It’s the first Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) of the year! How will the juniors start the year off? Let’s find out!

The first glimpse we get is of the theme, which is suitably ambitious – the world (世界 – sekai).

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Then the picture zooms out and . . . who’s that on stage . . . it can’t be . . .

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. . . it is! It’s Okamoto Keito-kun! Wow, I didn’t expect to see him in center stage, all alone and not behind other members of Hey! Say! Jump. I guess he had a bit of extra free time with because the university is on vacation? Well, anyway, they got him to do the New Year greeting in English.

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It’s nice to hear that his pronunciation is still recognizably English, and there weren’t any significant grammar errors in what was a pretty lengthy intro. I’ll take it.

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The first song, unfortunately, was “Let’s Go To Earth”, which is grammatically iffy even though relatively easy for Johnny’s to pronounce. If that was the only problem with it, I wouldn’t mind, but it’s really a poorly constructed song. I understand it’s part in Johnny’s World but . . . yeah, not the first song of the year I was looking for.

Sexy Zone, A.B.C-Z, and Hey! Say! Jump emerge in turn, and soon they’re all on stage:

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And it turns out I’m not much of a fan of the dance that goes with the song, either. It was uninspired and jerky choreography executed badly – a rarity in Johnny’s.

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On the bright side, it was over quickly. Hey! Say! Jump did the intro talk about the theme, with SZ and A.B.C-Z still on stage:

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A.B.C-Z introduced SZ with the first main performance of the evening – “We Can Be One”.

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I was very happy with “We Can Be One” on their album, where it was one of my two favorite songs alongside “Kimi to . . . Milky Way”, so I just hearing that it would be the SZ performance lifted my spirits a bit after the opening.

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I like the dance, though they seemed unsteady when performing it – understandable if this was an early performance of it (I don’t know if it was performed in their concerts yet). It strikes me as a tough song to set a dance to because of its light beat and relatively slow tempo.

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I really enjoyed this one despite the flaws, though. I’d like to see it in future Shounen Clubs when they get it polished up a bit and can do it with more confidence and flair, but why do I get the feeling that it’ll be a one-time thing like their other top performances – like “If You Wanna Dance”?

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The three main HSJ hosts – Arioka-kun, Takaki-kun, and Yuto-kun – then have a little talk with Marius-kun and Keito-kun. I guess because the theme is the world, they wanted to get a pair that had actually lived outside of Japan.

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The topic was clearly about England for Keito-kun . . .

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. . . and Germany for Marius-kun . . .

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. . . but I ‘m not sure that I understood the details properly, so I’ll have to wait on subtitles.

Marius and Keito did the intro for the next performance, but Marius, as usual, lacked confidence in his English (as with his German) when called upon to use it. No worries, though – he’s got plenty of time, and his priority right now has to be getting Japanese straight.

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Next up was a medley performed by Bakaleya Six (though they’re still not officially known by that name). The first song was Kinki Kids’ “Flower”:

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That quickly morphed into “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” from SMAP.

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There was an interesting split, with three members in the purple costumes they’ve worn before, and the other three in orange costumes. Any significance? Probably not.

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They did a verse of that, a verse of “Yume Monogatari” from Tackey & Tsubasa, one from V6’s “Honey Beat”, and one from TOKIO’s “Ambitious Japan!”

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They finally rounded out the six song medley with “Harukana Yakusoku” from KAT-TUN.

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Now, while I’m all in favor of senpai medleys, I generally look for the younger contingent of juniors to handle them. For Bakaleya Six, I’d rather see a single song, since that makes it easier to figure out how they’re coming along. Still, it was enjoyable, and the music was unimpeachable. It might be just me, but the only one that had brought the appropriate amount of energy to bear was Kouchi-kun. If there’s any member that reminds me of the Kansai energy we saw in the November 21st episode, it’s him, and I felt the others tried to play it too restrained. Too cool.

In keeping with the theme, it made sense to do the next talk with Chinen-kun and Takaki-kun, who traveled through France for Johnny’s Journey.

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Nice to hear them talk about it. Wish they had done more of this as part of the Johnny’s Journey series, but late is better than never.

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It was a three-minute talk, and I hope this one gets subbed, too. Heck, whenever Johnny’s members talk about their experiences outside Japan, I think it’s deserving of translation attention.

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Next was Yamada Ryosuke-kun performing “Mystery Virgin”. I’ve criticized Johnny’s for not having groups perform their songs on Shounen Club on the release dates before, as they often do the song for the first time on Shounen Club a month after the release date, losing an excellent chance to promote to the audience most likely to buy it. Well, they certainly haven’t failed to plug this one properly, and it looks like the effect is going to show up in the sales figures.

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This performance struck me as an improvement over the already-good December 5th version, though I didn’t make a direct comparison. Obviously, it makes sense that he would have smoothed out the off-points in his singing and dancing over the course of a month. Let me put it this way – I would be comfortable showing this performance as an exemplar of what the Johnny’s agency can produce to someone completely new to J-Pop, and it would be one of the top three performances that would come to mind.


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It’s good that they didn’t try to follow that with another performance. Instead, we got “A.B.C-Z wo Abake!”, in which the members of A.B.C-Z were blindfolded and had their voices altered so that they could talk about each other anonymously (though not really anonymously, of course). It’s just a gimmick to indicate to the audience that they’re prepared to say silly things about each other (or themselves).

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The first prompt (assuming I’m translating right) was “who seems to be the most popular?”

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The second was “I have something I want to say to you!”:

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I think this segment was more about their reactions (since taking what they said seriously would probably be a mistake). In that, I felt they were disappointingly restrained, though it was still funny – especially with Tsukada-kun going on about how cool he is at the end.

A.B.C-Z performed “Desperado” next.

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I didn’t like this one much the last time they did it, but I think the performance is growing on me. Their sharp dancing certainly helps smooth over any reluctance I have over the music. For some reason I can’t pinpoint (though possibly related to improved vocal mixing this time), the music didn’t strike me as annoying as I felt it was in the December 12th review.

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Maybe it’s just one of those songs you have to come back to after a month.

In Jr ni Q, the juniors were invited by Yamada-kun and Hikaru-kun to discuss what they felt they were number one at.

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First up was Matsumura Hokuto-kun, who is best at jumping-in-place when the magazines test everyone:

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Then Morimoto Shintaro-kun went negative on us – he says he’s number one at not sticking to things.

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Then Iwamoto Hikaru-kun claimed to be number one at arm wrestling:

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Yamada-kun couldn’t let this chance pass:

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Who will win?

Last up was Jinguji Yuta-kun, who said he was best at anime figurines – he’s got about 150 of them!

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Jinguji-kun led the performance of “Don’t Stop Sexy Boyz!” which is . . . ugh.

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At least they weren’t introduced as “Sexy Boyz”. Actually, as far as groupings go, I wouldn’t mind seeing these seven become something more permanent. It was Jinguji Yuta, Kishi Yuta, Takahashi Fuu, Iwahashi Genki, Haniuda Amu, Nakamura Reia, Kuramoto Kaoru.

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In fact, I’m in favor of this group so much, I’ll set myself about the task of coming up with a better name for them (just in the course of writing this). Now, the “yuu” in the names of the two Yutas is different – one is gentle/skilled/superior (優)while the other is courage/heroism (勇). If you take their names out, the remaining initials for the five surnames are T,H,I,N, and K, which is brilliant because we know how the agency loves to make group names out of initials. So, putting it all together, we get “Think Gentle Heroes” or “Skilled/Superior Heroes Think” or . . . how about just “THINK 勇気” (THINK Yuuki)? Kishi Yuta-kun could be the “ki” (気) even though the kanji is technically not part of his name.

That’s good. Okay, I’m going to go with THINK 勇気 (仮 – tentative) as the name of these seven. That really is a name that Johnny’s is unlikely to top.

The finale was Hey! Say! Jump performing their most neglected single – “Arigatou ~Sekai No Doko Ni Itemo~” – which I really love, both musically and for the dance.

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The performance was marvelously, but then Hikaru-kun burst out with a sweeping and strong delivery of his line:

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That sure caught my attention. Where did that come from? Tentatively, I like it. Even though it stood out from the rest of the song like a sore thumb, I like it. Can he do more of that? If he can, they need to use it in some song or songs properly.

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The big point I want to convey about this episode is: skip the beginning. It’s a shame to miss Keito-kun’s English intro, but I don’t watch this show to hear English. Picking up the episode at 2:36, where the HSJ talk starts, it was a solid episode.

Highlights? I like the Sexy Zone performance (which satisfied the requirement of a song new to Shounen Club), Yamada-kun’s solo, and the HSJ finale. “Desperado” is still growing on me, but not quite there yet. The Bakaleya Six performance was okay, but a bit more energy and a bit less cool would have been better. I’m not saying they should all have been like Kouchi-kun – that would have been too much – but shading a bit more in that direction for a senpai medley. That’s why I like younger juniors doing the senpai medleys, anyway – they’re naturally more enthusiastic. The talk segments were alright, but nothing amazing. The worst part was “Don’t Stop Sexy Boyz” – I’m in favor of the group, but detest the song.

I’m going to ignore the opening and give this one an 8 out of 10. I really hope this is the last time I hear “Let’s Go To Earth” and “Don’t Stop Sexy Boyz”.