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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

ANW5 - Japan vs. USA

 Final Tower in Las Vegas during ANW5 ©Steven Timbas

Finally.. I can talk about this (Since it was announced last night on NBC).. The officially co-opted Ninja Warrior Facebook (you know.. the one that is now ANW since they don't follow the Japanese Sasuke anymore? I'm not bitter or anything.. ) put up a USA Today article with small ANW5 Final preview and announcing (finally) the Japan vs. USA match up that was taped back in June during ANW5.  For those who are confused when this happened.. it was the Final day (Sunday) of the Las Vegas taping of American Ninja Warrior 5 back in June 23, 2013.  The final night was a Japan vs. USA match up.

USA and JAPAN flags in Las Vegas during ANW5 ©Steven Timbas

From the USA Today Article:  Brent Steffensen, Paul Kasemir, James McGrath, Travis Rosen and Brian Arnold will face amateur Japanese athletes including two-time champion Yuji Urushihara in one-on-one competitions. The special was suggested by producers of Tokyo Broadcasting System's Sasuke, on which Ninja Warrior is based, and NBC replicated Yokohama's Mt. Midoriyama course in Las Vegas.
(gets on soapbox) What's annoying for me is that they didn't announce this at all for fans to actually go see.  I now of a LOT of people that would have flown to Las Vegas for the mere glimpse of the Japanese stars in person.  The Japanese stars themselves were so excited to be invited to their very first trip to the United States.  The fans got a hint when the Japanese arrived Friday night and people recognized them in the hotel lobby.  I mean.. THEY ARE STARS.. So instead they were sequestered the better part of the whole weekend.  When they tried to show up incognito for Saturday's final they were immediately recognized BECAUSE THEY ARE STARS and then sent away as to not cause a stir.  The worst part was that the stars themselves were admonished.. because they were recognized? I'm so horrified they were treated in such a manner.  The management should be ashamed of themselves.  They had a horrible first impression of the USA. /facepalm (gets off of soapbox)

 2-Time Grand Champion Yuuji Urushihara 漆原裕治 (Cliffer #3) ©USA Today article

From the USA Today Article:  NBC-owned G4 cable channel for years has aired the Japanese version of the show with subtitles, and some American athletes competed in those contests. But an all-American edition began in 2009, and since last year G4 has shared the series with NBC, which has earned respectable summer ratings for the show. 

As of now I'm assuming this show will be on NBC because it was officially announced on NBC (btw it's labeled as "this fall" which is the time between September 20 and December 20).  That isn't to say it won't be relegated to another channel but who knows.  Right now G4 has not shown a new Ninja Warrior in about 2-3 years? NBC has never shown Sasuke and Esquire is only interested in ANW.  So beats me who the hell is going to air this.  That said, when it does and I get a copy (since I don't have cable) I'll post a blog on it since it covers the Japanese (which is the focus of this blog).

Edit:  Airdate confirmed: January 13, 2014.  Time: 8-10 PM Network: NBC

 Japan vs. USA during ANW5 Final
(L-R) Travis Rosen, Paul Kasemir, Brent Steffensen, James McGrath and Brian Arnold for the USA.  Kazuma Asa, Ryo Matachi, Hitoshi Kanno, Shingo Yamamoto and Yuuji Urushihara for Japan.

The line up was 5 for the USA which was based off of ANW5's final (which aired last night on NBC after a record 12 week airing schedule) against the Japanese 5 that included the 4 "Shin Sedai" (New Generation) and All-Star Shingo Yamamoto.  For those worldwide viewers who were unfortunate to not have ever seen Sasuke 28 or Sasuke 29 some of these faces will be unfamiliar to you (especially Asa).  Blame Comcast/G4/Esquire/NBC for boycotting Sasuke Japan the past 2 tournaments in favor of ANW exclusively.. 

  Here is the new lineup for the 新世代.
Shin Sedai (新世代) literally "New Generation"
(some call them the "New Stars" deriving from the Allstars)
2-Time Grand Champion Yuuji Urushihara 漆原裕治 (Cliffer #3),  Ryo Matachi (Cliffer #2) 又地諒, Hitoshi Kanno 菅野仁志 and Kazuma Asa 朝一眞
Anyway I'll introduce you to them (using their official introduction back in Sasuke 28 Preview show they call Navi).  While we had already a longer list of New Generation this is the promoted group right now and has been for the past couple of tournaments.  For purposes of this blog, these are also the 4 New Generation stars + All-Star sent to Las Vegas for this event that was taped in June.

2-Time Grand Champion Yuuji Urushihara 漆原裕治 (Cliffer #3)
The Sasuke King 王様  or Sasuke Ōsama
Yuuji shouldn't need an introduction but I'll do it anyway.  Yuuji is the shoe salesman for Haruta Shoes in Tokyo that has competed 9 times already. Unlike what G4 would like to make you believe, his first tournament was back in Sasuke 21.  His run was cut from the main broadcast (and the G4 broadcast by extension) but but actually aired on Sasuke Maniac (when the show still existed) the first year I was doing this blog.  (The same blog that had Olivia Munn's cut run from Sasuke 21 as well.)  He's gone on to competing in 3 finals winning 2 of them.  He's the current face of Sasuke and it's about damn time TBS is promoting him. I'm really happy about that.  For those of you reading my blog for years (thank you btw) he was first featured on my blog way back in the the Spring of 2008 when he earned his berth on Sasuke 21 by beating the All-stars in the BUG IN MIKI event hosted by Mr. Sasuke Katsumi Yamada in his home prefecture. He's also one of the 5 UNCLI guys (whom we refer to as Cliffers since the full name of the group is Unlimited Cliffer) we've been following for over 5 years.  He's been the leader of the New Generation for quite a while now. Glad to see TBS finally giving him his due and giving him a better title.  "Sasuke King".  (remember that All-Star Makoto Nagano is called "The Legend")  This was his 2nd trip to the USA.  His first was way back in 2010 when ANW was a small event and G4 actually gave a damn about Sasuke Japan.  Ah.. good times.
Ryo Matachi (Cliffer #2) 又地諒
This metaphor was used in Sasuke 27.  "Tatami" 畳 so it's basically "From a 4 tatami room (meaning the size of the room) to KANZENSEIHA 完全制覇"
Those who follow this blog will know my obsession with Ryo. He was part of the group that made it to Sasuke 21 via the Trials that were held during the Summer of 2008 when I first started blogging.  Part of the UNCLI group that Yuuji is in we've seen these 2 friends go through trials after trials trying to get to the main show again.  Since then I've been following his attempts to get back on the show (usually to no avail) until he finally earned his way back to Sasuke 25.  He has been part of the lineup ever since for a total of 6 competitions.  His breakthrough though came in Sasuke 27 where he not only passed the 1st stage for the first time, but made it to the Final Tower (along with Fellow Cliffer Yuuji).  Sasuke 28 marked his official induction into the New Generation lineup.  He was a painter (house painter not artist).  He's also known for his ridiculously small room with full-sized obstacles in them.  This was his first trip to the USA.

Hitoshi Kanno 菅野仁志 - Former Gymnast

Also doing time in my early blogs is Hitoshi Kanno. He's a former gymnast who is known now for doing odd jobs like janitor and his new hobby of designing silver jewelry. That and of course promising his girlfriend to marry her only after he has won Sasuke.  His journey was different though, he officially was part of Sasuke 20 although his run was cut.  Kanno was also part of that batch of competitors from 2009 to make it to Sasuke 22 that included the final trampoline event that also brought back Yuuji to Sasuke.  G4 lists this as his first tournament (incorrectly again..) simply because he made the 3rd stage on his second attempt at the course.  He's been in 9 tournaments total including a Final appearance alongside Makoto Nagano in Sasuke 23.  They incorrectly listed him as the youngest finalist.  Oooh digressing badly here.. G4 full of errors. He's been in the 3rd stage now for the past 2 Rising tournaments failing at the brand new Crazy Cliffhanger.  This was his first trip to the USA.

This is Kazuma Asa 朝一眞 whom I always refer to just as "Asa" simply because I just got used to it.

Asa is the newest of the bunch in terms of people watching on Ninja Warrior. He's also from the 2008 batch of STQ'ers (Sasuke Trial Qualifiers) that we followed way back when I started this blog.  His first tournament was in Sasuke 21 and is most known for his body paint (usually kanji painted on his bare back), Sasuke pants and overt emotional expressions. I affectionately call him "The Spazz". He's a tree trimmer currently (back in 2008 he was a delivery driver).  Asa has had a harder time getting back to the show after numerous attempts to get out of Sasuke Trials after his initial run in Sasuke 21.  He finally returned in Sasuke 27 where he passed Stage 1.  He returned in Sasuke Rising with a new label Shin Sedai surprising many but the hardcore Sasuke fans who understood why these monikers exist.  The soul of the group exuding passion and grit Asa has been in the 3rd stage twice in a row being defeated also by the new Crazy Cliffhanger.  He's competed in Sasuke 4 times.  This was his first trip to the USA.

Sasuke All-star Shingo Yamamoto 山本進悟

If you don't know who Shingo Yamamoto is YOU DON'T WATCH THE SHOW!!  By far the most recognizable from this group and arguably all of Sasuke is the now former Gas Station manager from Tokyo.  Shingo has been in every single Sasuke tournament ever made.  He made his debut in Sasuke 1 waaaaaay back in 1997.  This 2-time finalist has competed 29 times not including his times on Viking, Sportsman #1 Monster box special and even the Edo Special.  He's now retired from the petrol industry and is currently set to open a new gym, co-owning a car repair shop and opening a hotel franchise overseas.. yeah.. he's a busy guy who can't keep still!  This was his first trip to the USA.

Shin Sedai Kazuma Asa 朝一眞 ©Las Vegas Sun

So while I laugh at Las Vegas Sun not knowing wtf they are taking pictures of.. or who is actually running ON it.. I do appreciate the Asa photo!  This was an article showing the new season of ANW but got the obstacle wrong and showed the wrong person on it (since this was supposed to be a surprise! LOL).  Either way while I'm furious that the Japanese were treated so badly by their hosts and being sequestered away from the fans they wanted to meet I'm still am relieved they were sent here in the first place.  While I hate the format it's still showing that Japan still is producing Sasuke even if the rest of the world will never see it again. I for one will continue to blog on Sasuke and only Sasuke until the show disappears.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

G4.. I'm not dead!

G4:  I feel happy.. 
I seriously had to stop laughing for about an hour to write this post.  Even now I'm still shaking my head and giggling.  William from twodashtwo posted on his twitter account about G4 NOT being the one rebranded instead it woud be Style network getting the facelift. Outside of having the Monty Python "Bring out your dead" skit stuck in my head for an hour.. Never in my wildest dreams would I be writing this particular post.  Because seriously.. not even in network television comedies (you know.. the ones in years past since no one does those anymore..) do you get such asinine circumstances be even expected to be accepted as reality.  They would mock you for being stupid for coming up with such absurd scenerios. The jump the shark scenario.  But, here we are almost a year (okay.. about 11 months) from my The Death of G4TV post and G4 is still alive.. if barely. 
Okay.. here's what's going on.  G4 sucks so bad that not even the parent network that owns it wants to touch it.  NBCU had initially selected G4 as the net to be transformed into Esquire Network, an upscale cable offering for younger male demos. G4 struggled with ratings and a consistent brand identity, and faced potential network overhauls in the past, with the WWE even eying the channel as a potential network. But that didn't work out because Comcast in their infinite wisdom didn't bother actually DOING anything to raise it's profile or even attempt to pad the bottom line (you know.. like most corporate America does when selling off crap).  So now they looked at the numbers and realized that Esquire will automatically tank sitting in the same channel dial that G4 has now.  NO ONE thought of that until now?  So they decided to ride on the FEMALE demographic (you know.. the one that G4 balked at) to save Esquire from it's (eventual) demise.  Yeah.. because re-branding a female network into a male is going to keep your female demographic..

Ooooooh wait .. I forgot.. they are still pursuing MALE viewers.. because that makes sense.. so again.. same article.. Style Network, also ranking at the lower end of NBCU’s cable ratings spectrum, faced a different challenge than G4: its tone, programming, and even celeb faces virtually mirror content seen on its sister nets, but with lower viewership. “Giuliana and Bill,” for example, is one of Style’s most-watched programs, though the telecasts draw less than 700,000 viewers, and the stars of the show established themselves on NBCU cabler E! Now this makes sense simply because G4's highest rated program (ANW - which btw will STILL be on Esquire and NOT G4) never got past 350,000 even in it's premiere (which btw is 0.1 rating).  So if ANW gets more female viewers than male (as what happened with G4 with the original Ninja Warrior) will this president pull the plug just like they did Ninja Warrior when females outdemo'ed the males?  You know.. like the PREVIOUS president of G4 did?  It's going on a female channel.. so what do they expect?  A radical shift in demographics?  What are they smoking  over there in Comcast?  It's GOTTA be some seriously good stuff to think of this "logic".
 Ninja Warrior logo on G4TV
So now.. we are faced with a dilemna here.  Now NBCU may have to alter its G4 strategy for the network that has already canceled one of its flagship series, “Attack of the Show” and depends heavily on reruns of skeins like “Cops” and “Cheaters.” Immediate programming changes are not likely.  Yeah.. G4 FIRED Adam Sessler and company, Everyone from Attack of the Show were shown their pink slips as well, G4 demoted Ninja Warrior to being subservient to ANW (which IMO sucks as a stand alone program), canceled Ninja Warrior after it made the network.. and.. what do you have left?  Nothing.. so now G4 is continuing and we have NO idea wtf is going on.  So does G4 STILL have the broadcast rights to Ninja Warrior? If not, WHO THE HELL DOES? I for one would bring back shows G4 KNOWS will bring back viewers.  People will watch new Ninja Warrior. It's been their mainstay for years so I have no idea why they just don't bring it back. Now with ANW safely in Esquire's coffin G4 can do wtf they want with Ninja Warrior without having to worry about getting the shows confused.  After all NBC did everything in it's power to divorce ANW from NW years ago already.  What's there to lose?