Even though it isn’t longer than usual, this is a special episode of VS Arashi (VS 嵐). Here’s a hint about why:

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You see, the Arashi team only has four Arashis today . . .

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. . . and after they discuss some of the interesting moments their missing member has produced in the course of promoting his new drama, especially on Nep League . . .

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. . . they finally let Aiba-kun out with the rest of the Last Hope team. Aiba-kun has Tabe Mikako, Koike Eiko, Kitamura Yukiya, Kohinata Fumiyo, and Takashima Masahiro supporting him.

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You can be sure Aiba-kun is excited by the prospect of opposing the Arashi team. Well, to be honest, he’s excited by pretty much everything, isn’t he?

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His fellow cast members try to give him a boost . . .

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. . . but the Arashi members predictably shoot those attempts down.

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With Arashi shorthanded, they get additional help from the comedy duo TKO:

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Apparently, TKO’s Kimoto-san looks a lot like Aiba-kun. I’ll leave you to judge how closely for yourself.

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The first game was Korokoro Viking with the Last Hope team up. Aiba-kun tries to talk about his team, but puts together an awkward construction that gets some “eh?”.

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Takashima-san confesses to being a TKO fan, and basically says that seeing them live has made his day.

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There’s further talk about Takashima-san, Ohno-san, and Aiba-san regarding going out to eat together and drinking, but I didn’t understand enough of it to relay the conversation. Seemed interesting, though.

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So, will the Last Hope team get the benefit of brilliant Aiba or goofball Aiba? Tabe Mikako-san is going to find out firsthand because she’s paired with him in the all-important goal-scoring orange zone.

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For the Arashi team, it’s TKO taking the orange zone, so why do they still have the -50 point slot as a handicap? Seems excessive, especially with Aiba-kun leading the opposition.

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The Arashi team takes the opportunity to reflect on Aiba-kun’s contribution (or otherwise) to their team’s efforts. If Aiba-kun wasn’t driven to beat his fellow group members before this, he certainly was after it.

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How will the Arashi team do without Aiba-kun?

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The next game was Pinball Runner, but with Matsumoto-kun running for Arashi, the focus was actually on the two commanders – Kinoshita-san and Ninomiya-kun:

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Eventually, TKO’s antics have Ninomiya-kun unable to keep a straight face.

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How will it go for MatsuJun?

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Aiba-kun has the entire rest of the Last Hope team supporting him, but isn’t that too many people? If they’re really all going to try to contribute, they’ll get in each other’s way. I guess they’re just trying to show team unity.

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The battle between runner MatsuJun and runner Aiba-kun is dubbed a match to find out who the real Arashi is.

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I don’t know about there being a match to figure out who the real Aiba is, though.

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Even though five people are up as supporters, they decide that Tabe-san will handle the yellow balls. That’s good, ’cause if all of them tried to take turns calling out numbers, it would have been hopeless for Aiba-kun.

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After that, they played Bank Bowling, and Ohno-san and Kinoshita-san went up for the Arashi team.

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What do you think? Can this pair take down the red pin?

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Sakurai-san and Kimoto-san were clean-up.

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For the Last Hope team, Kohinata-san joined Tabe-san for the first frame.

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Sakurai-san keeps making a big deal in every appearance about how he has the same birthday as Tabe-san . . .

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. . . but this time it made sense because their birthday was the day after this episode aired (January 25th).

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Kohinata-san’s 59th birthday was the day before the air date – the 23rd – and while he still seems to be going strong, the long talk made his arm weary of carrying the bowling ball.

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Aiba-kun and Takashima-san tried to take care of what Tabe-san and Kohinata-san left behind.

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What sort of pair will they prove to be?

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But the real treat for this episode had to be Cliff Climb. Ninomiya-kun is climbing again, after making a huge effort to clean up for Aiba-kun’s mishap in last week’s episode.

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He’s paired with the Aiba-kun lookalike Kimoto-san, though. Does this seem a bit like deja vu?

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Aiba-kun gets a chance to prove his mettle directly, of course, by climbing for the Last Hope team.

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His fellow climber is Koike Eiko-san, so it’s not like he’s going to get to do the easy part.

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Will Aiba-kun show his cool side in this, the coolest of the games they play in this show? Or will it be like last week all over again?

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As has become the usual pattern, the last game of the show is Kicking Sniper. The Arashi team goes first, with Ohno-san still pumped up:

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He’s joined by Sakurai-san and TKO, and there’s the usual talk about how much time people spent playing soccer in elementary and middle school (as if that matters now that they’re forty):

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For the Arashi team, it was Kitamura-san, Takashima-san and Aiba-kun.

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And right to the end, Aiba-kun is still being Aiba:

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Surely, this was a can’t-miss episode of VS Arashi. It’s always good when one of the members is on the opposing team, but it’s even better when it’s Aiba-kun, since the others feel free to poke fun at him and we can root for him to show them up and win against them. In other words, this was a rare episode where it was a lot more fun to root for the guest team. Usually, even though it’s good to root for the visiting team since they’re underdogs, it’s not much fun because the viewer is less familiar with them than with the Arashi members.

And honestly, the Last Hope team really did a good job of earning the support, as they all looked excited and intent to win. Just watching Tabe-san laugh at all the antics made it a good hour. Altogether, the comfortable interactions between the two teams made this episode feel relaxed and light-hearted.

I think it’s pretty obvious that the Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi of the episode was Aiba-kun. He played in every single game, was at the center of most of the jokes, and had the most to prove.