Finally! At long last, we get the return of VS Arashi (VS 嵐). Normally, the members of Arashi would compete against a team of actors or comedians. This week, though, they compete against each other, with actors and comedians betting who will win. The format for this special is called “Bet de Arashi”, and it has only been done once before. If that last time is any indication, this should be fun. The challenges they took on against each other were remarkable, and right from the start, I think the only problem with this episode will be that it’s too short – it’s only the normal hour-length.

The guests who will be making the bets are paired up. The first pair is Abe Hiroshi-san and YOU-san, the second is Yanagihara Kanako-san and Tsuchida Teruyuki-san, and the last team was Mitsu Mangrove-san and Nakamura Mitsuhiro-san. All of these are top-notch entertainment personalities except for Nakamura-san. Any idea who he is? If you answered the announcer for VS Arashi who took over from Itou-san, you are correct!

Abe Hiroshi-san starred in “The Last Princess” alongside Matsumoto-kun, so he takes the opportunity to complement MatsuJun’s stoicism at the start of the show.

The first challenge is: using a calculator. I’m serious. This is a nimble-finger challenge, and all members will participate. It will be a knock-out game, so all but the last member to make a calculation move on to the next round until there’s only one person left.

Before the guests place their bets, the Arashi members make a case for their vote. MatsuJun isn’t sure how he’ll do with this, but he says he’s totally quick with his cell phone. Nino-kun tops that easily, saying “私はお金が大好きです!” (Watashi wa Okane ga Daisuki desu! – I really love money!).

That sold ’em – all three of the guest pairs voted for Ninomiya-kun. Mitsu Mangrove-san decides to change in response to this, and goes for Sakurai-san instead. Sakurai-san tries to instill faith in his new backers.

This was the first (and easiest) calculation:

You can see the numbers as they enter them. Who will win? Will it be the scholar Sakurai, the money-hungry Ninomiya, or a dark horse?

The next challenge? Canoe:

And it’s between Aiba-kun and Sakurai-san.

They have a whole canoe race circuit set up, and Aiba and Sakurai get suited up for the game:

Ignore the girl with the umbrella. Sakurai-san and Aiba-kun communicate with those in the studio, tell them it’s cold, that it’s something neither of them has done before, but that they both have confidence.

Then it’s time for everyone to guess who will win. The other three Arashi members are divided between the two, as are the guest teams:

When Aiba-kun and Sakurai-san start rowing, it becomes abundantly clear that they haven’t really done this before.

Will either of them actually manage to complete the race, or will they spend the rest of the episode spinning around?

The third challenge is the card game Old Maid (ババ抜き – babanuki). The players are Ohno-san, Ninomiya-kun, and Matsumoto-kun, and they play in a highly geometric room:

So, the question is which of these three is the luckiest and the best bluffer. What do you think? Well, Sakurai-san points out that Ohno-san has a tell involving his nose.

The betting from the guests is two for MatsuJun and one for Ninomiya-kun.

The final game is blowdarts, and all the Arashi members compete.

Their goal is to burst balloons, initially at a range of five meters, but the range increases with every success. If they miss at the same range twice, they’re out.

Once again, the Arashi members try to win the votes of the guests, but it doesn’t look like Abe-san and YOU-san even understand what Aiba-kun is talking about. Yanagihara-san basically says “what the heck are you talking about?”

Mitsu Mangrove-san immediately punches the button for Ninomiya-kun. Going with the comedic favorite, Tsuchida-san and Yanagihara-san go with Aiba-kun. Abe-san and YOU-san opt for Ohno-san.

Who will win this critical final round?

The show was thoroughly enjoyable, not only because the Arashi members are engaging characters, but also because the games are more universal/common than the ones they normally play on VS Arashi. It’s too bad they can’t play these sorts of games every week, but I guess they have to keep some things special. As it turned out, I think the timing was just right – at least, nothing felt rushed.

Who was the Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi? That’s tough, but since he had to bear some grief this time, I’ll give it to Ohno-san. They all contributed a lot, though.

In short – don’t miss this episode! This is about as good as Arashi variety shows get, and it might be six months before we get another special like it.