Back in 1986 a gameshow called Takeshi's Castle began airing on Japanese television. Starring Takeshi Kitano as Count Takeshi, Castle ran for three years and was easily one of the most unique shows for its time period. The series featured an array of contestants playing through some crazy games that were often physical in nature all in an effort to get their hands on a million yen. If you think of the series as a hybrid between Double Dare and American Gladiators with a little bit of Jackass tossed in, you'd be on the right track, but to be honest Takeshi's Castle was in a world all its own.
Over on this side of the ocean the show never really made it to our TVs; at least not in its original state. It wasn't until the crazy gang behind Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC) decided to dig it up that we got to see Takeshi's Castle in all its glory. Of course anyone that has seen MXC can tell you that this rendition is in no way faithful to the source material.
Clips of the original show were sliced and diced to suit the needs of the voice actors who pulled them together to make a constant barrage of jokes. In rapid succession MXC takes you from one contestant to the next and from one grueling game to next. Filled with instant replays of painful looking "eliminations" and perverted commentary this version is a juvenile parody of the original and not to be confused with a faithful translation. I'm not using "juvenile" in a negative way either, this show works on every level and it's all thanks to the wild sense of humor (and craziness of the contestants).
When MXC began airing in 2003 it did so rather quietly. There wasn't much of a budget backing the series and it was never aired in a favorable time slot. Funny enough though, a cult following of viewers helped propel it to stardom and to this day new episodes are still being broadcast by Spike TV. I'll never forget the first time I stumbled upon the show and thought, "What the hell is this?" I had never laughed so hard in my life and from that very moment I was hooked. Take one glance at any of the episodes on the new DVD from Magnolia and you'll feel the same way.
With MXC's warped rendition of Takeshi's Castle a few things changed in the process. For starters all of the contestants were categorized into two teams in order to give the episodes a theme and purpose behind many of the jokes. In the first season some of the more prominent pairings are "Porn VS. Construction ", "Donors VS. Addicts", "Inventors VS. Ex-Child Actors", and "The Couples Show". Naming shows by the teams was probably the best way to break the series down instead or simply calling them "Episode 10" or whatnot.
In each of these episodes the games that are played will boggle your mind if you have never witnessed MXC before. Some games are more popular than others it seems because they get the most play time. Stuff like Clear Sphere of Fear, The Poisonous Horny Toad, and Jerk and Release just don't come around that often from what I've seen. The most common stuff that you'll see includes Boulder Dash, a game that pits contestants against a slope with big fake rocks being rolled at them. Brass Balls is another popular one that features players walking along a rickety bridge while protecting a brass ball and trying to avoid getting pelted by others that are being shot at them. Another of the more common games is Sinkers and Floaters which features contestants running across a river on a bunch of rocks.
Despite the age of this material much of what's here could be compared to Jackass in a way. These games are brutal and often result in someone getting hurt, though the contestants seem to stay in good spirits. The riffraff stars of the show also go out of their way to cause misery and torment for the losers often adding insult to injury. A brief interview segment after these games also adds to the humiliation, especially for the poor girl that took a soccer ball to the face and cries through it. This stuff doesn't stop the MXC cast from poking fun though and in all honesty that's part of the charm of this show. It's unrelenting and doesn't pull any punches which are undoubtedly keys to its success.
Meat Handlers VS Cartoon Voice Actors
Since the original Takeshi's Castle show was taped back in the 80s you can pretty much assume the quality of this video going in. For the most part you'd be right. There is grain, compression, soft edges and speckle scattered throughout this show but I really have to give credit to the team at MXC; the cleanup job was done nicely. Compared to original video this rendition looks significantly sharper with more vivid colors and an overall cleaner appearance.
With a 2.0 stereo presentation MXC Season One does a fine job in the audio department. The track is obviously not as robust as a 5.1 surround selection but for what it's worth the quality is there despite technical limitations. The volume stayed strong throughout with no pitch and the dialogue was clear and split fine between the front channels. Given the nature of the show you can't expect an awful lot but what's here suits the material just fine.
With loving care some keen special features have been included with this two disc set of MXC Season One.
When I started viewing the supplemental material the first one that jumped out at me was an original episode of Takeshi's Castle. This is presented in its original form with two viewing options. You can watch it with just the Japanese and forced subtitles or you can view it with the Japanese, subtitles AND an English track that gives you the gist of what's going on. Either way is just fine but the purist in me found the track without the English overlay to be better suited to enjoying the show. If you've never seen the differences between MXC and the original viewing this episode is the perfect way to experience them.
Three separate audio commentaries are included in this set as well. "Meat Handlers VS Cartoon Voice Actors", "College Girls" and "Adult Entertainment VS Home Improvement" all get commentary by the MXC staff. These tracks were entertaining and informative with plenty of personal insight and some background to the show itself. On the second disc there are a couple more extras that prove to be worth their salt. The first one is an original promotional reel from 2001 which the MXC team used to try to pitch the show. Some bits were kept and ported over to various episodes (such as the neck crunch guy) but other things like voices were inevitably changed. Last but not least is Kenny Blankenship's Top 25 Most Painful Eliminations of the Season. If you can't figure what that is then you've probably taken one too many brass balls to the head.
I love MXC. There's just something about watching a bunch of gameshow contestants injure themselves that puts a smile on my face; especially when you toss in hilarious voiceovers and bone crunching sound effects. Sure folks hoping for an original Takeshi's Castle are out of luck but if you're looking for a non-stop supply of laughs that will entertain the whole gang then you needn't look further. MXC is packed with vicious energy and a can-do spirit that is addicting beyond reason. Check out this DVD. Now!