We Love to Watch the Japanese Fall Down

The show airing in the United States as Unbeatable Banzuke only proves it further: Americans love to watch Japanese people fall down.

But instead of mocking them like SpikeTV's revamping of Takeshi's Castle into the infamous MXC (complete with mock voice-overs), this G4 television show instead has its viewers cheering on the competitors: choosing promising favorites and then ruing their failures.

And they do fail. Almost every time. It truly seems to be "unbeatable".

The Challenges

Similar to the G4 hit Ninja Warrior (which was actually inspired by Unbeatable Banzuke), most of the games are obstacle courses: feats of strength and stamina.

Competitors ride unicycles on some courses, bicycles on others, use stilts on still more, and the toughest of them just walk on their hands. They climb uneven steps, "wade" through flowing water, and jump gaps between wobbly surfaces. I've never seen anyone complete a course (though plenty seem to come close and then lose strength at the last possible moment).

But Banzuke also has strength puzzle games and challenges of sheer strength.

One of my favorites is a stack of seven discs the size of car tires with an eighth gumdrop-shaped one on top. The object is to knock each disc out, one at a time from the bottom up, without the rest of the stack falling. It's sort of like giant Jenga!

Then there are three challenges in which people can compete, usually one-on-one. They do as many push-ups, sit-ups, or upper-body lever-up things as they can within a period of time, usually about three minutes.

The sheer speed that they do it will make your ab muscles hurt, let alone the hundreds of repetitions they'll do.

Fascinating.

Shingo Yamamoto prepares to compete.
Shingo Yamamoto prepares to compete.

The Wipe-Outs

But the most important part is, of course, the wipe-outs, the injuries. The obstacle courses are obviously the best for the falling down.

The best game is the one that has all ranges of competitors; most of the others I've described so far only have the strongest, most talented people. But like I said, Americans love to watch silly Japanese people fall down. That's where the domino walk comes in (my title, not theirs).

In this challenge, competitors have to run over the tops of big, foam dominoes. If they don't keep their balance well enough, down they go! First they run over about thirty level foam rectangles, then they run over about thirty slightly rounded ones, and last they have to balance and navigate themselves over foam dominoes that are all different heights.

And competitors are not always "best of the best" here. Some of them are housewives, some students, and of course the token fireman (they seem to be the cornerstone of competitive Japanese shows). Either way, watching them fall off these courses has been a big hit with G4 watchers.

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The History and The End

Kinniku Banzuke ran from 1995 to 2002 in a prime-time slot in Japan.

Kinniku Banzuke was cancelled suddenly in May 2002. A participant in the contest had some sort of "accident" while shooting the show, and the producers stopped filming as a safety measure. The show never made it back to the air.

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