Archive for April, 2012

Real Scope Z (リアル スコープ Z) is an hour-long variety show hosted by a number of comic personalities, including the duo Football Hour (フットボールアワー) and Yanagihara-san (柳原), and by the young male idol group Sexy Zone. The show recently got a fresh start by adding SZ, and I’m still wondering whether they’ll be able to make it work.

Real Scope ZThe Cast

The first two episodes of the new show disappointed me because they were all about food and the hosts spent most of the time sitting around watching VTRs. The only plus-side to those two episodes were segments where SZ members were sent to do things outside the studio. Those excursions still involved food, but hey, you can’t have everything.

SZ outside the studio . . . with food

I return to this show in the hope that they’ve improved on it, capitalizing on the parts that work and dumping what doesn’t. The result? Two very, very different episodes.

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Shiristu Bakarea Koukou (私立バカレア高校) is a half-hour drama series featuring actors from Johnny’s Jr. and AKB48 Team 4 battling for domination of a recently merged high school. So far, for me, it’s been the biggest surprise of the spring drama season, with remarkably strong acting and an unusually thought-out script given the relatively common premise. This episode centers on electing the new class president, but in the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’ll avoid describing the story and instead give my opinion of the show’s quality.

Shiritsu Bakarea Koukou Title

As usual, thanks to sophia_london at livejournal for getting the subtitles out so quickly. They get their raws from the kyomototaiga community, which in turn gets them from Hello!Online, which is one of the best sources for AKB48 stuff, so this has truly been an inter-community endeavor here.

Fighting over the Fate of the School

Going into the season, I thought that either Mikeneko Holmes or Kagi no Kakatta Heya would be the most engaging show, but in both of those cases, the main character is fairly flat so far, with very narrow modes of expression. By comparison, Morimoto Shintaro’s character in this drama consistently displays a broad range of realistic emotion. It makes the character more likeable than Ohno’s or Aiba’s in their respective dramas.

Shintaro gets to show emotion 1Shintaro gets to show emotion 2

It also helps that Morimoto’s character is more of a hero, while Ohno and Aiba both play rather wimpy characters. Since the conflict in this episode definitely does not play to the character’s strengths, it’s interesting to see how he deals with it. By the way, this election for class president is bound to have the biggest gender gap in history.

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Himitsu no Arashi-chan (ひみつの嵐ちゃん) is the hour-long variety show hosted by Arashi that tends to have the greatest variation from week to week. While VS Arashi depends on the guests, HNA depends on the segments included in the week’s episode. Each week, there are generally two segments, but there are more than half a dozen regular types of segment to choose from. Among these have been V.I.P. Room/Limo, Mannequin Five, The Last Mission, and Otona wa Dekite Touzen Show.

Himitsu no Arashi-chan Title

Of these segments, the one I least want to see is the V.I.P. Room/Limo, where two members of  interview a female actress, who is then accompanied by them in some activity. I don’t understand Japanese well enough to appreciate the interview, and even if I did, I don’t really care about minutia in the personal lives of actresses. The activity is the best part of V.I.P. Room and, with a rare exception like last week, it’s still pretty boring.

So, imagine my horror when, instead of dumping the segment altogether, they gave it an upgraded set:

New Set 1

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The stretch from April 29th through May 5th is known as Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク or 黄金週間 Ougon Shuukan) in Japan. Four national holidays lie within this week, starting with Showa Day (昭和の日 Showa no Hi) on April 29th, commemorating the former emperor (the emperor Showa, who reigned from 1926 to 1989). After that is Constitution Memorial Day (憲法記念日 Kenpou Kinenbi) on May 3rd, Greenery Day (みどりの日 Midori no Hi) on May 4th, and Children’s Day (こどもの日 Kodomo no Hi) on May 5th.

How is all this vacation time important to us fans of Japanese entertainment? Well, any holiday in Japan is invariably peppered with a slew of television specials, and that’s especially true of Golden Week and the end-of-year stretch from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day. Many of the highest rated shows will get double or more of their usual time, and hopefully some extra budget. While a lot of Japanese will go on vacation this week, plenty will also plan to do some shopping, so there’s a lot of advertising money available during the holiday seasons.

I’m already aiming to watch the April 29th Sekai no Hatemade ItteQ special and the SMAPxSMAP special on April 30th. Somehow I’ve managed to write for almost a month without mentioning those two extremely popular variety shows. Well, that’s probably going to change within a week. There will be a Music Station special on May 4th, featuring aiko, Arashi, Perfume, Mr. Children, and Yuzu. I love all of those acts except for Perfume. For those who don’t already know, I have a severe, visceral distaste for Perfume and Exile.

Kanjani8’s show had a special on April 28th, so I’ll probably review that excellent show for the first time. I expect there’ll be plenty of other specials as well, so this is shaping up as a busy week for me. I’ll try to keep you informed of the best viewing available.

VS Arashi 2012.04.26 Review

VS Arashi (VS 嵐) is a game show hosted by the idol group Arashi featuring a different team of actors or comedians competing against them every week. Whether the show turns out good often depends on the opposing team and the “plus one” guests that are added to the Arashi team.

VS Arashi title

This time, the opposing team was there to promote a movie (兄弟 uchuu kyoudai – space/cosmos brothers), so we had serious star power on set. The two most recognizable names were Oguri Shun-san (小栗旬) and Okada Masaki-san (岡田将生), who were both in the popular drama Hanazakari no Kimitachi e. Oguri-san was also in the even-more-famous Hana Yori Dango with Arashi’s Matsumoto Jun, and he’s a longtime friend of Arashi. He’s also one of the quietest personalities in Japanese entertainment, so don’t look to him for much excitement in this episode.

The Space Brothers Team

The “plus one” guests were a step up from last week. This time it was the hilariously unfunny Kanou Eikou-san and the genuinely amusing Yanagihara-san (柳原). For some reason, Yanagihara-san tended not to do any of the challenges on her own – doubling up with different Arashi members in each game. Maybe it was because there were seven on their side altogether while there were only six in the opposition.

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