Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部 – the Boys/Youth Club) showcases the song-and-dance skills of Johnny’s juniors – the next generation of Japanese male idols – alongside the more recently debuted groups in the Johnny’s Entertainment agency. The theme for this episode is 思い出 (omoide – memories). So, are they going to try to recapture old glories or create new ones?

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The hosts for this episode were Hey! Say! Jump‘s Arioka Daiki-kun, Yaotome Hikaru-kun, and Yamada Ryosuke-kun.

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In their case, it looks like they’re definitely trying to recapture old glories, since the song they opened with was HSJ’s first single “Ultra Music Power”. If it seems, as the days fly by since the release of “Super Delicate” in February of last year, that I’m growing more an more irritated by the lack of a new single, it’s because I am getting more irritated.

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It’s worthwhile to mention that they showed some old pics of the HSJ on the screen in the background – a nice touch, and there’s going to be more old photos where those came from later on in the episode.

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A.B.C-Z then emerged to do their own debut single – “Za ABC ~5stars~”.

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So, I suppose what came next shouldn’t be a surprise – the other debuted group featured on Shounen Club, Sexy Zone, sang their first single, “Sexy Zone”,

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What was sort of a surprise was the costumes, which were not only pink, but violently pink. They weren’t sloppy costumes, and the pants were the right length, so I can’t be totally against them. Still, I hope this is just a brief seasonal thing (Hina Matsuri and the upcoming hanami – flower viewing-  season), because it’s hard on my eyes.

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With the groups singing their debut songs, I don’t think there was any way for them to really impress – unless they chose to do a remix version with some new choreography, which none of them did. So, a ho-hum opener.

The hosts proceeded to introduce themselves and the theme. Hikaru-kun also tried to get his tongue around the name of the new A.B.C-Z single “Twinkle Twinkle A.B.C-Z”, but it came out “Tinkle Tinkle A.B.C-Z”, which made me laugh. Looks like this is going to be one of those title that give hosts trouble.

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Remember how I said there’d be more old photos? Well, it happened during this A.B.C-Z performance . . .

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. . . that they showed baby photos of everyone.

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And that means people from other groups, too (though the A.B.C-Z members had juniors holding their photos throughout).

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Now, of course, this had the crowd going all gushy, but I’m not a big fan of old photos – of anyone’s old photos, least of all my own. Still, it was a pleasant performance in keeping with the theme.

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On the bright side, A.B.C-Z still did an excellent and spirited rendition of the song, which I’m growing to like more and more. Also, I can’t deny that it’s a good song to do the nostalgic photo thing with.

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I’m not a big fan of their costumes this time, though. They look like old vaudeville comedians ready for a manzai routine.

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After that, Sexy Zone sat down to chat with the hosts. Thankfully, they already ditched the shocking pink and went with snow-white – a bit late in the season, but whatever. The topic was school memories, especially from those on the verge of graduating this spring – Matsushima Sou-kun from middle school and Kikuchi Fuma-kun from high school.

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Matsushima-kun’s memory had to do with the school lunch (給食 – kyuushoku) and rice boiled in tea (茶飯 – chameshi).

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Kikuchi-kun totally had a story ready, but I couldn’t follow it.

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Sexy Zone performed “Kanzen My Way” (完全マイウェイ). It’s nothing new, and the choreography was minimal – the group spent a lot of time just standing in place. Sounded fine, but I’ve come to expect that from them already.

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The one highlight was Kento-kun and Sou-kun dancing for a bit. Sou-kun looked very smooth and confident on stage. This contrasted sharply with how Marius-kun was – at points, he was looking around tentatively and was otherwise quite tense. Of course, Marius-kun is two-and-a-half years younger than Sou-kun, and those are some pretty significant years. It was quite noticeable, though.

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Kento-kun and Fuma-kun followed up by handling the Shokura You Bin segment, where they read fan mail . . .

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. . . and brought out some assistants for some hilarity – Hikaru-kun, Hashimoto Ryosuke-kun, and Kawai Fumito-kun.

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The scenario seemed to be what to do if a dai-senpai (大先輩 – illustrious senior, veteran) stumbled. Kawai-kun played Higashiyama-san (one of the eldest and most respected members of Johnny’s) and took the required falls.

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You’ll have to watch to appreciate the proposed responses from Hashimoto-kun and Hikaru-kun.

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Hikaru-kun’s was truly great and, as usual, well thought-out.

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From that humorous interlude, we went to something rather unexpected – Yamada-kun performing Kinki Kids’ “Ai no Katamari”. Yamada-kun admires Domoto Koichi-san, so he surely doesn’t take this song on lightly.

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At first glance, I have to say that this is the best costume I’ve seen on anyone on stage in this episode. From the waist up in particular, Yamada-kun looked extremely sharp.

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The dancing was as you’d expect it from him – tight and precise. The choreography felt rather confined, though, because the moves were so edged there was a lack of flow.

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On Yamada-kun’s singing, he did much better than usual in hitting most of the notes solidly, but his range is still very limited – all the trouble is on the periphery and probably more on the lower end.

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This was easily the best performance so far, though, and any critique is partly in light of high expectations.

Speaking of which, Yamashita Tomohisa-kun – hereafter Yamapi – decided to show up. That’s unexpected and, right after Yamada-kun solo performance, his appearance sparked complicated feelings and associations from my . . . well, my memories. Let me ignore the bad thoughts and instead turn . . .

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. . . to the bizarre yet cute moment between Yamapi and Hikaru-kun. I guess they’ve shared some good memories.

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The topic was Yamapi’s Shounen Club memories. Unfortunately, it didn’t involved any chibi Yamapi videos.

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They move on to discussing Yamapi’s new song . . .

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. . . but Hikaru-kun gets the last word with him.

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The song is “Que Sera Sera” (怪 セラ セラ – technically “ke sera sera”) – the closing song for the drama Shinryochu.

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And I’m not sure what the backdancers were, except disturbing. They sure didn’t suit Shounen Club, and rather looked and behaved like nightmare clowns (which Stephen King novel was it . . . oh yeah! – It).

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While the refrain of the song is fine and catchy, there are parts including the opening that sound pointlessly messy. There’s are ways to be artistically messy – jazzy, even – but I don’t think those parts manage it.

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On the positive side, the song is well-suited to Yamapi’s voice and the dancing was the best I’ve seen from him on Shounen Club in a long while – looked like he was really putting his full effort into it this time.

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Final verdict? Ditch the clowns, and it would have been a fine performance.

Kawai-kun and Totsuka Shota-kun then did the monthly Ki ni Naru J segment, and a fan wrote in wanting to know more about Iwamoto Hikaru-kun.

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Unfortunately, given Iwamoto-kun’s role in the Bakaleya movie, they decided to have a little confrontation between him, Matsumura Hokuto, Kyomoto Taiga, and Tanaka Juri.

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I say unfortunately because, as much as I support the Bakaleya bunch, this was supposed to be Iwamoto-kun’s moment, and they ended up hanging around in the back for no good reason – apparently to get screen time they otherwise would have lacked in this episode. Not slick.

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Here are Iwamoto-kun’s vitals:

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I especially appreciated that the food he likes is chocolate – the answers to that question so often strike me as way too sophisticated and I’ve been dying to hear someone answer with one of the basic food groups for young people.

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The next performance was Kikuchi Fuma-kun singing “rouge” – his solo.

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Okay, I love Kikuchi-kun’s voice, and was delighted to see him perform this song, but was the theme for this episode “solo”? We’ve had three straight solo acts. That’s not normal.

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This song might also not be the best one to feature on Shounen Club simply because too much of the vocals were obviously not being performed on stage – it’s too dependent on the backing track. It’s great on the album, but it’s too clean here.

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Before this song, I was already getting the feeling that we were missing something with this Shounen Club, and by this point I was pretty sure I had figured it out. We were missing youth – you know, the “shounen” part. After the SZ performance, we went 100% mature – especially in terms of the dancing, but also the musical material. All the solo stages had an entirely adult quality to them.

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Surely, there’ll be juniors in Junior ni Q, though . . .

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The topic was graduating from something (not necessarily school), and the first respondent was Takahashi Fuu-kun, who discussed graduating from being a crybaby (泣き虫 – nakimushi).

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Next was Fukasawa Tatsuya-kun (深澤辰哉) concerning the need for company when going to a public toilet.

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Tanaka Juri-kun is the getting to be the Junior ni Q champ. His answer was “mama” – that is, calling his mother “mama”, which is apparently embarrassing as one gets older.

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They have to cut him off and tell him to get out, and still he makes sure to get a last word in:

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Now, I totally didn’t see this coming when I mentioned how mature the show seemed (I often write the review as I watch), but the next song is “Parental Advisory Explicit Content.” Seriously, that’s what it’s called. It’s a Kinki Kids song.

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The performers were a mix of Bakaleya Six, noon boyz, and the Elder Juniors. Matsumura Hokuto-kun and Jesse-kun led the pack, and were dressed as a pair set apart from the other Bakaleyas. Meanwhile, Yasui Kentaro-kun joined the other four Bakaleyas in terms of costuming.

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Am I reading too much into the costumes? Probably.

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The medley continued with Kinki Kids’ “Angel”. And here, Jesse-kun centered the song with Kyomoto Taiga-kun and Masuda Ryo-kun flanking – a real vocal tour-de-force.

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Continuing with Kinki Kids, the Elder Juniors and noon boyz did “Burning Love”.

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There’s Iwamoto Hikaru-kun:

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Bakaleya Six takes the song over as a team, so maybe they’re safe . . . for now.

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That was pretty enjoyable, especially the Taiga-Jesse-Ryo trio, except that I felt they had to squeeze too many junior onto the stage at once. You know, because they spent too much time letting those who had already debuted do solos.

The finale attempted to make up for the relative lack of juniors by putting the group I call Think Yuuki (minus Kishi Yuta-kun, though) out to perform “Treasure”, which is a song I don’t recognize. Can’t be sure if it’s new to Shounen Club or not, but I suspect it is. The chibi juniors and Travis Japan were backdancers.

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The hosts were totally into it, with Yamada-kun drumming on a seat held up by Daiki-kun.

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Back to the juniors:

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And you know what? This sort of saved the episode in my eyes.

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So, if I’m totally honest, I thought the last eight minutes or so were what Shounen Club was supposed to be like. Nothing against Yamada-kun, Yamapi, or Fuma-kun, but having them all do solos was really inexcusable. Opening the show with the three debut singles was . . . useless, really. I already described one way they could have done those songs in a more interesting way, but they could have also left the songs to the juniors.

The A.B.C-Z + photos thing was cute, and at least it was directly related to the theme. I like “Kanzen My Way”, but wasn’t impressed by the SZ performance.

But what sort of rating should I give this? My impression started weak, got better with a local peak at Yamada-kun’s solo (since that was the first solo, I didn’t get annoyed by it), started to go back down again with a bottom at “rouge” (sorry, Fuma-kun), and then it picked up again with a strong ending. Trying to rate each performance individually (not including the talk bits) I ended up with an average of 7.5. The talk segments were all pretty good, so call this episode an 8 out of 10. I hope the juniors get more quality time in the next episode.