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Series / Unbeatable Banzuke

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Welcome to Japan's legendary Temple of Champions, where athletes gather to face the most diabolical challenges ever conceived, testing balance, endurance, and sheer strength! Competitors have one goal...beat the course! But victory is elusive, and the only constant is the bitter taste of defeat. This is the ultimate competition of Man Vs. Obstacle! Who will top the Unbeatable...Banzuke?
Opening Narration of Unbeatable Banzuke (US ver.)

Also known by the name "Kinniku Banzuke", which literally means "Muscle Ranking", Unbeatable Banzuke was a Japanese athletic Game Show in which competitors are challenged in one of more than two dozen events, ranging from target-events adapted to various sports, to nine-area obstacle courses, to other challenges of a different variety, all for the honor of adding their name to the list of champions, the titular BANZUKE. This show is in a similar vein to Ninja Warrior; failing once on any given event means you are out. It was shown in the United States on G4 TV, often hand in hand with Ninja Warrior. In Australia, it premiered on SBS2 on April 2 2012.

The show began in 1995, airing on a daily basis consistently until 2002, whereupon a new event known as "Power Island", caused two injuries on the Rock Attack and Rock Valley obstacles. Revised safety guidelines at the time meant that the show was put on hiatus and essentially canceled. Successor shows known as Taiku Okoku, Golden Muscle, and the original incarnation of VIKING were aired in its place, among other shows, but rarely lasted past a year. The concept of the show is still maintained in other programs, but the original Kinniku Banzuke itself is essentially over.

G4 only showed a decent handful of episodes over and over again, only getting a fresh batch of episodes in 2008, which went into rotation. However, after 65 episodes, the show was Screwed by the Network and canceled despite having more footage for other events.

The show had several reflex-based action game adaptations developed by Konami.

This show contains examples of:

  • Adapted Out: Kinniku Banzuke, being a sports variety show, held numerous other events besides obstacle courses, primarily target-based games involving baseballs (Struck Out), basketball (9 Hoops), soccer (Kick Target), etc., along with other events. Unbeatable Banzuke however, just focuses on the obstacle course events, with only a few of the more non conventional challenges such as Daruma 7 being shown. Likewise, several other events that had new versions (Hand Walk IV, Super Riders IV and V, Skeboarder II), were ultimately not shown.
    • Adaptation Distillation: The G4/international version could be considered this. The original show didn't just have events, but also sports related segments like for example comedian Akira Omori's (a three-times finalist on sister show Ninja Warrior) bouts with training Muai-Thai. Knowing what clicked with the viewers, G4 ended up getting the footage for only the various obstacle courses and the oddball events not related to any sport (like for example Extra Kendama, Banzai 90 and the abovementioned Daruma 7), added some post production graphics, a new intro and segments with Rome Kanda as Kei Kato (or the glorious hamminess of BRIAN BLESSED as Banzuke Brian if you're a Brit). The result was G4 catching lightning in a bottle again, making a Cult Classic of a show.
  • Career-Ending Injury: The show was cancelled in May 2002 because of two back-to-back accidents in a dangerous new challenge called Power Island. The contestants had to catch a ball weighting 47kg and that had 1.8m of diameter as it rolled down a slope, push it to the top and then balance over it across a path. The first contestant, a Chinese student, fell off it and would be diagnosed with cervical vertebrae injury. Because he didn't look too hurt as he left for medical care the staff just resumed the show. And then the next contestant, a Japanese student, was outright run over by the ball and was injured as well. Thankfully, both have now recovered, but the show was still canceled for the safety violation.
  • Catchphrase:
    Rome Kanda/Kei Kato: Until next time, this is Kato Kei...the doors to the Temple of Champions are ~ sealed.
  • Deadly Upgrade: Courses that get beaten enough are reimagined and given a different Roman numeral indicator.
    • Taken to (il)logical extremes with the upgrade of the unicycle event "Like A Pierrot". After five course upgrades before it were all beaten, the course was upgraded into "Like A Pierrot Ghost", a track with a definitive horror movie theme. The first competitor was a second-grade schoolgirl. No one was able to get past the next-to-last obstacle before the show's cancellation.
    • Averted in the Japanese version with the second version of "Ottoto 9" (an event where you have to balance a metal pole on the tips of two fingers and navigate the pole through a course), which was called "A Craftsman", with the pole being taller than in the first version. It proved a bit too difficult and was dropped from rotation as a result.
    • This was also averted for "Banzai 90", whereupon the name was not changed even when the event was made more difficult.
  • Death Course: No shortage of those here.
  • Engrish: In Like A Pierrot Ghost, competitors pick up a phone, which proceeds to play the following soundbyte to them: YOU ARE ARLEADY DEAD. *Evil Laugh, Dramatic Thunder* With exactly that enunciation. May be a bit of Narm for English speaking audiences.
  • Fanservice: Lampshaded in the US airing.
    Dave Wittenberg: She's a school dietician, responsible for student lunches at an elementary school. For some reason, she came to the event dressed as a waitress.
  • Gratuitous Japanese / Too Long; Didn't Dub: Admit it, Unbeatable Banzuke sounds a lot cooler than Muscle Ranking or even Unbeatable Ranking.
  • Harder Than Hard: The difficulty varies at times, but in general, each of the events are fairly hard, and you have to EARN your victory.
  • Humongous Mecha / Everything's Better with Samurai: The opening sequence, commercial headers, and occasional scene transitions on the G4 airing feature a giant samurai-adorned robot. Yes, G4. We get it. Unbeatable Banzuke is Japanese and badass.
    • Also, that ludicrous outfit BRIAN BLESSED has to wear.
    • Completely averted with the original mascot, Kongu-kun, who was depicted as a Bare-Fisted Monk.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: Multiple contestants show up in their full uniform from work or sports, regardless that the skill they came dressed for has no direct link to the challenge at handnote . This usually leads the commentator to ask "Will their [unrelated skill] help them conquer the course?" The answer is always a resounding NO.
  • Level Ate: The first half of Neko de Drive, which has obstacles such as a steep, slick watermelon slice and a narrow circular doughnut competitors must do a full rotation on before progressing. The second half of the course is more in line with the Incredible Shrinking Man. Not so with Neko de Drive II, which had more of a World Travel theme.
  • Mega Neko: The cat-cart in Neko de Drive, a full-sized wheelbarrow decorated like a kitten.
  • Serious Business: Apparently there are races held outside of this show where people do indeed ride on unicycles.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: The competitions are dotted all over this scale, from very silly (Kangan, the aforementioned pogo stick course) to very serious (Quick Muscle, a hell-on-earth push-up competition).
    • And then there's Neko De Drive. As Wittenberg puts it, "Hard to complete. Impossible to describe."
  • Spin-Off: SASUKE, which turned into its own phenomenon.
  • Stage Names: The American host, Rome Kanda, operates under the name Kei Kato.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: See True Companions, below.
  • Timed Mission: Several events require the player to either finish or reach a Checkpoint (the "Break Zone") within a fairly tight time limit.
    • As noted above, "Athletic Love" had a 60-second time limit.
    • An event called "Banzai 90" required a six-player team to throw four of its players onto padded logs 9 to 12 feet above the arena floor. The team had 90 seconds to finish. Also counts as a Try Not to Die, since once all four players are on the logs, the remaining two players have to hit a button to start a 10-second countdown, and the players on the logs have to stay on for the duration.
  • True Companions: The word "nakama" is used in the co-op event Nakama; i.e., an obstacle course where two people tied together by an elastic rope have to navigate a series of obstacles in 70 seconds. Other events also required teamwork, such as Seesaw 60 and Daruma 7.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Unicycle course Like A Pierrot II is beaten by three people in a row. Mr Blessed does not take this well.