We've known since September, 2012 that G4TV will be no more. G4TV as we know it will be cancelled and replaced by a whole new channel (yet to be named) and all new programming. Variety had written an article (as did many others) that NBCUniversal was planning on remaking G4 to better fit their channel lineups. The end of G4TV as we know it now was expected to be in the first quarter 2013. We've also known that G4TV has been the worst rated cable station in the country for a number of years causing cable stations (most notably Direct TV with millions of subscribers) to drop G4 from their lineup causing millions of viewers to no longer carry G4TV programming. Even with the success of American Ninja Warrior on NBC over the summer, the G4TV numbers for the regional finals were not at all impressive when compared to previous years (meaning it plateaued). The rest of the shows on G4TV have been on the decline with a constant repeat of syndicated shows like Cops that can be seen elsewhere on constant repeat. Thanks also to the former president Neal Tiles hatred against female viewers, Ninja Warrior was removed from constant rotation as there were more female viewers than males. Even after Neal Tiles left the station Ninja Warrior was relegated to a more than 6 month delay as to not compete with their new obsession "American Ninja Warrior" (ANW).
Ninja Warrior logo on G4TV
Of particular to the world-wide audience of Sasuke was the potential impact this announcement in September was to our favorite show Sasuke. As you know by now the international name for Sasuke is known now as "Ninja Warrior" (G4TV's name). G4TV produced the horrible 30 minute edited shows of Ninja Warrior that is then sold worldwide to 150+ countries. In the past they were the ones responsible for the altered results of Ninja Warrior 23, Ninja Warrior 26 and Ninja Warrior 27. All shows connected to ANW1-3 which caused International viewer uproar over deleted results on the "official" broadcast of Sasuke worldwide. As of now, it is unclear at this time if the cancellation of G4TV will directly impact Ninja Warrior. I'm afraid it might be given that G4TV has not even acknowledge the existence of Sasuke 28 in Japan due to tape in a few short weeks in Japan.
Attack of the show
One gauge in particular I was monitoring with the news from G4's demise was the fate of Attack of the Show (AOTS). While I am NOT a fan of the show, it was a good barometer of the fate of the network given that it's one of G4's longest running shows and considered it's flagship show on the network. Now we know BOTH AOTS and X-Play (THE longest running show on G4TV) have now been officially canceled with their final shows both running in December, 2012. Also the exit of the networks most famous and long-serving hosts in Adam Sessler and Kevin Pereira both leaving the network it's clear that all are jumping a sinking ship. Now more than ever I'm afraid that G4TV has lost Ninja Warrior in the process.
For the international viewers who do not carry G4 networking and don't know who the people are it is of note that AOTS hosts have been in Sasuke before. The more famous episodes happened in the fall of 2008 when AOTS hosts Olivia Munn and Kevin Pereira both were contestants in Sasuke 21 and Olivia competed again in Sasuke 22.
Tohoku Auction was announced by G4's Attack of the Show (AOTS) during Sasuke 27 (From the Sasuke 27 TBS broadcast)
You may also recall when AOTS was involved in raising money for the Tohoku disaster last year and Timothy Coombs was able to travel to Japan and compete in Sasuke 27. The connection of AOTS to Ninja Warrior has been going on for years. During AOTS it was announced that David Campbell would be competing in Sasuke 22 when Olivia Munn chose him to represent the USA in that tournament. They were also the ones responsible for the early "behind the scenes" shows that most early viewers were happy to see. Since then though most of those specials were gone when ANW came into the fray.
Bottom line though, if G4TV is no longer carrying Ninja Warrior on it's station I'm afraid no one will be carrying Ninja Warrior in the United States. If no one is producing those 30 minute shows for TBS to sell around the world, I'm afraid no international viewers will get a chance to see Ninja Warrior 28 and ultimately the retirement of the 10 years of the All-stars. THAT makes me very unhappy.
For those who follow VenusHeadTrap on Youtube, you might know him for all the great video montages, commentary and tributes he's painstakingly put together through the years. He's been wanting to get an interview with me for a while but I wasn't sure if we'd have much to talk about. Now with the upcoming Sasuke 28 and the retirement of the Sasuke All-stars.. there was plenty to talk about! Fair warning.. I talk a lot.. (thus the reason why I named this blog "rambling")
Second half of the interview.. yep.. I'm still talking.. LOL Either way thanks to VenusHeadTrap for a painless interview. I wasn't sure what to think but as usual the Sasuke community can be such a community to share our thoughts about our passion.
Over the past few months I've been expecting the inevitable to happen and dreaded when/if it would be announced. With the formal announcement of Sasuke 28 this winter I knew this might be the last Sasuke that I knew in the format that I loved for almost 6 years. The show is expected to be redeveloped and be taken into a new era. So, in anticipation of going with a new concept, the All-stars will be retired. There are far-reaching implications with that announcement and an entire post can be dedicated to what will happen in the future. However, I prefer to post what I've been feeling for the past day since I read that tweet. Bear with my sentimental and often meandering journey through my fondest memories of Sasuke and the creation of Rambling Rican. It's my way of going through catharsis. It's a way for me to sort out my depression and melancholy over the news. I'm not entirely sure if I ever explained how this all started for me anyway. Lord knows I've been asked a lot about this. I'll have to start at the beginning.
In 2006 I was watching late-night television (which is a constant for me) when I flipped through the channels and stopped at ESPN2. There I was listening to someone that sounded like John Tesh lose his marbles over some Japanese people on an obstacle course that looked friggin' rad to me. Heck, I've watch Sumo on ESPN2 for years so this was just something different. I loved obstacle course shows anyway (Hell I used to watch every Battle of the Network Stars.. from the beginning when it premiered.. remember I'm 40 years old now folks..).. anyway, I instantly knew what I would be watching for the next hour or so. It wasn't Sasuke (or Ninja Warrior as it would latter be known as).. it was Viking.
In front of me was some short Japanese dude with bad teeth but with super human strength and an infectious laugh. His giddy emotion is what struck me as I've never really seen Japanese ever really show that much emotion in television. He wasn't a celeb.. he was just some random Japanese fisherman who was awkward in front of the camera. A normal man. He was surrounded by his friends who cheered him on. Blue collar people. Akin to me. When it was his turn, he stopped smiling.. looked up.. made a stern face and then continued to make a mockery of what was in front of him in badassery form. It was the Heartbreaker. I couldn't believe anyone could do that.. I mean.. seriously.. (imagine my surprise and delight at seeing it reborn in Sasuke years later as the Spider Flip(スパイダーフリップ).
Anyway I kept watching as this giddy short but ripped Japanese man was astounding in what he was doing. It looked easy.. and having played sports most of my early life and well.. I was quite the tomboy growing up.. I was always climbing on things (long before parkour was ever coined as a phrase)... so I knew how difficult this was in actuality despite how easy he made it look. Then I saw the pegboard and he had my complete attention. I was in shock how smooth he went through all of it. Perfect form.. no wasted motion.. I was going WHO IS THIS GUY??? (P.S. I WANT a Sasuke sign.. that would be AWESOME.. and difficult!)
Seeing the full final stage I kept thinking no way he's going to go through all that in that time.. he's gotta be tired. Finally.. just a short of his goal.. he just ran out of gas. He couldn't get his muscles to respond.. He was human after all. Still.. I couldn't believe what I just saw.. I was hooked. I then found it again on the schedule and watched it from the beginning and were introduced to a lot of the people that were to be in another show just about a year later on another channel. Some show called Ninja Warrior.
I was watching what I later found out was Sasuke 11. G4 wasn't known for actually telling you what show you were watching so I had no bloody clue what tournament, what year.. Heck.. they don't do that now as it is.. so, I had to do a lot of digging to find out what this show was in reality. I did however notice someone that I vaguely recognized with a serious vision problem finally make it to the 2nd stage after 3 years of failing in the first stage. It was Kazuhiko Akiyama.. whom from this tournament on was my favorite competitor. I go into a long discussion as to why he's #1 for me in a blog I wrote a couple years ago so I'll spare you the long history on that.
What I didn't do though.. was make the connection between Sasuke and the show with the pegboard... I thought I was watching Viking the whole time! I mean sure.. it had a different name but I kept seeing the same people over and over. I figured they renamed it when it switched networks.. Lord knows we've seen that over the years.. After all.. that's Makoto Nagano on the right of the screen. Shingo right behind him.. I saw him in Viking as well.. Yamada as well.. and even Akiyama was in Viking. It didn't occur to me that they were two different shows filmed around the time (same production company but shown on two different Japanese networks) until later when I tried to explain to a friend of mine what they were watching on my television screen when they came over to visit.
Since you know how I obsess over these things.. I threw myself at the internet to see what I could find. There was no warehouse of information. Wiki wasn't around. G4 was useless as usual when it came to stats, etc. or even any reliable information about the shows on the channel. So I spent hours trying to find information on a show I didn't even know the name of. Finally, I ran into different posts scattered here all pointing to a Webjam page (which is now gone) that had current pictures and stories of Sasuke and it's competitors. They even took the time to answer questions that we all wanted to know. Given that it was more of a group of women than kids wanting to be on the show, our questions and answers were very different and therefore more difficult to find. It was only then that I figured it out that Viking and Sasuke are two different shows with basically the same competitors.
Not just finding out about the show itself and what tournament they were on.. I found people that ultimately would become my small circle of friends. Even to this day I have them. All because of Sasuke. What started out as a passion over talking about dyed crunchy hair, capped teeth, muscular bods, primped eyebrows.. (wow I'm digressing quickly aren't I?) turned out to find other women (my age and older) whom I enjoyed their company (and they seem to tolerate mine LOL). Among those was the creator of what still stands as a great testament to Sasuke and the power of it's ideal. The Power of Sasuke. I found a group that were interested in the PEOPLE of Sasuke. not just the inanimate objects they jumped or climbed over.
To me, Sasuke is about people. And for once I found a group that saw it the same way. It was then that I started to have a clear appreciation for the All-Stars as a group. All 6 of them (yes yes.. even Yamada). I had my clear favorites but it was then that I understood what they stood for and why they were together. As I learned more about their history I began to like them more and more. They were very different people who lived in very different parts of the country all bound together by the show twice a year. We saw them grow older, get married, get divorced, have kids, get job promotions and even retire. They were the ambassadors of the show that when the time I got to watching it.. was exploding worldwide. The show itself was losing viewers after the great exodus of Kane Kosugi ケイン・コスギ from the show in Japan. However the myth of Makoto Nagano and the All-stars (heh.. sounds like a rock band..) was quickly replacing it in the eyes of the West.
It was then that I found Lost in Ube. Ube posted on the G4 boards of the time a link to a program that to this day still works.. LOL And for the first time.. I was able to watch Sasuke.. live.. as it aired in Japan. Ube was into the minutia of the show. Something that I am into as well. Clearly we focused on different things but the concept was the same. Learn anything and everything we can from the show we love. It was Ube that inspired me to even blog about the show. He encouraged me to find my own style and experiment. Not everyone can do a live-blog like Ube (and to this day I STILL don't know how he can do it.. while listening to me lose my marbles in IM chat). Anyway, in the end I took the plunge and started my first and last post on Sasuke.. (yeah.. so much for that idea.. LOL) My first tournament was Sasuke 20. I wasn't even going to blog about it.. then Ube told me about the show Sasuke Maniac and that is when the blog .. kinda took off.
It kept gaining momentum and the world of Sasuke expanded. I learned more about the All-stars and met new people who have been trying to get on the show. People like Moody and Keita and Ryo and some shoe salesman from Tokyo with a high pitched voice. I mean.. Al Bundy was trying to get on the show. He couldn't possibly go far right? Oh yeah.. he won the show twice.. Anyway.. I started to write more and more about Sasuke and my goofy interpretation of what was going on via my little streaming program. Every week I started getting more and more followers literally out of nowhere. Call me naive but I honestly didn't think people outside of the small circle would even read it. Since then I've had loyal followers who followed every word and picture of this blog.
Rambling Rican kept going like a train without breaks. What followed was an interesting journey through Sasuke and meeting a growing international community. Along for the ride was my expectation on what to do with this blog. Some good.. some bad. There were times I felt this blog turned into a job.. other times (like now) it was used as expressing my ever random feelings. Each week was different as each Sasuke Maniac went on closer and closer to the demise of that late-night show and the start of Sasuke 21.
It was then where I had to make a choice. I literally worked myself sick
over the blog and I thought I started to hate Sasuke as a whole. I lost the reason why I was doing it in the first
place. It was through the friendships made through Sasuke that I managed
to get through it and continue even to today. Many of my friends have
moved on from staring every week to Sasuke.. but.. curiously enough..
they remained. No other obsession of mine ever survived that.
Even to this day. Sasuke fans are just.. different.
He turned the hat around and said "Yamamoto" and laughed :-) @Pittsburgher
Trying to keep me from going nuts with my blog was the small Webjam community which included Pittsburgher. She made the trip all the way to Florida to meet Nagano in person. That whole event was crazy from organization to final product but in the end we finally confirmed what we always suspected. These guys are genuine. Nagano was a shock to many that met him. It finally sunk in the difference between them and celebs on other game shows. They are normal people. He was just happy to meet fans and finally travel the world. The same of any of us who have always wanted to travel abroad.
I guess it's because they are not celebrities. I mean.. each are blue collar workers (well with the exception of Bunpei..) who are just normal guys who just happened to be on a game show. They weren't friends when they started either. Most know the story between Akiyama and Yamada from their times on Banzuke. But, we grew with them and a bond was formed over the years of being together as a group. TBS formed their entire show around them and it is because of that mold that we have strong feelings for them. To many, Sasuke is not Sasuke without them. Even the newer guys could never live up to the mystique of the originals simply because the focus is different. Do I like them? Hell yeah.. anyone who sees me birth kittens when Ryo steps on the screen when I wasn't expecting... or I see Kongo and immediately think of snowy and midget ninja army in training...
The All-stars were created in a time where the show had no stars to speak of. I was alright with that though because THAT was the Sasuke I fell in love with. It was "Ordinary people doing extraordinary things". It wasn't the Olympics. It wasn't a scripted show. And it certainly wasn't Survivor. Sasuke came to me during a time where Reality shows were becoming the mainstay of television. While many jumped on that bandwagon, I was craving something simple and much different than was available to watch here in the USA. Sasuke filled that void.
All-Stars theme used during the opening introduction of Sasuke competitors
To me the All-Stars were and still are a representation of my generation. A little old fashioned perhaps but I identified the most with them. I also was happy to see the friendships blossom between radically different personalities. That's something I always have had issues with. Even now. I liked how they never really changed much from the time they entered the show to the time they left. Outside of having to endure an announcer prying into your personal life and damning your offspring to the indignant shame of your inexcusable failure.. they really still were the same people from when they started. You can't say that for most celebs these days.
Mwahahhahahahahahhahahahahahh :D Pull up a chair baby!!!
It also helped me goof around with the newly found friends online. We all had a crazy sense of humor and enjoyed watching the eye candy. We all had our preferences and we all had "stupid things we notice™" in every frame of every picture. That's where the passing popcorn phrase came from. Half the time if I didn't do screen-capping and watching every single still frame I would have missed some spectacular moments. Besides.. as it's been pointed out to me when I start getting overwhelmed with the blog.. half the fun is LOOKING for those things in the frame after the show has aired.
A rare siting during Sasuke 24.. All 6 Sasuke All-stars in one event (still Sasuke 17 marks the last time all 6 COMPETED together) so it was a treat to see.
Ultimately though.. we knew this was going to end. As I approached my own 40th year on Earth I began to realize how the show was changing around them. Bunpei had moved on (mostly because of successive injuries), Yamada retired twice.. or was it three.. I lost track.. Akiyama was becoming sporadic in appearances. Takeda had retired. Only Shingo and Nagano were the consistent ones. even so, to carry all 6 All-stars on two sets of shoulders is tiring. Shingo's been complaining about how much pressure he's been under the past few years. Nagano's mentioned a few times he's getting tired but will endure for as long as they want him and his legs can hold up.
Still, the shock of the disbanding of the All-Stars is still painful to accept. I know that's the way things are going with the introduction of all the other countries finally catching up to the main show. Just as Sasuke survived after Kane Kosugi, I'm sure the show will endure without the All-stars. With them is 10 years worth of memories that no one will ever forget.
All 6 All-stars with some of the wives and kids
I've been asked why disband them at all? It's simple really. They carry the baggage of the past with them. Do I like it? Hell no, but I see why it's important. The show is going to change to Japan being the ultimate final after each country has their respective trials. Each having their own 4 stage course. Each earning their spot to the big show. Gone will be the dominance of the wildcards and ultimately the automatic entries we got so used to. That's what the Sasuke All-stars were.
In the end it was bound to happen. I'd rather they go now then slowly trickle through a never-ending sea of trial competitors. Given that it would be just Nagano and Shingo with the occasional Yamada showing up.. it's best to stop here than linger. I don't even want to know what will happen and who will stay and who will go in addition to the All-stars. That's for the next few months to be ironed out.
I don't know what I am going to do about Rambling Rican. Anyone coming to my website knew my focus. It's splashed all over my banner. It's a tribute to Sasuke with an emphasis on my love for the All-stars. I'll take my time in deciding what to do. We are still 3 months away from airing of Sasuke 28 and of course the blogging of Sasuke 28.. LOL In the meantime I'll savor the memories. Be prepared for more tributes though.. fair warning..
With the expansion worldwide and the slowly disappearing roster of All-stars the time was right to make a radical change.
I'm happy though that TBS at least plans to do something about
recognizing their 10 years of service to the show (and in Shingo's
case.. 15 years). As the new era of Sasuke in light of the world
expansion begins I want to take as much time as I can savoring the past
for as long as I can. There will always be a soft spot in my heart for
the All-stars. That will never change.
I think if there's much to regret is the fact I never got to see them in person. I never had an inkling to compete.
My sports days are long past me. Every time they were in the USA I
couldn't travel to see them. And now.. with the All-stars leaving.. I
will never see them all in one place ever again. That's just sad. I
was never able to travel (most of you know why so I'll spare you) so
that part of my bucket list will never be scratched off.
Japanese free-to-air broadcaster TBS will launch its Ninja Warrior format at MIPCOM. The series, which challenges contestants to the complete the world’s toughest obstacle course, has already launched in the US and Asia. Ludo Poppe’s Eccholine will be working with TBS on the Japanese launch. Poppe is the former boss of Belgian prodco Kanakna. TBS and Eccholine, a division of Ecchomedia, will jointly market a European version of Ninja Warrior with TBS providing the rights and knowhow. Eccholine will be providing production expertise.
The partners said the plan includes a “mobile casting course” that will comprise nine obstacles and travel from city to city. The taping from each city will produce a week’s worth of stripped episodes culminating in a primetime show crowning the city’s champions. Makito Sugiyama, chief of international program and format licensing for TBS said: “With Eccholine on board, we have found a way to bring the excitement of Ninja Warrior to broadcasters in Europe without burdening them with the complexity of this production.” Japanese formats are in the spotlight at this year’s MIPCOM with a selection of the country’s largest broadcasters, including TBS, presenting their new ideas to buyers at a dinner event. TBS is already working with FremantleMedia to develop and launch its formats in the international market.
Within a day of that article coming out TBS posted on their international sales website it's own article about the exact same thing. There is one particular difference with that article that struck me:
Then, after visiting several cities, the top performers will descend upon a European based recreation of the mammoth 4-stage course, creating a primetime finale like no other.
Okay so we are getting Europe's version of American Ninja Warrior. Hmm. Now my concern is going back to the purpose of this entire blog. The fate of Sasuke after this. I can only assume that the format is to get Europe's winner then send them to Japan for the grand final? Even with the announcement of Sasuke 28 in Japan just last week we have yet to hear from NBC about the American entries to Sasuke Japan. With ANW4 only producing 1 person in the 3rd stage and not a winner I'm curious how or if Americans will be sent to Japan in the same fashion that they have been for the past couple of years since G4's monopoly on American entries started. Entries to Sasuke 28 are still going on with TBS holding auditions in Japan for the Japanese in 2 cities but the fate of the international competitors is a bit in the air right now. I've been told that internationals not tied to USA, Malaysia and Singapore can apply through the TBS site. We'll see as the month rolls along if that still is the case.
The 3 companies involved seem to be FremantleMedia (out of London) seems to be a distribution arm, Ecchomedia (I believe based out of France) seems to be the production company and another company mentioned in the article was Bellon Entertainment (which is based out of Long Island, New York) seems to be a domestic distribution arm here in the USA.
Either way the next step for Ninja Warrior Europe is MIPCOM. From the description it's "the world’s entertainment content market is the only place where you can network, do business, discover new trends and cement partnerships face-to-face on a global level". That will be held later this month on October 8-11, 2012 in Palais des Festivals, Cannes, France. Hopefully after that time we will hear more news on the subject. Lord knows our European readers have been waiting years for a clear way of competing in Sasuke.