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KUNOICHI is a sports variety special spun off from SASUKE. KUNOICHI was held once a year from 2001 to 2009 (save for 2008) and was usually aired around Christmas. Edited versions of KUNOICHI air around the world in countries such as Taiwan, the United States (where it is titled Women of Ninja Warrior), Great Britain (also titled Women of Ninja Warrior), France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Serbia. It was eventually revived in 2017 and as of now held two tournaments in this current year.
Each competition includes 100 challengers (50 challengers since KUNOICHI 9), who, unlike SASUKE, are all exclusively female. The goal is the same: complete a three/four stage obstacle course of increasing difficulty. Competitions remain in the same format as SASUKE and take place on the same site at Midoriyama. But since KUNOICHI 9, it was now held at Makuhari Messe Convention Hall. The competition starts in the morning and ends well into the night.
The first stage is designed to test one's speed, technique and balance. It usually consisted of six to eight obstacles, which must be completed within a 90 to 140 second time limit. It has changed the most of all four stages over years. During the first two tournaments, it looked similar to SASUKE's Second Stage, as the obstacles were arranged in a square. In KUNOICHI 3, the course was redesigned to be in a straight line.
A major change in the First Stage occurred in KUNOICHI 8 when it was redesigned so that four women ran at the same time. The first two to clear under the time limit advanced to the Second Stage; if none of the four cleared in under two minutes, the Repechange was held, guaranteeing that one competitor to advance.
Due to the course reboot in KUNOICHI 9 after an 8 years hiatus, the original format of the stage returned but is now called as the RED Stage. Almost all of the obstacles are integrated from famous obstacles from SASUKE such as the Rolling Hill and the Warped Wall.
The Second Stage was designed to be more difficult than the first, but it contained roughly the same skill sets. Competitors had varying success on this stage, and on average, around half are expected to clear. For KUNOICHI 1 and 2, it had four obstacles; during KUNOICHI 2, the final two obstacles were untimed. It has run under a time trial system twice; KUNOICHI 6, where only the top six times advanced, and KUNOICHI 8, where only the top ten times advanced, though it should be noted that the number of clears were lower than the maximum number allowed in that tournament.
In KUNOICHI 9, the format has been changed, the name of the stage is now the BLUE Stage and has no time limit for all of the obstacles and no limit of finishers needed to advance. It also added obstacles which are famous in SASUKE, such as the Spider Walk and Wall Lifting.
The Third Stage is all about balance, and is designed so that only the most skilled can clear this stage. It was created for KUNOICHI 3, and for the next five tournaments, it consisted of three obstacles. For KUNOICHI 3 and 4, all three obstacles needed to be completed within a 90 second time limit. In KUNOICHI 5 only the final obstacle had a time limit, and for KUNOICHI 6 and KUNOICHI 7, the time limit was eliminated altogether.
But the KUNOICHI 7 format eventually returned in KUNOICHI 10, which is now called as the BLACK Stage with the addition of famous obstacles from SASUKE such as the Cliffhanger and Pipe Slider.
The Final Stage has had eight different versions. The first design was an untimed balance beam called the Tenkudou. The following three designs were a 15 meter climb with varying obstacles, usually ending in the Tenkubou. The fifth design is a 17.5 meter climb which is unfortunately not attempted. The sixth version consisted of a 15 meter climb which proved to be relatively easy as two women achieved kanzenseiha in that version. The next versions however, due to the height of the convention hall, the height of the stage would only be 15 meters so that it would fit the convention hall. The seventh and eighth versions introduced classic SASUKE obstacles such as the Spider Climb and the Tsuna Nobori.
Kunoichi has never really had a list of "All Stars"; more of a list of key players, all of them at the time were the most likely to complete the final stage. In all, there have been 11 "All Stars" over the years, but the current list includes Miyake Ayako, Komiya Rie, Tanaka Maho, Nishimura Chie and Mizuno Yuko. The list of former all stars includes Asami Sayaka, Izumi Mika, Watanabe Kazue, Hanzawa Tomomi, Yusa Masami and Yamada Miho. Out of the 11, only 7 have reached the final stage, with Asami being the most notable to have not been a finalist. Miyake has had the most final stage attempts at three, and Mizuno and Komiya are the only others to attempt it more than once. It is assumed that Kadoi Satomi will become an All-Star after her kanzenseiha.