Arashi ni Shiyagare (嵐にしやがれ) is an hour-long variety show that features Arashi and famous male guests from a range of backgrounds who share their expertise with the five hosts.

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This week, the guest – Yamadera Koichi-san (山寺 宏一) – has so much to share that they get to him without any delay – none of the normal small talk at the beginning of the show.

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Yamadera-san is a top-notch voice actor and monomane talent. Basically, if you’ve watched anime subbed, there’s a good chance you’ve enjoyed his work. The Wikipedia page on him here has an extensive list of his roles. Some highlights included Spike in Cowboy Bebop and Kaji in Neon Genesis Evangelion. He even worked on Sakurai-san’s Yatterman film, though they didn’t get to meet. This is his first time working with Arashi.

It doesn’t take him long to start on the impressions. I’m not going to try to list all the personalities he does – the only way to appreciate it is to watch, anyway. Needless to say, he’s pretty much spot-on every time. He’s so good that throughout the show the members of Arashi readily try to do the imitations as well.

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As is the Arashi ni Shiyagare tradition, Yamadera-san comes bearing gifts:

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They’re alarm clocks that you can record a unique alarm on. For each of the Arashi members, Yamadera-san records one of his famous impressions. Three of them wanted Eddie Murphy, so they did janken and Sakurai-san got that one. MatsuJun got Zenigata from Lupin III. They didn’t show which characters the others got.

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Moving along to the most entertaining chat segment we’ve had on this show in a long time, the rumors are really secondary to Yamadera-san continuing to do interesting voices, explaining how he does impressions, and getting the Arashi members to try out the various techniques.

The first rumor was a bit hard to understand – even for the Arashi members until Yamadera-san explained. Something to do with a particular voice becoming the cell phone vibration sound. A lot of the way Yamadera-san explains things is in terms of continua of sounds – the way apparently different sounds are actually similar and blend into each other.

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For instance, he demonstrates the continuum of cat and dog sounds, and then how the trumpet and tuba go together.

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Pretty quickly, the Arashi members are in permanent “wow” mode.

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Then it’s time for Aiba-kun to give a samba a try. He literally ends up on the floor laughing. Ohno-san follows with his own attempt, and he has to be restrained by Nino-kun.

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I’m sure the next rumor said something interesting, but it hardly mattered. Yamadera-san moved on to talking about extremely low voices – real gravelly stuff.

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All the Arashis starting doing it in unison, but Yamadera-san once again called on Ohno-san to give it a go. Nino-kun was asked to produce a high pitch, since he and Ohno-san apparently have the highest voices. He made a sound like a baby bird, and soon the other members were imitating him, making my belly ache with my laughter.

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Somewhere along the way, there was the obligatory Bobby Ologun imitation. I never really like those.

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Continuing in his attempt to explain voices, Yamadera-san brings out a chart with high at the top, low at the bottom, open on the right, caged on the left, and a third variable – the amount of air – off to the side.

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With this, he demonstrates a few more voices and shows how his Adam’s apple rises and falls depending on the voice that he does. There’s also a husky variable – I don’t know how that fits in on his chart.

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Then it’s time for the practical portion of the show (as if they weren’t doing that already).

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The helper for this episode is Bakarhythm (バカリズム). That’s new. But do we really need anyone except Yamadera-san? He could just imitate anyone we might want to hear from, right?

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I’m not entirely sure what it was about, but Nino-kun did a lot of talking with Bakarhythm-san, and ultimately Bakarhythm got Nino to do the set change call in the guise of a lord of monsters.

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With the new set comes Yamadera-san’s senpai, 58 year-old Mitsuya Yuuji-san (三ツ矢 雄二). With his arrival, they bring out a board with the characters Yamadera-san and Mitsuya-san are willing to demonstrate.

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Of course, Arashi has to do the characters, too.

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It goes all the way back to the legendary baseball manga/anime Touch (タッチ) and Uesugi Tatsuya (上杉 達也). MatsuJun is up for this one. He needs a second take, but he eventually wins Mitsuya-san’s applause.

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Aiba-kun chooses next, and goes for the funniest one he can find – Kabao from Anpanman.

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As if the character wasn’t already funny, Aiba-kun’s face while attempting the voice . . . .

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Ninomiya-kun follows in-suit, going with Kamameshi-don from Anpanman. To demonstrate, the two experts end up doing an Anpanman character duet.

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When they prompt him to do the other character in the duet – Katsu-don – Nino-kun tries to get Ohno-san to do it, but Ohno resists, and Nino finds himself doing a second Anpanman impression.

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Ohno-san gets his choice next, and it’s Tongari from Kiteretsu Daihyakka. This is a real tough one, folks – super high-pitched and super annoying to hear.

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They give Ohno-san an extra voice to try that’s similar to Tongari, resulting in Ohno-san really outdoing himself.

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Before wrapping up all the fun with Yamadera-san, we get an “Encounter the Unknown” segment with Sakurai-san meeting deep voiced actor Owada Shinya-san (大和田伸也). He acted in episode 2 of Sakurai-san’s drama “Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de”, so they’ve doubtless met before. Which means . . . this isn’t really encountering the unknown, is it?

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The topic is the usual – food. Tasty-looking food, to be sure, but with the main program so interesting, I would have preferred if they had given that more time, and skipped the gourmet stuff just this once.

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Well, at least Sakurai-san goes to some effort to make the tempura production and consumption interesting. The worst is when they just go to a restaurant and eat.

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Back to Yamadera-san, they show him dubbing Jim Carrey’s character in “The Mask”.

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Then Sakurai-san has to give it a try:

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This has to be one of the best episodes of the year. There are some great Arashi moments here, and you really have to watch it to appreciate the imitations and voice acting. Yamadera-san clearly came with the entire hour planned for, and this was practically a workshop in his art.

The Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi for this episode is a very tough call. I can’t decide between Ohno-san and Nino-kun, so I think I’ll have to give it to them both. They simply did more in this episode than the others, though it’s likely that editing was to blame for that. There were some rough cuts that marked the fact that they had way more material than they had time to show.

There’s a special next week that has the Arashi members in lab coats. Maybe they’re going to make up for the supernatural stuff in the Nov. 17th episode by doing some science. We’ll see.

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