The theme for this week’s Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) is ashita (あした – tomorrow), and the opening song was Arashi’s “Ashita ni Mukatte” (明日に向かって). Matsumura Hokuto, Morimoto Shintaro, Lewis Jesse, and the usual pack of junior backdancers kicked it off.

As the song progressed, other junior squadrons took the stage, starting with the Double Yuta team. I need some way of referring to these guys without listing all their names, so for now, Junior Team A is Kishi Yuta, Iwahashi Genki, and Takahashi Fu, while Junior Team B is Jinguji Yuta, Kuramoto Kaoru, Haniuda Amu, and Nakamura Reia. Together, I’ll call them the Double Yuta team. Sucks for a name, I know, but until Johnny’s comes up with an even worse one, I’ll go with it.

Up next was Travis Japan, then the Elder Junior Team (an oxymoron, I know, but I also intend to use it consistently until they get an official name) . . .

. . . then the other three members of Bakaleya Six – Kyomoto Taiga, Kouchi Yugo, and Tanaka Juri, followed by noon boyz . . .

. . . and finally the Hey! Say! Jump hosts – Arioka Daiki, Chinen Yuri, and Yaotome Hikaru – and guest Nakayama Yuma:

Wow that’s a lot of people.

The hosts do the opening talk with a bit more formality than usual, with Hikaru-kun in a lively mood (always good) and Arioka-kun’s hair continuing to fascinate. Looks like that hair is permanently going wild.

Sexy Zone was up next, with “Silver Moon” and “Lady Diamond”. “Silver Moon” is a new song off of their album.

I’ve had issues with SZ costumes before, but while these are very pink and the coats look like they’re covered in plastic wrap, I still think they’re a step up from the usual “Lady Diamond” ones. At least these have the pants the right length.

“Silver Moon” did a good job of featuring their voices, and I like the song a lot. It’s much better, in my estimation, than any of the A-sides on their singles. I think the SZ album is going to be a case where all the other songs on the album are much more polished than the singles.

Next was a talk segment with noon boyz and Kouchi Yugo-kun. Nice to see noon boyz getting a rare chance to talk.

While the performers were getting ready on stage, the three hosts talked among themselves, leading Chinen-kun to .  . . well, this:

And Hikaru-kun to:

The junior stage was next, starting with Bakaleya Six and the Double Yuta team performing SMAP’s “Original Smile”.

Then Bakaleya Six made way for noon boyz, who did Arashi’s “Happiness” with the Double Yuta team.

The Elder Juniors performed “Wa になっておどろう” (Wa ni Natte Odorou) from V6 with their kouhai encircling them.

Bakaleya Six and the Elder Juniors did Hey! Say! Jump’s “School Kakumei”.

And finally, the whole lot of them sang “weeeek” from NEWS.

After all that excitement, it was time to settle in for another talk segment, this time with special guest Nakayama Yuma-kun, who had some fun hollering. I’d need subtitles to tell you exactly why he was doing that, but the question had something to do with his source of energy.

Naturally, Yuma-kun went on to perform his new single, “Missing Piece”. The choreography for this one was apparently done by Yara Tomoyuki-kun, and that’s pretty apparent right from the start.

This was just a great performance. It even improved my impression of the song (I had found it a bit too repetitive).

Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun hosted the Monthly Ki ni Naru J segment, with Yasui Kentaro-kun as the guest:

As we’ve seen in a lot of the talk segments, even though the theme of this episode was supposed to be ashita (tomorrow), all the questions/comments have been about egao (smile), so it looks like we’ve got cross-pollination with another episode. That’s a shame, because I always like the topic of “tomorrow”. It’s far less predictable than “smile”.

During the talk, they make note of the fact that Yasui-kun doesn’t look his full 21 years of age, and that Kawai-kun was the opposite – reaching is mature look early on.

They gave Yasui-kun plenty of quality time, and I hope his fans will take the opportunity to sub the clip.

Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun had to dash off to take their positions, so Yasui-kun introduced the A.B.C-Z medley:

The first song was “Ashita no Tame ni Boku ga Iru” (明日の為に僕がいる – something like “I exist/I’m here for tomorrow”). This was a straightforward ballad.

Then they followed with “Suna no Gurasu” (砂のグラス – Sandglass).

I might have to look back at my reviews to check, but I think this was my favorite A.B.C-Z performance in months.

Chinen-kun and Hikaru-kun handled the Junior ni Q segment, and the question was about moments they felt happy.

The guest juniors were Jinguji Yuta, Abe Aran, Sanada Yuma, and Kouchi Yugo.

One thing I noticed is, because Hikaru-kun asked all the questions and did most of the talking, the guests often spent their time with their backs to Chinen-kun instead of facing flush to the camera. This was never more extreme than with Sanada-kun, and it looked like Chinen-kun had to actually turn him around, because he wasn’t facing the camera at all.

After Junior ni Q, my favorite current junior group started their medley with one of my favorite Johnny’s songs – “Seishun Amigo”:

Then came “Ima Sugu ni” (今すぐに):

And they went back to “Seishun Amigo” to round things off:

Verdict? First of all, it struck me that, in terms of the songs performed, it could have been a B.I.Shadow medley. Comparing the two groups because they share two members, Bakaleya Six’s dancing is much sharper, and it’s really amazing how much Kouchi-kun in particular has improved. That said, there always seems to be some coordination mistake in the Bakaleya Six performances. It’s never perfectly clean, and this one definitely had some rough patches. I’m almost tempted to say that I like that it’s not perfect, since it means they’re pushing their limits, but in this case I think they should have been able to do better. Not a big problem, though – nothing that distracted me so much that I didn’t enjoy the performance. Musically, though, the transitions between the songs felt sloppy and forced. This was not a smoothly constructed medley.

The finale was “Tsunagu Te to Te” with the Hey! Say! Jump members singing.

Chinen-kun’s voice sounded strained and forced when he kicked the song off. It was clearly out of his vocal comfort zone.

Once they started singing in unison, though, it was a solid performance.

There were a couple of funny bits, though. Chinen-kun had to duck under Daiki-kun’s arm to get to his place, and then Daiki-kun had to figure out how to hold onto the hands of Hikaru and Chinen while hanging onto his mike. He ultimately gave up on Hikaru’s.

Well, that’s it! Pretty good, wasn’t it? Let’s see – the opening was good, I liked “Silver Moon” from SZ, the junior medley got everyone in (though the chibis were sort of in the background), Yuma-kun did a solid job, A.B.C.-Z had one of their best in a while, the Bakaleya Six performance was okay, and the finale was sweet.

We got two new songs – “Silver Moon” and “Missing Piece” – so I can check that requirement off of the list. The only thing left – the difference between a 9 and a 10 – is the special moment. There really wasn’t one, was there? I mean, nothing that would make this episode clearly stand out from a normal Shounen Club episode. They really need to bring back the segment where the juniors read letters to each other – that’s always a striking scene.

So, this one gets a 9 out of 10 from me. Feel free to contribute your own comments and analysis – especially if you have a better name for Team A, Team B, or the Elder Juniors.