This month’s first Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) began with Nakajima Yuto, Arioka Daiki, and Yabu Kota from Hey! Say! Jump performing “愛ing-アイシテル” (Ai-ing Aishiteru):

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I haven’t seen this song performed in a while, so it was a nice way to kick things off. Behind the three HSJ hosts, a prominent flock of juniors did a nice job with the backdancing, led by the team I’ve started to call Think Yuuki (Iwahashi, Nakamura, Jinguji, Kuramoto, etc – this is just my name for them and not anything official).

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I say Think Yuuki led it, but the chibis were just as prominent.

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After the opening, the hosts introduced the theme of the show – 告白 (kokuhaku – confession/profession of love). Well, “Ai-ing Aishiteru” certainly fit the theme perfectly, but does this mean we’re going to get a whole lot of embarrassing mock confessions during the talk segments?

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As the hosts explain, this theme was specifically selected with Valentine’s Day in mind (just in case you forgot that was coming up).

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Without further ado, the juniors did the Kokuhaku medley. First up was three members of Bakaleya Six, some elder juniors, and noon boyz with V6’s “Ai Nanda”. That odd mix worried me a bit, but it looked like Bakaleya Six was missing Morimoto Shintaro-kun in what must have been a planned absence, so I guess they decided to rearrange things for this recording.

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A new mix of Bakaleya Six members and Elder Juniors performed Tackey & Tsubasa’s “Ai wa Takaramono”.

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I should mention that members of Think Yuuki popped up to introduce each song. Jinguji Yuta-kun did it for Kinki Kids’ “to Heart” . . .

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. . . performed briefly by a solo Kyomoto Taiga-kun. This was far from the best demonstration of Taiga-kun’s voice.

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Four of the Elder Juniors did a better job of Kinki Kids’ “Ai no Katamari”.

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Then, for some strange reason, Sexy Zone emerged to perform “Sexy Summer ni Yuki ga Furu”. This was odd for a couple of reasons. First of all, SZ aren’t juniors, and so far we were having a fun time with the juniors. Unlike the other songs, for which only brief excerpts were played, we got a larger chunk of this one. It’s not a senpai song, while the others were.

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Granted, the lyrics actually contain the word “kokuhaku”, and are about confessing love, so the song fits the theme. But how many times can they do this song on Shounen Club?

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On the bright side, at least they’re out of the Santa outfits. I prefer less glittery costumes, but these weren’t too irritating.

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The hosts spoke with the three younger members of SZ next – Marius Yo, Sato Shori, and Matsushima Sou. They actually asked these three about whether they had confessed love to anyone. Shori-kun had. Thankfully, Marius-kun got by with saying that he hadn’t yet.

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Matsushima-kun had the best response, though, with an animated description of how he told a girl he loved her on a roller coaster.

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When they were done . . .

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. . . Yuto-kun did some tap dancing while Yabu-kun sang “Mune no Furiko”.

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This is apparently somewhat of a sequel to last month’s performance where Chinen-kun danced while Yamada-kun sang. As with that number, I was more impressed by the dancing than the singing, with even the backdancing looking slick.

They continued Yuto-kun’s tap medley with “Aoi Sanmyaku”. Daiki-kun sang, but I couldn’t separate his voice from the background vocals from the juniors.

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Yuto-kun was joined by a junior whose name I have no idea how to read. Possibly Migawa, but it would also be Imagawa.

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That was followed by all the hosts performing “Kaimono Boogie” (買物ブギー).

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It was a remarkable performance on so many levels. These three songs are old staples, but not what we usually hear on Shounen Club – certain nothing like what we’ve seen on this stage recently. The tap dancing was also a rare treat. Notice also that Think Yuuki were in the background again – they’ve been involved in every performance so far.

Up to this point, my issues with “Sexy Summer ni Yuki ga Furu” aside, this has been an exceptional sequence of performances. After the medley from the hosts, they went right into another one – a “future star” medley led by Sato Shori-kun starting with SMAP’s “Shake”. He was flanked by Takahashi Fuu-kun and Iwahashi Genki-kun.

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While they seem to want to put Shori-kun out front as much as possible, he wasn’t able to take the vocals solo on Kondo Masahiko-san’s “Sneaker Blues” – which is a solo. It was hard to tell how much of the singing was his voice and how much was Takahashi and Iwahashi . . .

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. . . but that was no problem with the opening to the next song, which he did do solo – “きみを離さない きみを離れない” (Kimi wo Hanasanai, Kimi wo Hanarenai). But, since he wrote the lyrics to it, I suppose it’s better tailored to his voice.

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He was joined by Kento-kun and Fuma-kun.

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I think it was a fine performance – and most importantly one featuring music that I’m not tired of. I’m still curious about Shori-kun’s voice, and this was a nice window into how he’s developing. I’d say he’s getting better control over it, though he can’t belt out a tune with confidence the way the two elder SZ members can.

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Speaking of whom, Kento-kun and Fuma-kun handled the Shokura You Bin segment next.

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The special guests they called out to help with the answer to the fan’s question were A.B.C-Z’s Hashimoto-kun and Goseki-kun. There was a bit where Hashimoto-kun stood behind Kento-kun and . . . well, it’s really hard to explain and a screencap won’t do – you’ll just have to see it. It seemed like some sort of gag.

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And really, this segment was just full of humor with these two at it:

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While their mannerisms were enjoyable to watch, this segment could really use subbing.

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This show has had very strong continuity so far, and the next transition was no exception, as the segment with Hashimoto and Goseki led right into their performance with the rest of A.B.C-Z. It was “Twinkle Twinkle A.B.C-Z”.

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It was a different dance this time – no clever sitting trick this time – but it still featured some fancy footwork.

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I still have trouble digesting how this song begins and ends. The body of it is fine and quite catchy, but I’m just not satisfied by the first and last impression it makes.

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Anyway, next up was Junior ni Q. They asked about confessions – in a rare case of keeping everything tightly related to the theme of the show – but these weren’t necessarily confessions of love, but confessions in general. I’m not going to try to translate what they said. First up was Jesse-kun:

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Followed by Kishi Takayoshi-kun:

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And another rare appearance – Anderson Casey-kun:

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A bit of Kouchi Yugo-kun:

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Lots of Jinguji Yuta-kun, who sniffed his senpai:

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And wrapping it up was the traditional visit from Tanaka Juri-kun, who seems to get himself into Junior ni Q segments at any cost.

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Matsumura Hokuto-kun and Jesse-kun performed Kinki Kids’ “strategie”. Again, it was the pattern with one singing and the other dancing – in this case, Jesse-kun sang and Hokuto-kun danced.

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This was another surprising performance – something we definitely haven’t seen before. The song didn’t demand much from Jesse-kun’s voice, and in return he didn’t force any notes. It was a smooth stage altogether.

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As if there weren’t enough interesting surprises already, the hosts introduced special guest Fujigaya Taisuke-kun of Kis-My-Ft2.

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The topic was once again about confessing love. I trust the robust Kis-My-Ft2 community will get this translated in a jiffy. I didn’t pick up on much, except that Fujigaya-kun and a little anecdote about Marius-kun.

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That led into Fujigaya’s solo – “Love meee”.

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I love the use of props in general, and thin they should do more of it. The teddy bear was great.

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I’m not a big fan of vocals fed through heavy computerization, but that’s sort of part-and-parcel of Fujigaya-kun’s image. Keeping that in mind, this song sure suits him and he did a excellent job of it.

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I’m never going to be a big fan of this song – just not my style. It was a decent performance, though.

Then it was time to wrap things up with the finale . . .

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. . . which was Kinki Kids’ “Anniversary” (an excellent song to end on) featuring all of the older juniors (five members of Bakaleya Six, noon boyz, Elder Juniors, and others).

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And also A.B.C-Z:

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There are a number of ways to characterize this episode of Shounen Club. It was a very Kinki Kids episode – lots of Kinki Kids songs were featured. It was also a very tight episode – everything was closely related to the theme, and there was a natural progression through the performers and the talk segments. This episode gave more quality time to everyone – somehow, even though it wasn’t a longer episode, I came away feeling that I saw a lot more faces than I usually do. We certainly saw a lot more of the Think Yuuki members than usual.

More than anything else, though, it was full of surprises and unconventional performances. There was a lot of stuff we handn’t seen before. In fact, only two songs – “Sexy Summer ni Yuki ga Furu” and “Twinkle Twinkle A.B.C-Z” – have been done on this show in recent months, and the latter is still a fresh song that has only been done once before. Even though I’ve been an avid opponent of “Sexy Summer” before, there’s no denying that it fit in with the theme of the show. Considering that and the lack of Santa suits, I didn’t really mind it, though I would have liked to see a SZ song they haven’t performed as much.

The only real knock against this episode was that there wasn’t a performance or any talk time for the younger juniors. We saw the chibis backdancing for a bit, but that’s it. In a way, though, I guess that’s forgivable given the theme of this episode.

So, I’m left without any substantial objections to any part of this episode. At the same time, the music and dancing was quite good and there were some unique and memorable moments – especially Yuto-kun’s tap dancing and the Jesse-Hokuto performance. With all the requirements checked off, I’m happy to give this episode a 10 out of 10. It started out strong and was a delight from beginning to end.