Zuiikin' English or officially Eikaiwa taisō Zuiikin' English (英会話体操 Zuiikin’English?) is a Japanese television series originally aired in 1992 by Fuji Television. Eikaiwa, Taisō and Zuiikin mean "English conversation", "gymnastic exercises" and "voluntary muscles", respectively. The series combines English language lessons with gymnastic exercise programs. The series consists of 24 episodes.
In 1987, Fuji Television, whose call sign is JOCX-TV, branded their late-night/early-morning slots collectively as JOCX-TV2 (meaning "alternative JOCX-TV") in an effort to market the traditionally unprofitable time slots and give opportunities to young creators to express their new ideas. The broadcaster produced numerous experimental programs on low budgets under this and follow-on brands until 1995. One such program tried to help viewers to fall asleep while another showed an actor reading out a well-known novel and nothing else. Zuiikin' English was born under these circumstances.
At the beginning of the show, the host and mastermind, Fernandez Verde, explains his philosophy in learning languages. He proclaims that different cultures use muscles in different proportions due to their customs. For example, in one episode he states Japanese people have stronger lower back muscles (from bowing and keeping a lower posture), and a different leg muscle structure (due to squatting for long periods of time). He feels that using those particular muscles while learning the language of that culture will create strong connotations in your mind and faster learning.
Then a sketch starts like an ordinary language lesson program. Every time a new English phrase is introduced, the sketch pauses and switches to the Zuiikin Gals, a threesome gymnastic exercise team. They perform synchronised exercises while smiling and chanting the phrase. The choice of phrases include the following:
- Take anything you want.
- Spare me my life!
- I was robbed by two men.
- Call an ambulance please.
- I have a bad case of diarrhea.
- I feel feverish and sluggish.
- I am allergic to penicillin.
- Is there anyone who speaks Japanese?
- How many of these should I take?
- Will my insurance cover today?
- Unbelievable! It's amazing! We did it!
- Is that so? Really? Are you sure?
- Never mind.
- The climax scene really got to me!
- How dare you say such a thing to me!
- You drive me crazy!
- Don't make fun of me.
- It's your fault that this happened.
- Leave me alone!
- I can't stand the sight of you.
- Hasta la vista, baby.
- Let's go Dutch!
In the final episode, three English native speakers formed the Zuiikin Boys and demonstrated gymnastic movements while chanting supposedly useful Japanese phrases. One such phrase, "tsumaranai mono desuga" (つまらない物ですが) ends up translating rather roughly to "please accept this trifling thing". No translations are provided during these Japanese lessons as they are for the English lessons, only Japanese characters and romanisations.
Initial broadcasting in Japan
The program was initially broadcast in the spring of 1992. It occupied an early-morning slot around 5 AM. This allocation itself was probably a move to perfect the parody because the long-running gymnastic exercise program by national station NHK was also broadcast in early mornings (around 6 AM). This early broadcast time was one of the main reasons why the series passed unnoticed to most people in Japan.
International minor cult
It wasn't until the broadcaster decided to rerun the series from November 2005 on their satellite channels that the program, and especially the Zuiikin Gals, started to attract international attention. One of the clips uploaded on YouTube has been viewed more than a million times (as of December 2014). Clips from the show have been featured on radio and TV programs such as The Opie and Anthony Show,The Soup, Anderson Cooper 360, Upload with Shaquille O'Neal and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in America, and Rude Tube and "8 out of 10 Cats" in England.
The Zuiikin Gals are Maiko Miyazawa (宮沢麻衣子), Reiko Saito (斎藤レイ子) and Takako Inayoshi (稻吉貴子), whose names are displayed at the beginning of each exercise. Inayoshi is still active in the entertainment business as an actress.