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So, you've signed up as a contestant on a Japanese Game Show. No doubt a show of bravado to impress your friends, or maybe you have developed a deathwish due to prolonged exposure to radiation? Maybe you've watched some amusing video footage on YouTube or some hysterical viral video circulation and thought "I could do that".
Now, as you find yourself amongst a throng of eager contestants, wearing nothing but crash helmets and over-sized Sumo Wrestling nappies, adrenalin pumping around your system as you await the starting pistol to dive into an Olympic-sized swimming pool of cold custard, you understandably are having second thoughts. The bowling-ball cannons are primed and everything goes into slow motion...
Japanese Game Shows - An Overview
Japanese Game Shows can be a little peculiar and imprudent at times, but these characteristics are what makes them so distinguishable. Rapidly gaining in popularity throughout the world for their quirkiness and absurdity, reality game shows such as Takeshi's Castle and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya have become the dominant form of TV entertainment in Japan despite annually accounting for over four thousand deaths in the Tokyo area alone. Next to Godzilla attacks these fast-paced programs are the second largest cause of death and serious injury in the country. (But none of the players have died!)
Frequently the shows, although quite diverse, share a number of similarities in their format. Invariably the show revolves around a large number of characters in overly flamboyant and colourful Pantomime costumes attempting to inflict pain on the simple grinning idiots who have been stupid enough to not only sign up to participate in the show, but also to waive all rights to compensation should an "injury" occur.
Back to the Show
You emerge, your eyes and other orifices stinging from the custard to find yourself surrounded by a group of grimfaced henchmen in pink Samurai costumes armed with cattleprods. The small group of survivors of the first test clamber along side you as you attempt to run the gauntlet. Many of your companions fall, their cold, wet bodies twitching in agony on the floor, but somehow several of you make it through to the rope bridge.
The first bowling-ball from the cannon hits the fat, wheezy guy with the nervous laugh infront of you full in the head. He drops off the side of the rope bridge into the inky darkness beneath without making a sound. You push on, whilst behind you you can hear the soft fleshy sound of unprotected bodyparts smashed into by hard balls followed by screams of agony as your companions are knocked off the bridge.
Although no two shows can be considered alike, a number of set games are often repeated throughout the series. These (do not) include:
- Crazy Crane Hidden Watermelon ビートたけし (Original title: Why Is This Food So Hard To Eat?) Contestants are catapulted across a swimming pool of cool custard whilst been pelted with watermelons. A crowd favourite.
- Boom Boom For BabySan たけし軍団 (Original title: You Want Me To Do WHAT?) Team members dressed as Vietcong Snipers have to shoot 20 American G.I.s in less than 3 minutes, whilst avoiding been pelted with golf balls and taking great care to avoid the napalm airstrikes and artillery called in by the G.I.s. A crowd favourite.
- Sticky Sticky Bang Bang 丹古母鬼馬二 - Dressed in Velcro suits the contestants trampoline across a course avoiding World War II landmines and attempt to stick themselves as high up the wall on the other side as possible, all the while trying to avoid hypodermic sleep darts shot at them from the blowpipes of authentic Amazonian tribesmen. A crowd favourite.
- One For Sorrow (Original title: Pick The Eyes Out Of That) Contestants are covered in small chunks of meat and tied to a stake in an enclosure filled with Magpies, Ravens and other members of the Corvus (genus). A crow favourite.
Return to the Action
You become aware of the highpitched enthusiastic ranting punctuated with hysterical laughter and from the corner of your eye you see the show's commentator. You make a mental note to kill him if you survive. If you survive...? Your mind races to think of any time in the shows history that a contestant has completed all of the tests, and you struggle to recall anyone. Your senses return to the present as a ball catches the back of your thigh and you drop to the floor. Another ball narrowly misses your head, much to the merriment of the commentator.
Realising you are uninjured, you leap forward and in a few hurried steps you make the sanctuary of the other side. As you lie panting on the floor you count four or five others who have somehow made it against all the odds. Through the pain and the exhaustion you grin at each other, before your mind returns to thinking of ways to survive.
Tips on Surviving a Japanese Game Show
- Don't enter.
- Learn to hold your urine for days at time.
- Build a giant gerbil maze in your backyard and learn to negotiate it rapidly
- Learn how to say "Honto ni!?" with conviction