Created By: Hisaishi on January 27, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on November 13, 2014

Insane Japanese Gameshow

Its a game show from Japan where anything can happen.

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Trope
Tracey Jordan: The future is like a Japanese Game Show; you have no idea what's going on.

Japan. Wonderful little country that it is, it has given us anime, karaoke, and katanas to name just a fraction of the goodies of the Land of the Rising Sun. None, however, can really compare to an Insane Japanese Gameshow.

The trope has elements stemming back to the Heian period of history which began the Manzai tradition. The Manzai was comedy surrounding the tsukkomi and boke. This practice continued throughout the Edo and Meiji Periods. The practices of comedic routines ended during the periods of WWI and WWII, in which militarism was key. The end of the Showa Period and beginning of the Heisei Period ushered in the new wave of technologies that soon took advantage of a society starved for entertainment.

One of the best examples of this new entertainment is an Insane Japanese Gameshow (known as Variety Show in the native country), a Slapstick program that tests the mettle of contestants in a series of physical challenges that ultimately have no goal and almost no prize. In all, the show must have three properties to qualify for this trope:

  1. It must be made in Japan or be an import from Japan. Naturally, you would expect a Japanese game show to be made in Japan.
  2. It must be ridiculous. This is one of the main reasons that the Japanese have come to be seen as lovers of all things insane.
  3. It must carry some form of embarrassment for contestants. Be it being whacked in the balls, getting drenched in tar, having a banana shoved up their ass (after other people did the same thing to the same banana), or being pushed into a pool of water by a giant wall; the game provides a great deal of people laughing at your misfortune (note: all of the examples are Real Life).

The Insane Japanese Gameshow trope is often used in comedic media as a way to increase the humor of the situation. It allows the audience a chance to laugh at the misfortune of the participants or generally increase the absurdity of the current scene.

Subtrope of Game Show. Compare with Calvinball, Gag Series, and Widget Series. Contrast with Serious Business. However popular they become, Insane Japanese Gameshows should never be taken seriously.


Examples

Live-Action TV

Video Games
  • Saints Row: The Third
    • The game contained the side mission "Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax!" (or "S.E.R.C.") Players make their way through an obstacle course of lightning and fire while killing mascots and shooting targets. Make it to the end and you keep all the money that you earned during the run. Don't shoot the pandas as killing them is UNETHICAL!
    • The Genkibowl VII DLC has the entire city is under Genki's control and the stunts are turned Up to Eleven.

Western Animation

Community Feedback Replies: 38
  • January 27, 2012
    Rognik
    Japanese game shows have also gained a reputation, so I think there could be a sublisting for parodies of this idea, depending on how serious it is.
  • January 27, 2012
    nitrokitty
    ^ Perfect example is Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, a Gag Dub of Japanese Game Show Takeshis Castle. Also, Professor Genki from Saints Row The Third is a clear parody of these types of shows. I see no reason why we can't have a subsection for non-Japanese versions.
  • January 27, 2012
    nman
    • Robot Chicken parodies the genre by showing a commercial for "Who Poop Last?", a Japanese Game Show where contestants eat a pile of bananas and then hover over a toilet.
  • January 27, 2012
    Cider
    Tropes are story telling devices, this reads more like an index.
  • January 27, 2012
    Rognik
    I agree with Cider that Japanese game shows (heretofore called JGS) on their own are probably not a trope (as it's just ordinary people doing really crazy things, possibly for prizes), the infamy of the Japanese game show has shown up in media parodying the idea. For instance, the show The Dating Guy has the B plot of one episode revolve around two of the main characters competing on what is essentially a JGS. The heroes compete in crazy stunts like having to milk a goat and then fill a container with it (with the other contestants sabotaging the heroes). It ends with the two having to fight each other in bikinis (one of them being male and choosing to wear the top) and battling with foam quarterstaves while holding hot dogs in their armpits. The loser is the one who lets their dog drop. The loser is forced to eat the hot dogs that were held in the armpit; the winner gets to eat Hot Dog of Victory (which is also a dog that was held under someone's armpit). The show ends with the host saying, "What you expect? Show make no sense!" (Admittedly, the fact that it is a JGS really does little more than allow the writers to let whatever crazy antics they want happen during it.)

    I remember Im In The Band having an episode where Iron Weasel is invited onto a Japanese talk show which has all the trimmings of a JGS (although it might just be a Big In Japan moment).

    A video game, the 5th Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator, has a JGS as part of the plot (the game taking place in Japan). The hero walks in unsuspectingly and finds himself chained from the ceiling and slowly being lowered into an acid pit, like something out of a Bond movie (or the 60's live-action Batman show). If he can answer enough questions right, he's set free with a couple of items that will help him; if he doesn't, he learns the pit isn't actually deadly, and he gets a boobyprize that still lets him advance.

    I realize these examples don't really share a frame, despite them all using either a JGS or a reasonable facsimile, but all three are works of fiction that reference JG Ss as a phenominon.

    If this does end up being just an index, I think the American game show "I survived a Japanese Game Show" needs to be mentioned, because the entire gimmick was taking 10 Americans to Japan and subjecting them to a JGS along with culture shock of Japan. The game show they competed on was called Majide, and was implied to be a long running show in Japan; all other sources, though, seem to say that it was created solely for this short-lived franchise.
  • January 27, 2012
    SKJAM
    A The Simpsons episode had the family participate in one of these while visiting Japan to earn money for a ticket home. It seemed particularly designed to cause as much pain to the contestants (or at least Homer) as possible.
  • January 27, 2012
    Dawnwing
    • In The Amazing Race, contestants once had to participate in a Japanese Game Show as one of the race's challenges.
  • January 27, 2012
    randomsurfer
  • February 4, 2012
    DougSMachina
    Cider's point means that you could fold this into Widget Series, but I think it might be worth a page - "bewildering and extreme (-ly bizarre or painful) Japanese game show" is a definable trope.
  • February 4, 2012
    SeanMurrayI
    A Saturday Night Live sketch from The Nineties features Chris Farley as an American tourist who doesn't speak Japanese that inadvertently winds up on a Japanese quiz show where contestants cut off their own fingers and get electrocuted via car jumper cables attached to one's crotch when they give incorrect answers.
  • February 12, 2012
    LobsterMagnus
    Wouldn't it be better to change the title to Silly Japanese Gameshow or Crazy Japanese Gameshow or something similar, in order to make it clear from the start that this is about a specific type of game show from Japan? After all, an "ordinary" show (e.g. similar to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire or Jeopardy) that just happens to be from Japan wouldn't fit this trope of course.
  • February 12, 2012
    Damr1990
    Your shows reward knowledge. Here ,we punish ignorance
    Wink, the Game Show Host The Simpsons: Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo'''
  • February 26, 2012
    Westrim
    bump
  • February 26, 2012
    Rognik
    ^^^I challenge you to find an "ordinary" game show from Japan. They don't exist, preferring silly, physically taxing games. I think I've seen one where a man has to grease up and see how far he can slide down a runway. (I hope that wasn't just a dream or something.) However, I guess the trope would be better listed as Extreme Japanese Gameshow since they take the insanity Up To Eleven to the point where the gameshow is either hazardous to your sense or almost physically revolting.
  • July 7, 2012
    MichaelKatsuro
    In Gravitation Shuichi took part in a crazy gameshow.
  • July 7, 2012
    JonnyB
    Takeshis Castle would be the most famous of these.

    Wipeout is a US game show inspired by (some say ripped off from) Takeshi's Castle.

    The short-lived game show Banzai was a parody of these.

    Weird Al Yankovic also parodied these in his film UHF with his East-meets-West crossover, Wheel Of Fish.
  • July 8, 2012
    Generality
    Once parodied in a sketch on Saturday Night Live in which Chris Farley accidentally found himself on such a game show and tried, while not speaking a word of Japanese, to get through it without suffering the extreme penalties such as cutting off one's own finger and being electrocuted. He got to the final round by first guessing Godzilla, then a series of random syllables that happened to be the right answer.
  • July 8, 2012
    randomsurfer
    On Supernatural when Sam & Dean are Trapped In TV Land they are at one point in a Q&A Japanese game show. Wrong answers are punished with a pendulum to the balls. All questions & answers are done in Japanese, but neither Sam nor Dean speak any Japanese, they just make up random Japanese-sounding words (which, going by the subtitles, are actually Japanese and reveal great truths about them - even though they don't realize it).
  • July 9, 2012
    NightNymph
    ^ Actually poor Sam never does answer and so suffers the consequences. Dean does decide to go for it and does answer in Japanese even though he doesn't know what he is saying. That he tried was likely enough to allow him to do so since the "lesson" of their stint in TVLand was to "play their roles." because Dean tried, he was rewarded with being able to answer in Japanese.

    Your point about the questions asked by the game show host being relavent, however, is a good one. There were many subtle but awesome details about this segment - and the episode in general: one interesting one being the name of the Japanese gameshow - "Nutcracker!!!" Dean and Sam's distress when they figure out the implications of that name was amusing.
  • July 9, 2012
    AgProv
    Parodied and subverted in the British-made parody Banzai (cancelled in North America after action by Japanese-American interest groups who thought it was "racist").

    These game-shows were first brought to the attention of the West, or at least Britain, by Clive James on TV - a clip-show that showcased the very worst of everyone else's TV, in the days when other people's crap was taken as an awful warning and not a catalogue to order from (Jerry Springer). Clive James, an Australian journalist and son of a man who died as a Japanese Po W in WW 2, took grim pleasure in picking the very worst examples of Japanese gameshows he could possibly find. The reasoning appeared to be that if the Japs did this to their own in the pursuit of entertainment, it explained Changhai and the Burma Railway.
  • February 3, 2013
    Westrim
    bump
  • June 2, 2013
    arbiter099
    I have a feeling that "whack in the balls" and "banana up the ass" need to be made a bit more Family Friendly and SFW.

    also,

    • Sasuke, broadcast as Ninja Warrior in the US, is an extreme physical challenge game comprised of four stages of intense and sometimes absurd obstacles. To date, it has only been beaten three times, ever.
  • June 3, 2013
    snecko
    There are some pretty insane bits in Gaki No Tsukai Ya Arahende
  • June 24, 2013
    robbulldog
    In Cars 2, during the flight to Japan, in one Mater and Lightning watch a Japanese Game Show as part of their in-flight entertainment. The car-contestant went down a ski-jump type ramp, over some obstacles, and then ran smack into something.
  • June 24, 2013
    ArcadesSabboth
    I expanded the MXC example a little.
  • June 24, 2013
    Clevomon
    The Colbert Report riffs on this every so often. One Japanese election, Colbert actually analyzed their political system as expressed through Japanese game shows.
  • June 24, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    Fixed some namespace things with the Takeshi's Castle example.
  • June 25, 2013
    TwoGunAngel
    Subtrope of Widget Series.
  • June 25, 2013
    JonnyB
    UHF featured the TV show, "Wheel of Fish", a parody of both Wheel Of Fortune and crazy Japanese game shows, where contestants would spin a wheel containing various dead fish as prizes.
  • June 25, 2013
    BOFH
    Live Action TV
    • One episode of Jonathan Creek has another Show Within A Show example, in which a TV producer (the husband of Jonathan Creek's sidekick) is producing a show for the Japanese market in which one member of a married couple is asked embarrassing personal questions while connected to a lie detector rigged (without the knowledge of the couple or the studio audience) to produce occasional false positives.
  • September 13, 2014
    Westrim
    bump
  • October 12, 2014
    jormis29

  • October 13, 2014
    DAN004
    • Spoofed in Marvel Vs Capcom 3 where, in the ending, Shuma-Gorath becomes a host of this kind of Japanese game show.

  • October 13, 2014
    Arivne
  • October 13, 2014
    jormis29
    randomsurfer's example from Supernatural is from the "Changing Channels" episode.
  • October 13, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    Rognik: When I was in Japan I saw a normal game show in which people competed in reading complex kanji and recognising celebrities on photos.

    What about non-Japanese examples? I can come up with one of those:

    • As the elections approach in Borgen's season 3, Alex goes to further and further extremes to increase ratings to compete with TV 2, to the point he has a game show in which politicians talk while playing produced. A member of the New Democrats goes on it and makes a fool of himself trying to explain his party's economic policies.

  • November 11, 2014
    PistolsAtDawn
    • Gravity Falls: The twins are transported to a futuristic gladiator ring where aliens and mutants are battling to the death, prompting Mabel to ask "Wow, is this a reality show? Are we in Japan?"
  • November 13, 2014
    Scorpion451
    That Chris Farley sketch a couple of people have mentioned that is always the first thing that pops into my head when I think about these, might work as a page quote source.
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