This month’s first Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部 – the Boys/Youth Club) kicks off with Jinguji Yuta-kun welcoming the audience and the juniors performing “WANNA BEEEE!!!” from Kis-My-Ft2.

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The Double Yuta team (Jinguji, Kishi, Iwahashi, Haniuda, Takahashi, Kuramoto, and Nakamura) are highlighted first:

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As the song changes to A.B.C-Z’s “Za ABC~5stars~”, we get the names of the Chibi team:

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Coming on stage for Hey! Say! Jump’s “Super Delicate” were the members of Travis Japan and others.

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To round things out, the Double Yuta team was front and center for Sexy Zone’s “Sexy Summer ni Yuki ga Furu” while the chibis (who had rushed backstage during “Super Delicate”) encircled them on roller skates.

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So, a very youthful opening this time. The Hey! Say! Jump hosts for this week were Arioka Daiki-kun, Yamada Ryosuke-kun, and Yabu Kota-kun. The theme for the episode is “Present” – as in a gift, not as in right now.

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They introduce the first main performance of the evening  – special guests Kis-My-Ft2 with the dance version of their new single “Ai no Beat”.

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Always nice to see new material on Shounen Club, but the opening moves to this dance reminded me forcefully of chicken. It got better after that, though.

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The song itself was solid, though nothing remarkable. It didn’t push vocal boundaries, keeping them well within their vocal ranges.  The English lyrics seemed in large part random words that sounded good – at certain points, just any word that ended in “-tion”.

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Of course, with Kis-My-Ft2 performing on Shounen Club, we’re really looking for above average dancing, and they were in good form this time. Seems like they ‘re still eager to wow the Shounen Club crowd.

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Naturally, the hosts spoke with the special guests following the performance. Kitayama-kun got a pat on the back from Yabu-kun.

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They started off talking about the two versions of “Ai no Beat”, then took up the theme for the week – presents – with Senga-kun still sweating profusely. The talk was as well-distributed as possible, given the limited time.

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Next up, noon boyz performed SMAP’s “Moment”, though notably not with the Elder team backdancing. So much for that becoming a unit. I didn’t even recognize these juniors – doubtless they’re part of the vast reserves of as-yet unaffiliated juniors.

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The song itself isn’t vocally demanding at all, requiring a handful of notes set to a slow, smooth rhythm. The dancing wasn’t anything special, either. Once again, I’m back to being a noon boyz skeptic.

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After that, Nakajima Kento-kun and Kikuchi Fuma-kun handled the Shokura You Bin fanmail segment.

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The letter this time was directed to Kento and Fuma themselves. I didn’t quite get the gist of it, but somehow if ended up with them doing imitations of each other. Considering how well they know each other, you know this was hilarious.

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They then read another letter, and quickly brought on three members of Bakaleya Six – Tanaka Juri-kun, Matsumura Hokuto-kun, and Kyomoto Taiga-kun – to handle the response. The scenario had something to do with Christmas, but I didn’t catch the particulars. I think you can tell from the screenshots what kind of responses these were, though.

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The real fun started when Juri-kun had to play the girl in Hokuto-kun’s scenario . . .

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. . . and he decided that his skirt was too long.

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Ultimately, this one had the audience squealing.

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Really, between Juri-kun and Kouchi-kun, there must be a lot of comic relief in Bakaleya Six.

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Then it was time for Yamada-kun to perform his new single, “Mystery Virgin”, in what might be the earliest I’ve ever seen a song on Shounen Club in relation to its release. Usually they perform it . . . well, at least two weeks late, right? Seems like they’re actually intent on promoting this one.

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The dancing was absolutely excellent, and better than my already high expectations.

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Performance-wise, there was nothing to complain about, and Yamada-kun oozed charisma as usual.

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The song itself was good – musically coherent with no obnoxious effects. I have to confess to still being underwhelmed by Yamada-kun’s voice, though. With everything else solid, he really needs to put his full effort into improving his range and gaining better control over the notes that he has. Right now, it severely constrains the types of songs he can do.

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The next song was A.B.C-Z with “Dream ~5つの願い~” (Dream ~itsutsu no negai~ – Dream ~Five Wishes~).

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This was a slower, perhaps more Christmasy song for them. Since I look to them mainly for the dancing, it wasn’t high on my list of favorite A.B.C-Z performances.

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The kooky present-giving bit in the middle didn’t help.

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That said, they got to show off more of their vocal abilities than they usually do, and they’re definitely decent. Not bad at all. Hashimoto-kun in particular did a nice job here.

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With that, it was time for Junior ni Q, hosted by Yamada-kun and Yabu-kun. The topic was the major event/incident for the juniors in 2012. The first one up was Sanada Yuma-kun, with a SMAP-related incident.

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Kouchi Yugo-kun, of course, discussed his unexpected part in a drama, and got some advice from Yamada-kun:

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Tanaka Juri-kun went with Summary as his big event for the year.

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Last up was Jinguji Yuta-kun, who faced difficulties (and apparently a fever) at a Sexy Zone concert.

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Junior ni Q wrapped up, and it was time for the Bakaleya Six performance. They did Kis-My-Ft2’s “Shake It Up” – the theme of the drama that made them a group in the first place.

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The dancing this time was a lot slower than usual, and they looked extremely tired. Of course, considering how much more active they’ve been than ever before, I guess that’s somewhat expected. Even so, I think this was below my expectations, especially since this is a song they have done quite often.

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With Kis-My-Ft2 on the show, there’s a clear contrast showing how far these guys still need to develop. And there’s no telling how long they’ll be able to take advantage of the spotlight before the agency turns it aside to the next new thing, whatever group that might be.

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Of course, they’re still my primary rooting interest on this show, which is why I’m perhaps a bit overly concerned.

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Next, the hosts interviewed the three younger members of SZ – Marius Yo-kun, Sato-Shori-kun, and Matsushima Sou-kun. It was about the giving and receiving of presents. Marius-kun seemed to be picking out presents for the others. There were cushions and candles and pens, but I wasn’t entirely sure who was doing the giving and who was doing the receiving. Marius-kun did most of the talking, though.

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SZ then performed “Kimi to . . . Milky Way”, with Kento-kun at the piano. Have I mentioned how much I like seeing him on the piano, especially on the Shounen Club stage, where this sort of performance is rare?

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This was my favorite song from their album, so there’s no way I was going to be disappointed with it here.

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Fuma-kun started the song with his wonderfully smooth voice, and the highlight is when Kento-kun breaks in with his crisp voice. I’m still unsure about Shori-kun’s voice – sometimes it seems all right, but at other points it breaks down.

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The show concluded with a song with a title Yamada-kun absolutely cannot pronounce – “Let’s Go to Earth (Starting a Journey)”. I wasn’t looking at the screen when I first heard him say it, and I had no idea what he said – it wasn’t Japanese and it wasn’t English. It wasn’t even something in between.  It was actually a shock to me to hear him say it so badly.

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Then they started singing, and the lyrics are in English. And . . . yeah. The pronunciation of the lyrics was better than the hash Yamada-kun made of the title. Unusually, the lyrics actually made sense, and they were clearly written to be easy for the boys to sing while retaining semantic correctness.

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The tune, though, sounded like a weak copy of a Disney song, so even if they managed to nail the lyrics, this number wasn’t going to get a high mark from me.

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The major soft-spots in the episode were the noon boyz performance and the finale. Kis-My-Ft2 was good, I’ll gladly forgive Yamada-kun’s other faults in exchange for the dancing in his solo, and the SZ performance was also a plus. As in some other episodes recently (and probably for the same reason), the Bakaleya Six performance was lacking.

I can call it an 8 out of 10 if I ignore the ending, and I don’t think weak close should cost a full point. If noon boyz had done a more upbeat dance with the Elder team, or if they had been replaced with a junior medley, then this would have been a 9. Throw in some better English and Bakaleya Six at the top of their game, and that would have been good enough for a ten.

Let’s see if they have better to offer next week.

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