The Johnny’s World Thanksgiving Concert in Tokyo Dome DVD is the first concert DVD that I’m going to review on this site (though it’s not actually the first one I had planned to review – I have all the screencaps for last year’s Arafes DVD, but couldn’t manage to organize the review). I think this is a good first concert to attempt because it’s in many ways an extension of my Shounen Club reviews, since it features the same performers (Hey! Say! Jump, A.B.C-Z, Sexy Zone, and the juniors) singing many of the same songs, but doing so in a more extraordinary, more polished fashion. This will be an exhaustive review – which is to say, I’ll probably be quite exhausted after writing it.

The show begins with the junior instrumentalists, including Hagiya Keigo-kun on the drums, Goto Hiromi-kun on the violin, Ishigaki Daisuke-kun on the keyboard, Ogawa Yuu-kun on guitar, and . . . I can’t believe I can’t figure out the name of the kid on trumpet! Someone help! I hope this isn’t going to be a thing in this review where I forget people’s names. Anyway, I was especially appreciative of the trumpeter’s efforts because I vaguely remember how hard playing that instrument was in middle school.

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After the overture and a bit of a light show from the juniors in tuxedos, the dread wall-thingy with all the juniors trapped inside (you known, the one that looks like a scene from Jailhouse Rock – they call it ‘the mansion’) was unveiled. Kidding aside, I really like this idea of stacking the juniors vertically – it means that they’re not hidden behind everyone else and we can see whether they’re messing up or not – it puts the kind of pressure on them that will help them to develop.

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Hey! Say! Jump took the stage in those sparkly blue outfits that are sort somewhat iconic by now, I think. In an unsurprising pattern, each of the three main groups will start the show by singing their début song. It’s sort of like having The Beatles start every concert with “Love Me Do”, but whatever.

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HSJ can still do “Ultra Music Power” just fine – I never doubted them. This was the first chance to assess the sound quality and the mix, and at this point it seemed good. There was plenty of screaming fan sound and Tokyo Dome echo in the background, but the vocals came through fine. I always wonder how much post-work there is in getting the vocals that clean, but then A.B.C-Z did “Za ABC~5stars~”, and all of their vocals were just superb. It’s only possible to tell on the solo lines, and Hashimoto-kun’s solo at the start sealed the deal for me.

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A.B.C-Z did the intro for some of the juniors, then gave way to Sexy Zone with “Sexy Zone”. They were in shocking pink, as were the junior backsancers (Sexy Boyz, I guess? It’s difficult to tell since I never know who’s in SB at any given time). Here, I was really glad I managed to get a 720p copy of the concert, because regular DVD quality would probably make it impossible (or at least difficult) to make people out. If at all possible, you’ll want to watch this in HD – there are just too many moving parts throughout the show to do otherwise.

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It was during this performance that I first realized that Shori-kun was going to end up looking like the youngest member of SZ pretty soon. I don’t know what to say about that observation other than that, but I’ve also watched a bit of the SZ Arena Concert DVD, and that only took the realization a step further.

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Okay, so we’re through the début songs, and in an interesting choice, we got to hear “Hero” next with Yuto-kun playing drums and Keito-kun on guitar on one of the mobile platforms. The other two groups were on-stage as well, but not singing.

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Trying my best to listen, I think HSJ’s English has gotten better – at least since this song appeared on their album. After “Hero”, A.B.C-Z sang “Naked”, which continued the very upbeat opening. I consider “Hero” to be a good running song, and “Naked” is the same way. The HSJ instrumentalists continued to provide drums and guitar.

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On SZ’s turn, they sang “Kanzen My Way” – one of my favorite songs from their album that, for some reason, we rarely hear on Shounen Club. Maybe they save it for concerts?

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I always liked the mobile platform idea, and having three groups performing on them together was really a delightful way to start the show. They got to look like they were having fun, which set the right tone for the show. Plus, after we got through the début songs, the choice of songs has been great. And it continued with “Dash”, which is also an under-played song and another good running song to boot.

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We got a little Johnny’s World recap VTR showing . . . showing all the things they don’t plan to include in this DVD, I guess? I know there were many iterations of Johnny’s World, and a lot that was included along the way that we won’t get to see here (especially since this DVD didn’t include a Documentary that could have had some of those clips), but I really would have preferred not to be reminded of that while I’m trying to enjoy this version.

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Okay, back to the fun, everyone was in red. All three groups. So, like I said, if you’re not watching this in great quality, you’re going to have a heck of a time picking people out. According to the tracklist, this was “NOT ENOUGH”, and it reminded me of Aiba Masaki-kun’s “Janakute”, though also of dozens of other Broadway staples – it was a solid Broadway piece, and it was great to see all three groups perform together like this.

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HSJ has a quick costume change to sing another song I haven’t heard before – “お正月 イントロダクション” (New Year’s Day Introduction).

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Then there was a drumming sequence with shamisen. Actually, the melody briefly reminded me of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”, and that’s never a bad thing. Otherside, the actual drumming was not particular inspired, and largely saved by the brilliant shamisen. Visually, though, this was quite spectacular. Someone had a very good eye to get all the colors and lighting right on this.

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Following that, A.B.C-Z returned to the stage in some traditional finery of their own, plus huge fans (the cooling kind, not the screaming kind). This was an elaborate dance sequence without vocals . . .

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. . . followed by some aerobatics. With some members in the air, they sang a bit of “雅 -Miyabi-”.

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I have to say that the long shots were got irritating during HSJ’s performance of “百花繚乱” (Hyakkaryouran). I appreciate the spectacle, but I also think people watching the video might actually want to see people’s faces a bit more often than we did.

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So, why didn’t “Hyakkaryouran” become a HSJ single instead of “Come On A My House”? From this performance, I think you could see the makings of a pretty good PV, despite how repetitive the song’s melody is.

HSJ followed it with “Beat Line” – the first time a group has sung two of their own songs consecutively in this DVD, by the way. I was still getting distance shots all over the place instead of any good pictures of the performers. If you notice, there were two decks, and the view of the upper deck was particularly bad – I could barely see that Kento-kun, Fuma-kun, and Shori-kun from SZ were dancing along to “Beat Line” (a tough dance, by the way), and couldn’t see any of the juniors behind them.

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We did get a good scene of Yuto-drumming, but I didn’t catch any clean screencaps of that.

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Next we got a great violin and keyboard intro to . . . nothing. It was just a bit of color before . . .

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. . . HSJ performed “Perfect Life”. Here again, Yuto-kun was at the drums – is he going to spend more of the concert drumming than dancing!?

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And, of course, we got some Yamada-kun on saxophone. As far as instruments go, it’s one of the toughest to write parts for, so I wonder if they’re going to be able to give him more to do with the sax in future songs.

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We’re forty minutes into the show, and so far I’ve been happy with the choice of songs, with the energy of the performances, and with the visuals. The time spent on the distant rather than close-up cameras has been the only problem.

Next, Yamada-kun got to do a solo – “Ai no Katamari”  – suspended in mid-air. On the bright side, the camera hasn’t had any trouble zooming in on his face in this DVD.

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Yamada-kun’s voice was solid, but I have to admit that the first time I watched the DVD (giving it a playthrough before doing this review while watching it a second time), I was distracted while he was doing “Ai no Katamari”. Then suddenly there was a voice that forcibly grabbed my attention. Sure enough, it was Kikuchi Fuma-kun singing the first bars of “Kimi to . . . Milky Way”. Such a sweet voice!

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Of course, I’m also biased because I love the song, while I never thought much of “Ai no Katamari”. Throughout this performance, there were random people flipping around in the air, but I never got a good look at who they were. Was it A.B.C-Z? Were they juniors? At least one of them was Yamada-kun, but I have no clue about the others.

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Well, maybe not A.B.C-Z, since they were singing next. Maybe – it’s not like they’re not used to doing crazy stunts and then immediately singing. The song was “STAR SEEKER”, and my immediate thought was why can’t they do more songs like this on Shounen Club? It was another hard-hitting song with deep rock sensibilities.

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And there was a good combination of dancing and theater as they faced junior-gangsters with assault rifles. The Hashimoto drop was good stuff and the timing was perfect – it’s easy to draw stuff like that out, but they delayed it just right to give it tension without making it silly.

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And for a little bit, I got a Bakaleya6 flashback, as the Bakaleya guys were joined by other juniors to sing “Shake It Up” – the Kis-My-Ft2 theme song to their drama. Unfortunately, they weren’t doing the dance (at least, the six Bakaleyas weren’t) and instead stood on individual mobile platforms. Also, the camera spent very little time on Kouchi-kun and Shintaro-kun, and was altogether hyperactive in flipping back and forth between people.

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On the bright side, we got a beautiful sample of Kyomoto-kun’s voice in the middle of the song.

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At the start of “Beautiful Night” – a song I don’t remember hearing before, though my memory sometimes fails me – Yamada-kun and Chinen-kun grab a hold of Tanaka Koki-kun, so if you’re a fan of Koki-kun, he makes a significant cameo here. There’s a Koki-Juri moment, too.

The song is performed by all three groups – one of a number of new songs that all three groups do together for Johnny’s World, it seems. It’s a pretty standard Johnny’s song, and keeps up the high level of energy we’ve had throughout most of this first third of the concert.

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I seem to recall that Shori-kun gets along well with Totsuka-kun. Well, here they are on the same platform:

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Speaking of high energy songs, how about “Yuuki 100%”? If I had to pick a song for them to sing together before going into the MC segment, this would have certainly been it. So far, the first hour of this concert has made me very happy – there wasn’t any song I had a problem with, and it was a joy to see all three groups mingling together instead of just performing separately.

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I’m not going to critique the MC segment, except to say that some people are just better at this than others, and with so many people on stage, participation was as uneven as you’d expect, clearly showing who had the hosting experience.

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Topic-wise, I didn’t detect anything of interest, though my Japanese comprehension is relatively low. At one point, Yabu-kun led a lot of Twenty Twenty talk, and this was probably an agency attempt to introduce/acclimate fans to the concept.

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We then got individual messages from each member of the three groups. These were shown up on the screen as they said them out loud. It was the usual stuff . . .

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. . . but I can’t help but comment on Keito-kun’s. He wrote “Believe yourself” instead of “Believe in yourself”, and someone at Sophia University should have a word with him about that (at this point, I’m also conscious that somewhere in this review, there’s a grammar typo, but dammit, I don’t have tens of thousands of readers). Sophia was Johnny Kitagawa-san’s alma mater as well, by the way.

Anyway, the rest of them offered their thoughts . . .

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. . . then we got back to the song and dance. Except, after the MC segment, there was a noticeable change in tempo. The first song was “Where My Heart Belongs” – you know, the one they did on Shounen Club with Yamada-kun singing and Chinen-kun dancing a semi-ballet. Except . . . I think Chinen-kun’s dancing was better in SC – I seem to recall some useful props in that version.

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As for Yamada-kun’s singing, if I hadn’t already heard the song on SC with the lyrics on the bottom, I don’t know if I would have even recognized it as English. And it’s probably be better if I imagined it’s some third langauge – especially after I just got on Keito-kun’s case for a touch of bad grammar.

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Musically, this is a very sloppy song, and all that could really save it was the dancing. Since the dancing actually looked better on SC, this was the first disappointing performance of the DVD.

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Fortunately, they decided to follow it immediately with another song I was bound to dislike – “Let’s Go To Earth”. Don’t get me started on the lyrics to this song. Let me just skip it altogether . . .

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. . . which brings me to “Twinkle Twinkle A.B.C-Z”. Now, where have I seen this hallway scene before? Oh, right, half a dozen times on SC. But I like that they actually started outside of Tokyo Dome, and they did the scene here much better than I’ve seen it on SC.

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Oh, and when they sing English lyrics, I can tell it’s English! So, for the record, A.B.C-Z is allowed to sing in English. HSJ . . . needs more practice and guidance.

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“Twinkle Twinkle A.B.C-Z” turned out to be much better viewing than I expected. I thought, having seen and heard it so often on SC, that it’d be uninteresting, but it was actually a solid highlight.

Next, Hokuto-kun and Jesse-kun briefly led a mixed group of juniors including the other Bakaleyas in “Parental Advisory Explicit Content”. Then they turned to a very different song – “Angel”, and then made another abrupt transition to “Burning Love”.

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If felt like a slightly unbalanced medley, but at least we got some dancing from them, and a good Bakaleya team picture:

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Yamada-kun was up next with another solo – “Mystery Virgin” – with A.B.C-Z backdancing. I would have preferred it if they had dumped “Ai no Katamari” and just kept this – I’m not sure Yamada-kun gets two solos even in HSJ concert DVDs, does he? So, it was weird to see him get two with such a crowded stage here.

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While I prefer they keep this performance over “Ai no Katamari”, I also think that his second SC performance of this song was much better than this – this was clearly earlier. The dance was a bit too jerky here.

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Now, when you see the coffins, you know what’s coming, right?

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No, it’s not Alice Cooper – it’s HSJ with “Boku wa Vampire”, all suited up in their “Boku wa Vampire” costumes. I like that they shoved the A.B.C-Z members into the coffins and made them disappear, though – nice touch. The neon lighting on the flying cape was a bit tacky.

I don’t like this song. What I want to know is this: why was Goto Hiromi-kun still trying to play violin at stage right during this song? There was no audible violin at all!

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HSJ went on to perform one of my favorite songs from them – “Arigatou ~Sekai no Doko ni Itemo~”. It’s their lowest-selling single, but it’s a very well-composed and catchy song, not to mention one of their cooler A-sides along with “OVER”.

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Shori-kun handled a rather amusing corner in which he interviewed a couple of chibi juniors. So it turns out he’s been doing this sort of thing, eh? Practicing how to interview with unintimidating interviewees?

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He also took this little fellow up for a flight . . .

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. . . and gave everyone a scare when he pretended to lose his grip on the kid (as if they’d rely on Shori-kun’s grip to keep the kid safe!).

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I’m not sure what the point of that little scare was – somehow it led to aerobatics from HSJ members, and then wonderfully flexible globe-trotting from the members of A.B.C-Z:

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Oh, and A.B.C-Z sang “Bokura ~Love&Peace~” while playing with the wireframe globe. I’m all right with the song when they perform it on SC, but I assure you it’s a lot better when they’re mid-air on a sphere.

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They continued on the sphere while singing the ballad “Ashita no Tame ni Boku ga Iru”. Beautiful vocals here.

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Chinen-kun did his trapeze act next. While it might have made his gymnast father a bit proud (and nostalgic) because some of what he did was reminiscent of what gymnasts do on the rings, it was underwhelming visually. I’m sure it was quite difficult and I certainly wouldn’t want to attempt it, but the visual impact was minimal and I felt like I needed a specialist commentating to explain why what he was doing was impressive.

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Following that was two songs I’m not so hot on – SZ’s “Real Sexy!” and HSJ’s “Come On A My House”. The staging on “Real Sexy!” was weird – they had Kento-kun, Fuma-kun, and Shori-kun on the main stage with Jinguji-kun, Iwahashi-kun, and . . . is that Okamoto Kauan-kun? . . . making it look like that was six person group. Then, way up and out-of-the-way were Marius-kun and Sou-kun with other juniors, all dressed in white. Also strange was the way Shori-kun seemed to be always in front of Kauan-kun in such a way as to always block him from audience view.

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What can I say? At least whoever decided the order of performances managed to quarantine all the songs I don’t like to very definite parts of the DVD instead of interspersing them all over the place.

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Members of HSJ and Sexy Zone mingled as they all sang and performed a medley of HSJ singles – “Magic Power”, “Mayonaka no Shadow Boy”, and “Super Delicate” . . .

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. . . then they shifted to “Lady Diamond” and A.B.C-Z joined in. While this was great stuff, I had fits because everyone was dressed in white. And I mean everyone – including the juniors. At least it wasn’t all wide shots, or it could have been practically anyone on stage and I wouldn’t know the difference.

The best part of having all three groups together was when Shori-kun, with his cracking voice, did his little line in the middle of “Lady Diamond”, and both Hashimoto-kun and Yamada-kun did lines of their own. Hashimoto-kun seemed to have his written on his hand, but Yamada-kun made it seem like he was coming up with it on-the-fly. Another funny thing – both Hashimoto’s and Yamada’s were “by Ryosuke”.

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Continuing with the remaining singles, they sang A.B.C-Z’s “Zutto Love”, then HSJ’s “Hitomi no Screen” . . .

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. . . and “Dreams Come True” after a HSJ costume change back to their iconic blues.

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With the all the singles sung, the groups capped things off with . . . “Let’s Go to Earth”. Except this time it was just in Japanese! Well, if they’d just stick to this version and fix the title, I’d be all right with it (how about “Let’s Go to Mars” – there’s no point going to a place when you’re already there!).

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And out of all things, they suddenly showed a VTR with Tackey-san, Kamenashi-kun, and Domoto Koichi-san singing “Let’s Go to Earth”, followed by the Kis-My-Ft2 members, Nakayama Yuma-kun, and Yamapi doing the same. The astronomical background seems to support my contention that they seem to have things the wrong way around . . . or they’re claiming to be aliens . . . or they think they’ve taken the fans to another world with their performances and are now bringing them back. Oh, the conclusions we reach when trying to rationalize such things.

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Everyone vacated the stage and Yamada-kun was left to address the fans alone . ..  except that Hagiya Keigo-kun was still playing the drums next to him even though all the music was coming from a background track. I don’t get it.

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That was the theoretical end to the show, but of course there were encores. All three groups quickly emerged on the mobile platforms and the first song was SZ’s “High!! High!! People”.

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After that was another song that’s SC-rare – A.B.C-Z’s “Kodoku no Runaway” (孤独のRUNAWAY).

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HSJ’s “School Kakumei” doesn’t get performed on SC much, but I’ve heard it so often otherwise it wasn’t quite as fresh. It did, however, feature some great jumps from Yuto-kun.

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Yabu-kun took care of introducing the more prominent juniors involved . . .

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. . . and then the members of Sexy Zone and A.B.C-Z . . .

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. . . and finally Kawai-kun gave the shout-out to HSJ.

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They all try to depart again, but you know how that goes. I suppose they managed to get some gulps of water in before popping back out on stage to sing “Thank You ~Bokutachi kara Kimi e~”.

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Curiously, there were only three members of SZ out this time, even though all five were out for the first encore. Did it just pass the critical time for Marius-kun and Sou-kun or something? (Do they turn into pumpkins after a certain hour?)

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They wrapped it up on “Yuuki 100%” which, as I said before, is always acceptable as a song to conclude on.

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So, what’s the upshot? Was this a good concert DVD?

The first hour was extremely strong and contained some brilliant visual elements and sense of theater. It lost a lot of that after the MC segment, where the performances tended to look a lot more like what we’ve already seen from the groups in SC instead of something special. A.B.C-Z was an exception, especially where the wireframe sphere was concerned, but aside from their bits, the best parts in the second half were when all three groups were on stage together. Certainly, those were the unique highlights of the concert – what you won’t see anywhere else.

There wasn’t much to unify the concert thematically – to explain why this was representative of the World of Johnny’s, if you will. Maybe a lot of what was left out (which we got a hint of in the brief VTR near the start) was story-like material that might have contributed more of that sense of theme . . . or maybe not. At least, that excluded material contained a critical side of Johnny’s World that wasn’t adequately covered by this DVD. As it was, this was just a concert – a collection of songs being performed. And it wasn’t a selection of songs representative of the history of Johnny’s – rather, it was mainly the songs from the three debuted groups that took part. It was more like the Hey Say ABC-xyZ Jump Zone World than the Johnny’s World.

For a fan of either Hey! Say! Jump or A.B.C-Z, I think this is good viewing. For Sexy Zone fans, I don’t think there are as many special moments, and with this DVD coming out in such close proximity to the SZ Arena Concert DVD, it’s pretty obvious which August release will give SZ fans the better viewing pleasure. For those who want to see all three groups side-by-side, this is definitely a great concert. It is not, however, the concert I’d pick to exemplify what Johnny’s is about. For that, I’d still pick the 2004 Summary with NEWS, KAT-TUN, and Ya-Ya-Yah. I remain hopeful that someday they’ll release something even better as a showcase, but this isn’t it.