This is probably going to be the second VS Arashi (VS 嵐)in a row in which I find the plus one guests more interesting than the team opposing Arashi, but before we get to that, the members of Arashi take the opportunity to mention their new single, “Endless Game”.

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Always good to do that. And once again, Sakurai-san addresses Aiba-kun in the opening talk. He did that last time, too, and it ended up being Aiba-kun’s main contribution to the show. I hope that isn’t the case this time, too.

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The team opposing Arashi was led by veteran actor Watanabe Hiroyuki-san (渡辺裕之) and included soccer player Honda Yasuto-san (本田泰人), baseball player Kataoka Ayumi-san (片岡安祐美), fashion model Suzuki Nana-san (鈴木奈々), and comedians Ayabe Yuuji-san (綾部祐二) and Murakami Kenji-san (村上 健志).

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What does such a motley crew of individuals have in common? They’re all Ibaraki-born, making them the Ibaraki team. With such a loose pretext for association, perhaps you can see why I wasn’t quite as interested in this team. There’s some strength here – the two athletes can certainly give Arashi a run for it – but I’m not too sure about the team spirit since they can’t have worked together much.

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The plus one guests, however, were Sawabe Yuu-san and Yoshitaka Yuriko-san (吉高由里子) from the drama Galileo 2. Sawabe-san has been doing a lot of work with Arashi, and especially with Aiba-kun, so there’s little doubt that he can get into a good flow with them. I haven’t been keeping up with the dramas this season for various reasons, but I still intend to watch through Galileo 2, and seeing Yoshitaka-san outside of her drama role will help me get a better sense of who she is.

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Why is Sawabe-san dressed like Yoshitaka-san’s manager instead of in something more appropriate for the show? When Aiba-kun points this out, Sawabe-san has some fun with it, but ends up laughing way too much to pull the joke off.

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For the first game, Dual Curling, Sawabe-san keeps the suit on, so maybe he’ll just sweat it out. I hope they give him some heavy exercise.

At the beginning of Dual Curling, though, the focus is on these characters:

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They are, of course, Ibaraki mascots, but I don’t know anything more about them. Cute, though.

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The players in the first round were Ayabe-san, Kataoka-san, and Watanabe-san for the Ibaraki team, and Yoshitaka-san, Sawabe-san, and Aiba-kun for Arashi. No surprise seeing Aiba-kun and Sawabe-san side-by-side. But why was Yoshitaka-san caught off-guard by the question about whether she was confident or not? Hasn’t she watched any variety shows – it’s sort of a standard question.

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Let the games begin!

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For the second round, it was Murakami-san, Suzuki-san, and Honda-san for Ibaraki and Sakurai-san, Ohno-san, and MatsuJun for Arashi.

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But it’s hard to ignore the elephants in the room:

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I didn’t understand the dialogue, but the bit where Murakami-san looked surly and Sakurai-san addressed him seemed interesting. I haven’t seen much of Murakami-san, so I don’t know what his comedy is like.

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The second game was Kicking Sniper, with Honda-san, Ayabe-san, and Murakami-san shooting for Ibaraki.

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Murakami-san decides to try to do lifting with one of the big yellow balls – such an obvious bit of humor that I’m surprised that no one has tried it before. I can’t help but think that somebody must have, but I can’t remember anyone doing it.

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Of course, there is an actual soccer player on the Ibaraki team, and everyone wants to see how he does here.

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There was something about Ayabe-san eating out with Nino-kun, but Nino-kun gave Ayabe-san the cold shoulder here.

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Murakami-san’s mannerisms during the game were interesting, and Nino-kun made a note of them afterward. Murakami-san is proving to be quite a funny fellow.

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Ohno-san, Ninomiya-kun, and Yoshitaka-san handled the kicking for Arashi. I’m not sure the sandals Yoshitaka-san was wearing were suited to kicking . . . I guess we’ll find out. Actually, scrap that – she was useless in this game and her footwear was just symptomatic of the fact that I think he was just having casual fun rather than trying to help the team win. On the bright side, Yoshitaka-san and Sawabe-san had an interesting moment. The two of them at least seem to have an interesting chemistry.

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Ohno-san and Ninomiya-kun had an interesting exchange as well, with Ohno-san emphasizing his role as leader (I’m sure there’s a better way of constructing this sentence to better emphasize the special meaning of ‘leader’ in relation to Ohno, but I can’t think of it right now). Will his performance in the game let Ohno-san drive the point home, or will the others bite back with snarky comments because he didn’t do so well?

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Pinball Runner featured Matsumoto-kun doing the hard work for Arashi and the two plus one guests calling out the numbers for him.

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We find out the secret to the chemistry between Sawabe-san and Yoshitaka-san . . .

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. . . but I’m not sure what led Sakurai-san to stand up and plug his own drama, Kazoku Game, angrily – except that it’s a generally good thing for him to do, of course.

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Too bad they didn’t get Sawabe-san to do the running in that suit.

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For the Ibaraki team, all-time good sport Suzuki Nana-san was up to run. She had the broadest smile on her face throughout the whole thing.

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The entire rest of the team was up to support her.

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For the first time in ages, they played Shotgun Disk. The receiver for Ibaraki was Watanabe-san . . .

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. . . but before he got down to business, he had a bit of fun with an RC helicopter (price: 140,000 yen / $1500):

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I have an undying love of flying machines, so I envy Watanabe-san’s piloting skills, and also his decision to show them off on national TV. Still, are we really going to have people start showing off their hobbies on VS Arashi to fill time?

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Even though I don’t particularly like Shotgun Disk as a game, it was an entirely welcome change from the games we’ve been getting over and over.

Matsumoto-kun was the receiver for Arashi, with Nino-kun and Sawabe-san passing to him. At least here Sawabe-san will get a workout in that suit of his.

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They try to do a gag where they call him Watanabe and Abe (and in Sakurai’s case, Antonio) instead of Sawabe, but Sawabe-san can’t pull it off because he keeps laughing. The gag only works if the target of it keeps a straight face and seems genuinely offended at being called by the wrong name.

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The last game was Korokoro Viking (this again . . . ), and while Watanabe-san tells his team to win . . .

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. . . Murakami-san decides it’s time to sing the Ibaraki prefecture song (and they did, keeping it to the short version).

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After that, all that was left was the Arashi turn, which concluded the competition.

So first of all, I’ll give this episode a thumbs-up for at least including Dual Curling and especially Shotgun Disk. Nice to see them starting to mix it up again, and I hope they’ll go further. I want to see more Popcorn Hitter (which was supposed to be the new game for this year, but we’ve only seen twice).

Otherwise, this was an average episode. For the most part, the Ibaraki team focused on playing the games, the plus one guests and Murakami-san focused on bringing the humor, and the members of Arashi handled both as usual. As I’ve indicated, I wasn’t particularly impressed with Sawabe-san’s ability to deliver humorous lines – actually, I think Yoshitaka-san was marginally better at keeping a straight face when trying to be funny. Still, their efforts didn’t come off too badly.

The Ibaraki team was at least better than last week’s team in terms of being energetic and interesting. Not only was there Murakami-san’s humor, which worked better than Sawabe-san’s, but also the completely unexpected (if not for the blasted teasers) helicopter flight from Watanabe-san. Suzuki-san is also always a bright addition.

As for the Arashi members, Ohno-san and Ninomiya-kun were the main contributors to the entertainment side, especially with their exchange during Kicking Sniper, with Sakurai-san scoring some assists. Since Ninomiya-kun started that Kicking Sniper exchange, gave that cold shoulder to Ayabe-san, and was also first to set up Sawabe-san during Shotgun Disk, I think it’s fair to give the Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi of the episode to him.

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