, and still all ended up losing.
- Platform Hell: And how!
- Real Song Theme Tune: Wikipedia has a whole list of these. Observe.
- Spin-Off: There have been versions where kids tried to storm the castle and even one where people from around the world took part.
- Storming the Castle: the ultimate aim, which failed almost every time.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: When Takeshi was banned from Japanese TV due to assault charges, he was replaced by someone wearing a Papier-mâché head of him.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: Starting from Takeshi's Gundan and ending with various monsters like The Ghost of Bloody Samurai.
- They Killed Kenny: The Spanish version created a character, dubbed the "Chino Cudeiro". The character was a random contestant picked by the dubbers each episode that crashed rather spectacularly at certain point, playing this trope at that moment, with tragic Titanic music montage and all. El Chino Cudeiro would come back the following episode with little to no explanation, although at some time it is mentioned he had superpowers that allowed him to come back from the dead.
- Widget Series