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"From the Land of the Rising Sun, one hundred determined athletes have accepted the challenge to become...Ninja Warrior! Divided into four extreme stages, competitors must face the ultimate test of strength and will, in their quest to become champion. Many are called, few are chosen. Now, let's find out who's tough enough to become the next...Ninja Warrior!"
Opening Narration of Ninja Warrior (US ver.)

Ninja Warrior is the American title of Sasuke, a Japanese sports entertainment program — no, not that kind of sports entertainment — made famous through G4TV's Americanization. Ninja Warrior has grown in popularity thanks specifically to its heightened exposure via American television.

At its core, Sasuke works like an obstacle course with the difficulty knob turned up to "Nightmare Mode" before getting broken off. A competitor gets one attempt at a perfect run, and if they go off-course on any obstacle or run out of time on timed segments, they must wait until the next competition for another shot. Sasuke eventually turned into a national phenomenon in Japan, where regulars and champions from the course get near-instant recognition. A total of thirty-seven competitions—about two per year—have happened since the show's inception.

The SASUKE course sits at the base of Midoriyama, regardless of weather conditions, which means the one hundred competitors looking to finish the course that day must adjust to extreme heat, cold, or rain. Each competition traditionally begins in the afternoon, then continues for as long as it takes all one hundred competitors to either fail or complete the course. The individual stages and obstacles can change from one competition to the next, yet the general purpose of each stage remains the same:

  • In Stage 1, competitors must clear obstacles focused on testing speed and agility within a set time limit.
  • In Stage 2, competitors must clear obstacles focused on testing strength and endurance—especially upper body strength—within a set time limit.
  • In Stage 3, competitors must clear obstacles focused on testing their overall strength. This stage has no timer.
  • In Stage 4, any remaining competitor(s) must ascend to the top of a large tower within a stringent time limit. One version features a two-stage climb of 75 feet that uses a spider-wall method for the first half and an open rope climb the rest of the way. Another version challenges competitors to make a straight-up fifty-foot rope climb. A third version replaces the Spider Climb with a rope ladder. A fourth version of this stage—first seen in the 27th competition—reduces the tower in height to 66 feet and brings back a rope climb similar to the first version of Stage 4. A higher 75-foot high variation of the fourth version was used in the 28th competition, but was replaced by a 78-foot variation of the Spider Climb/Rope Climb version in the next competition. This was followed by an 82-feet three-obstacle Stage, consisting of a Spider Climb followed up by a Salmon Ladder for the first two-thirds, before ending with the rope climb. After this was defeated in SASUKE 38, the Spider Climb was replaced by a rock wall, which increased the height to 83 feet.

Each stage, including the final stage, can end in one of two ways: (1) a competitor fails via falling off an obstacle or not finishing in time or failing via disqualification on certain obstaclesnote , or (2) they clear the stage and either hit a trigger button or cross a finish line at the end of the stage. A competitor could technically clear every obstacle during a stage and still fail the run because they do not hit the trigger in time. (In one case, the competitor did not even know about the trigger!)

Out of the 3,900 attempts across all 39 competitions to date, only four men have ever defeated the entire course—a success rate of about 0.10%. Yuuji Urushihara became the first man to beat the course twice when he completed the course during the 27th competition, with Yusuke Morimoto becoming the second when he completed the course in the 38th competition. In one competition (SASUKE 3), a half-dozen competitors made it to Stage 4, and each one failed. In another, a re-designed course with harder obstacles ensured that no one made it past Stage 2 (SASUKE 19), and there have been plenty of times where no-one can even make it past Stage 3.

SASUKE allows women to compete, though only two women have ever completed Stage 1note —but the all-female KUNOICHI gives women their own spotlight. KUNOICHI follows the same rules as SASUKE—and even filmed at the same location—though it occurs less frequently (only ten competitions have occurred to date, which averages to one per year) and used obstacles that focus more on balance and speed. Out of a total of eleven tournaments to date, one woman (Ayako Miyake) completed the entire course three times in a row, and two other women also finished the entire course (both accomplished the feat during the 8th competition). KUNOICHI went on an eight year hiatus between the 8th and 9th competitions, finally resuming in 2017. The most recent tournaments have taken place indoors, similar to the first Sasuke competition, but only have 50 competitors compete instead of 100. In addition, the stages have become more similar to their SASUKE counterparts, featuring more obstacles from the men's course.

In 2007, G4 held an "American Ninja Challenge" and chose the best competitors from this challenge to try out for SASUKE's 19th competition. From then on, G4 would run a new "Ninja Challenge" that coincided with an upcoming SASUKE competition. The popularity of the contest eventually led G4 to film the first-ever American Ninja Warrior, an all-American edition of the competition. G4 filmed this competition in Japan on the actual SASUKE course, though it limited the competition to ten finalists rather than run the traditional 100 competitors. The eight-part special, which covered both the tryouts and the actual competition in Japan, premiered in December 2009.

In later years, American Ninja Warrior became a Survivor-type reality show, with three teams of five men competing against each other to receive a shot to compete at the actual SASUKE competition. In 2012, ANW took on a new format for its fourth season: Competitors try out in regionals across the county to earn a shot at the finals in Las Vegas, where a fully complete SASUKE course has been created for the American contestants. The finals are similar to the traditional SASUKE tournaments, with a full list of 100 competitors taking a shot at the four-stage course, and a cash prize for a final reward. This new format has continued through to the present seasons.

Back in Japan, SASUKE went on an extended hiatus following the 27th tournament due to the bankruptcy of Monster9, the show's original production company. After a year-and-a-half, TBS revived the competition with the 28th competition in December 2012 and the 29th competition in June 2013, under the title of SASUKE RISING. The 30th tournament, which aired in July 2014, broke the twice-a-year pattern in favor of an annual one, as well as returning to the original SASUKE title. By this time, American Ninja Warrior had moved from G4 (shortly before the network itself disappeared from the airwaves) to NBC, with repeats airing on both the NBC-owned Esquire and USA networks. 2017 would later have the twice-a-year pattern return, which remained in place for 2018, but returned to the annual pattern as end-of-the-year specials in 2019. In April 2021, it was announced that G4 would air the series once more as well as airing seasons 35-37 to which would be the first time these seasons would air on American television since its initial airing in Japan.

The series is also quite popular in Australia. In 2017, an Australian-made version of the show, Australian Ninja Warrior, premiered on the Nine Network, with the original Ninja Warrior series airing on SBS2.

Multiple other adaptations of the show's format (or more commonly,the format of American Ninja Warrior) have been created in various countries around the globe, including but not limited to the U.K, Germany, France, and Indonesia.

Unbeatable Banzuke games developed by Konami generally ended with the four SASUKE courses, though some only featured Stage 4's tower.

Ninja Warrior / Sasuke includes the following tropes:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Katsumi Yamada has remarked several times that he will stop competing, but he always seems to come back. He would eventually be banned in SASUKE 30 following a dispute with director Masato Inui, however he was allowed back for one more run in SASUKE 33 to commemorate the show's 20th year, and then in SASUKE 38 and 39.
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: Shunsuke Nagasaki's name is continually pronounced "Shun-soo-kay" by Dave Wittenberg when it should be "Shun-skay". It's especially bizarre because others whose names are pronounced in a similar fashion are correctly pronounced.
    • Similarly with Rie Komiya, who's first name routinely pronounced like "Rye" by the announcer, when it should be "ree-yay".
    • What makes this really strange is that Wittenberg is an anime voice actor, so you would think he would be used to Japanese pronunciations.
  • Action Mom: Chie Nishimura, who returns later in Kunoichi, making it to the third stage, showing even as a housewife, she's still got it.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The American narration calls it "Mt. Midoriyama"; the Japanese suffix -yama means "mountain". So the narrator is in essence saying "Mount Midori Mountain", which is entirely redundant.
    • Channel guides list the Kunoichi competitions as Kunoichi Women's. The word "kunoichi" essentially means "female ninja".
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: One guy overcame the Warped Wall obstacle (basically a wall curved outward) by studying tapes of it and writing a trigonometric equation.
    • Another one made a to-scale mock-up of the course to train on, and did impressively well on the real thing; he only ran out of time on the last rope climb.
  • Badass Adorable: Ayako Miyake is really really cute and has also won Kunoichi three times, consecutively. Yuko Mizuno, Rena Higashi, and Rie Komiya also count.
  • Badass Bystander: Each and every one of the "Ninja Warrior All-Stars", whose professions run the gamut from fishermen, to government employees, gas station managers, and more. Only Toshihiro Takeda, a firefighter, is in a profession that people perceive as having to regularly deal with the kind of exertion that the obstacles provide.
    • Not just the "All-Stars". In the 22nd tournament, only one man made it to Stage 4, and was the first person to do so since Makoto Nagano beat Stage 4. His name is Yuuji Urushihara. His profession? Shoe salesman.
      • He topped that in the 24th tournament by becoming the third man to ever beat the entire course. Then he did it again in the 27th tournament by becoming the only man to do it twice.
  • Badass Family: There's a few here and there:
    • Makoto Nagano's wife Asami competed in the eighth Kunoichi competition, and advanced to the second stage.
    • American gymnasts and brothers Morgan and Paul Hamm competed twice. Paul made it to the end of the Second Stage while Morgan made it to the Third Stage.
    • The Kosugi brothers, Kane and Shane, were this when they competed in early tournaments, both making it into Stages 2 and 3 consistently, with Kane even reaching the Final Stage in SASUKE 8.
    • Takamasa Nagasaki, the younger brother of Shunsuke Nagasaki, competed with him during the first few post-Nagano tournaments, as well as SASUKE 34.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: For some inexplicable reason, fireman Kouji Yamada is always referred to as Yasushi Yamada in the US broadcast.
  • Boring Failure Hero: Katsumi "Mr. Sasuke" Yamada is a notable subversion. Not only has he never managed to obtain Total Victory, but from the 14th tournament on, he has not even managed to complete the first stage. The fact that he has focused his life completely on this competition (which cost him his job and his family) makes it all the more heartbreaking. Nevertheless, he was considered an All-Star in his own right, and fans (as well as the other All-Stars) continue to cheer for him to one day reach the top of Midoriyama, until he retired.
  • The Bus Came Back: Several competitors have taken long hiatuses from SASUKE, only to return. Kenji Takahashi for instance, first started competing in SASUKE 5, but after SASUKE 7, did not compete again until SASUKE 16. Also, Shunsuke Nagasaki was prominent from SASUKE 14 to SASUKE 19, but was then absent for ten competitions before becoming a regular competitor again starting in SASUKE 29.
  • Determinator: A good way to tell an All-Star, a Shin-Sedai, or a regular competitor apart from the others is their determination to beat the course, and their crushing disappointment when they fail.
    • Bunpei Shiratori is a textbook example in the 15th tournament: after falling victim to heat exhaustion, the officials were unsure if he could even perform in the First Stage without endangering his health; regardless, he went on to get all the way to the Third Stage with little issue.
    • Travis Alan Schroeder, who made it to the Pipe Slider of Stage 3, pushed one side of the bar off the track, which unfortunately counted as a disqualification (a rather controversial decision to some since it was more equipment failure then his own actions). Before this was announced however, the man actually tried to continue with the lopsided bar and make it to the end, but had to be stopped.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The ladies-only spin-off KUNOICHI (aka "Women of Ninja Warrior") has a different set of obstacles focusing on balance and agility instead of upper-body strength and endurance, though strength became more prominent starting from the ninth competition. As mentioned above, it's still very difficult. As of KUNOICHI 9, the course resembles that of SASUKE even more, despite now being indoors.
  • Death Course: No one's actually died, but the spirit is still there. The SASUKE and KUNOICHI courses are still extremely difficult, with new obstacles, modifications, and time limit changes being added every tournament.
  • Downer Ending: Overall happens whenever someone fails to complete the course, and given that most tournaments end with all 100 competitors failing, is an overall given, a few moments stand out:
    • Makoto Nagano fell less than two-tenths of a second short of completing the Final Stage in SASUKE 12. But take heart. He eventually does win... three years later.
    • SASUKE 8 had plenty of this to go around. It was raining hard throughout the day, making several obstacles harder thanks to the slick surfaces caused by the weather, and causing many competitors to fail. Kazuhiko Akiyama failed the Jump Hang for a 3rd time in a row and Katsumi Yamada timed out on the Warped Wall in what was meant to be his last tournament. But the final knife was Kane Kosugi's attempt on the Final Stage, with rain pouring down on him. He only made it half-way up the Rope Climb before timing out, and crying at the tower's bottom. While Akiyama would eventually defeat the Jump Hang and Yamada returned, SASUKE 8 was Kane's last tournament.
    • SASUKE 19 was the worst tournament to date. Almost every competitor failed Stage 1, including the All-Stars, leaving semi-regulars Koji Yamada and Yuuji Washimi to take on Stage 2... whereupon both failed the Salmon Ladder. Washimi is a noted case, as he had been practicing on a replica specifically to beat the obstacle, but failed. It was compounded in the TBS broadcast with the ominous ending theme, particularly as it revealed that things would've only gotten harder in Stage 3 even if someone had reached it.
    • SASUKE 28 ended with the All-Stars, who had collectively announced their retirement, eliminated in Stage 1. If it weren't for them going back on due to personal feelings about their performance, it would've been a sour note to end on (and honestly still was). Even without taking them into account, only five competitors cleared Stage 1, and no one made it past the Crazy Cliffhanger.
    • For KUNOICHI, the first and seventh tournaments can count: KUNOICHI 1 ended in an almost identical way to SASUKE 19, except the last two competitors failed the first obstacle (Super Jump), while KUNOICHI 7 had Ayako Miyake's failure on the Swinging Beams in Stage 2, followed up by Maho Tanaka failing Domino Hill just a few boards away from a modified Red Zone and the new Magic Wall.
  • Dub Name Change: Mainly applies to the obstacles, which tend to have Japanese-sounding names or some other name that doesn't get used in the G4 or Challenge dubs. One stand-out example is the Soritatsu Kabe, which is better known as the Warped Wall.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • For SASUKE in particular, the first tournament was notably held indoors, something that would not happen again until the KUNOICHI revival. The obstacles in Stage 1 also had different names compared to the next tournament. Stage 3 was also made up of only three obstacles vaguely connected by a sky theme, versus how later tournaments would morph it into the strength stage, a change not fully cemented until the fifth tournament.
    • KUNOICHI examples:
      • The Strong Mama event in Kinniku Banzuke was actually called KUNOICHI in the original broadcast, and was thus the first iteration of KUNOICHI as a concept due to Banzuke testing out SASUKE-based spinoffs at the time. It was only one Stage long (Two if you want to count the Break Zone dividing the sections of the course), and was more based on maternal theming despite its name (owing to the concept originally being based on motherly tasks). This version proved incredibly difficult and required a rework...
      • But even this would require changes. KUNOICHI 1 and 2 differed from later tournaments in that they were only made up of three Stages instead of four, and the Final Stage was a 10-meter long balance-beam with cylindrical and triangular bumps rather than a traditional tower. Like the original Banzuke version, these two tournaments were incredibly difficult, and by KUNOICHI 3, the format was identical to SASUKE with four Stages.
      • Finally, in the revival period, KUNOICHI 9 would likewise only use three Stages, with the BLUE Stage (Stage 2) being akin to a hybrid of Stages 2 and 3, having no time limit and mixing obstacles from both. KUNOICHI 10 would separate them back into the traditional Stages 2 and 3 (With Stage 3 now being called the BLACK Stage).
  • Every Year They Fizzle Out: While it's a given that most of the competitors will probably fail at some point in Stage 3 (most superheroes would probably fail Stage 3), Katsumi Yamada is the poster boy of the trope. Every tournament where he appears, the announcers discuss how he spends his life training for Ninja Warrior, and every year he fails with a particularly bad stretch where he couldn't clear Stage 2. Ever since SASUKE 14, he has been unable to complete Stage 1.
    • Kazuhiko Akiyama would count, given his poor performances since his victory, but he suffers from chronic poor health and blindness, something the announcers bring up every time he competes since his victory.
  • Fanservice: The KUNOICHI episodes. Come on, man. Come on.
  • Faux Action Girl: Yuko Mizuno; she's a very accomplished woman, but suffered a lot of bad luck starting in KUNOICHI 6.
  • Gag Dub: The Spanish dub is a pretty lame Gag Dub, with a lot of toilet humor and lame risqué jokes, that tries to capitalize on the smashing success that Takeshi's Castle had in Spain, in the 80s, with a similar (though much funnier) dub.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Shingo Yamamoto's shoulder could certainly qualify, as it's dislocated on him three times to date. Fellow All-Star Bunpei Shiratori has been unable to compete in later tournaments because of a lingering injury.
    • Trampolinist Daisuke Nakata was the victim of a hit-and-run shortly after Sasuke 13, leaving him with severely weakened grip strength. The effects are clearly seen when he attempts the third stage of the tournament, unable to make it past the Arm Rings, the first obstacle. He competed again in Sasuke 21, but he was unable to get past the Salmon Ladder. He retired from the show then after.
    • Drew Drechsel injured his knee during stage one in The finals of American Ninja Warrior 3 and had to drop out the rest of the tournament. He was the only one of the 10 finalists to not complete stage one.
    • Makoto Nagano injured his hamstring in SASUKE 29, and barely managed to make it to the Double Warped Wall before timing out.
    • Toshihiro Takeda slipped on the Wing Slider in SASUKE 36, injuring his arms enough that he didn't even attempt the Dragon Glider. Tragically, he even built his own Dragon Glider obstacle at home so that he could pass it for real.
  • Game Show: With the premise being to beat the Death Course and all four of its stages.
  • Game Show Physical Challenge: Ninja Warrior tasks players to complete incredibly difficult obstacle courses requiring very high speed, muscular strength, and balance.
  • Heroic RRoD: Many of the best contestants have the ability to make it all the way through, but get stuck on something that drains all the strength they have for the later obstacles.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In SASUKE 16, Bunpei Shiratori had the actually rather clever idea to grab the resting bar before the Devil's Swing to build up momentum. Unfortunately, this only resulted in the obstacle repeatedly getting stuck behind the resting bar when Makoto Nagano attempted the strategy. And then when he tried to make the jump to the final obstacle, he accidentally knocked it out of reach and failed the course.
  • Joke Character: "The Octopus", "The Butterfly", "Superman", and a cavalcade of comedians, cosplayers, near-nudists, and humorous pro wrestlers. They usually don't get very far in Stage 1, but the crowd cheers them on regardless. Only twice did one of these guys both times comedian Kinnikun Nakayama manage to get to Stage 2. Subverted in SASUKE 31 with "Wreath Man", known by his real name: Ragivaru Anastase. He managed to power through the first stage, while wearing a wreath, and achieved the fastest time in the tournament, and made it up to Stage 3.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness:
    • For SASUKE, by the 32nd tournament, the course began using obstacles derived from American Ninja Warrior, most notably with obstacles such as the Double Pendulum and Dragon Glider being modifications of pre-existing American obstacles, as opposed to using original concepts (even the Fish Bone and Ring Slider introduced in SASUKE 33 were modifications of KUNOICHI revival obstacles). The course aesthetics were also changed to be more akin to those counterparts in SASUKE 33, as opposed to the more stylized decoration of previous competitions.
    • For KUNOICHI, there were two cases:
      • KUNOICHI 8 suddenly used a heat-to-heat format for Stage 1, along with a Repechange Stage, that was designed to maximize clears and instead focused on the competitors competing against each other. Stage 2 was made up of prior obstacles, and Stage 3 became a single challenge through the Flying Roll.
      • KUNOICHI 9 returned to the more classic formula, but reduced the number of attempts to 50, took place indoors akin to the first tournament of SASUKE, and changed the obstacles to be the SASUKE obstacles modified for female competitors. When Stage 3 was returned for KUNOICHI 10, the only returning balance obstacle was Domino Hill, while every other obstacle originated from SASUKE.
  • Little Miss Badass: Rena Higashi was able to reach stage 3 of KUNOICHI when she was 13!
  • Lost in Translation: Hiroyuki Asaoka a teacher of the Japanese equivalent of elementary school is known by the alliterative pun nickname "Sasuke Sensei". In the English subtitles and narration, the nickname is changed to "Professor Ninja Warrior", which ruins the pun.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Even the best of the contestants will fail with one slight mistake, and all it takes is one obstacle suddenly malfunctioning or breaking to send them into the drink.
  • Male Gaze: The camera put a lot of focus on Jessie Graff when she competed in the 34th competition.
  • Married to the Job: All-Star Katsumi Yamada; training for this was his job until he retired (his singular devotion to Ninja Warrior cost him his real job and his family).
  • Mighty Glacier: Travis Schraeder can best be described as this in the context of the show; he's an extremely strong competitor and rarely loses the course by falling, but rarely manages to outrun the clock. He competed twice and timed out once. Oddly, in his first attempt, he posted the fastest Stage 1 clear.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: A Barack Obama pastiche runs in the 22nd edition, complete with the crowd waving flags and chanting, "Yes, we can!". He fails, and the announcer shouts out, "No, you can't!"
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • The original Japanese course, made more notable compared to the American Ninja Warrior counterpart that came afterward. While the platforms have some padding, they're often just carpeting (providing no cushioning for falls) and there are a few obstacles look worn and even involve sharp sheet metal edges, a problem which got worse during the Shin-SASUKE era as Monster9 began to fail. There have been instances of competitors falling off the course and onto the ground, usually due to an obstacle that requires a short run. The American courses have thick padding all around every platform, the obstacles themselves look newer (at least with a fresh coat of paint) and there are fewer obstacles involving sprints or running leaps.
    • Some of the obstacle designs were more than a bit dangerous in execution, which as can be inferred from the above, caused several competitors to be injured. The Rope Glider is perhaps one of the most infamous examples, as it caused several injuries, prompting its removal in the next competition. SASUKE 28 and onwards have been doing relatively well to subvert this trope as a result, taking a page from the American counterparts to upgrade the course aesthetics in order to hide the metal edges, adding more padding and water pits, and relying less on high-velocity style obstacles.
    • Early tournaments also tended to keep on going even during dangerous weather conditions, such as heavy rain making the course slick in SASUKE 8, and the high temperatures of SASUKE 15 that caused Bunpei Shiratori to suffer from heat exhaustion. Present-day tournaments now stop the taping and even modify/skip over potentially hazardous sections of the course if the situation presents itself, such as in SASUKE 37. When SASUKE 38 was hit with rain on the final days of taping, tarps were put all over Stage 3 and the Final Stage to prevent the rain from becoming a hazard.
  • Overly Long Name: Jayawaira Umagirya Kankaanamuge Ranbindara. He was eliminated before the announcer had a chance to finish introducing him.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: With all the attention G4 gives to Levi Meeuwenberg, Brian Orosco and others, it's easy to forget about Brett Sims, the winner of the first two American Ninja Warrior contests. Granted, he went out on Stage 1 in both of his appearances (failing the Jumping Spider in SASUKE 19 and then the Warped Wall in SASUKE 20).
  • Platform Hell: Definitely a Real Life example. Boy howdy! Only four people (Kazuhiko Akiyama in the 4th Competition, fan favorite Makoto Nagano in the 17th Competition, Yuuji Urushihara in the 24th and 27th Competition, and now Yusuke Morimoto) have completed the entire course in 31 competitions. If you include the Kunoichi competitions, with Satomi Kadoi, Rie Komiya (who couldn't get past the Halfpipe Attack in Sasuke), and Ayako Miyake (who beat the Kunoichi course three times in a row), only seven people have ever completed the course.
  • Promoted Fan Boy: Those who made it to the tournament thanks to G4's "American Ninja Challenge" tie-in.
    • The best of these is Levi Meeuwenberg; in the 20th Competition, he got further than any other competitor, set the record for fastest time to complete the Second Stage, and was immediately asked back for the next tournament.
  • Retired Badass: The All-Stars collectively retired from the competition after Sasuke 28, also referred to as Sasuke Rising.
    • 10-Minute Retirement: Makoto Nagano, Shingo Yamamoto and Toshihiro Takeda all return in Sasuke 29, though none are referred to as All-Stars since the title was retired.
    • After SASUKE 32 however, Nagano retired for real. Bunpei Shiratori has also stopped competing, his last tournament being SASUKE 30.
    • A non-All-Star example occurred in SASUKE 35, where longtime competitor Kenji Takahashi retired.
    • In general, there have been plenty of non-All-Star competitors on the show who have competed for several tournaments, but retired for one reason or another.
  • Regular Character: Yamamoto Shingo has run in all 39 Sasuke courses. He is the only competitor to do so.
  • Rise to the Challenge: Stage 4, which is best described as "climb tower really fast".
  • Serial Escalation: If there is any stage or obstacle that is considered "too easy," it will be redesigned for the next tournament to make sure it is harder. In SASUKE 19 and 22, Stage 1 eliminated all of the Ninja Warrior All-Stars.
    • Not only did SASUKE 19 eliminate every All-Star in Stage 1, but 98 of the 100 competitors were eliminated on the stage. The two remaining competitors were both eliminated on the Salmon Ladder, an early but difficult Stage 2 obstacle.
    • SASUKE 25 reveals the Double Salmon Ladder for Stage 2, where you transition from one set of pegs to another, and the Ultimate Cliffhanger in Stage 3. Of the competitors who made it to the Cliffhanger, none were able to get beyond the first couple cliff transitions.
    • SASUKE 28 goes one further, as Stage 3 adds the Crazy Cliffhanger (where, to reach the final cliff, a competitor must leap backwards and grab the miniscule ledge) and the Vertical Limit (a 1 cm wide cliff that a competitor must navigate by grabbing both sides of the wall in a pincer grip. All the competitors who make it to the Crazy Cliffhanger in SASUKE 28 fail on the jump ledge.
    • SASUKE 28 also ratchets up the difficulty on the Salmon Ladder with a new variant: Swap Salmon Ladder. On this one, you have to zig-zag your way up, and the next pegs appear after you clear the last pegs, and unlike previous variants, if the bar lands sideways (One end on a higher rung than the other), you immediately get disqualified. To compensate for that, there is only one Unstable Bridge instead of two right after it.
    • SASUKE 31 then made the Salmon Ladder even harder by introducing the Kudari Salmon Ladder, where at first you just climb up the rungs as normal, before you swing over to another set of rungs where instead of going up, you go down the rungs to complete the obstacle. However, unlike previous Salmon Ladders, the up section and down section have their own separate bars, and instead of going directly to another obstacle without rest, you just swing over to a ramp.
    • SASUKE 32 saw the creation of the Ultra-Crazy Cliffhanger, where you have to jump backwards twice, with the second ledge curving inwards. The final ledge also moves up and down automatically, making the second jump even more difficult to time.
    • Ever since its introduction in SASUKE 33 and KUNOICHI 9, the Fish Bone has received constant modifications in every successive SASUKE tournament, via increasing the number of rotating bars. In SASUKE 37, the obstacle was lengthened to have two additional posts to cross along with an additional section of rotating bars that turn the opposite direction from the first set.
    • SASUKE 37 would see the making of the Cliffhanger Dimension. While mostly similar in format to the Ultra Crazy Cliffhanger (Though the curve of the second ledge has been shortened), now the second ledge moves up and down, while the third ledge moves back and forth. That being said, weather issues in its debut tournament meant that the ledges had to stay stationary for official runs. It returned to working order in SASUKE 38, whereupon it obliterated everyone who attempted it except Yusuke Morimoto.
    • For a Kunoichi example, the seventh tournament modified Domino Hill (an obstacle consisting of forty Styrofoam boards that have to be walked across, which get positioned higher up in a set number pattern) in two ways: First, altering the 12-8-8-12 pattern of the boards to an even 10-10-10-10 pattern, and changing the last ten boards into ten soft, spring-loaded balls. Unlike the Shin-Cliffhanger however, this version was never defeated, due to a format change made in KUNOICHI 8, which downgraded the obstacle into a set of 15 even boards, albeit with the corners shaved off to narrow the pathway.
  • Shout-Out: The Tie Fighter obstacle... until the rights expired and it was modified into the Wing Slider.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Lee Yen Chee? Lee Yen Chi? Lee Enchi? Make up your mind, subtitles.
    • And just to add to the confusion, the name pronunciation, and the name used on the Sasuke Wiki, is Li En Zhi, a fourth possibility.
    • Worse yet, none of these are how the guy himself spells them: Lee En-Chih. (Li En Zhi is the traditional Chinese spelling but En-Chih is Taiwanese, which has a different spelling convention.)
    • It's Wakky, not Wacky. G4 doesn't seem to understand this.
  • Spin-Off: Until about the 8th Competition, the background is dotted with the emblems for Muscle Ranking; Sasuke was initially run during that show, and was spun off.
  • Spiritual Successor: ABC's Wipeout series was inspired by Ninja Warrior to the point where there was a lawsuit over the similarities between Wipeout and Sasuke but has fewer competitors, changes up the rules (falling off the course during a stage doesn't eliminate you, finishing last does; the first person to complete the last stage sets the pace that the other competitors must beat to win the competition), and uses "wacky" challenges instead of challenges meant to test one's physical limits. It also features another stark difference: whereas there's no advertised prize that a contestant can get (other than fame) for beating the entire course, Wipeout offers a $50,000 purse to the last person standing.
    • The lack of a defined prize can be chalked up to Japan's stringent game show laws for civilians.
    • In the UK, The BBC cancelled Total Wipeout - and ITV promptly commissioned Ninja Warrior UK, thus reversing this trope.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Of an obviously non-fatal sort — competitors' bodies coming into contact with any body of water results in immediate disqualification. Bailing from most obstacles usually results in a tumble into the conveniently placed water below, but even if a competitor's foot just barely grazes the water's surface while leaping or swinging to the next platform, they're out. The latter case is typically only a potential threat to competitors until after the initial obstacle of Stage 2, as the rest of the course from then on is usually suspended higher in the air, and the tower climb of Stage 4 doesn't have a water hazard at all.
    • There is one subversion however, starting in SASUKE 28, with the inclusion of the Backstream. It is the one obstacle on the course that allows you to touch the water, consisting of a large water tank with some jets in it that you have to swim through.
  • Super Strength: You'll need as much upper-body as can be humanly summoned to beat Stage 3.
  • Take Your Time: Anyone that reaches Stage 3 has an unlimited amount of time to complete it (not to rest however, as you only get 30 seconds in-between obstacles with a break zone platform/bar). Considering the obstacles in this stage, this is very justified.
    • KUNOICHI has had a strange relation with this: At first, the Final Stage was a ten-meter long balance beam with cylindrical and pyramidal bumps that had no time limit, but this version was scrapped in KUNOICHI 3 in favor of the regular tower. That tournament also introduced Stage 3 (The first two tournaments only had three stages), which had a 90-second time limit. KUNOICHI 5 would reserve the time limit for the final obstacle (which was ironically enough, a Nerf of the the balance beam obstacle from the original Final Stage), before doing away with it for good in the next competition. Finally, during KUNOICHI 9, the BLUE Stage (Stage 2) had no time limit, owing to lack of space to make a proper Stage 3. The next tournament brought in the BLACK Stage (Stage 3), which has unlimited time like the regular Stage 3.
  • Tempting Fate: During one competition, the announcer mentions that the current competitor, Makoto Nagano, barely ever made mistakes. Upon nearing the end of the course he forgets to kick off of the right part of the second to last obstacle and fails the course.
    • In SASUKE 25, right before Toshihiro Takeda takes on Stage 2, he smugly remarks how no one's failed at the new Double Salmon Ladder yet. Guess who's the first one that does.
  • Title Drop: The Japanese announcer whenever one of the G4 competitors is running the course.
    • The Japanese name is Title Dropped a lot.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The SASUKE 27 commercial showed Shingo Yamamoto failing a brand-new obstacle.
  • True Companions: It may be a competition, but the real opponent is the course rather than the other contestants. As a result, regulars like the All-Stars and the up-and-coming young guns have a great deal of respect and camaraderie with each other. Shown rather touchingly by G4's special detailing Levi Meeuwenberg's training, where he spent a good deal of time with the All-Stars (Makoto Nagano in particular) and all of them were eager to let this person they barely knew into their homes and treat him as one of their own.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: Every now-and-then some obstacle on the course comes apart, and causes the contestant to lose. The Rolling Log of early competitions is possibly most notable for randomly falling off the tracks every now and then.
    • Levi Meeuwenburg took on the second stage and jumped on the Slider Drop when the bar jumped the track and dropped him into the water, disqualifying him.
    • In the fourth women's tournament, one of the youngest competitors had what turned out to be one of the strongest Stage 1 runs... until she slipped on a towel that had been accidentally left on the course by one of the production team, and fell into the water. This led to an outraged reaction when the producers made the disqualification stand and refused to allow her another run, on the grounds that she should have seen the towel and avoided it.
    • Makoto Nagano fell victim to one of these during Stage 1's Slider Jump. While the obstacle worked fine for everyone else, part of the rope attached to the slider was stuck on the outside railing, which caused the slider to stop too many feet away from the net, and made the jump towards the net impossibly long. After Nagano complained about the rope getting cut off, the officials took a second look, and agreed with him, thus disqualifying his attempt. The good news and bad news: Nagano has to do the entire course over again. He succeeds.
    • In SASUKE 24, Kenji Takahashi was one of the competitors to make it to the final stage. During his climb, his safety line got tangled up and he was unable to continue until time eventually ran out.
      • Furthermore in SASUKE 30, the Swap Salmon Ladder malfunctioned on Takahashi and caused him to miss the rungs. The producers did not catch this and he was disqualified.
    • SASUKE 32 suffered from very damp conditions that caused several competitors to slip on obstacles like the TIE Fighter and Flying Bar. Drew Dreschel nearly timed out on the Warped Wall because of this.
    • SASUKE 35 had numerous issues with the Dragon Glider's bar becoming dislodged, resulting in competitors (including a few that were expected to perform well) being disqualified. This was thankfully (and surprisingly, given the track record with busted obstacles) been averted in SASUKE 36, where there were no issues whatsoever with the obstacle.
    • An aversion of this trope was SASUKE 5 where Katsumi Yamada nearly tapped the water after the Rolling Log fell off the track. Luckily he missed the water and managed to clear the stage.
    • SASUKE 37, similar to SASUKE 32, had very damp and rainy conditions, which forced the Rolling Log, now revised as the starting obstacle of Stage 2, to be skipped over, and the new Cliffhanger Dimension to become stationary when the ledges were supposed to move.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Makoto Nagano famously made a mistake in one tournament when one hand had landed in an illegal part of the Shin-Cliffhanger. No-one noticed and none of the cameras had spotted it, so he could have continued, but he immediately owned up to it and withdrew from the tournament.
  • World of Badass: One of the best displays that our world is this. It's a show about people from all walks of life, from Olympic athletes to gas station attendants, running an insanely grueling Japanese obstacle course in the name of glory, with some of them getting very far without much training or preparation.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Toku actors appeared fairly often in the Japanese version, with their roles being openly acknowledged: when Kamen Rider Decade star Masahiro Inoue competed in 2010, not only did the announcers talk about the show (with video clips), but they played Decade's battle theme as Inoue entered the stage. The G4 dub typically removed their runs entirely to avoid legal complications, but some made it through. Mitsuomi Takahashi's run was aired in America, but the subtitles don't translate the dozen or so times where the Japanese announcer explicitly calls him "Bouken Red" Kenjiro Ishimaru (Owner in Kamen Rider Den-O) and Kane Kosugi (Ninja Black in Ninja Sentai Kakuranger) get their runs aired in their entirety, mainly because the announcers tend not to reference their Toku roles and instead focus on Ishimaru being one of the oldest competitors and Kosugi having been a Hollywood actor.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain:
    • The most glaring example is Katsumi Yamada, to the point where he actually quit competing for a tournament before having a He's Back! moment.
    • Shingo Yamamoto manages to get to the third stage in the 23rd competition, the first time since the 17th competition and failed on the first obstacle. The reason? Remember when he dislocated his shoulder during his ascent on the Final Stage (See Downer Ending)? The same shoulder got dislocated only seconds after starting the third stage! For double the ouch factor, if you watch the replay, and know it's coming, you can actually see the moment his shoulder pops.
    • After making it through the qualifying round of American Ninja Warrior 2 and going through the entire boot camp training regiment, Levi Meeuwenburg broke his wrist just before the Americans were set to head to Japan. He was still able to go, but he was unable to compete, prompting Adam Laplante to be brought in to take his place.
  • You Are Too Late: Yuko Mizuno provides the worst example: she made it to the top of the tower in the final stage and hit the trigger mere moments after time ran out.
    • This also happened to Makoto Nagano in SASUKE 12, who was just 0.11 seconds short of defeating the Final Stage.