The first Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) of this month was a delight to watch. How will the juniors do in this episode?

Bakaleya Six, the Elder Juniors, and noon boyz kick things off with the dance version of Kis-My-Ft2’s “Ai no Beat.”

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After two minutes, special guest Fujigaya Taisuke-kun from Kis-My-Ft2 walks in and takes up the song. He’s wearing the same black top-camouflage bottom combination as the Bakaleya bunch (or perhaps I should say that they’re wearing the same colors as he is?).

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The theme for this week is LOVE – with Valentine’s Day this week, it was either that or 愛 (ai – love). The hosts were Arioka Daiki-kun, Nakajima Yuto-kun, and Yabu Kota-kun.

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They introduce the love medley, and the first song was Hey! Say! Jump’s “Hitomi no Screen”, as performed by Travis Japan and the group I tentatively call Think Yuuki (though they were missing Kishi Yuta-kun).

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Partway through, the three Hey! Say! Jump hosts joined in. I don’t really approve of this – what happened to this part being the junior medley?

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After that, the HSJ members again left the stage to Think Yuuki and Travis Japan, who performed Yamashita Tomohisa-kun’s “Love Chase”. When Yamapi performed it on Shounen Club, I remember commenting that the song demanded a vigorous dance and Yamapi didn’t do one (at least not on SC – I’m sure he did in a concert). Well, the juniors did have a reasonable dance for it, so kudos to them

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Then Jesse-kun got the stage all to himself to do Kinki Kids‘ “Mou Kimi Igai Aisenai” (もう君以外愛せない).

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It was a brief solo, and a relatively easy part that, but at least he kept it smooth.

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Matsumura Hokuto-kun joins Yasui Kentaro-kun and another Elder Juniors for KAT-TUN’s “Lips”. I thought it was Bakaleya Six again at first glance, but even the Elder Juniors are wearing the black and camouflage. What’s with this uniform all of a sudden? It’s really making it hard to tell who’s doing what – I’m so used to at least telling the groups apart by what they’re wearing. Is this another sign that some dreaded mixing-and-matching between the junior groups is in our future?

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Well, remaining four members of Bakaleya get to do Tackey & Tsubasa’s “Ai Serenade”. I approve of the use of canes as props . . . but when the dancers are wearing camouflage (or at least not pants with feathers and loose threads on). Simple black pants like what the backdancers were wearing would have been suited – add glitter if compelled to.

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After the medley, Totsuka-kun and Kawai-kun of A.B.C-Z handled the monthly “Ki ni Naru J” segment.

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Their junior guests were Matsukura Kaito-kun and Matsuda Genta-kun. Nice to see some unfamiliar faces. After all, what’s the point of introducing us to juniors we already know well?

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Masuda-kun was born in the same year Kawai-kun entered Johnny’s, and there was a slight “omigod” crack to Kawai-kun’s voice as he made note of this.

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Is it a coincidence that both of them had the same family configuration (father-mother-younger sister) and O-type blood? (Sorry – when not understanding what they’re talking about I tend to pay excessive attention to the card the juniors are holding up.)

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Next up, it was Sexy Zone with “Suki Sugite”. Right up front, the clash between the costumes worn by the three elder members of the group and the two younger members was odd. Just visually, it would have at least made better sense to put the younger members in something red. As it is, it looks as if SZ is a three person group and the rest are all backdancing juniors:

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At least we could tell from the mic stands, but with this being the theme song to Marius-kun’s drama “Kodomo Keishi”, maybe putting the younger pair up front and more prominent would have been a nice change of pace.

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The best part of the song was Fuma-kun giving us a taste of the high end of his voice at one point. Otherwise, it was pretty standard stuff, though the members were all in good and engaging form.

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What can I say? I’m just never fond of Shounen Club performance where they’re tied to microphone stands.

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Next was Fujigaya-kun’s solo “Maria”. He had the stage on his own, and while he had a mic stand, at least he felt free to use it as a prop instead of a crutch. The singing was reasonable, though there are juniors who can do better. While he didn’t do a full-fledged dance, he managed to do a healthy amount of moving – much better than I’ve seen from other solo efforts on this stage.

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After “Maria”, noon boyz and later other Elder Juniors joined Fujigaya-kun to dance to “Rocking Party”. On this, they made a fully choreographed effort.

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The brief bit of vocals we got at the end of this performance had interesting syncopation – pretty rare in Johnny’s songs.

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The Nekketsu Battle was one I haven’t seen before (I think – memory is always iffy) called “Survival! Five Count”. The players were Matsumura Hokuto (who added even more loose tassles to his costume), Sanada Yuma, Nakajima Kento, and Kawai Fumito (who Daiki-kun tries to address with a faulty nickname).

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Oh, and Nakajima Yuto-kun, who was more animated than I’ve seen him in a while. Move-by-move, he was interesting to watch early in the episode, and continued to be here.

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The format is that each person in turn has five seconds to give an example of the topic in question.

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The first topic was the twelve zodiac signs. No problem for me in English – I like astronomy – but I sure don’t know the Japanese words for them. No chance for me to play along here.

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The next one was totally easy for me, but perhaps harder for Kawai-kun – the titles of Hey! Say! Jump singles. This wasn’t as much fun a round as I had hoped, though, because they were even pickier about the titles than I would have imagined.

 

 

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The next one was “number twenty”, and basically all they had to do was name numbers from one to twenty without repeating. Of course, the trick was remembering which numbers had already been said.

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With only two contestants remaining, the last challenge was to name Johnny’s singles with “Love” in the title.

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So, who do you think won?

After that excitement, Sato Shori-kun handled a special request corner.

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The request was basically to give Kin Kan some screen time, so here they were:

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Actually, I like this idea a lot. I hope they continue to have the Kansai Juniors on instead of just having Kansai specials.

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I found it interesting that Shori-kun was getting a corner of his own . . .

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. . . and even more so when the camera followed him and Kin Kan onto the stage as they set up for their performance. Normally, they have other people talking to fill the time while the performers take the standby positions, but . . . I guess they suddenly decided that wasn’t necessary. A nice change.

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The song was “Kaze no Iro” from Kinki Kids.

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I’m not too sure what Shori-kun was doing there. After all, he couldn’t even come close to keeping up with Kin Kan’s dancing and acrobatics, and they were entirely able to handle the singing duties themselves (I couldn’t even hear his voice under theirs).

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There are good ways and bad ways to stand out. This performance was a bad way for Shori-kun – by comparison to the other three, he seemed stiff and . . . well, you get the picture. It would have been a different story if his voice was clearly in the lead, but no such luck.

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The hosts then introduced an A.B.C-Z special medley . . .

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. . . which started with their first single – “Za ABC~5stars~” . . .

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. . . moved on to their second single, “Zutto Love” . . .

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. . . and finally (I think you can see where we’re going with this) concluded with their newest single “Twinkle Twinkle A.B.C-Z”. Well, glad to see they’re at least getting the Shounen Club component of the promotion effort.

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In context with their other singles, I will definitely think “Twinkle Twinkle A.B.C-Z” is their best song so far.

Next, the hosts talked to Morimoto Shintaro-kun, Jesse-kun, and Tanaka Juri-kun of Bakaleya Six. It was a Valentine talk, though that was more the intention of the question than the result of the answers, I think.

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They quickly moved on to “Don’t Stop Sexy Boyz!”

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I though they had stopped Sexy Boyz, but they just keep popping back up again, don’t they? How vexing.

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I really enjoyed the performance, though. Actually, it might have been the best performance of the show, depending on what criteria you go with.

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But I’m adamant – I will not support this group with that name, and I’m not budging on that.

The finale was HSJ’s “Romeo & Juliet”, and this might be my favorite rendition of this song ever.

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Why? Well, first of all, I hate those white costumes they usually perform it in. I’m sure plenty of people think those aare cute, but to my eyes, they look sterile. Seeing Yabu-kun, Yuto-kun, and Daiki-kun do it in plain clothes was a plus.

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More importantly, though, was the way Daiki-kun and Yuto-kun pushed their voices forward early in the song. Haven’t heard much of that from them – especially not from Daiki-kun.

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Oh, and having the array of juniors in the background helped, too. The song almost suits juniors more than it does HSJ.

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And that’s how it ended. Let me take up the downsides first. Considering it was a solo performance, Fujigaya-kun didn’t do badly, but I’m not sold on Fujigaya-kun as a solo artist. Also, I’m not sure that his way of performing these songs was really suited to Shounen Club – it certainly didn’t fit in with everything else that went on in this episode.

The collaboration between Kin Kan and Shori-kun was the weakest performance of the episode, but it was not because either Kin Kan or Shori-kun did badly – it was simply a bad decision to put the SZ member with the Kansai group, especially since Kin Kan could have managed a solid performance on their own. Shori-kun has his place in SZ, and it’s in that context that he fits remarkably well. I don’t understand the impulse to try and insert him into something completely different.

I can’t say there was anything special about the junior medley this time. Unlike in the previous episode, we didn’t get the genki injections from Think Yuuki popping up everywhere. I feel like they are somehow turning Bakaleya Six into just another unremarkable junior group, and I don’t want them to be back in that mix. But the luster is quickly fading as they get mixed in with other juniors.

I’m neutral on the A.B.C-Z performance, since it was just a straight-up promotion for their new single framed against the backdrop of their two previous releases.

So, what’s left that was good? Well, I have to emphasize the Kin Kan appearance even though the way their performance was managed left me unhappy. And while their name is unfortunate and the song isn’t really my thing, SB did a good job. SZ itself wasn’t too bad, either.

The highlights, though, were the “Ki ni Naru J” segment, the Nekketsu Battle, and “Romeo and Juliet” at the end.

Altogether, I think it’s safe to give this one an 8 out of 10. There was nothing seriously objectionable – it was watchable all the way through – but it could easily have been better.

 

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