SMAPxSMAP is an hour-long weekly variety show hosted by the idol group SMAP. It typically consists of a Bistro SMAP segment, in which the hosts form two teams of two competing to come up with the best meal for the guests, various other segments, and a performance at the end. Normally, I prefer the “various other segments” over the Bistro SMAP part, because Bistro SMAP involves a lot of talking, and I don’t usually understand much. This time, though, there are two Bistro SMAP segments, so why out of all the SMAPxSMAP episodes would I pick this one to highlight?

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Well, it’s because of the guests, you see. The first one is with young idol group Sexy Zone – the group a full generation younger than SMAP from the Johnny’s agency. So, this is a real meeting of the generations, and it also helps the symmetry that both groups have five members. Most importantly, though, the fact that SZ is fairly young means that the conversation is relatively easy to understand. The second Bistro SMAP is with Hugh Jackman and Les Misérables co-star Amanda Seyfried, so that part will be even easier to grasp.

First, the members of Sexy Zone introduce themselves with prompting from Nakai-san:

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I must say, they’re looking spiffy. The red tint on Shori-kun’s collar caught my eye, and kept on catching my eye. Normally, I’d be annoyed because it’s distracting, but I like the effect.

Marius-kun draws the usual curiosity about his background and surprise at his age:

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Considering how nervous he must be, and how the SMAP guys (especially Nakaki-san) never avoid doing some ribbing, Marius-kun handled himself pretty well.

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Kento-kun had some noteworthy comments about how delighted he was to backdance for Hey! Say! Jump, after noting that Yamada-kun was his reason for joining.

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In terms of just getting words out, though, I think Matsushima-kun seems to be the most fluid, though he often rushes the words out. At one point, he was talking about Katori-san’s movie NIN x NIN Ninja Hattori-kun (which a very young Chinen-kun also appeared in), but in a rush failed to get the full title out, leading to a frown from Katori-san.

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Kimura-san doesn’t let Marius-kun off easy when he talks about his mother. The kid’s comments clearly come out a bit awkward, but it looks like he’s used to stumbling a bit over words, and takes it with good grace.

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Marius-kun actually gets to do a little ribbing back at the SMAP guys, asking them whether they’re tired of doing the program after 16 years (perhaps implying that the next generation is ready to take over if they are).

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In his normal way, Katori-san basically responded, “yeah, I’m tired.” He elaborated with a clever response that drew applause.

Shori-kun commented on being in Hungry! with Goro-san, and a certain sushi related promise (if I understood that right).

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Nakai-san grabs the cue cards from the prompter and has Goro-san write his phone number for Shori-kun, and some hilarity ensues when Nakai-san flashes the number to the audience. That continues when Kento-kun mentions something about Goro-san’s dancing.

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There’s still a lot of conversation in this episode that would benefit from translation and subtitling, and I think this would be an excellent episode for some intrepid subber to make more accessible.

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One interesting topic was “impressive words/quotes that Johnny-san said to them.” Marius-kun started things off with a real surprising one – “I’m sorry” (アイムソーリー). The exact story of this will have to wait for translators, but it had to do with a late night call.

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It was a surprise because, as Nakai-san pointed out, Johnny-san used to be really scary. Apparently he’s toned-down a bit in his old age.

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Fuma-kun’s Johnny-san quote was “sing” (歌ってよ – utatte yo).

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The rest were a bit more difficult. I think Shori-kun’s was “you’re especially cool (kakkoi).” Kento-kun and Matsushima-kun had more involved quotes.

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SMAP recollections about Johnny-san don’t seem to come as easily. They remember having to procure their own clothes/costumes, though. They either had to buy them on their own or a senpai literally handed it down to them.

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Kusanagi-san recalled Johnny-san mistaking him for twenty-four when he was fourteen. That’s . . . a tough one to credit.

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Anyway, since this is Bistro SMAP, they have to do some eating. Kusanagi-san and Inagaki-san cooked up this array:

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The Sexy Zone members were careful to consume everything as politely as possible. Of all of them, I think Kento-kun was the most casual about it.

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Inagaki-san says that he’s known Marius-kun his he was little. Once again, I’d be thrilled if someone could translate the explanation for this. Seemed to have something to do with Marius-kun’s mother, but I’m not sure.

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Otherwise, the eating portion just involved a lot of “umai!” and “oishii!” as usual.

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But then Katori-san did his thing. In every episode of Bistro SMAP, he dresses up in some amusing way related to the guests. This time, he actually dressed as a Sexy Zone member and performed part of “Sexy Zone”. Kento-kun’s reaction to this was great. He was totally delighted, especially by the fact that the costume was exactly right.

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The segment ends with Kimura-san correcting Matsushima-kun’s pronunciation . . .

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. . . and then a plug for Sexy Zone’s concerts in Osaka and Yokahama from January 2nd to 6th. Interesting for them to come to SMAPxSMAP to plug those concerts instead of doing so to promote their album a month ago. Go figure.

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We got a brief humorous aside from Katori-san (don’t ask me to explain it) . . .

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. . . then the second Bistro SMAP with Hugh Jackman and Amanda Seyfried.

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After the talk with SZ, this one simply couldn’t generate the same excitement because it had to be filtered through a translator, and was kept fairly simple. Besides that, there just wasn’t as much common ground to work with as there was with SZ.

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Thankfully, they didn’t spend much time talking, and instead chose to do battle instead!

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It was a simple push-the-other-guy-off match. Hugh Jackman was allowed to pick his competition, and he went with blue – Inagaki Goro-san. Really, Goro-san had a tough time in this episode.

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After Goro-san, Jackman took on the remarkably flexible Katori Shingo-san. This was crazy fun.

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Then, finally, it was the match we were all waiting for – Kimura Takuya-san against Hugh Jackman:

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Did I say that was the match we were waiting for? What about Kimura-san against Amanda Seyfried?

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Kimura-san and the audience couldn’t stop mentioning how cute (kawaii) Seyfried was.

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And then they ate . . .

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. . . with Mt. Fuji in the background:

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But the show’s not over yet, folks! No, SMAP has a third set of guests – Princess Princess.

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Princess Princess is rather a bit before my time, since they were active from 1983 to 1996. They just reunited after a sixteen year absence.

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After all the action, this was a really slow way to end the show.

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But, of course, it was just a lead in to the performance, which the two groups collaborated on:

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Honestly, the first song was painful to listen to. Looked good, though.

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The thing is, the lead singer of Princess Princess has a texture to her voice that doesn’t mesh well with the vocals of SMAP. The result was very muddy.

Her voice is impressive, but she made no effort to moderate it to harmonize – singing full power all the way.

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In the latter half of the second song, they let her take it solo for a bit, then Kimura-san joined her. That wasn’t too bad.

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So, I think the Bistro SMAP parts were both good fun, and the main reason to watch this episode. I really hope it gets subtitled – especially the SZ part – because I really want to know the details. For sheer entertainment, though, the Hugh Jackman part was better than the SZ part. Seeing Jackman having fun with them was the best thing I’ve seen on a Japanese variety show in a while, and was probably the best segment with a Hollywood guest I’ve ever seen.

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