Every month, there are a lot of variety shows that I’d like to review, but really can’t find the time to do so. It looks like I’ve got a certain slate of shows that I review regularly, and I’ll keep up with those so that you know you can find them here, but I need a way to tip my hat to all the other shows I enjoy. So, time for a new kind of post.

Instead of reviewing these shows in detail, I’m just going to outline them and offer some screencaps as a taste. That way, I won’t feel like I’m neglecting them completely. This post has regular variety shows, and I’ll try to put together another one for the September specials that dominated the latter half of the month. If this format seems popular, I’ll try to do it more frequently instead of monthly.

All the videos were available on youku, though it might take some ingenuity to watch them. Most of them are available through other sources, as well.

The shows covered in this post are:

Tensai! Shimura Doubutsu-en 2012.09.01

Sekai no Hatemade Itte Q! 2012.09.02

Nogizaka tte, Doko? 2012.09.02 and 09.09

Honoo no Taiikukai TV 2012.09.03 and 09.10

Ariyoshi AKB Kyouwakoku 2012.09.04 and 09.11

KAT-TUN no Sekaiichi Dame na Yoru 2012.09.07

Music Station 2012.09.07

Kanjani no Shiwake 8 2012.09.08

School Kakumei 2012.09.09

Sekai no Hatemade Itte Q! 2012.09.09

SMAPxSMAP 2012.09.10

School Kakumei 2012.09.23

Tensai! Shimura Doubutsu-en 2012.09.01 (天才! 志村どうぶつ園)

If you’re an animal lover, this one’s for you.

Alongside the normal mini-corners, there are two main segments. First, Ayase Haruka-san (綾瀬 はるか) plays around with a variety of young critters.

Then Hayami Mokomichi-san (速水 もこみち) raises a bear cub:

Sekai no Hatemade Itte Q! 2012.09.02 (世界の果てまでイッテQ!)

Imoto Ayako-san prepares for the climb of her life, aiming to tackle the formidable Matterhorn.

This is the real cliff climb, folks.

Meanwhile, Morisanchuu do whatever they have to for the sake of meat, this time in Italy.

Snails included.

And also some crazy rides.

The best part was probably where Ooshima-san danced in front of a crowd in a stunt driving show, then Morisanchuu were taken for a ride in the stunt cars for the duration of the show.

As usual, Itte Q! is solid entertainment.

Nogizaka tte, Doko? 2012.09.02 and 09.09 (乃木坂って、どこ?)

The members of Nogizaka46 are divided into two teams, and compete in a range of challenges.

In the September 2nd episode, there’s an eight-legged obstacle race, answer questions like naming the months in English, and a soba eating race.

In part 2 on the 9th, there was a shouting competition, a penalty kick match, and a bit about members dubbing “Hunger Games.”

Honoo no Taiikukai TV 2012.09.03 and 09.10 (炎の体育会TV)

In this show, entertainers take on athletes in various physical challenges.

In the September 3rd episode, there’s running:

Miyagawa Daisuke-san leads an entertainer team against a team of Cuban women:

And gymnast Murakami Mai-chan takes on a thirty-four year old fellow from Kyushu in a tumbling sequence where they have to hit a target.

The September 10th episode had Sugi-chan in team doing something he’s apparently good at – bowling.

Then the one that I was most thrilled to see – kendo (剣道the way of the sword). Among the entertainers challenging the experienced kendo swordswoman was Hannya’s Kanada-san. These were serious matches, and real fun to watch.

Then Kanou Eiko-san took on the other great armed martial art – archery (弓道 kyudo).

Kendo and Kyudo in the same episode? You can’t beat that, especially since all the entertainers take the effort in this show absolutely seriously – no silly gags. They’re actually good at these sports, too – who knew?

Ariyoshi AKB Kyouwakoku 2012.09.04 and 09.11 (有吉AKB共和国)

These two episodes were an AKB vs. SKE battle, and I always like competitions – they’re easy to follow with minimal Japanese skills. The plot is that SKE wants to take over the show, and challenge the AKB members with the control over the show at stake.

How serious are they taking this competition? Not seriously at all. The games are . . . well . . . there’s one that involves a lot of wiggling and a quiz game in the first episode.

The second episode features sumo (always a favorite) . . .

. . . and then I really don’t know what to call this (it says “Rubber/Gum Patch Tug of War):

The competition ended halfway into the Sept 11th episode, and second half involved a really annoying woman, so if you want to avoid a headache – or possibly just an earache – you might want to skip the tail end. I couldn’t stand more than a few seconds of that voice.

KAT-TUN no Sekaiichi Dame na Yoru 2012.09.07 (KAT-TUNの世界一ダメな夜)

This is only the second episode of this show I’ve seen, so I’m not too sure of the premise yet. There’s a lot going on in each half-hour episode, and the basic pattern appears to be KAT-TUN encountering one batch of comedians after another. If you like the Japanese brand of humor, this show’s definitely for you.

The best part of the show is consistently the expression on the faces of the KAT-TUN members. I can only offer a sample:

Though the part where Ueda-kun got to show off his boxing skills was also good.

It left me wondering what makes them so susceptible to gag humor. Especially Taguchi-kun. I guess it’s one of those acquired tastes.

Music Station 2012.09.07

I think this was the most star-studded Music Station this month – if not, I must have missed one. They had Exile Tribe, AKB48, Kanjani8, YUI, Nishino Kana, and Kobukuro. That’s quite a line-up.

The Exile Tribe song is the best one I’ve seen heard with the name “Exile” attached to it, though I haven’t exactly gone out of my way to hear their stuff.

Kanjani8 was fun as usual. Unfortunately, the song lacks the vocal strengths that mark the Kanjani8 songs I like.

Kobukuro are always smooth and pleasant to listen to, especially with them plugging a best-of album and therefore performing their best.

Nishino Kana-san’s “Be Strong” was a good number to close the episode with.

Kanjani no Shiwake 8 2012.09.08 (関ジャニの仕分け)

Okura Tadayoshi-kun continues to challenge all comers in the drumming game, taking on fellow professionals.

Can the undefeated champion continue his streak?

After that is the karaoke challenge between professional singers and entertainers who happen to be good at singing.

The battles are all great – every single person who stepped up did a great job with the songs.

The real highlight of the show, though, is between Kubo Iroha-san (久保いろは) and Sakura Maya-chan (さくらまや) for the title of karaoke queen.

They’re both absolutely brilliant, and I wish I could get albums of them singing all these hits. I don’t know if it’d break enka rules or something, but Sakura Maya-chan should definitely release a cover album sometime (actually, maybe the original artists would be the ones to object).

School Kakumei 2012.09.09 (スクール革命!)

This episode of School Kakumei was all about difficult or unusual kanji characters.

There were a lot of humorous touches to the hour, though. For instance, when Uchimura-san started out as a janitor because of his failure in the last episode, or when Yamada-kun pointed out that Kasuga-san would never help out Wakabayashi-san, or – my favorite part – when Chinen-kun looked at a kanji character and guessed that it was pronounced “sankyuu” (サンキュー – Thank You).

That was my favorite because, looking at the character, it would have been my guess as well (it had three – san – copies of the character for nine – kyuu).

While they’re frustrating for someone learning Japanese, there’s also something inherently fun and interesting about kanji. It was also a subject that the Yamada-kun, Chinen-kun, Hikaru-kun, and Kouchi-kun could get engaged on, so that was nice to see.

The HSJ livestage at the end of the show was a medley of “Thumb & Pinky” (サム&ピンキー) and “Super Delicate.” The performance was every bit as sharp as you’d expect from them.

Sekai no Hatemade Itte Q! 2012.09.09 (世界の果てまでイッテQ!)

This was a special episode, in which Morisanchuu, Oniyakko-san, Itou Asako-san, and Kawamura Emiko-san went to Thailand to get into all kinds of trouble on the way to an onsen.

There’s just too much craziness to describe in words. There was sumo, kickboxing, weird stretches, creepy doings at night, bungee jumping, and boot camp.

Now, if you know Morisanchuu, you know that they’re not well-suited to any of the things listed (except sumo), which is why it’s funny.

The best part, of course, was the boot camp, which was just one batsu-game after another.

Have I mentioned how great Morisanchuu are? Just the best, always.

SMAPxSMAP 2012.09.10

I often have trouble enjoying SMAPxSMAP because the Bistro SMAP segment drags – similar to the way the share house segment in Himitsu no Arashi-chan does. Well, guess what – this episode didn’t have a Bistro SMAP segment!

It begins with a romance quiz competition between SMAP and the comedy duo Black Mayonnaise.

Unfortunately, understanding the questions and answers was impossible for me, and the way they reacted to everything made me really want to understand. Someone subtitle this, please!

After that, an athlete by the name of Takei Sou-san (武井壮) came to visit, apparently to demonstrate his physical prowess. As long as he lifts up Kimura Takuya-san, it’s all good.

Katori Shingo-san does a Mentalist skit:

And finally, SMAP performed “Just Go!” from their new album “Gift of SMAP.” For the sake of SMAP fans, I’ll refrain from commenting.

School Kakumei 2012.09.23 (スクール革命!)

I can’t say the first half of this episode was all that great – the topic was high-class life, which always bores me – but the second half was fun. You see, because of “Dream Boys,” Hikaru-kun couldn’t be in studio, so a very unlikely replacement took his seat . . .

. . . which was fine, because Hikaru-kun was able to do a location shoot featured in the second half of the show. That adventure involved a Ferrari, some dangerous-looking pets, and an amphibious car.

Back in studio, they had pudding. But it wasn’t just any pudding – this stuff was 5000 yen a bowl (around $62). And they didn’t all get to try it. Now, I normally couldn’t care less when they eat on these shows, but that’s because it always follows the same pattern – they have a taste, look up with an amazed expression, and say “umai” or “oishii.” That’s all that happens. Well, this time, Kouchi-kun had the first taste, and his response was something like “life’s good” – an original touch. But then Chinen-kun got the second bowl, said what was good about it without saying any of the typical words, and then decided to scarf it down hurriedly when Yamasaki-san was getting too interested in it. Get a load of the expression on Chinen’s face:

After some more luxury items, we got the livestage, which was a medley of “Boku wa Vampire” and “Super Delicate.”