Quiz Show Underground: Panel Quiz Attack 25

Most people’s idea of a Japanese game show involves ridiculous stunts and/or over-the-top variety shows.  This show is not like that, but just as interesting.

You’ve probably seen a tournament episode of Jeopardy! at some point in your life.  If you have GSN, you might’ve caught a rerun of when The $100,000 Pyramid was really going to give out $100,000.  If you have seen them, or something similar on another show, you probably remember that while some things were altered, the format pretty much stayed the same.  Even when The Price is Right decided “Play ALL the Plinko!” they kept the general pace and game play the same.  It’s a simple approach—the game’s the same but the stakes are higher—and the familiarity prevents viewers from being lost.

This month, Panel Quiz Attack 25 will take that convention, and throw it on the ground.

First, a little bit of history.  Actually, a lot of history, since PA25 is arguably the longest running quiz show on Earth, airing weekly since 1975. Every Sunday afternoon (in Japan) four new contestants, grouped by age or other metric, answer questions to earn squares on a 5-by-5 Reversi board.  The rules are structured so that players have to capture squares, leading to massive swings that resemble trying to watch five different tennis matches at once.  Questions run the gamut from current events, to history, sports, pop culture, and music. Plus, being a show on TV Asahi, you can bet there’s a tokusatsu question whenever relevant.  The winner tries to earn a cruise by watching a video clue, except everyone else’s squares block the champ’s view of the clip.  Claim all 25 squares, and you get ¥500,000 and look really foolish if you blow the bonus.

In short, we’re talking about trivia Othello, except for the Champion’s Battle, which traditionally takes place over the last two episodes of the year. Many of its winners from the past 11 months (I’m not sure what other qualifications you need; I’m guessing you had to win your game, but not the bonus) return back for a 2nd bite of the cherry.  With any other game show, it would just be more games before crowning a champ, right? Nope.  Instead, the returnees have to pass a 20 question pre-recorded test that the audience at home can play along with.  Think Million Second Quiz without any interaction.  Survive that, and you and everyone else who advanced go on to a massive buzzer race.  If you get three questions right, you’re a finalist; get two wrong, though, and you’re out.  Once there are four finalists, then a game of PA25 takes place, but that’s for the following episode.  The Champion’s Battle isn’t a tournament, it’s an on-air tryout!  For people who already played!  That being said, it’s utterly entertaining and definitely worth watching if you can find a stream.

Panel Quiz Attack 25 has had two hosts in the history of its show.  Its first, Kiyoshi Kodama had to step down in 2011 mostly due to failing health.  When he passed away, the following episode of PA25 was not a game, but a memoriam for the man who manned the show’s podium for over 35 years by those who run it now.  It was a fascinating watch, not only because it was in a different language—that was nothing new—but because they were telling the story of a person who had lived a full and cultured life.  This was someone I and many other people had only met for half an hour, once a week, on a game show, and he wasn’t even the one reading questions (most quiz shows in Japan have a designated question reader). And yet he was more than just a guy in a suit.  It was an interesting and different way of looking at things, but from PA25, I would’ve expected nothing less than “different”.