This is an aggregating post for all the specials I wanted to review in September, but couldn’t. Like all the transition times between seasons, there was a flurry of good specials, especially in the second half of the month. Because they’re so long (ranging from two hours to four hours for the Monomane Grand Prix), it’s tough for me to review them in the kind of details that I like to do in my normal posts, so this is just an overview of what happened, giving you an opportunity to decide if these shows are the kind of thing you might want to watch. My own Japanese skills are limited, so it’s safe to assume that it’s possible to enjoy all of them without subtitles, unless otherwise indicated.

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:

Tsuchiya Anna & Tomonaga Ai vs. Yowiko – Manatsu no Mujin Tori 2012.09.02

Uta-mane Champion Kettei-sen 2012.09.13

Za Tetsuwan Dash!! – Dash Island SP 2012.09.16

Aiba Masaki no Debut Kids 2012.09.20

Monomane GP – The Survival 2012.09.23

Hey! Hey! Hey! Aki no Uta Matsuri 2012.09.24

Nazotoki Battle TORE! 3hr SP 2012.09.24

Tsuchiya Anna & Tomonaga Ai vs. Yowiko – Manatsu no Mujin Tori 2012.09.02(土屋アンナ&冨永愛_vs_よゐこ_真夏の無人島)

In this show, Tsuchiya-san and Tomonaga-san challenge the survival pros of the comedy duo Yowiko – Hamaguchi Masaru-san and Arino Shinya-san – to midsummer survival on a deserted island.

Of course, I watched this because Hamaguchi-san has earned a lot of goodwill from me, but Tsuchiya-san is also a consistently interesting character on all the shows I’ve seen her on.

They’re only going to be on the island for forty-eight hours, but that’s enough time to get some interesting scenes, since 95% of the time is going to be edited out.

As you might expect, there are plenty of underwater shots as they try to catch food.

There’s also campfire wackiness. Actually, lots of wackiness in general. All the participants have a great sense of humor, though I think Tsuchiya-san contributed more than an equal share of the fun.

Knowing Japanese would probably have made the slow portions move faster, but as it was, this was a good show to watch while I was busy with other work. It wasn’t like there was a storyline to keep track of, and at any given time, it was interesting to see what they were up to.

Uta-mane Championship 2012.09.13 (歌まねチャンピオン決定戦)

This is one of many monomane (imitation) specials in September. While I prefer the Monomane Grand Prix because of its rich mix of participants and abilities, that show might be a bumpy ride for those who have trouble with Japanese humor. In this show, everybody is trying to do legitimate impressions, and no one is just playing for laughs (unlike in Monomane GP, where a lot of it is .

Uta-mane is singing imitation, so a side feature of watching this show is that you get introduced to some of the most famous people in Japanese entertainment (the people being imitated). After all, the monomane talents will only imitate people that a majority of the audience will recognize.

I always enjoy hearing Tsuuton Aoki-san (or his son) do his impression of Misora Hibari-san, since he does such a good job of it.

I’ve listened to a lot of Hikawa Kiyoshi-san’s singing, so while the impression of him wasn’t bad, it also lacked the resonance in his voice. That’s a tough impression to tackle, though.

Haraguchi Akimasa-san is probably my favorite monomane talent, and his imitation of Kuwata Keisuke and Mr. Children‘s Sakurai Kazutoshi late in the show was worth watching. But could it beat Yamadera-san’s impression of Louis Armstrong?

Well, no. First of all, Yamadera-san managed to pronounce the English lyrics extremely well – always an important criteria for me (just as I wouldn’t try to sing Japanese lyrics on-air without being able to pronounce them properly, either). On top of that, getting the texture of Louis Armstrong’s voice is tricky – a lot of people overdo it. Yamadera-san nailed the texture, though he had to sacrifice volume to do so.

Za Tetsuwan Dash!! – Dash Island SP 2012.09.16 (ザ!鉄腕!DASH!!)

In this episode, the members of TOKIO begin a new project – to build “Dash Island.” Basically, it makes the deserted island special mentioned earlier look like a cakewalk. They have grand plans for this island, and have to start from scratch.

This is not a fast-moving show, and if you’re not into food, the time they spend catching, growing, and eating the stuff might leave you wondering why you’re watching. The project is a serious one, though, and if you haven’t paid attention to Tetsuwan Dash before, this is where you should start. The plot is: will they be able to achieve the island of their dreams? You’ll be able to see all the work they have to do, week after week, in their attempt.

It’s a one-of-a-kind challenge: an attempt to do all the things that people like myself – city born-and-raised – are far removed from.

In spite of a lot of explanatory graphics, the Japanese requirement for this show is high, and it is not fast-paced. Unless you’re really interested in the premise, it might be difficult to stay engaged.

Aiba Masaki no Debut Kids 2012.09.20 (相葉雅紀のデビューキッズ)

Aiba Masaki-kun gets his first chance to host a program, and it is naturally centered on kids. Basically, this is all about children going out on errands for the first time and taking on various challenges like that.

Needless to say, this is for those who like watching chibi-kos going on these mini-adventures. I was only tuning in out of curiosity, and there was very little of interest to me during the first twenty minutes of program time. During that time, it was entirely focused on a 6 year-old girl and her 2 year-old brother. I’m sure someone out there will find it very charming, but I was bored.

Then, we got a different segment – Aiba’s Overnight Camp. This time, there was a bunch of kids, including one who is aiming for the sumo world (literally – not trying to be mean here), with Aiba-kun supervising. This was a bit more interesting, because there were so many moving parts. And, of course, there was Aiba.

That lasted another twenty minutes, and was followed by two more of the segments centered on specific kids taking on their particular errands.

Thankfully, the show ended on a high note, as Aiba-kun played P.E. teacher to a class four kids.

The challenges were difficult for the children, but Aiba-kun was relentlessly supportive and, of course, made everyone laugh.

Well, I can’t imagine anyone more suited to this show than Aiba-kun. However, it’s not my type of show, so even if it gets offered regularly, this is probably the last time I’ll mention it.

Monomane GP – The Survival 2012.09.23 (ものまねGP ザサバイバル)

Of all specials on Japanese TV, the only show I anticipate more than Monomane GP is Kouhaku. It’s fun and easy to understand, but also provides a wealth of cultural information specific to the Japanese entertainment industry (as does Kouhaku, of course).

All the luminaries from the Uta-mane show were here, as well. Aside from them, notable acts included a bunch of kids who performed Michael Jackson dances with remarkable fidelity:

The B’z Team had their best performance yet:

And there was a foreign team (with Japanese skills worse than mine), who wowed the audience with their impressions of Hirai Ken-san and Nishino Kana-san among others.

I don’t dare go into any more detail than that, since covering a four hours show would require a very, very long post. There were no dull moments, though, and that’s saying plenty.

Hey! Hey! Hey! Aki no Uta Matsuri 2012.09.24

This was a three-hour special featuring twenty artists. Since Heyx3 is apparently ending its 18 year run this year, its specials will take on more prominence. I’m never really liked this show’s format, in comparison to the more straightforward presentation of Music Station, but there’s no question that it’s had some moments that Music Station can’t match.

The full lineup was: Aqua Timez, Ashida Mana, Ikimonogakari, AKB48, SKE48, NMB48, m-flo, Kato Miliyah & Wakadanna, Golden Bomber, Saito Kazuyoshi, Sashihara Rino, Che’Nelle, Shoujo Jidai, Superfly, Sexy Zone, Tackey & Tsubasa, Domoto Koichi, Fairies, Fukuyama Masaharu, MINMI.

Still, I like that the show started with Tackey & Tsubasa singing “Yume Monogatari,” which remains my favorite song from them. They also sang “Koakuma Juliet” as the finale to the special.

AKB48’s performance of “UZA” and “River” stood out as the next highlight of the show. The further they stray away from the cute schoolgirl image, the happier I am.

Much as I like Domoto Koichi-san’s personality and respect his past work, the reason I listen to J-Pop is to avoid songs with this style.

That mix of acts made it tough for me to unambiguously enjoy the show. There were parts where the music or singing was flat-out annoying, and nothing really amazed me. So . . . yeah.

Nazotoki Battle TORE! 3hr SP 2012.09.24 (謎解きバトルTORE!)

TORE! is an adventure quiz game where contestants in two teams are placed in situations of (fake) danger while answering questions.

This episode had everything – a new game, Olympic athletes, Suzuki Fuku-kun playing a pharaoh, and all the usual suspects including Kasuga-san and Murakami-kun.

Honestly, the new game seems a bit haphazard, but this show was in desperate need of something new. It’s been pretty repetitive recently, as everything has become familiar.

The best game is usually the tilting wall, and that was true of this episode, too – especially with contestants Yoshida Saori (Olympic wrestler), Wakabayashi-san (comedian), and Hamada Tatsuomi-kun (child actor).

Playing along by trying to answer the questions requires knowledge of Japanese, but it was still fun watching everybody struggle with the physical aspects of these games and the tension involved.