Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) is a music variety show hosted by Japanese idol group Hey! Say! Jump that showcases the song-and-dance skills of the Johnny’s Entertainment agency’s most recently debuted groups – A.B.C-Z and Sexy Zone – as well as the agency’s trainees (known as juniors).

This episode started with “Ame no Melody” from Kinki Kids. Bakaleya 4 (that is, the Bakaleya team without Jesse-kun and Matsumura Hokuto-kun) took the stage with noon boyz first, in what continues to be introduced as one of two new six-member groupings. They were soon followed by the other new team – the Bad Boys with Iwamoto Hikaru, Fukusawa Tatsuya, Yasui Kentaro, Hagiya Keigo, Morohoshi Shoki, and Morita Myuto.

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Jesse-kun and Hokuto-kun took the stage as a pair to close out that song, with some of the Elder Juniors including Masuda Ryo-kun supporting.

Then A.B.C-Z took over, singing “InaZuma Venus”. This singing could easily be used as the theme song for something – it sounds fit for an anime, actually.

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We get the three-person Sexy Zone again this time, but apparently Marius-kun and Matsushima-kun will be rejoining the group next month, so fans can breathe a sigh of relief. But if you’re interested in this group, please be vigilant for the sake of the kids.

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Anyway, they performed “Kimi no Tame, Boku ga Iru”. Sato-kun wrote the lyrics for this one, and is making some progress with his vocals by the sound of his solo line. Kento-kun and Fuma-kun had no trouble, of course.

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That concluded the intro sequence. HSJ hosts Arioka Daiki-kun, Nakajima Yuto-kun, and Takaki Yuya-kun started the opening talk about the theme for the episode – Rain (in English). Extra points for starting with a rain song (“Ame no Melody”), and since inazuma is lightning, “InaZuma Venus” was rain-related, too. Yuto-kun notes that there are a lot of famous rain songs, so I trust we’ll be getting even more theme-related songs going forward.

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The junior melody was next, with Sexy Boyz  minus Marius and Sou (Kuramoto, Haniuda, Iwahashi, Jinguji, Nakamura Reia, and Takahashi Fuu) doing “Ame Datte”. There never seems to be a stable line-up for Sexy Boyz, and I was going to write what I usually call this group – Think Yuuki (except Kishi Yuta is no longer in the mix) – until I saw the song was assigned to Sexy Boyz. Oh, well.

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To my great surprise, Jinguji-kun and Iwahashi-kun did the next song as a duo, and it was KinKi Kids’ “Yokubou no Rain”. I loved the dance Nakajima Kento-kun did to this song a while back. These two did a less energetic version of that dance – fewer dizzying spins, but not bad considering their age. There was a fan service moment that was . . . I think I would describe it as awkward and unnecessary. The crowd gave a token scream, but I’ve heard much louder screams from the crowd in NHK Hall, so I’m not sure it was even much of a service to the fans. Still, I’m sure it’ll get some buzz, and maybe that’s all they were aiming for.

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The rest of Think Y- . . . I mean SB . . . returned to the stage for “back to BACK” with Miyachika Kaito-kun at center stage, and that was another surprise since I’ve never seen him highlighted before. He did a find job with it, though a quick one. Also featured (that is, also with little name plaques under them as they danced and microphones in their hands) were Kakuta Yuusei-kun, Matsukura Kaito-kun, Hayashi Ippei-kun, and Matsuda Genta-kun. I assume they’re all Twenty Twenty kids. Now that I’ve got that junior database, I can finally figure out all their names!

They wrapped things up with “Kanjiru Mama ni You & I” and “SUPERSONIC”, and for some reason, they threw Kishi Yuta-kun in here. Where was he at the start? So confusing. Nice to see him, though – he always brings a lot of energy.

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That was really an excellent junior medley. The one awkward moment aside, this was just a brilliant stage from these particular juniors. I was especially impressed with Miyachika-kun’s stage presence and the closing number – “SUPERSONIC”.

After that, the three hosts interviewed the member of NYC – Nakayama Yuma-kun, Yamada Ryosuke-kun, and Chinen Yuri-kun.

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Well, seeing Yuma-kun as the guest in the previous episode, I was totally waiting for this. They talked about rain, but all I was interested in was what they were going to perform, crossing my fingers for “Yuuki 100%” and “Haina” and . . . nothing else.

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. . . went on to “Yoku Asobi, Yoku Manabe” . . .

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. . . then finally “Haina” and “Yuuki 100%”.

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I thought they had saved the best for last, but then they sang “Yume Tamago” to close out the medley.

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That was a mean trick, but at least they left out “Wonderful Cupid”. Playing all but one of their singles . . . you’d think they were releasing an album. Might not be a bad thing if they did (as long as they leave out “Wonderful Cupid”), but I think it was just because it’s so rare to see Yuma-kun sharing the Shounen Club stage with the other two.

The Kansai juniors took charge next with help from A.B.C-Z hosts Hashimoto-kun and Goseki-kun.

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It was the usual suspects again – B.A.D. and 7WEST. They had to do manzai (pair stand-up comedy) sketches.

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I’m afraid this is extremely language-dependent and . . . yeah, I have no clue what was going on – total failure of Japanese comprehension. Superficially, it looked like they were doing a great job, though – they had very good flow, which is critical to manzai.

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Fortunately, they also do a performance as part of their corner, and that’s a lot easier for non-Japanese speakers to enjoy. The song was “Big Game”, and the heavy electronic instrumentation wasn’t really my style, and the dance struck me was a bit more haphazard than usual, but at least there was the usual energy from this lot.

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Still wish they’d get more Kansai juniors in . . . .

Anyway, the hosts immediately redirected us to the Jesse-Hokuto performance of KAT-TUN’s “Star Rider”.

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There are definite signs of improvement in Hokuto-kun’s voice, and that was nice to hear.

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The dance was sharp and thoroughly enjoyable to watch. This was the first performance from this duo that I have no qualms about.

Kento-kun and Fuma-kun handled the Shokura You Bin fanmail segment next.

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After explaining the problem brought up by the fan (which, as far as I could tell, was how to deal with one’s own stomach growling) and discussing it a bit . . .

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. . . they brought in the expert help for the next fan’s issue. That expert help took the form of Hashimoto-kun and Goseki-kun:

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The two experts did a skit with what seemed to be a wake-up call.

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All of this gave time of the HSJ guys to get ready for their performance of “Come On A My House” – their new single.

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Nice to see them performing the song in the Shounen Club closest to, but not after, the release of the single.

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The performance itself was solid, and interestingly there seemed to be an attempt to spread the camera time a bit (at the price of the image occasionally going out of focus).

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As I’ve already indicated before, I’m not particularly enthusiastic about the song, and the choreography isn’t in the top 10 of my favorite HSJ dances. So, while the members did their best with it, there was a built-in limit to how much I could like this stage.

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Following that, Totsuka-kun and Kawai-kun were our guides to the Ki ni Naru 2020 segment, where we will meet more members of the Big New Thing (I’m still not sure how to characterize the unit Twenty Twenty – is it an Olympic booster group, a junior unit – which we’ve not seen perform as a unit yet, or something else?).

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The members we met this time were Suzuki Shunei-kun, who had a bit of trouble saying his name so that everyone could understand it. His admired senpai was actually Iwahashi Genki-kun, who’s only a bit ahead of him, but every little bit counts, I guess. In my little database, I also had him down as admiring Yamashita Tomohisa-kun, Takizawa Hideaki-kun, but he didn’t mention them . . . .

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The next new Twenty Twenty member was Muraki Ryota-kun. On the topic of admired senpai, he mentioned Fujigaya-kun and Yamashita-kun.

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The last entry was Motodaka Katsuki-kun, who seemed to be the most conversant of the bunch.

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I wasn’t quite as pleased with this trio as with the previous entries into Twenty Twenty. Only Motodaka-kun seemed to acquit himself well on stage.

The next performance was a Sato Shori-kun solo – “Onaji Sora no Shita” – with lyrics by him again. I have to say, I do like that he’s interested in writing lyrics.

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His voice is settling down, and he’s clearly been practicing quite a lot. He’s hitting notes and just needs to get a bit more force behind them, which he should be able to do in a matter of time. For now, it sounds like there’s some post-production work on his voice. My main concern about his abilities seems to be vanishing.

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His dancing is also a bit better – not as loose as Kento-kun, Fuma-kun, or Matsushima-kun, but a step in the right direction. He was more at-ease than I’ve seen him before.

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So yeah, I’ll call this a good stage for Sato Shori-kun.

Junior ni Q was next, picking up on the topic of things the juniors have been . . . let’s just say interested in, because I’m having trouble with a more literal translation of it. Hagiya Keigo-kun was first with . . . electrical outlets? Really?

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If I’m reading it right, Masuda Ryo-kun wants to fix lyrics in Japanese – he gives the example of turning the English lyrics in KMF2’s “Everybody Go” back into Japanese. That leads Yabu-kun to convert the “shadow” in “Mayonaka no Shadow Boy” into “kage” (影 – shadow).

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As anticipated from last week, we got the explanation from Matsuda Genta-kun for why he put “Yamada” in such glaring handwriting. He cited Yamada-kun’s performance of “Perfume”.

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Matsukura Kaito-kun also wrote his answer firmly, and with two exclamation points – グミ (gumi – gum drops/gummy candy).

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Last was Takahashi Fuu-kun who answered with Miyachika, who he does a gag with. So, naturally they had to bring Miyachika on as well.

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A.B.C-Z performed what I think is a new song for Shounen Club unless my memory is failing me (again) – “Walking On Clouds”. Appropriate to the title, they got the fog machine going for this one.

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I thought the start of this song was good, but it went downhill. It would have been a significant bit better if the song’s lyrics didn’t include the group’s name – that’s just bad form except in a debut single or if it makes particular sense in context (arashi being used to mean storm, for instance). It was a let-down – the beginning of the song made me expect something better was coming up.

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The dancing was . . . A.B.C-Z. There were some acrobatic highlights, though.

The finale was a true classic – SMAP’s “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana”. All of the older juniors who performed earlier in the episode were on stage from the start of the song.

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And after that sweet ending, there was a Shori-kun Omake segment. He offered up a haiku (really, what do you expect when they only give him thirty seconds? He didn’t even get to properly interview Kitayama-kun that one time).

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Altogether, I thought this episode was just plain delightful, right through. There were a couple of problems, though. First, the only song that seemed new to Shounen Club was the A.B.C-Z performance, and that struck me as lackluster. More importantly, now that we’ve seen both episodes for the month, I’m left wondering where the chibi stage was. We had two hours of content and I don’t remember seeing them at all. Did I just miss them backdancing somewhere? But even if I did, it used to be the case that we’d get the likes of Inoue Mizuki-kun and his chibi cohort at center stage for at least one song a month, but either I slept through it (I usually watch these late at night) or it didn’t happen this time.

I appreciate that they’re giving screen time to a lot of juniors with the whole Twenty Twenty thing, but I hope the agency isn’t planning to take the chibis out of Shounen Club completely. I can understand the to do so motive – ever since April, I’ve gotten the sense that they wanted to clean up Shounen Club and make it look more professional rather than what it was – a nationally broadcast proving ground. There’s plenty of incentive for the agency to keep their performers hidden until they can take the stage with more experience. The downside is that it robs the very thing that made Shounen Club unique – that we really got to see the kids improve over time.

This episode was about on equal ground with the last episode in terms of entertainment value, and I can confidently give it a 9 out of 10, though for different reasons than last week’s episode got its rating. This time the highlights were the first junior medley, “Star Rider” with Jesse-Hokuto, the finale, and for more specific reasons, Sato Shori-kun’s solo.