The guest for this new episode of Arashi ni Shiyagare (嵐にしやがれ) was the mysterious Matsuda Ryuhei-san (松田龍平), who is appearing on a talk-variety show for the first time. He’s an actor who comes from an acting family – his mother, father, and aunt all act, and his younger brother is Matsuda Shota-kun – but he doesn’t seem to make the TV rounds. Something tells me that the Arashi guys are going to have to work extra hard to keep this interesting. Even just as a first glance, he strikes me as the quiet type.

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But it’s quickly apparent through the opening talk that it’s worse than I could have imagined. Matsuda-san is shifty and only speaks when addressed – and then only says the absolute minimum of words. Nino-kun quickly points out that Matsuda-san seems unable to talk, despite the fact that they were talking about him being classmates with Matsumoto-kun.

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He was so quiet that he got a big laugh from the audience when he finally said “omoshiroi desu ne” (interesting isn’t it?) when Sakurai-san repeated the fact that it was his first time on a variety show.

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As an interesting twist, Matsuda-san called for Suzuki-san instead of the Funky Girls to bring out his gift to Arashi. Suzuki-san is a chef, and he comes bearing fruit.

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Here, Matsuda-san finally had to do some explaining, as he associates each fruit with one of the members. Unfortunately, his usual explanation is “for some reason or another” (なんとなく – nantonaku). Well, I guess we know now why he’s mysterious.

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The chef Suzuki-san is apparently there because he’s quick with a knife and can cut up the fruit efficiently. Incidentally, Matsuda-san does say the requisite “oishii” when eating stuff on air, but he more often says “un.”

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They take an extraordinarily long time eating the fruit (considering it’s just fruit and not some rare delicacy), and I’m pretty sure I know why – there was so little useable content that they didn’t rush this part through editing.

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The rumor segment where Matsuda-san had to confirm or deny rumors about himself (or others) was next. This was bound to be interesting, simply because the segment is so dependent on the guest being willing to talk things out and Matsuda-san . . . hasn’t been so willing.

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Actually, on the first rumor, he isn’t too bad, even though they have to prompt him for everything. It was actually about MatsuJun, and the meat of it was about a trip the two of them made around the age of 20. I couldn’t figure out any other details.

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MatsuJun and Sakurai-san took the lead in terms of keeping him talking.

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I don’t mean to be mean about it, but watching Matsuda-san sapped all the energy I keep in reserve for translating the rumor section and all the interest I might have had in doing so. The third rumor was easy enough, though – Matsuda-san likes outdoor stuff.

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The fourth one was easy, too – shampooing seems scary. Don’t ask me why he thinks that, though.

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Right about here, it quiet enough for Ohno-san to tell a story.

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Moving onto the more active portion of the show (at least, I hope it’ll be active), Matsuda-san will be assisted by announcer Masu Taichi-san (who will hopefully handle all the talking).

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The first topic was the cherry blossoms of Kyoto – Matsuda-san has been to Kyoto around thirty times because of his love of the city. Does this mean he might get passionate about talking about it?

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Well, first he has to figure out how to tell an Arashi member to change the set. He ends up silent, so Masu-san hands him a deck of cue cards with the line he’s supposed to deliver. Is this the first time we’ve seen a guy who’s this out-of-it? And, perhaps more to the point, what was Matsuda-san smoking in the green room?

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Anyway, once he gets it right, Sakurai-san calls for the set change, and they end up surrounded by sakura.

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As you might have expected if you’ve seen a lot of Arashi ni Shiyagare, this is going to be one of those boring VTR strolls – in this case through Kyoto. If you want to see a sakura tour of Kyoto, this is a fine opportunity. Masu-san handles all the commentary.

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To be fair, it was probably the best VTR stroll of those I remember. There’s a lot of interesting sights in Kyoto, and the VTR didn’t spend any time at all highlighting area restaurants.

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After that, it was time to bring out food from Kyoto. You can’t do a variety show without food, right?

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They have Masu-san take the first taste of everything – possibly because he would have the most nuanced and convincing response to the food, or otherwise because they were thankful to have him onboard in this episode (I would be) and wanted to treat him.

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The funniest line of the show, though, was definitely when Masu-san prompted Ohno-san for a comment about the food, and Ohno replied “umai yo” in a defiant tone. The audience laughter and applause made it clear that at least some of them remember the old days when Ohno-san’s consistent response to food was a running gag.

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The last activity involved constructing comic haikus (川柳 – senryuu) about their true feelings and desires (本音 – honne). Honne refers specifically to those feelings that are normally hidden in public. It was easily the most interesting activity of the entire episode, so at least it’s fair that they saved it for last.

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So . . . is it possible that Matsuda-san was so bad a guest that it was interesting to watch him fail at it? While I didn’t care much about the rumors, I have to admit that I remained curious about what could possibly be going on with him. There’s always stage fright (doing something live is very different from filming a drama), but his manner was quite extreme.

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Matsuda-san did loosen up a bit (or sobered up a bit) later on in the episode, so the last impression he made was much better than what we saw from him in the first few minutes.

That said, I find it inexcusable that he was perfectly lucid when doing the plug for his drama – clearly well-rehearsed to deliver the information about it quickly – but he didn’t take the time to consider what first impression he would like to make on the show. He should have known they would bring up his prior association with MatsuJun and the fact that he hasn’t done a talk variety show before, yet he had no responses for either point.

So, I’m going to rule this episode the first dud of the year. We’ve had a great string of luck with guests so far, but I guess that streak could only go so far. This episode’s Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi goes to Matsumoto-kun, because he clearly tried his best to engage his old friend in conversation and probably felt a bit chagrined by the lackluster responses he was getting.

On the bright side, we have a real winner as the guest in the coming episode – V6’s Okada Junichi-san.