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What's Wrong With American Ninja Warrior? 349

Posted by timothy
from the where-to-begin dept.
Reader Thom Stark (thomst) writes with a pointed review of this year's Americanized version of (awesome) Japanese TV show "Sasuke." "I've been a fan of the program the G4 channel calls "Ninja Warrior" since I first encountered it in mid-2005. For those who are unfamiliar with the show, it's a re-edited-for-American-TV version of a Japanese show called "Sasuke," with often-snarky English commentary and graphics overlaid on the Japanese original. "Ninja Warrior" is a fast-paced, wildly-entertaining program in which 100 contestants of varying skill levels pit themselves against a 4-stage obstacle course that grows ever more fiendishly difficult with each passing season. There've been 27 such seasons to date, and the most current incarnation has become so incredibly taxing that Batman himself would have trouble completing it. Now G4 has teamed up with its corporate parent, NBCUniversal, to bring the world's toughest obstacle course to America, and the resulting show, "American Ninja Warrior" turns out to be distinctly inferior to its Japanese progenitor. The final broadcast in a series that has run for six previous weekly installments appeared on July 9, with segments on both G4 and NBC, and I thought it was fitting that I mark the occasion with a critique of what I believe to be "American Ninja Warrior"'s fatal philosophical and production missteps, and contrast them with the original pitch-perfect product." (Read on below.)


First, it's important to understand that the Japanese program's name has nothing to do with either ninjas or warriors. "Sasuke" means something like "excellence" in Japanese. It has much the same flavor as the Greek concept of arete, the pursuit of excellence as a defining life goal. G4's marketeers clearly decided that their ADHD-addled core audience of video gamers was unlikely to find a show called "Excellence" compelling enough to warrant paying attention, so they decided to jazz it up by invoking ninjas, instead. Oh, and warriors, too, to make it more appealing to the World of Warcraft fanatics. And that was fine, as far as it went, because G4 had the good sense not to mess with the program content itself (other than to poorly translate much of the Japanese-language commentary, again in an apparent attempt to inject some good ol' American zazz).

As a side note, commentary is not the only translational sin of which G4 is guilty. The competition takes place at Midoriyama, a Japanese place name that G4 insists on referring to as "Mount Midoriyama." The problem with that is that "yama" is a Japanese suffix meaning "mountain." Thus, "Fujiyama" means "Mount Fuji" and "Midoriyama" means "Mount Midori" — which, in turn, means that G4's translation is not only redundant, with its repeating of the word "mountain" in both English and Japanese, it's wildly inaccurate, because the Japanese word means "Mount Midori."

But I digress.

"American Ninja Warrior" — the strictly-domestic production — suffers badly from human interest bloat. The Japanese program (at least as it is presented on G4) frequently features mini-portraits of the competitors, but these segments are very short — typically under 20 seconds — and they help to put a human face on the often-superhuman efforts of the program's contenders. In "American Ninja Warrior," the corresponding segments too often are near-epic mini-documentaries that run a minute or longer, and they seriously impair the program's flow — especially because there are so flinkin' many of them. The producers badly need to rein in their out-of-control bathos machinery and reduce both the number and the running time of their athlete portraiture.

But the worst mistake that the brainiacs behind "American Ninja Warrior" have made is to Americanize the competition. The most endearing philosophical quality of "Sasuke" is that the participants compete, not against each other, but individually against the course itself. There is no zero-sum in the game of Sasuke. Should more than one contestant complete the nigh-impossible series of obstacles (an outcome that has never yet occurred on "Sasuke"), both would be equally celebrated, both would be equally entitled to claim the title of "winner," and the accomplishment of one would in no way diminish the glory of the other. To the contrary, such an event would be cause for national celebration, since winners of "Sasuke" are considered national heroes in Japan.

By contrast, not only have the American producers chosen to have the participants compete against each other in regional qualifying events for a spot in the "finals" competition in Las Vegas (not an unreasonable choice, given that they needed to whittle the field down to a manageable number of contestants for the trials at the actual Mount Midori course), but they've made it a zero-sum game. Like the Highlander, there can be only one American Ninja Warrior — which reduces the exalted pursuit of excellence to just another athletic competition, with the top prize of half-a-million dollars going to the one contestant who not only completes the course, but does so in the fastest time. Anyone else who makes it to the top of Mount Midori is, basically, just another chump. An also-ran. A footnote.

And that's what's really wrong with "American Ninja Warrior."
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What's Wrong With American Ninja Warrior?

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  • by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:40AM (#40628473) Homepage

    In Japan, people are praised for trying their best. In most seasons, no one wins the final obstacle. In America, there has to be a winner to celebrate, everyone else is a failure. I much prefer the Japanese way of looking at things.

    • by CodeHxr (2471822) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:45AM (#40628547)

      I much prefer the Japanese way of looking at things

      I find this to be the case more often than not. Unless we're talking about vending machines... creepy.

    • by gknoy (899301) <gknoy@anasazi s y s t e m s .com> on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:48AM (#40628577)

      Agreed. This is what I loved about the Japanese show: I could honestly root for every single competitor, and sincerely hope that they could win. Those challenges are HARD! I love the spirit of camaraderie they show towards one another, and that some people compete just to have fun.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:57PM (#40629413)

        "I love the spirit of camaraderie they show towards one another"

        Exactly! None of the competitors view it as a competition among 100 people. They all view it as a competition between 100 people and Sasuke itself. Every competitor roots and pushes for every other competitor. When Nagano slips or loses his grip and takes a splash, not only does the audience feel distraught, but you can also see every other competitor's surprise, shock, and dismay. I think those truly dedicated to trying to conquer Sasuke want other competitor's to complete it as much as they themselves want to. They view total victory as a triump of the human spirit, not as a triump of a particular individual. And I agree with the reviewer that that spirit is lost in the American version.

    • by alen (225700) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:52AM (#40628641)

      actually we now do this in kiddie sports where everyone is a winner every season. supposedly people hate it

      • by heathen_01 (1191043) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:59AM (#40628733)

        actually we now do this in kiddie sports where everyone is a winner every season. supposedly people hate it

        "people are praised for trying their best" is not the same as "everyone is a winner".

        • Hey, I'm commenting here because I misclicked and downmodded you. I agree with your point - it's the difference between a participation ribbon and someone telling you where you were awesome and how you could improve.

        • by the_B0fh (208483) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:18PM (#40628939) Homepage

          *THIS* I hate that stupid US custom where you must tell everyone they are number one and they too can be an astronaut and president.

          • by dthx1138 (833363) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:59PM (#40629441)
            Um, we don't tell every kid that they ARE going to be an astronaut or President. We tell them that they CAN BE if they dream big and work hard.

            Why don't we just crush their aspirations early on? Because America is supposed to be a society where you can become anything you want, no matter what you look like or where you came from. Obviously we have struggled at times to live up that ideal. But, then again, nobody's perfect.
            • by SecurityTheatre (2427858) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @03:06PM (#40630897)

              Teaching kids that they CAN become president or an astronaut is fine AS LONG AS YOU ARE CLEAR that it requires the following:

              1) Dedicate every waking moment to the absolutely relentless pursuit of the goal

              2) If you screw up badly, possibly even once, you will likely never reach this goal

              There is a huge difference between "Little Timmy, if you focus every ounce of your being toward this goal and work relentlessly, you do have the opportunity to achieve it." and the more common "Little Timmy, you're going to be an astronaut, all you need is to have super big dreams!"

              When given a test (it doesn't matter what type), American teenagers score in the middle of the pack amongst other nations, yet they CONSISTENTLY rate their own performance far higher than they deserve and far higher than any other nation. They are also one of the few groups of kids who almost always rate their own performance far higher than it actually was.

              The conclusion is that America has an excess of self-esteem and self-delusion and perhaps could use a little humility, culturally.

              • by AmiMoJo (196126)

                1) Dedicate every waking moment to the absolutely relentless pursuit of the goal

                2) If you screw up badly, possibly even once, you will likely never reach this goal

                3) Be born into the right family

                Social mobility is in decline.

              • by sjames (1099)

                The conclusion is that America has an excess of self-esteem and self-delusion and perhaps could use a little humility, culturally.

                The latter, certainly. The former is about half a bubble off. I would say the problem is that self esteem is tied too closely with being the best at everything. The fact is, a person who is middle of the pack but can be counted on for a good effort has nothing to be ashamed of. If they excel in some little thing, that much the better. There is no need to be the very best at every little thing just to feel OK about yourself.

      • by MasaMuneCyrus (779918) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:08PM (#40628821)

        That's because when everyone wins, it's not a competition.

        In SASUKE, the trials are near-impossible. More often than not, nobody wins. It is not a competition against yourself, it is a competition against the challenge of the obstacle course. If multiple people win (never happened, but is always possible), it would be celebrated (and the next season's obstacles would probably be harder). If nobody wins, that's OK, too. But certainly there is never a time that everybody wins.

        And I would argue that if everyone wins, it encourages people to be lazy. If one person wins, it gives that person an ego and makes the losers disinterested. If nobody wins (because it is hard), or if winning is equally available to all but is incredibly difficult (a la SASUKE), it encourages people to try harder. On that note, isn't that the American spirit? That everyone has an equal opportunity to rise to the top, proportional to your efforts, and there is no zero-sum game?

        • On that note, isn't that the American spirit? That everyone has an equal opportunity to rise to the top, proportional to your efforts, and there is no zero-sum game?

          No, and it never has been. Trying your best isn't economical.

        • by dcollins (135727)

          "On that note, isn't that the American spirit? That everyone has an equal opportunity to rise to the top, proportional to your efforts, and there is no zero-sum game?"

          How could you possibly think such a thing? America is fundamentally about classical-mercantile business expansion and profiteering/exploitation. "The business of America is business", etc. It's one in which inequality between winners and losers expands over time. It's a culture based on the lottery.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        everyone is a winner is totally opposite of the possibility that nobody might win.

      • by SecurityTheatre (2427858) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @03:11PM (#40630935)

        What if nobody ever actually won? (as in this show)

        Then it seems pretty clear that it's not a problem to praise everyone's effort.

        But when someone actually does win, they are vaulted to "national hero" status. That's pretty cool.

        Imagine, in "Kiddie sports", if the undefeated team was told they were heros and all the other kids weren't.

        Here lies the difference. Holding up someone's effort (yet recognizing they didn't meet the goal) is valueable, provided there is the chance of meeting the goal and being much more highly praised. Treating everyone exactly the same "Everyone is a winner" is silly, but praising people who fall short of a nearly impossible goal isn't bad, especially when most people couldn't even take 3 steps on that course without hurting themselves, so we're not talking about "everyone" who steps onto the course.

    • In America, there has to be a winner to celebrate, everyone else is a failure.

      If you're under the age of 25, everyone is a winner. We wouldn't want to give people the impression that life is hard. Or that sometimes the only way to achieve something is with teamwork. Or even that the effort yields its own rewards. Fuck that noise -- I want everything now, with a large fry, and if anyone has a problem with that, I'll mount an uzi on my mobility scooter and rain bullets upon your shitty country while drinking beer and shouting "AAAAAMERICA, FUCK YEA!"

    • by Krojack (575051)
      ^^ This. The Japanese one could have 5 champions or they could all be losers.

      Some of the extras are the goofy little outfits and 5 seconds of entertainment many of the contestants put on before they start their run.

      On and lets not forget "Women of Ninja Warrior". Komiya Rie, Mikie Hara, and Ayako Miyake. Lets not forget Sara Jean Underwood. Maybe the American version needs to get her on there. As for the guys, Makoto Nagano [google.com] is just a pure badass.
      • by TheLink (130905)
        Makoto badass? IIRC he got beaten by a shoe salesman in Sasuke ;).
      • Ayako is complete bad ass. She pretty much wipes everyone off the screen.

        That said, I much prefer the eye candy of Komiya and Mikie.

        Or Mai Nadaska (who never competed but is fantastic eye candy nonetheless).

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      In America, there has to be a winner to celebrate, everyone else is a failure.

      Think you're missing something there, everyone in the last 25 years has been taught that "everyone is a winner" no matter if they fail here in the west, everyone is a winner. That crack head? Yeah they're a winner. The idiot, yep they're a winner. That soccer team who won by 7 more goals, well we need to take 3 of them away so the other team doesn't feel so bad(Happened in Ottawa and Toronto), then one of the teams who refused to follow the rules of "not scoring so much" was banned from playing for the

      • by sjames (1099)

        I think it's fair to say the crack head isn't giving it his best effort, so no celebration there. But the guy next door who is unemployed 80% of the time but rather than giving up and smoking crack keeps looking for work? I wouldn't say he's winning but I would say his effort is worthy of praise. He's not a 'loser' even if he's losing.

    • In Japan, people are praised for trying their best. In most seasons, no one wins the final obstacle. In America, there has to be a winner to celebrate, everyone else is a failure. I much prefer the Japanese way of looking at things.

      And furthermore, in America there must be only one single winner in everything. You are never allowed to have multiple people complete some challenge and share in the victory. While in a lot of things it is reasonable to have only a single winner (or team of winners), such as most competition sports, people tend to spill this over into everything.

    • by mr1911 (1942298) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:30PM (#40629075)
      The first problem is in the name. There is nothing "warrior" about "American Ninja Warrior". I understand their chose because it wouldn't sound as interesting to the target audience to call it "American Ninja Gymnast".
    • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:43PM (#40629229)

      The most egregious thing in my opinion is the human interest horseshit that has been inserted into everything that even remotely resembles reality TV these days. I mean, seriously, we're starting to get to the point where nobody can be a participant or contestant on a TV show unless their parents were tortured, raped and murdered by sex-crazed donkeys, they were forced to live on the streets from the age of three like something out of fucking Oliver Twist, they survived 847 forms of cancer or some other debilitating disease or deformity...

      If I ever see a serious contestant that isn't "coming out of a massive tragedy of epic proportions and beating incredible odds (c)(R)(TM)" I believe I may soil myself, and what's worse, it's causing a ridiculous arms race in who can come from the more fucked up background. Soon every contestant is going to have to be a refugee from some fucked up country run by a genocidal maniac or else they'll be considered too boring to be a contestant...

      • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday July 12, 2012 @04:42PM (#40631973) Homepage Journal
        It's right out of the Reality TV Bible. Despite the relatively low production costs, there is still a lot of hand wringing over the success of any particular show, so producers feel forced to inject "drama" regardless of the actual situation. It drives me nuts when you have shows with otherwise interesting premises like Project Runway or Face Off that have an opportunity to show creative people doing interesting things, and instead spend most of their time playing up some off-hand remark and cutting away to the confession camera to learn just how much someone's feelings were hurt and how their mother really wants them to succeed because blah blah blah.

        It's like they're all edited by gossipy Jr. High school girls.
    • by RicoX9 (558353) <rico@r[ ].org ['ico' in gap]> on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:46PM (#40629255) Homepage

      This was what I loved about the Japanese show. There was always more than one "winner" regardless of anyone finishing. These people were respected for their ability and effort. Multiple people could win, and all the contestants cheered for each other honestly and sincerely. This is where America has really fallen down.

    • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @01:21PM (#40629685)

      I think you're right... But it isn't that simple.

      Japanese go in with more realistic expectations. They know they might not win, but their give it their all anyway.

      Americans, on the other hand, are all taught they're special, that they're all destined for greatness. So they bank everything on that expectation of greatness and then come out the other side bitter because they couldn't achieve it. It's strongly reflected in entitlement mentality.

      These divergent attitudes make for a difference in how the two cultures approach life. Japanese, like most Asians, will take the more pragmatic approach to life. Americans, especially the youth, have the unrealistic expectation that you can have your cake and eat it too, that you can do something fun, hip and exciting AND earn a great living doing it.

      And of course it's popular culture is responsible for perpetuating these expectations. In American movies the hard-working individual is depicted has having a dysfunctional life and the freeloading slacker is the sage who's got it all figured out. This attitude is virtually non-existent in Japanese film. So then you've got American game shows that glorify the victory and present the challenge as almost a footnote. And when conflict is present, it's depicted in the standard, cartoonish, us-versus them manner. Think American Gladiator.

      Now, the nice thing about the American philosophy is that people will strive for greatness, at least, when they don't believe they're entitled to it. They're less likely to be unquestioning drones.

      On the other hand, the Japanese approach leads to more productivity and less resentment. People have a more realistic outlook.

  • by edremy (36408) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:43AM (#40628523) Journal
    Or rather, don't. Seriously, don't.
  • by arosas (904929) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:44AM (#40628533)
    ~800 word reviews about "American Ninja Warrior".
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by i kan reed (749298)

      That don't even really review the subject. Also, how about we don't watch the channel that gutted TechTV.

    • by c (8461) <beauregardcp@gmail.com> on Thursday July 12, 2012 @01:12PM (#40629601)

      Amen.

      All we really needed was "American Ninja Warrior", "Hollywood", and "non-fiction". The other 795 words was just a demonstration of what happens when someone can't find the stairs out of their parents basement.

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      I actually liked this article .

      It's news for nerds. Can't argue with that. Sure, it's about something most commonly enjoyed by the lower nerd castes, but it insulted G4 enough to definitely not be an advertisement.

      It's the exact opposite of the most widely-derided trend on Slashdot - bad editing. It's *all* editing. It's the sort of investigative journalism /. needs more of. Sure, it's a bit of a rocky start, but I'd definitely rather see more stuff like this than more "the GUBMINT be taken our FREEDOMS!",

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:45AM (#40628551) Homepage Journal

    This is mostly a disturbingly obsessive whine over details that do not matter, with an actual critique only making up a fraction of the last couple paragraphs. It uses 500 words to lodge exactly two valid complaints:
    1. Making a competition out of a challenge, which are fundamentally different.
    and
    2. Slightly increasing the proportion of the show that is human interest.

    If there were some sort of news that made this arbitrary blob of complaining relevant, it would just be badly written, instead of bizarrely atopical and badly written. There's not, and it just seems like completely off the wall "nerd-rage" over nothing in particular. Shameful editorial standards at work here.

    • by Provos (20410) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:56AM (#40628697)

      It's like the American Ninja Warrior of critiques.

    • by LordKronos (470910) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:28PM (#40629047) Homepage

      Whats worse, I think he missed out on the most shameful part of what is wrong with the show. And that is, in making the show AMERICAN Ninja Warrior, they've excluded everyone who is not an American.

      It was very gracious of the Japanese to let anyone compete. They even gave the Americans the privilege of skipping out on the initial qualifying course (which is never televised but takes place behind the scenes) to guarantee them 10 spots on the show. But now that we're apparently taking over the show (the production company for Sasuke went bankrupt, and at least for now it appears there will be no more seasons of the show), we've kicked all of them out and they no longer get a chance to compete. That's just crap. Former Susuke champion Makoto Nagano even flew in to witness the ANW finals, but of course he doesn't get to compete.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:46AM (#40628563) Journal

    I've not seen American Ninja Warrior, but the vast majority of American remakes of popular import shows get the same treatment. First, you start of with something that's popular. Then you assume that Americans are too stupid to understand any culture other than the perfectly homogenised average of the USA as portrayed by Hollywood. Then you remove everything that doesn't conform to this. And then you end up with something that even the target audience thinks is dumb.

    • by Dan667 (564390)
      I don't know that I agree that a zero-sum game is American.
    • by Joce640k (829181)

      You forgot one:

      Add a presenter who's nowhere near as witty as he thinks he is.

    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday July 12, 2012 @01:44PM (#40629983) Homepage

      First, you start of with something that's popular. Then you assume that Americans are too stupid to understand any culture other than the perfectly homogenised average of the USA as portrayed by Hollywood.

      And I think that the crazy part of it is that they take something popular, and then they go, "Well American audiences would never go for that! We have to change it." No, American audiences *would* go for that. They did go for that. You know they did, because it was popular enough that you wanted to copy it.

      I don't think the problem is necessarily that the producers think the American audience is dumb (though I'm sure it's part of it), but that the producers themselves are dumb. Their job is to make television shows that people want to watch, and they're not very good at it.

  • It's like Godzilla (Score:5, Informative)

    by medv4380 (1604309) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:47AM (#40628575)
    I prefer the clearly dubbed versions of Godzilla to anything made to "resemble" Godzilla. G4s version of Ninja Warrior holds onto the same cheezy camp that makes a Godzilla Dub intriguing. The "American" Ninja Warrior doesn't hold the same level of camp that only can be done via a dub. Maybe if they took American Ninja Warrior and dubbed it in Japanese they would be able to enjoy the same level of camp we do with Sasuke.
  • by Picass0 (147474) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:48AM (#40628587) Homepage Journal

    >> ""American Ninja Warrior" — the strictly-domestic production — suffers badly from human interest bloat. The Japanese program (at least as it is presented on G4) frequently features mini-portraits of the competitors, but these segments are very short — typically under 20 seconds — and they help to put a human face on the often-superhuman efforts of the program's contenders. "

    Oh, just wait until the Olympics. They will do lengthy segments that try to ferret out the most painful moments in every athlete's life (with soft piano music) so the audience can have a little Rocky moment when an athlete wins an event.

    • by swillden (191260)

      >> ""American Ninja Warrior" — the strictly-domestic production — suffers badly from human interest bloat. The Japanese program (at least as it is presented on G4) frequently features mini-portraits of the competitors, but these segments are very short — typically under 20 seconds — and they help to put a human face on the often-superhuman efforts of the program's contenders. "

      Oh, just wait until the Olympics. They will do lengthy segments that try to ferret out the most painful moments in every athlete's life (with soft piano music) so the audience can have a little Rocky moment when an athlete wins an event.

      What's really sad is that I really doubt that this is because the broadcasters are stupid or uninformed. They push this glurge because it actually appeals to a sufficiently-large segment of their audience.

  • Easy answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Perldivr (514838) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:49AM (#40628603)

    The Japanese version does not insult the viewers intelligence. The American version does.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Overzeetop (214511)

      "The Japanese version does not insult the viewers intelligence. American viewers don't have any."

      FTFY

  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:50AM (#40628611)

    There are two more episods in the July 9th episode, they only did the first stage of Mount Midoriyama.

    I do agree that the American show emphasizes competition against each other with the line "who will be the first" instead of "will anyone".

    But I do have to ask, how on-point can a review be if the reviewer didn't even watch the show enough to notice it didn't actually go to the end?

    • by heathen_01 (1191043) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:04PM (#40628791)

      There are two more episods in the July 9th episode, they only did the first stage of Mount Midoriyama.

      I do agree that the American show emphasizes competition against each other with the line "who will be the first" instead of "will anyone".

      But I do have to ask, how on-point can a review be if the reviewer didn't even watch the show enough to notice it didn't actually go to the end?

      You're just trying to piss of the reviewer now aren't you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:51AM (#40628621)

    In England there's a hill called Torpenhow Hill. The first mapmakers asked the locals what they called it, and the locals said "Tor", which meant "hill" in the old language. The newcomers spoke a different language, and so they named it "Tor Pen," adding a suffix which meant hill in their own tongue. Few centuries go by, new mapmakers come around speaking Old English, which uses the word "How" for "hill." "Tor Pen, you say? Okay Torpen How it is!"
    Finally modern English maps are made and this time they contract "Torpen How" into "Torpenhow" and add "Hill".

      So the name of the place, translated into English, is "Hill-hill-hill hill." How's that for silliness?

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Chef [wikipedia.org]

    And then they bought it to the USA, with William Shatner, and it completely and utterly sucked:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Chef_USA [wikipedia.org]

    The point is, the TONE was off, it was like drunk golf buddies who stumbled on a casual cooking competition, no reverence for the food, no care for the technique. Much like American Ninja warrior: wrong tone, just as you say.

    Luckily, the Food Network made another stab at Iron Chef, and this time it worked, with Alton Brown and the "nephew" of the original Chairman Kaga (Hawaiian Fillipino martial artist Mark Dacascos), and other cross overs like Iron Chef Morimoto:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Chef_America [wikipedia.org]

    Not as delightful as the original, but it works, it is enjoyable to watch, because the TONE is the same: they really care about the food, and they really pay attention to the cooking and technique.

    If something works, don't mess with it!

    I am certain some useless Hollywood suit said you need to change Sasuke to suit American audiences. Rightfully, that suit should be fired. If the formula works, don't mess with it, or you have some stillborn mess no one wants to watch.

    • Not as delightful as the original, but it works, it is enjoyable to watch, because the TONE is the same: they really care about the food, and they really pay attention to the cooking and technique.

      No they don't, though they do an excellent job of making you think they do. The whole point of the show is to showcase the Food Network's favored sons, name drop foodie celebrities and flavors of the moment, and oh - bring in Cat Cora, an untrained third rater, so the Food Network couldn't be accused of not being

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        I thought whole point of iron chef japan was to promote japanese chefs and their fancy restaurants which are featured quite well in every episode.

      • yes, of course that is their point. who cares? why does it matter?

        they get to pick recipes and ingredients beforehand, the food is cooked outside of an hour, you know who your competitor is going to be, you know what the secret ingredient is, the meal the judges eat isn't actually the meal that was just prepared, etc., etc.: it's completely fake, the original japanese version was completely fake too

        i read this "expose" in the village voice years ago, i had to laugh: there's people out there who actually eve

  • Their #1 sin? Taking it seriously.

    Half the fun is that Ninja Warrior is self irreverent. And the prize for winning should only be winning, not cash.

    • by Loughla (2531696)

      That's my biggest bitch point. If you're going to make a competition that pits human endurance against devious minds and obstacles, leave it that way. I can understand adding trials to get there - too many people would show up and you have to be able to cull the herd. After that, though, I don't care who has the fastest time. I don't care if Joe is better than John. I want to see Joe and John both bust their asses to get to the end. AND putting money up for grabs?

      Bullshit.

      It's bullshit. It takes the spirit

  • part of my $165 bill goes to this crap

  • by Cid Highwind (9258) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:55AM (#40628681) Homepage

    "American Ninja Warrior" ... suffers badly from human interest bloat.

    It's endemic in US TV coverage of any individual sport, it seems. The Olympics have been unwatchable for years, because you get 2 minutes of sprinting or swimming or tumbling, and a half-hour sob story about the life struggles of one of the American athletes. Great, she was orphaned at age 2 and raised in abject poverty by her quadrapeligic great-aunt in the basement of a pig slaughterhouse; it's amazing that she overcame that to become a world champion gymnast. Now can we PLEASE turn off the sad music and cut to cycling or equestrian jumping, or javelin-throwing, or archery, or any one of the other dozen events you've been ignoring all week because there's not a photogenic American with a compelling life story in the top 5 contenders?

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      That happens everywhere.

      Where I live we don't get the sob story but we do get to spend an entire week watching some crappy minority sport, completely ignoring all others, just because it's the only event where our country has a hope of winning a medal.

    • Well, I guess they have to somehow disguise the fact that watching 30 seconds of sprinting is extremely dull.

    • Human interest stories is how you draw casual fans into watching a niche sport. You need a story behind the competitors if you want to capture interest. In mainstream sports, you can know the storylines by watching the games on TV,reporters endless debates on ESPN or talking with your coworkers.

      American Ninja Warrior doesn't have that same luxury so the producers have to add human interest stories and competitive storylines. This creates drama so that the viewer at home has something to root for or again

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:58AM (#40628717)

    America and Japan, are two very different countries, with a much different culture.
    While we have similarities, there are also big differences.

    For example back when I was a Kid, in Boy Scouts I was Hiking in New Mexico (Philmont a big Boy Scout Camp, where people come from around the world) There was a Japanese Troop that was taking a similar route that we had, and we met up from time to time. At the Trading Posts there was what was called a Swap Box. Where after we get our Rations of food (usually for 2 or 3 days) we can go threw them, drop food we didn't like, and pickup food that we did like. We actually loved it when the Japanese troop was there the same day. They would trade Oat Meal Packets which we really liked, with some energy bars we found to be disgusting. Because Americans Like Sweet food more then Japanese do.

  • Why are you sperging over what sounds like nothing more than an MXC clone? Life goes on.

  • They're just trying to compete with Wipeout. Don't judge too harshly for dumbing themselves down.
  • by seibai (1805884) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:01PM (#40628761)
    Mr. Stark apparently doesn't know much about Japanese culture. "Sasuke" is a rather straightfroward reference to Sarutobi Sasuke [wikipedia.org], and the name has been used to invoke the idea of ninjas since at least the 1920's.
    • by thomst (1640045) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:32PM (#40629099) Homepage

      seibai reproved:

      Mr. Stark apparently doesn't know much about Japanese culture. "Sasuke" is a rather straightfroward reference to Sarutobi Sasuke [wikipedia.org], and the name has been used to invoke the idea of ninjas since at least the 1920's.

      I sit corrected. My Japanese is a little rusty these days - it's been more than fifty years since I lived there.

  • mini-bios (Score:5, Insightful)

    by demonbug (309515) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:02PM (#40628771) Journal

    The worst part is definitely the little bio bits. Boring, and I just don't care. Reminds me of Olympic broadcasts here in the U.S. Twenty minutes of giving the life story of every American athlete, then thirty seconds of those athletes failing miserably. If there's time left between commercials, they might show the top three or four foreign competitors. Yuck. Drop the "human interest", just give me the goddamn events - as many as you can cram into however much time you have. I would much rather be watching the last place pole vaulter from New Guinea than some shitty story about how American Athlete #3 is bravely competing through the pain of a stubbed toe and their mother's recent diagnosis of a hang nail.

    Same with Ninja Warrior - I enjoy the Japanese version from time to time, because 90% of the show is someone actually trying to complete the course. You know, the interesting part that got me to turn on the channel. Minimal time is spent on building up each individual competitor, and the brief sketches they do occasionally give are more than enough to establish who the person is. American version, approximately 60-70% seems to be build-up for athletes who end up eating it on the first obstacle.

  • Everything G4 touches turns to a burning pile of dead ashes. They're like the grim reaper on steroids. That's the only explanation that's necessary really. But this show must be at least somewhat decent seeing as how a story about it somehow ninja'ed its way onto slashdot for no obvious reason. Pretty stealthy.
  • by theBraindonor (577245) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:07PM (#40628809) Homepage
    Your critique of the show turning winning contestants into losers is dead on. Kamerion Wimbley [nbcsports.com] took and completed the preliminary course. Watching a man of his size complete the course was amazing to see. Then we got to see him get knocked out due to other contestants coming in with faster times. And then watched an added insult in the finals when they bring in 'wild card' contestants--many of whom did not even complete the preliminary course. And of course all the wildcards were turned into 'human interest' stories. Thankfully the grandfather wildcard actually did complete the course.

    My biggest issue with the show was that they end up giving only summaries of the runs to half of the contestants--even after having 2/3rds of the contestants competing on the G4 show. The original show packed the same amount of content into 30 minutes that NBC is trying to stretch to 2 hours.
  • by Norwell Bob (982405) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:12PM (#40628859)
    Now, with sports, you'd expect a much easier crossover, but I can see the submitter's points, for sure. But in the case of most other shows that get imported to the States, most notably (IMHO) British comedy, they just don't translate well due to cultural differences. IT Crowd was a fantastic show in the UK... did the US version ever make it past the pilot (almost a scene for scene reproduction which, for whatever reason, was just weak and didn't work?)

    The Office is another example people use, although I must admit I've never spent any considerable time watching either. How is the US version of Shameless compared to the UK version?

    I'm going way off topic here, but I feel like ranting, so mod me as you will. It seems like ever since the Sonic the Hedgehog commercials of the mid-90s hit the airwaves, America has this obsession with being loud, irreverent, and in-your-face. TV shows and movies largely eschew complicated or subtle humor in favor of lets-see-how-much-we-can-get-away-with. That's what turned me off to Family Guy after the first few seasons. Alright, McFarlane, we get it... you're really pushing the envelope there with your three identical shows. Sadly, most "average citizens" seem to eat this garbage up. I often think of the scene in Idiocracy with the TV show "Ow My Balls".

    Honestly, I have Comcast at my apartment solely for the Internet (it costs you more if you don't get TV through them also)... I have about a dozen channels, 8 of which son en Espanol... but I have an XBox360 and Netflix, and far more quality programming to watch than I'll ever get to, thanks to those.

    Allow me to digress one more time, though... and slightly back on topic. One Japanese obstacle course show that was aired by Spike was altered to the point of parody, and THAT worked... in the US it was called "MXC" or "Most Extreme Elimination Challenge", and the ridiculous voice overs were done, IIRC, by comedians, and were genuinely funny. I miss that show.
  • by morari (1080535) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:21PM (#40628969) Journal

    After they completely ruined TechTV? You're part of the problem.

  • by ebunga (95613) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @12:43PM (#40629231) Homepage

    Therefore, you are wrong and should reevaluate every life choice you have ever made.

  • Sasuke means what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Thursday July 12, 2012 @01:09PM (#40629557) Homepage Journal

    ""Sasuke" means something like "excellence" in Japanese."

    No, Sasuke has no translatable definition. To say excellence in Japanese, it's shuuitsu, shun, or shunei.

    Sasuke is the name of a revered warrior, Sarutobi Sasuke.

    Go figure neither editors nor article writer have any real fucking clue about the Japanese language, and thus would have NO clue about the origins of the name of a 'ninja-based' show.

  • by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @01:12PM (#40629599)
    ...then the biggest problem lies in the obstacle course itself.
    In wipeout, the obstacle course looks stupid easy, and it seems that they only pick contestants that have the dexterity of an infant.
    In the Japanese ones that I've seen, i can take one look at the obstacle courses and say "fuck that, I'd never win"
    The contestants themselves varied in skill as well. There were some that failed at the gate, and others that would just wow you.
  • by dcollins (135727) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @01:23PM (#40629711) Homepage

    Some initial points of agreement:
    (1) Americans take foreign shows and remake them in a way that violates the whole point.
    (2) American producers are obsessed with dumb-ass human interest stories (Olympics unwatchable for me)
    (3) Reality shows are usually their own perfect "essence" in their first season, and interesting as participants try to learn the rules on the fly; and then shows go downhill, violating their essence with the need to vary challenges/ surprise/ shake things up in later seasons.

    Compare to the summer show Wipeout, which has some similarities but is American-specific (I think). I adored it in the first season; after that, borderline unwatchable. The problem here is that in the first season, the challenges were at least conceivably doable; if 24 people ran through them and mostly got demolished, maybe 1 or 2 very athletic people per show would dash through them successfully, and it was exciting and awesome to watch ("sasuke", I guess you say). I would applaud. There was a nice narrator arc every episode starting out snarky, and then near the end complimenting and praising the finalists.

    The problem is in the second season they started fetishisizing the failures, and the challenges were made so hard as to be impossible. I don't think in the last 2-3 seasons anyone has successfully made it through the first round of the show. There's no drama to it, it's just a dumb-ass repetitive series of people getting dunked. I don't mind competition, but there has to be some chance of something different happening or it's repetitive boring bullshit.

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