There’s a lot of flux in the Johnny’s agency these days – especially with regard to its young talent. To get a sense of what’s going on with the next generation of Japanese male idols, we naturally turn to Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部). Will this May Day episode give us a clearer sense of where things are headed, or just raise more questions?

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The show begins with Sexy Zone’s Sato Shori-kun, Nakajima Kento-kun, and Kikuchi Fuma-kun taking center stage amidst a sea of pink-clad juniors. They performed their new single “Real Sexy” wearing the outfits I’m going to henceforth refer to as the space prince costumes.

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The SZ performance was the only song for the opening, which is fair enough since the air date was the single’s release date. But I thought “Bad Boys” was the song these three did without Marius-kun and Sou-kun – why aren’t the younger two on stage for this at all, when it’s part of the single’s promo effort? At the very least they should be dressed in pink with the juniors, but they aren’t present at all.

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Okay, moving on from the first bout of Marius- and Sou-related angst, we meet out Hey! Say! Jump hosts for the evening – Arioka Daiki-kun, Nakajima Yuto-kun, and Yaotome Hikaru-kun.

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The theme of the show is “bouken” (冒険 – adventure).

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The special guest is Kitayama Hiromitsu-kun from Kis-My-Ft2, looking quite fresh and pumped up. Definitely in a good mood.

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Kitayama-kun performed “Give me . . .”, which seemed a weird song to start things off with after introducing bouken as the theme – it’s a love song rather than an adventure song. Perhaps it would have been better later in the show.

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Otherwise, it was a good song for its purpose and the dance was smooth. Whenever the older acts appear on Shounen Club there’s a question of whether their more mature performances are suited to this show, but there was no problem with that in this case. Kitayama-kun kept it well within the usual SC spectrum.

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Next up, Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun from A.B.C-Z were the hosts for the Gekkan! Ki ni Naru 2020 segment – that’s right, Ki ni Naru 2020, where we are apparently going to meet more members of the new group Twenty Twenty (I don’t want to refer to the group by the date since in that way lies confusion). I think this is a great idea, since the group is going to have a lot of members, and they need every chance they can get to introduce themselves.

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This month’s batch looks as interesting as April’s. First up is Hayashi Ippei-kun (林一平), who demonstrates some extremely smooth Michael Jackson dancing skills – not just the normal moonwalking stuff, either. I was immediately impressed.

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Not to be upstaged, Kakuta Yuusei-kun (角田 侑晟) has roller skates on and shows his skills with those – he actually does the moonwalk with them. Naturally, the A.B.C-Z’s pin him on the question of who he likes from KMF2.

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Third was Okamoto Kauan-kun (岡本カウアン) who is the group’s Brazilian connection (gotta have one of those, right?). He gives Kawai-kun some language instruction (I’m assuming in Portuguese).

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Next was Ishida Naoya-kun (石田直也), whose nickname is trumpi, and I think he said Fuma-kun gave it to him. The A.B.C-Z guys guess this connects to a trampoline, but of course Ishida-kun is the Twenty Twenty trumpeteer (unless they’ve got more than one).

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Since he didn’t bring his trumpet out this time, he was sort of overshadowed by this guy standing next to him:

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That’s the utterly cool-looking Ogawa Yuu-kun (小川優), who for some reason looks to me like a mix of Takaki Yuya-kun and Arioka Daiki-kun (or maybe I need to get my eyes checked). He’s already 18, which I thought would be too old for Twenty Twenty but apparently not. Good to see him getting a berth and some screen time and I appreciate that he decided to go with the opening bars of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” to demonstrate his skill.

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The pink-clad juniors, including some members of Twenty Twenty, then performed NEWS’ “Sakura Girl”.

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This is pretty surprising, since we usually see the juniors doing medleys, but they just did this song. Given the choreography, it sure looks like they’ve gotten plenty of practice away from Shounen Club. Where has Johnny’s been hiding them?

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That was followed by the Kansai Junior segment with A.B.C-Z’s Hashimoto-kun and Goseki-kun as the hosts.

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It was the usual suspects again. I really hope they broaden who appears, but for now it looks like it’s just B.A.D. and 7West.

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They did some drawing . . .

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. . . and then Kotaki-kun and Fujii-kun performed Yamashita Tomohisa-kun’s “Run From You”.

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All four members of 7West then did “Dial Up”

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This was a disappointing performance for one very concrete reason – they’re totally lacking a voice on the low end, leaving the vocals way too thin.

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As we near the halfway point in the show, I’m starting to be acutely aware that we’ve still only heard love songs, and haven’t heard anything particularly adventurous.

Next up, the hosts spoke with . . . the more apparent members of Sexy Zone. But as flashy as the space prince outfits are, I was actually struck by what the HSJ members were wearing – they totally changed their look, and quite radically at that.

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At least they talked about bouken here. Each of the SZ members got a chance to relate a little story.

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Next, we find out why the HSJ guys were wearing what they were – to perform a new HSJ song “BOUNCE”!

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I think it’s always a plus to see the HSJ members in varied clothing instead of just the normal Johnny’s costumes, so right from the face of it that was positive. The dancing tightly matched the music and was in the more active mode of “OVER” rather than anything else they’ve done recently.

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The song was upbeat and obviously much better than the other new songs they’ve been doing on the Shounen Club recently. I took issue with the heavy reliance on non-HSJ background vocals, especially at the start of the song, but that largely died out further into the song. I think they could do better to cut those out entirely on a recorded version or replace them with HSJ members doing them.

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If the goals is to present a cooler and more mature HSJ, then this performance succeeds. So . . . can we have a whole lot more of this and a whole lot less of “Come On A My House” and stuff like that?

Oh, and can “BOUNCE” please be announced as the new HSJ single ASAP, and not buried as the B-side to another single the way “Beat Line” was behind “Magic Power”?

Kento-kun and Fuma-kun did the Shokura You Bin fanmail corner next . . .

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. . . with the usual help from the Shokura comedy trio – Kawai-kun, Hashimoto-kun, and Hikaru-kun.

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Kawai-kun was . . . sporting a special look for this episode. The scenario was about what to do when encountering a scary person, and that black moss on Kawai-kun’s head is meant to mark him as the stereotypical gangster type.

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Hikaru-kun went with his usual tact of speed and confusion.

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Then Kawai-kun called on Fuma-kun to try out the scenario.

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A.B.C-Z’s performance was next, and it was “Twinkle Twinkle A.B.C-Z” again. Now granted, they tacked on a very long Magic Power/Smurfs/Sesame Street opening (as if this song needed more of that) to the front end of it, but I’m getting tired of this. I have officially heard this song too much on SC, especially taking into consideration how many songs they have in their repertoire.

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I still like the chorus and the mood of the song as a whole, but I really think it would be better for the group if they’re allowed to do other songs going forward.

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Yamada-kun and Hikaru-kun were the hosts for the Junior ni Q corner, and the topic was the don (丼 – rice-food combo bowl) that the juniors like the most. I’m not going to get into the particular dishes and why they like them.

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First up was Jinguji Yuta-kun.

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Then Kakuta Yuusei-kun, who we met earlier during the Twenty Twenty segment.

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Third was Takahashi Fuu-kun:

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The ever-amusing Kouchi Yugo-kun likes Kouchi Don – the type he makes himself (looking spiffy in that outfit, by the way – rare to see a truly sharp Johnny’s costume):

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There was Vasayegh Hikaru-kun, who we met in the April 10th episode.

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And finally Matsumura Hokuto-kun . . .

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. . . who was also up for the next performance, joining his duet partner Jesse-kun to perform Kinki Kids’ “Kimi to Boku no Naka de”.

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Jesse-kun’s voice was excellent here, but Hokuto-kun wasn’t singing on this song at all.

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They switched songs to “ha-ha”, which was a collaboration between Akanishi Jin-kun and Jimmy Mackey (remember him?), which involved Hokuto-kun attempting to sing and he simply doesn’t have enough notes to work with yet, nor any dynamic strength to his voice (that is, he can’t add emphasis). On the bright side, he kept his voice smooth instead of trying to force it. The song also had some seriously inappropriate lyrics, including “f**kin’ ladies” and “take off your clothes, cum in my room” (spelled like that). I haven’t heard anything like it on SC, and have to wonder if the guys know what they’re singing at all (obviously Akanishi and Mackey would have since they were both fluent in English, but the song is just being foisted onto these two).

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They wrapped the performance up by singing Kinki Kids’ “Kimihakaruma” together, and that was done well. I remain unsure of this pairing given the vocal gap between the two of them. Perhaps Hokuto-kun can develop his skills more.

The members of HSJ all gather to take stock on the topic of bouken with the hosts back in the clothing they wore to start the show.

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They’ve done a lot of talking about bouken, but haven’t really had an adventure song . . . until the finale. The teen juniors performed HSJ’s “Bouken Rider”.

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After the juniors showed they could do a fine job of the song on their own, the HSJ guys joined them to wrap things up.

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But the show didn’t end there. Instead, there was an Omake (extra) segment hosted by SZ’s Sato Shori-kun. He had Arioka Daiki-kun’s birthday cake, and we got to see Daiki-kun’s official twenty-second birthday celebration.

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That was a nice touch. Congratulations to Daiki-kun.

It was a good show. The best part was the new and long-awaited cool song from HSJ, which sure relieved a lot of the concern I had for the group, though not all of it. Other highlights included the Twenty Twenty segment, Kitayama-kun’s solo, the juniors performing “Sakura Girl”, and the finale including the omake. The rest of the episode felt average. The only parts I had trouble with were Hokuto-kun’s “ha-ha” and the 7West performance. “Twinkle Twinkle A.B.C-Z was a repeat, but not badly done.

The new format of the show now seems natural, so the flow is good – or at least as good as it was when the program time was 44 minutes instead of 59. They need to get more people involved in the Kansai Juniors part. They really managed to underplay the theme of this episode, but that happens sometimes, so yeah. At least they managed to sneak in “Bouken Rider”, which is an absolute must if the theme is bouken.

I sure hope we see Marius-kun and Sou-kun in the next episode, or my angst is going to grow into something more pointed.

In short, there were some exceptional parts to the show, but the bulk was average. Measuring based on how much of the show I would have rather skipped, this episode gets a 9 out of 10 from me. I hope you enjoy it!