The ongoing History of SASUKE (サスケ)
SASUKE is a Japanese sports entertainment television special where 100 competitors attempt to complete four obstacle course stages.
Monster 9 (a Japanese production company that went bankrupt in 2011) produced 27 Sasuke tournaments between 1997 and 2011. In 2012 Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) produced a new "Sasuke Rising" (Sasuke 28) special which included a revamped course and a special back tie dinner for the broadcast.
The G4 Channel in the US produces an edited version featuring English subtitles and commentary known as Ninja Warrior.
SASUKE is presumably named after the most famous ninja in Japanese lore: Sarutobi Sasuke.
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Sasuke Introduction Video
The course at the TBS Midoriyama Studios consists of four stages of increasing difficulty that the competitors must complete. The 1ST Stage, 2ND Stage and FINAL Stage have time limits but the 3RD Stage is so difficult it has no timelimit...if you make it, you make it. Competitions generally start in the daytime, and progress through the obstacles, regardless of weather conditions (some competitions have seen snow) into the darkness, until they are over. For the purposes of fairness, in the 18th Competition, a 1200-meter run was held before the event. This run determined the competitors' numbers.
Through an interview or audition as well as trial rounds to test physical ability, the field of applicants (which can sometimes reach 1000) is narrowed to 100 who will be allowed to compete. Competitors are for the most part amateurs. Just doing a roll call of the SASUKE
ALL-STARS reveals that: YAMADA Katsumi (Mister Sasuke) has had many jobs, TAKEDA Toshihiro is a fire fighter, NAGANO Makoto is a fisherman, SHIRATORI Bunpei is a government worker, AKIYAMA Kazuhiko was a crab fisherman and is now a massage therapist and last but
certainly not least YAMAMOTO Shingo started out as a gas jockey and is now a gas stand manager. However, many professional athletes (e.g.: Olympians like Paul Terek) compete as well as a myriad of Japanese television talents (comedians, singers, dancers etc).
The TEAM SPIRIT
Apparently during the earlier SASUKE competitions there was a greater degree of competition
and even "bad blood" between competitors. But watching any SASUKE from 14
onward reveals a great deal of camaraderie between the competitors.
Even a relative newcomer like Levi
Meeuwenberg can be seen getting coaching and encouragement from the more
experienced without a hint of animosity. No doubt the fact that the course
is so hard contributes to this "band of brothers" type mentality.
The PRIZE/Reward MONEY
The prize/reward money for achieving KANZENSEIHA (Ninja Warrior Total Victory) from SASUKE 1 to SASUKE 17 was ¥2,000,000 (approximately $20,000.00
USD or €18,000.00 EUR) which was hardly enough to cover all the expenses traveling back and forth
to SASUKE twice a year.
The SASUKE course was redesigned after NAGANO Makoto's KANZENSEIHA in SASUKE/Ninja Warrior
#17 to make the course more difficult. The prize/reward money was also increased so from SASUKE/Ninja Warrior #18 onward the prize money for KANZENSEIHA (Ninja Warrior Total Victory) is ¥4,000,000 (approximately $40,000.00
USD or €35,000.00 EUR).
SASUKE airs on the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) between Japanese television drama seasons. Each 3-hour special covers an entire competition, and as of 2010 there have been 25 competitions, approximately one new special per season (twice per year), since September 26, 1997. The show is produced by Monster9 and is one of the spin-offs of Kinniku Banzuke (translated in English as "Muscle Ranking"). Until the 10th Competition in the fall of 2002, SASUKE was broadcast as a special part of the Kinniku Banzuke series but became an independent program when that series was discontinued. The 1st Competition in 1997 was held indoors, marking the only time SASUKE did not take place outside at the TBS Midoriyama (Green Mountain) Studios.
Each competition is taped prior to the air date and broadcast as a 3-hour show edited for time. The 21st Competition aired September 17th, 2008 on TBS in Japan. G4 aired the 21st Ninja Warrior Competition on November 12th, 2008 as a part of NINJAFEST 3
SASUKE and Ninja Warrior are also rebroadcast in various countries around the world:
|The program is broadcast in Australia on SBS Two. The play-by-play commentary and interviews with participants are subtitled in English, while the introduction, player profiles, and replays have been dubbed by a voice actor.
|The program is broadcast in Bulgaria on bTV Comedy as Най-добрият нинджа (Ninja Warriors) every day at 19:30 (GMT + 2).
|The program is broadcast in the Czech Republic on Prima Cool as Ninja faktor (Ninja Factor).
|The Ninja Warrior version of the program is broadcast in Germany on RTL II and DSF.
|The program can currently be seen in Greece as Sasuke on the Skai TV network every day at 17:30 (GMT + 2). The show is voiced-over by Akindynos Gikas and Kostas Papageorgiou.
|The program is broadcast in Indonesia as the G4 version of Ninja Warrior, including the "Ninja Killer" and "Warrior Wipeout" sections. The show is dubbed in Indonesian language and broadcast daily at 09:00 (GMT + 7). Usually two thirty-minute episodes are aired.
|The program can currently be seen in Serbia as Nindža Ratnici (Ninja Warriors) on the Fox Televizija every day at 20:00 (GMT + 1). The show is voiced-over by Ivan Tešanović and Miljan Milićević.
The program broadcast in Singapore is the non-edited version of Ninja Warrior, with the exception of the subtitles being white instead of yellow. The program was formerly broadcast on MediaCorp Channel 5 every Wednesday at 20:30 (GMT + 8) and screened two episodes back to back. It was later moved to Thursday at 20:30 (GMT + 8), airing one episode. The show's run ended with the 17th competition.
The show returned on December 23, 2009, airing Wednesdays at 20:00, showing at various times two episodes, three episodes, or a single episode.
The show's run ended with the 22nd competition.
|The program broadcast in South Africa is the ANIMAX CHANNEL version of Ninja Warrior, with the "Ninja Killer" and "Warrior Wipeout" sections.
|The Ninja Warrior version of the program is broadcast in Turkey on Fox TV.
|The American-edited Ninja Warrior episodes are broadcast in the United Kingdom on Challenge, Bravo and Virgin 1. The show has been re-edited to remove the subtitles. The on-screen graphics have slightly changed; the red box in the corner for the Challenge logo is smaller. The show is voiced-over by Stuart Hall. The "Ninja Killer" and "Warrior Wipeout" sections remain, but there is only one advertisement break halfway through the show. As of 2010, 19 out of 25 competitions have aired in the UK.
|The program can currently be seen in the United States as Ninja Warrior on the G4 channel. It has no set schedule. There have been occasional marathons of the program on weekends. The play-by-play commentary and interviews with participants are subtitled in English, while the introduction, player profiles, and replays have been dubbed by voice actor Dave Wittenberg. Each episode is a 30-minute portion of the Japanese broadcast. Episodes also feature segments such as "Ninja Killer" (an obstacle from a stage that took out the most contestants in a single episode) and "Warrior Wipeout" (the best wipeout from a Sasuke contestant). As of August 17, 2010 (2010 -08-17), all competitions have been aired.
There have been several programs related to SASUKE. KUNOICHI,
perhaps the most well-known spin off, is a version of SASUKE restricted to female competitors only and consisting of obstacles focused more on balance and speed. There have also been special competitions for children and the elderly.