Back in 1986 a game show 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 of its time period. The series featured an array of contestants playing through some crazy games 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 class all its own.
Over on this side of the ocean the show never made it to our TVs; at least not in its original state. It wasn't until 2003 when 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. In my opinion that's a good thing.
In its purest form MXC is a hilarious low brow American edit of the original Japanese show. Clips from the series were cut and pasted together to form episodes based upon the comedic needs of the voice talent. To say that the series was a success would be an understatement and if you have ever stopped to watch the show while passing through the channels you probably found yourself chuckling. Then again, I suppose you do need to have an appreciation for toilet humor and sexual references in order to find this content amusing. In other words the audience for this show is very large.
The average episode of MXC follows a specific structure that is never messed with. In a typical episode you can expect to see an introduction made by the hosts Kenny Blankenship (Sonemanma Higashi voiced by Christopher Darga) and Vic Romano (Takeshi Kitano voiced by Victor Wilson). The two banter for a bit and give a brief introduction to what's in store before passing it off to Captain Tenneal (Hayato Tani voiced by John Cervenka). The Captain then shows us a group of people that make up the teams feature as the game's contestants. After a brief Q and A session where the Captain proves that he is right and everyone else is wrong the games and fun begins.
A typical MXC episode features a variety of events that defy stupidity and often feature a complete disregard for bodily harm. Seriously folks, it's not surprising that these contestants are being made fun of because if you're stupid enough to try running across a series of rocks in "Sinkers and Floaters" without caution you deserve whatever jokes are flung your way along with whatever broken ribs you receive. There is a great amount of variety to the games that are played though some favorites tend to surface multiple times in consecutive episodes. And of course if you have ever watched the show you know that after a painful elimination Guy LeDouche (Shingo Yanagisawa voiced by John Cervenka) chimes in to add insult to injury.
On the surface and to the uninitiated the voiceovers may seem insulting to Takeshi's Castle. In many people's opinion there's just something inherently wrong about a game show being re-dubbed in another language and sullied with toilet humor. You know what though? The naysayers couldn't be more wrong. MXC may be low brow but it handles its content intelligently and with great care ironically enough. The series is a witty satire and it's hard to deny the fact that a lot of time and genius went into writing and timing the jokes at hand. MXC is unique and it's something that becomes addictively enjoyable once you give it a shot.
The first two volumes of the show are already available on DVD though the third has recently been released. Once again this two disc collection offers thirteen episodes of MXC goodness with some of the best episodes yet in my opinion. The team has some great chemistry at this point in the series and though they are still early on in the program (these episodes were broadcast between 4/2004 and 1/2005) it's hard to deny the quality.
Among my personal favorites from this release is "Republicans VS. Democrats vs. Third Party" which features the show's first ever three way team competition. As you'd imagine there are a lot of political potshots included here and plenty of spoofs in between. It's too bad actual politics couldn't be played out in this manner though I'm sure Ahnold would have still won the governorship. The best games available in this episode were Log Jam, Mudslingers, and The Rotating Surfboard of Political Suicide.
Some other strong episodes from these two discs were "Snack Food Industry vs. Print Media", "Organized Crime vs. Weight Loss Industry", and "Film Industry vs. Phobias". To be quite honest though, each of these thirteen episodes is jam-packed with hilarity and quality. If you are a fan of the show you'll find yourself watching each episode again and again while newcomers may find themselves desiring to pick up the other two volumes. At the end of the day this show is a crowning jewel among guilty pleasures and the third DVD release displays that fact proudly. MXC continues to get better and the best is yet to come! Here's looking forward to the fourth release!
Republicans vs. Democrats VS. Third Party
Derived from Takeshi's Castle from back in the 1980's I'm sure you can assume going in what kind of video quality to expect. Thankfully some efforts have been taken to spruce up the look of the series and the full frame image color image is surprisingly vibrant. Grain is present but kept minimal and the same can be said for compression and speckle that filters through once in a while. The picture isn't particular sharp but the softness doesn't drown out most of the detail thankfully. It's safe to say that even in the form of MXC, Takeshi's Castle has never looked better.
With a 2.0 stereo presentation MXC's third volume continues to be sufficient in terms of audio quality. Sure there is a certain lack of immersion but this is the kind of show that doesn't really need a 5.1 surround track. The dialogue is crisp and clean with some very well-defined sound effects that help cushion the 2.0 offering. The volume stayed strong throughout with no pitch and overall the presentation fit the material perfectly despite technical limitations.
As was the case with the previous installments the third volume of MXC features some original Takeshi's Castle episodes. These unaltered classics are presented with the Japanese dialogue and forced English subtitles and last for much longer than the MXC cut. Fans will appreciate taking a look at the very first episode from 1986 which is peculiar to say the least. More familiar territory comes about with the 67th episode which is presented on the second disc. Also available on this set is "Kenny Blankenship's Top 25 Most Painful Eliminations of Volume Three" which is just what it sounds like; the 25 most painful eliminations from these thirteen episodes.
MXC may be a guilty pleasure but it's such a well-crafted spoof that it's hard not to love it. There is a certain amount of energy that resides behind every game and every comment. As you watch you'll get the impression that the MXC guys love what they do and the chemistry is fantastic. Everything comes together brilliantly and even if you typically don't dig low brow humor you'll find yourself chuckling at these jokes. There is no continuity so you can start with the third volume and be privy to what's going on in the show just fine enough. Highly Recommended