After Ninomiya-kun prompted Sakurai-san for the necessary plug of Kazoku Game at the start of this VS Arashi (VS 嵐). . .

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. . . and then checked in with Aiba-kun, who did his best to make the audience laugh in a loving way . . .

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. . . we met the opposing team for this episode – the Beautiful Caster team (美人キャスター – bijin caster) composed of Kobayashi Maya-san (小林麻耶), Nagano Misato-san (長野美郷), Kaito Aiko-san (皆藤愛子), Shiota Reiko-san (潮田玲子), Kanda Aika-san (神田愛花), and Tamaki Aoi-san (玉木碧). This team could go either way in terms of keeping things interesting.

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Unless I misunderstood, this is Kobayashi-san’s first time on, and her younger sister worked with Sakurai-san on NEWS ZERO.

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Ninomiya-kun had some comments about Tamaki-san’s look, also noting that Ohno-san took her for an elementary school student.

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The plus one guests were Mitsuura Yasuko-san (光浦靖子) and Ookubo Kayoko-san (大久保佳代子), the comedy duo Oashizu. They could also go either way in terms of entertainment value. We’ll just have to see.

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The first game was Korokoro Viking so, because the pattern continues to hold, the last game will be Kicking Sniper. I wish it wasn’t that predictable, but there you are.

Handling the orange scoring zone for the Caster team were Shiota-san and Kobayashi-san. Matsumoto-kun brought up the point here that Shiota-san isn’t really a caster – she’s famous as a badminton player. Shiota-san replied that it’s her ambition to become a caster and she’s studied up on other sports, so that’s fair enough.

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Kobayashi-san is energetic, giving me hope that this team will be fun to watch. Nagano-san and Tamaki-san in the purple zone also seemed to be ready for action.

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For the Arashi team, Sakurai-san, Aiba-kun, and Ookubo-san took the critical orange zone, with Aiba-Ookubo on one side.

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Of course, Ookubo-san took this opportunity to make the audience squeal.

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Arashi has been failing badly at this game – hitting the -50 point slot far more than they should. Will it go the same way this time, or will their skills shine? As long as they stay positive, we can call it a win.

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Finally and at long last we get to see Popcorn Hitter – a new game introduced at the beginning of the year but barely played since. But this is not the same Popcorn Hitter – they’ve decided to change the game quite significantly. Instead of putting the net all around the player, which made it very hard to see what was happening, they put the target on one side. The holes where the balls pop out of are also on that side, so the player doesn’t have to get dizzy trying to hit them.

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I definitely approve of this change, and I hope it means that they’ll be playing this game more from now on. There was a detracting factor, though – they used to put songs in the background, but now have some really annoying sounds (I don’t think it qualifies as music).

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Mitsuura-san is ready:

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Will the new arrangement work out as planned?

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Kobayashi-san, Kaito-san, and badminton player Shiota-san. Actually, Kaito-san has also played badminton for a year, so there’s some real experience here. I hope that doesn’t mean we’re only going to get to see this game when there are some badminton/tennis players as guests.

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We also get another game we haven’t seen much of lately – Jungle Bingo. As usual, they begin by trying to plan which boxes they will aim for. Will the members of the Arashi team really end up sticking to the plan? I can tell you one thing – Ookubo-san and Mitsuura-san sure shouted a lot to each other to try to get through it.

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On the Caster team’s turn . . .

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. . . Tamaki-san not only got the headcam, but she also ended up showing off her specialty – singing songs from Disney musicals. She did “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.

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She is so delightfully earnest, if she get a smile out of you here . . . .

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She’s definitely one of my favorites now.

The Caster team decides to go for the T:

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The fourth game was Pinball Runner, with Ookubo-san doing the hard work for Arashi, and Sakurai-san, Mitsuura-san, and Matsumoto-kun calling out the numbers for her. I’m not sure the voice Mitsuura-san plans to call the pink ball numbers in will work.

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Kanda-san was the runner for the Caster team with Nagano-san, Tamaki-san, and Shiota-san supporting.

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Seems like Kanda-san is a bit tired due to her schedule.

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To pep her up, Tamaki-san sang “shinpai nai sa” (roughly, ‘don’t worry’) into the mic. As if she hasn’t already won enough regard from me, she follows that up by giving Ohno-san respect (using that word specifically) for his singing voice – doing so completely unprompted.

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Ohno-san’s attempt to sing “shinpai nai sa” was, of course, played for laughs.

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Last was, of course, Kicking Sniper. The entire Caster team went up, alternating in pairs to kick.

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Can you believe there’s even more to Tamaki-san than her excellent singing voice, respect for Ohno-san, and all-around good nature? How about that she’s a Kendo (剣道 – swordsmanship) 3-dan (the equivalent of a third-level black belt)? I think I’m in love. She mentions that by way of explaining her strong kick – because holding a stance is super-important in swordsmanship, so they have to build strong leg muscles.

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Naturally, they make her demonstrate both her singing and her kendo at the same time:

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After that, all Arashi had to do was try their best. Aiba-kun, MatsuJun, and the Oashizu pair took on the task.

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MatsuJun sounds confident.

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But they’re also hoping for Miracle Aiba to show up here:

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There you have it. I think this was an excellent and constantly engaging episode. We got two games we don’t normally see – games I had been pining for. More importantly, though, the Caster team brought a lot of energy, simultaneously playing well and contributing to the entertainment value of the show. In fact, I’d say they were definitely more fun than the plus one guests even though Mitsuura-san and Ookubo-san didn’t do badly in their own right.

Among the Arashi members, I think all of them contributed relatively equally to the show. Nino-kun had some clever comments, as did Sakurai-san. Ohno-san got the first chance at the new Popcorn Hitter as well as that interaction with Tamaki-san. Aiba-kun’s interactions with Ookubo-san throughout Korokoro Viking were fun, not to mention the Miracle Aiba thing at the end. MatsuJun’s moments weren’t quite as obvious, but he did have his moment of confidence during Kicking Sniper. Nino-kun, Ohno-san, and Aiba-kun were a notch ahead of the other two, but I think it’s fair to just say they were all equally interesting this time and leave it at that.