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Monday, 30 January 2012

Kasou Taishou aka Masquerade aka Kinchan and Katori Shingo's All Japan Costume Grand Prix aka All Japan Kasoh Grand Prix aka 欽ちゃん&香取慎吾の全日本仮装大賞

Kasou Taishou (as it's generally known by Western fans) is Japanese talent show where people dress up, make props and use puppetry and Kabuki techniques to tell little stories or present entertaining vignettes. Yeah, it's kind of hard to describe. Remember the Matrix Ping Pong video? Sure you do.


That clip is the winning entry from the March 2003 edition of the programme. The programme is aired twice a year and has been going since 1979. It's a huge favourite in Japan, but is barely known outside the country, except amongst a few fans who hunt down poor quality clips on the internet.

Each act is voted on by a panel of judges and a score of fifteen or over wins a medal (presented by a bunny girl - for reasons beyond my comprehension). The overall winner of each show gets... well, I don't know what exactly, but they must get something. Some acts are very simple indeed, whilst others involve a huge amount of effort, but they're all rather imaginative and surprisingly inventive. Sometimes there's an act that I simply have no idea what they're doing, but for the most part the fun comes from realising just what it is they're up to. Having some cute kids as part of the mix is usually a good way to get extra points. Heck, even one of the judges is a child.

Occasionally, there are celebrity entrants (most famously Morning Musume and this year a certain K-pop group), but the contestants are mostly ordinary people which is one of the reasons I like this so much. It's not about some talent for singing with which someone's been randomly born, but about the imagination of normal people - anyone can take part and enjoy success with even a simple idea if it's clever enough or capture's the judge's imagination too.

Most contestants are a part of a team and the most common technique is that of the kuroko from Kabuki or Bunraku theatre. The kuroko (黒子) are stagehands who dress in black (sometimes blue or white) against a dark background in order to be invisible when manipulating stage props. In actual fact they often appear in front of backgrounds that aren't dark, but the convention is that the audience regard them as invisible. Oddly enough, in most Japanese theatre (especially bunraku) ninja characters are usually portrayed as invisible and employ the kuroko outfits accordingly and it's been suggested that this has led to the convention of ninja being shown wearing black outfits. Real ninja might have worn black outfits occasionally, but it was far from commonplace. See? This blog's educational too.

Thanks to the dedication of one chap, there's now a YouTube channel where most of the show's clips can be seen in decent quality. Go there and subscribe. Here are some of the entries from the latest show.

Over the years, I've forced various TV executives to sit down and watch bits of the show in an attempt to get it on British telly, but without any luck so far. NTV have packaged the episodes for sale and are also trying to sell the format too. If you happen to be a British TV exec or know one, hassle them to buy this show so we can all see it and maybe we'll get lucky and it'll kill the awful rubbish that is Britain's got American Pop Idol Talent or whatever that shit's called. I can't believe that someone bought Hole in the Wall (also from NTV, as is Dragons Den) instead of this.
http://www.ntv.co.jp/english/pc/2011/02/86.html

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