Nino-san (ニノさん) is a variety show that is in prototype phase – trying out different formats each week to see which one will work best. So far, though, it looks like the formats being offered are built around the use of VTRs, and this one promises to be no different.

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The guest MC for the episode is Chihara Junior-san, whose humor usually requires Japanese language abilities far beyond mine. I don’t think we’re going to get too much from him, though. Well, except for the little beginning bit where he slaps the critique of the week onto Ninomiya-kun.

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Chihara-san’s critique says that Nino-kun smirks too much. Hard to argue with that one.

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The format for this episode was a “it happened on this day” show, so we’re going to get to hear a lot about what happened on May 9th in (recent, entertaining) history. Just as a clarification, this episode is technically dated May 8th in TV listings, but it airs after midnight, so it was really on in the wee hours of May 9th.

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So yeah, given that the show is about “Dramatic moments in May 9th”, it’s hard to see how we’ll avoid a slew of VTRs, including this first intro one.

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The main logo and the set, including the weird title “Grateful Todays” and the background music, make this sound like a Christian inspirational show.

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So does the set:

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Nino-kun is a fountain of body language, by the way.

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They make a lot of silly notes about May 9th, including the fact that when said in Japanese as “Mei Ku” (ku=9), it becomes make-up day (since meiku = make-up). So, add that to the list of things you really didn’t need to know. Make sure there’s room on the list, though.

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Turns out Arashi released “Face Down” on May 9th – a fact that even Nino-kun was surprised by because he wisely stuffs his brain with far more important information.

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If it seems like I’m already down on this format, it’s because they have to resort to gimmicks like this to keep things interesting:

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That’s the god of May 9th, apparently. Unfortunately, his voice is a bit disembodied, or at least the show’s announcer speaks for him.

The billboard he brings out has a bunch of topics on it . . .

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. . . but Chihara-san quickly sees a pattern . . .

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. . . and doesn’t look too thrilled at the prospect.

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Apparently, the producer for this episode is a bit Onita Atsushi fan. For those who don’t know who Onita-san is . . .

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. . . we get a VTR depicted some of his pro-wrestling exploits.

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The story they pick, though, is about a certain press conference Onita-san nearly managed to handle properly . . .

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. . . until he said something about SM which I will not attempt to translate because getting it wrong would be . . . bad.

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They’re actually interested in what his advisor whispered in his ear when he made his SM comment, so they have a guy staring intently at the screen, trying to read the advisor’s lips.

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After that VTR, we go back to the studio to briefly look at how Nino-kun and Chihara-san are doing.

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They look fine, so cue up the next VTR . . . about Onita-san . . .

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. . . which does the intro VTR over again. A funny move (thanks to Nino-kun’s objections), but also suspiciously time-wasting.

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The incident involving Onita-san was about the time he tried to be a pitcher. I already don’t care about pro-wrestling. I can’t even muster the energy for a yawn about a pro-wrestler making a fool of himself trying to pitch.

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Speaking of pitching, though, they move on to baseball moments next. This seems like a sports-heavy episode, doesn’t it? Getting Nino-kun to host a real sports show would be interesting, though maybe having him host a show about video games would be better.

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Even here, the producer couldn’t resist throwing in an Onita moment – in fact, the same pitching moment we already saw. Yes, there’s such a thing as a running gag, but you have to leave at least a few minutes between instances, or the whole show becomes one big Onita Atsushi gag.

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Continuing with the sports theme but with a much more solemn story, we find out about Bernhard Trautmann, who played for Manchester City (soccer/football) right after World War II. The British fans were still understandably hostile to Germany and Germans, and therefore not particularly warm to Trautmann. He wasn’t just a German – he had been a paratrooper in the war and was actually captured by the British. Tens of thousands of people came out to protest his signing to the team.

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That coldness toward the Manchester City goalie ended in the FA Cup in 1956, when Trautmann sustained an injury while making a save, but continued to play anyway, making vital saves on his team’s way to victory.

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The injury turned out to be a broken neck. Don’t worry, though – not only did he survive and continue playing soccer, but he’s still alive today at the ripe old age of 89. The VTR didn’t make clear what happened to him after the FA Cup, by the way, so the disturbed faces stayed on Nino-kun and Chihara-san. I was shocked that they didn’t explain that he was all right.

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That sort of broke the fun mood that the show had tried to create with the whole Onita thing. It’s all fun and games until someone breaks his neck.

Anyway, they went on with the sports stuff, going to sumo:

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That’s American-born Akebono Taro-san, who became the first non-Japanese-born wrestler to reach the rank of yokozuna. His birthday is May 8th, but since he was born on Hawaii on the other side of the date line, it’s May 9th in Japan. Fair enough.

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The show got weird after that. First, there was a woman . . .

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. . . who dressed up as a turtle. I don’t really care about the story behind it – as long as it happened on May 9th, it’s always worth seeing a woman walking down the street dressed in a turtle costume.

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But how the heck did we get down to underwear?

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The World Cup excuse is a stretch . . .

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. . . and eventually I come to the conclusion that they just wanted to show women in unusual bras.

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There was also a guest model and a marketing person:

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Oh, and Nino-kun got to try on bra glasses:

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So .  . . okay, there were two good things about the episode. First, at least it was much more coherent than the previous ones, which seemed to go all over the place with the VTRs. Also, the VTRs actually got some reactions out of Nino-kun. I didn’t really notice him react as much in the first two episodes.

The downside, of course, was that it was all VTR. I mean, we were back to episode 1 levels or worse. While Chihara-san is a great guest for this sort of thing, I hesitate to think what it would have been like with someone less quick with witty comments.

The main problem with having so many VTRs was that Ninomiya-kun really didn’t have much to do except for some banter and trying on the bra glasses at the end. If they’re going to call the show “Nino-san”, shouldn’t they put the show’s namesake to better use?

Oh, and all the graphic tackiness was annoying, too. I much preferred the attic set of the first episode over the studio set in the second and the inspirational/spacey set here. I should have timed how long they spent on graphic transitions/title sequences.

I still haven’t seen a format I’ve liked, but I guess I’ll give it a couple more episodes.