The New Takeshi’s Castle Series Rules
2:33 AM EDT on October 19, 2023
When I was a kid, I remember watching this bizarre TV show on a local channel where these everyday Japanese people would run a gauntlet of physical challenges and get their shit absolutely wrecked. Even at that young age, I knew as well then as I do now that there is no higher form of comedy than unscripted physical comedy.
When I was at university/college, that show--which I'd learned in the intervening years was called "Takeshi's Castle", even though I had no idea of the name's significance--came back as MXC, albeit this time with an extremely annoying American voice-over that robbed it of much of its charm. Still, bad dub or not, the contestants were eating shit on a regular basis, and that was more than enough for me.
Takeshi's Castle, in its original form at least, would run from 1986-1990, though I'd guess the vast majority of people who have ever seen it by now have done so courtesy of MXC, which aired between 2003-2007 and should be noted didn't just add a dub, but also slightly altered the show's premise and storyline. In the intervening decades, a lot of shows have tried to wear its crown. Viking: The Ultimate Obstacle Course was probably my favourite of the bunch, if only for its lavish production values, but what many of Takeshi's Castle's successors forgot was that we weren't just there to see people get hurt, we were there to see normal people get hurt. Athletes in prime physical condition are too strong, too ready for the challenges that await them to ever be truly entertaining; a middle-aged accountant or overweight school teacher getting hit by something is going to get fucked up and that, my friends, is real comedy.
Imagine my joy, then, when bored and flicking through streaming services the other night--please appreciate how bored I was to have landed on Prime Video--I found out that Takeshi's Castle was there to watch. And it was a new series. And it looked...good?
They spent some money on this! We're conditioned these days to remakes of old classics being shadows of their former greatness, cheap tricks designed to prey on our nostalgia. But 2023's Takeshi's Castle went all out, not just bringing back the big man himself, but a wide selection of Japanese comedians who do an excellent job hosting, their self-referential and light-hearted tone a perfect match for the imperfect athleticism on display.
Old events are back but bigger and more difficult. New events are complicated and eject contestants in deeply entertaining ways, whether painfully, embarrassingly or, in a best case scenario, both. If you have any concerns that a show made like this in the modern age has had to somehow play it safe to conform to safety standards, rest easy: whatever certifications this show received from local authorities to go ahead, they do not stop contestants getting bent over like accordions or smacked like a dead fish.
Check out this 8-bit-inspired torture device:
I'd even go so far as to say that, with over 30 years between outings, this new show might be even better than the original because it knows what it is, and what people love. In 1986 this was a dumb, weird show that was clearly winging it! In 2023 it is television folklore, knows it and is able to both revisit itself and improve every aspect of itself at the same time, with ease.
Anyway, this is already too many words about a show where the key selling points is seeing people get knocked on their ass/into water/off a giant rotating platform. Takeshi's Castle 2023 is great, go watch it.
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