Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部 –  the Boys/Youth Club) showcases the song-and-dance skills of Johnny’s juniors – the next generation of Japanese male idols – alongside the more recently debuted groups in the Johnny’s Entertainment agency. Many of these young men will rise to dominate Japanese television by starring in dramas and hosting variety shows (with plenty of them scattered across the airwaves already), so it’s interesting to get to know them now, when they’re less polished and circumspect.

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The show begins with Sexy Zone on stage, singing “Kimi no Tame, Boku ga Iru” (君のためボクがいる) briefly.

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But then we get something I haven’t seen in a while – the introduction of the juniors. Jinguji, Iwahashi, and all of that cohort get introduced by name:

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Then the chibis are showcased collectively.

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Then Travis Japan (though it was impossible to get a good screencap of them because they were moving around so much):

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It’s been so long since we’ve had these kinds of introductions that the opening already had me excited. It continued with SZ picking up “Kimi no Tame, Boku ga Iru.”

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With that over, Hey! Say! Jump hosts Arioka Daiki, Takaki Yuya, and Nakajima Yuto appeared, introducing the theme “melody”. While I appreciate that there’s something intrinsically stylish about the Union Jack, I found Yuto-kun’s shirt to be . . . distracting, to put it nicely. Somehow, Daiki-kun’s hairstyle made up for it. I don’t know how that works, or if it makes sense, but there you are.

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Without further ado, it was time for A.B.C-Z and “Zutto Love.”

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The junior backdancers did a better job for A.B.C-Z this time, looking more energetic and coordinated. More importantly, more of them were smiling – that’s important if they’re going to suit A.B.C-Z’s personality.

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It was an okay performance of an okay song. Naturally, it would be better if A.B.C-Z did the full dance. Was the reason why they don’t dance injury-related, or just an attempt to give the juniors a chance to practice?

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Next up was SZ, and I think we know what’s coming (it has to be Sexy Summer, right? They’re in the costumes and it’s being released on the day this episode airs). But before that, there was a bit of melody talk. Marius-kun got most of the attention this time. I think Arioka-kun is fascinated with him, or is it mutual?

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Then, to my surprise, they didn’t have SZ’s performance, but rather introduced the junior medley, starting with the Yuta, Yuta, and Takahashi performing V6’s “サンダーバードーyour voice-” (Thunderbird -your voice-).

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Next, Kishi, Iwahashi, and Takahashi performed the song that solidified them as a trio in my mind – “Kanjiru Mama ni You & I” (感じるままにYou & I).

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They’ve done this performance on Johnny’s Jr Land a few times, but this is only the second time on Shounen Club.

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After that, Travis Japan did “Shelter.”

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I have learned three of their names – Kajiyama Asahi, Nakamura Kaito, and Abe Aran. As it is right now, though, I’m ambivalent about Travis Japan.

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All the juniors gathered for “Never Stop the Music”, with Takahashi-kun doing some spinning at center stage.

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I think Takahashi Fuu-kun was really focus of this medley, and did a good job of courting the spotlight.

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Then I got another surprise – another Nekketsu Battle! We just had one last month. Will we get some juniors this time . . .

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. . . well, one – Tanaka Juri-kun – but that’s better than none, to be sure. It’s a freestyle dance battle where they each have to add on to the previous competitor’s moves. The challengers are Yuto, Kikuchi Fuma, Hashimoto Ryosuke, and Tanaka Juri.

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There are no obvious winners in that pack, even though Hashimoto-kun might have the edge in experience. It’ll be a minor miracle if Juri-kun wins against all his senpai. How will it go?

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Well, messy, actually. They need better judges, and the first round was sloppy and tentative. Thankfully, Hashimoto-kun made strenuous objections after that first round and they did redid it. The second first round looked a lot better.

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I can’t resist this one screencap:

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The three hosts talk among themselves after that . . .

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. . . then a remarkable surprise – Nakajima Kento-kun at the piano!

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I confess, I’m a total sucker for Kento-kun at the piano. It’s not just him though, come to think of it, since I have the same reaction with Ninomiya-kun or Sakurai-san at the piano. Maybe it’s the piano? Anyway, Kento-kun performed Kinki Kids’ “Ai no Katamari” (愛のかたまり).

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Then he got up, and sang and danced a song I haven’t heard before – “Teleportation.”

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This was really, really good. In terms of those likely to appear on the Shounen Club stage, there are performers who can dance better than Kento, and also those who can sing better than him, but I can’t think of one who has a better balance of both skills. And he can play the piano. Remarkable.

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Speaking of those with the dance skills, Kawai Fumito-kun and Totsuka Shota-kun hosted the “Ki ni Naru J” segment. The junior guest was Lewis Jesse-kun who . . . well, he towers over then, doesn’t he?

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Apparently, Jesse-kun doesn’t know what blood type he is (good!), though based on his parents, it must be A or O (I haven’t reviewed basic genetics in a while, but I think it’s more complicated than that, isn’t it?). He asks Kawai-kun which one he thinks Jesse is.

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When Kawai-kun says that he’s an A himself, the crowd comically shouts out “O!” for Jesse. That gets the best laugh I’ve ever seen from Jesse-kun (and that was good to see, considering how emotionless he is throughout the drama Sprout).

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Eventually, the discussion does turn to Jesse-kun’s height, complete with a camera pan from toes to top.

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Jesse-kun was actually quite funny in this, getting good responses out of Kawai-kun. He appeared relaxed.

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Then, out of nowhere (since we didn’t see all of them earlier), Hey! Say! Jump performed “Perfect Life,” and they did so as the Hey! Say! Jump band: Okamoto Keito=guitar, Inoo Kei=keyboards, Yaotome Hikaru=bass, Nakajima Yuto=drums, and everyone else hopping around . . . wait . . . Yamada Ryosuke=saxophone!?

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Well, it was only for a bit or two, but yes, Yamada-kun on sax. I’m a sucker for the HSJ band, too. Yes, it means they can’t do slick dances, but I enjoy nothing more than variety, and in Shounen Club, that means idols playing instruments.

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Yamada-kun and Hikaru-kun host Jr ni Q next. The juniors interrogated about autumn were Nakamura Reia, Kyomoto Taiga, Hashimoto Ryo, and Jinguji Yuta.

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That made for a pretty good Jr ni Q segment. After that, the older junior squad, led by Yasui Kentaro-kun, performed Arashi’s “Kotoba Yori Taisetsu na Mono” (言葉より大切なもの) and SMAP’s “Dear Woman.”

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Then noon boyz joined them for Tackey & Tsubasa‘s “Kamen” (仮面). But look:

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Their costumes match! No more sky blue costumes clashing with red-and-black! The integration has been achieved!

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So, now we need a name for this group. We need a name for a lot of the junior cohorts, but this one should be easy. They’re not going to get rid of the noon boyz name, I don’t think, so it’ll have to be “noon boyz with _______” or “noon boyz and _______”.

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They followed “Kamen” with KAT-TUN‘s “Keep the faith,” then wound it up with “Kotoba Yori Taisetsu na Mono” again.

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This could definitely work.

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The show concluded with SZ and A.B.C-Z members paired up, singing “Summary,” and then HSJ joining them.

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Sato Shori-kun had some really good camera moments in the finale (I left a number of good screenshots out). But wait a minute . . . you mean on its release date, we’re not going to have to sit through “Sexy Summer”? Normally, I’d be incensed by the promotion failure, but this time, I don’t mind so much.

What can I say? Was there anything wrong with this episode? No, nothing significant. We didn’t even see the return of Sexy Boyz. Meanwhile, there were also plenty of pleasant surprises, including the opening intros, Kento-kun’s performance, and HSJ’s “Perfect Life.” Stuff that I was irritated with in recent episodes was corrected, including the backdancing behind A.B.C-Z and the noon boyz costumes.

You know what that sounds like to me? 10 out of 10! Was it really perfect? Of course not – it could have been even better if there had been a Bakaleya 6 performance, for instance. But I don’t hold my breath waiting for perfection. It was as good as Shounen Club is likely to get, and that’s what matters. This is only the second 10 I’ve given out – the other one was on May 9th, which was technically a better episode, but I’m not going to go into decimals.

So, enjoy!