This is a special-purpose episode of Arashi ni Shiyagare (嵐にしやがれ). As the hosts of the 24-hour TV telethon this year (as they were last year), Arashi gets to present the announcement of the telethon’s marathon runner. In previous years, the marathon runners have all pushed themselves to the limit, running much more than just the normal 26 mile marathon during the course of the 24-hour event. Who will have the honor (as well as the tremendous burden) this time? That’s what this Arashi ni Shiyagare is all about.

The guys are all dressed up for the occasion:

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As you can see, the show starts in an unconventional way, with the members talking about who the runner might be in the hallway two floors down from the studio.

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Boarding the elevator to the studio, they show us their entire walk onto the set.

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There’s no audience for this special, but they do have the expert assistance of NTV announcer Kawamura Ryo-san.

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Naturally, they aren’t just going to come out and say who it is, otherwise they’d have nothing to do for the rest of the hour. The plan is that there will be seven potential runners, and the Arashi guys have to guess who it is based on evidence presented.

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After Sakurai-san calls for the set change . . .

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. . . the Arashi members get to see the rather unexpected lineup of seven.

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From left to right, they were Devi Sukarno (デヴィ夫人 – actually, Devi Fujin, which translates to Mrs./Madame Devi – she was a former wife of the Indonesian president Sukarno), Suzuki Nana-san, LiLiCo-san, Itou Asako-san, SHELLY-san, Morisanchuu’s Ooshima-san, and IKKO-san.

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To say they are a motley crew is an understatement, since we’ve got a 73 year-old socialite at one end and a transvestite at the other. Both Madame Devi and Ooshima-san appear on Itte Q. Ooshima-san and Itou-san are both known Arashi fans, with Itou-san even performing the complete dance to “Wild at Heart” in the last 24-hour TV telethon. Probably the person up there I have seen the least frequently is SHELLY-san.

Of course, of all of them, the least likely runner would seem to be IKKO-san, since it would run against a carefully cultivated public image. Will IKKO-san still manage to convince the Arashi guys?

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First, each of the seven gave their reasons for running . . .

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. . . starting with Madame Devi, who cited her recent activities including skydiving and bungee jumping and other wild activities on Itte Q. Perhaps she’s just in the mood for ever-greater challenges? She would be older than the oldest runner so far – Tokumitsu-san.

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Suzuki-san had her reason written down. That’s doesn’t really suggest that it’s something coming out of her own head or heart, but maybe she was just very nervous.

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LiLiCo-san, of course, doesn’t need to read her reason from a script. However, wouldn’t she be the least surprising runner? She seems to be the one most clearly capable of running, and that’s never been the M.O. of the producers of the telethon – they’ve gone with unexpected choices.

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After hearing three people, Sakurai-san had a conjecture to offer regarding their voices.

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I really don’t want it to be Itou-san or Ooshima-san, since they’re both a lot more fun having on-hand during the telethon for comedic purposes. I don’t know enough Japanese to translate their reasons for running, so I can’t really say whether they’re likely or not.

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Itou-san sure looks serious . . .

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. . . but I sensed some skepticism from the Arashi guys.

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I really don’t know anything about SHELLY-san. Usually, they pick someone with a pretty high profile, so is she really a popular-enough talent to be headlining this event? I honestly don’t know.

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Then there was Ooshima-san. Does she look like . . . she lost some weight?

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And finally, there was IKKO-san, who will have to get into a more suitable outfit before being able to convince anyone.

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Actually, I take that back – MatsuJun actually guesses that IKKO-san will be the runner. He’s going for the least likely possibility, and maybe he’s seen through this game.

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Aiba-kun and Sakurai-san both go for the person most obviously suited – LiLiCo-san.

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Having seen a number of these telethons, I know there’s a focus on the elderly, so I think there’s good reason for Ohno-san picking Devi Fujin.

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Ninomiya-kun just looks confused as he picks Itou Asako-san . . . or SHELLY-chan . . . or Ooshima-kun (he uses those honorifics in particular, getting a bit of a laugh on the -kun).

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Sakurai-san called for a set change for the next bit of evidence: seeing the potential runners in their running wear.

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And here I got a real shock. I considered leaving this out as a spoiler, but since there’s already a real spoiler to exclude (who actually is the runner), I present to you IKKO-san in running form:

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So that’s what IKKO-san looks like without the wig! Well, IKKO-san’s willingness to dispense with his character to this extent sure makes MatsuJun’s choice look better.

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Otherwise, just from the clothing, it’s very difficult to tell who’s the real runner.

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The Arashi guys question the seven, checking out whether they’re really ready to run. Special attention was given to Devi Fujin.

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But really, the final challenge, and the one that will reveal the truth, was the treadmills.

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The seven all ran, and the last one still running will be the telethon runner.

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So I’ll have to end the summary of events there to preserve the surprise. As expected, LiLiCo-san looked most comfortable running, with SHELLY-san and Itou-san not far behind. Madame Devi tried her best, but struggled to stay above a walk. But, as I’ve already said, this is not a situation where the person most fit to run has any real advantage.

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At the end of the show, we are reminded of the theme of the telethon with a replay of the way Arashi originally revealed it.

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I think this marathon runner reveal episode was much more fun than last year’s. Last year, I sort of shrugged about the way they did it and there wasn’t enough suspense. We weren’t given choices to choose from, so there was very little way to narrow the possibilities down. Here, with only seven possibilities, it was much more interesting to play along and guess, and then second-guess. While the proceedings involved a lot of talking, it felt less tedious than a normal Arashi ni Shiyagare episode because all the talk was focused on a very definite purpose and point.

There was no way to determine a Most Omoshiroi Arashi for this episode, so I’ll have to pass on that. The only out-of-ordinary thing was Nino-kun picking three people, but I don’t think he should get extra points for being indecisive.

By the way, if you didn’t get enough of IKKO-san, don’t worry – looks like he/she will be the guest in the next (May 18th) episode. Hmm . . . I guess I can’t really avoid using pronouns if IKKO-san is the only guest, so I’ll have to go with ‘she’ in deference to her evident preferences.