Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) is a music variety show usually 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). For this month, HSJ has been busy with promotional efforts, so the other two groups handled the hosting.

Juniors Jinguji Yuta-kun and Iwahashi Genki-kun handled the title call for this episode as their usual team combined with some Twenty Twenty members – most visibly Miyachika Kaito-kun and Matsuda Genta-kun – started the opening medley with “Hurricane”, “Kitto Daijoubu”, and “to the Freedom.”

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0002013.07.10 Shounen Club 001

Then Jesse-kun and Matsumura Hokuto-kun joined in to conclude “to the Freedom”. I have to say that the ‘dancing’ from these two left me shaking my head – it was sort of a weak attempt at sexy. Nice vocal stylings from Jesse-kun, though.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0022013.07.10 Shounen Club 003

Then noon boyz mixed in with the rest for “Sakura Sake”. We also had a skateboarder and a rollerskater on stage.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 004

It would have been good to end with “Sakura Sake”, but for some reason they went back to “Hurricane”, making for a very jarring transition.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 005

While I appreciated the mix of juniors in the opening medley, it felt musically haphazard. The camera focus was on the most popular pairs (Jinguji-Iwahashi, Jesse-Hokuto), though Nakamura Reia-kun did his best whenever the camera swung by his way.

The primary hosts were once again Sexy Zone’s Nakajima Kento-kun, Sato Shori-kun, and Kikuchi Fuma-kun, though if last episode was any indication, A.B.C-Z will get just as much hosting time if not more.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 006

The theme for the episode was Friends (仲間 – nakama) . . .

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 007

. . . which somehow led these three to perform a song about rivals – “GAME”.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 008

I didn’t get a screenshot of it, but they did a three-way split screen during the performance. It seems like the director of Shounen Club is eager to try some unexpected effects out. I don’t think it had quite the effect that he or she might have been looking for, but it didn’t detract from the performance, either.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 009

Shori-kun’s voice was weak and unexpectedly high. I thought we had heard his voice settle down into a slightly lower register, but here it was back to being very unsteady. Is it because he was sticking to his original notes in the song instead of having them transposed to his current voice?

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 010

So far in this episode, the cameras have been moving around excessively, and are getting shots that are both zoomed-in too much and way too distant. When it was too close, the foreheads of the performers kept getting cut-off. On the flip side, there’s no excuse for getting the curtain over the stage in a shot:

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 011The dances have to be choreographed pretty precisely and I’m sure the performers go consistently to the same places on stage every time to avoid bumping into one another, so there’s no reason why the camera work couldn’t be figured out at a rehearsal. From the look of things, it’s as if the camerapeople don’t feel like they need to show up to rehearsals.

The performance itself was solid, and the song is definitely one of the better ones SZ has in its repertoire (actually, the groups has a striking number of good songs that they rarely feature on Shounen Club).

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 012

Next up, A.B.C-Z’s Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun – the same pair that handled a lot of the hosting work in the previous episode – made their first appearance in the Ki ni Naru 2020 segment, where members of the group Twenty Twenty are introduced.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 013

This time, we got three younger members – all in their first year of middle school.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 014

First, Tamamoto Fumito-kun (玉元風海人), who made sure to enunciate his given name (Kawai-kun is also a Fumito, but he’s Fumi-to with two kanji whereas Tamamoto-kun is Fu-mi-to with three kanji).

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0152013.07.10 Shounen Club 016

The middle kid was Hayashi Ren-kun (林蓮音), who introduced himself by saying that he shared Totsuka-kun’s birthday (November 13th). Kawai-kun immediately noted that he was great at acrobatics – famous for it, even – and he got to demonstrate a phenomenal flip.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0182013.07.10 Shounen Club 019

And last but not least, Haba Yuki-kun (羽場友紀) is a familiar face around the chibi juniors. It’s amazing that he’s actually older than Kuramoto Kaoru-kun, not to mention Kuramoto-kun’s senpai by a year. He introduced himself by saying that he’s a fan of Sakurai Sho-san.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0202013.07.10 Shounen Club 021

Each of the three had ample time to give other details about themselves. It’s about time some of the chibis were introduced as members of Twenty Twenty – these three will be twenty years old in 2020. Many of the other members introduced so far will be even older in the group’s namesake year. I doubt the older members will still be in it by the time 2020 rolls around – they’ll either be in other debuted groups, in alternative activities, or out of the organization. These three, however, might actually still be in Twenty Twenty when it comes time to perform during the hoped-for Tokyo Olympics.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 022

The next performance featured some juniors on the borderline between chibi and mid-teen, though their dance skills were superior to what I’d normally expect from juniors their age (or, everyone is getting shorter) as they did “Maybe Your Love”.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 024

Even though they simply introduced as juniors, these were definitely members of Twenty Twenty. Why aren’t they introduced as members of Twenty Twenty?

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 025

The young fellows we met earlier entered the stage late, led by perennial chibi leader Inoue Mizuki-kun. But after “Maybe Your Love”, Inoue-kun’s team took the lead on the next song – Tackey-san’s “With Love”.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0262013.07.10 Shounen Club 0272013.07.10 Shounen Club 028

This seemed like a more traditional stage for the younger juniors, except that there was some added fun with fans (the kind you hold, not the kind that cheer) and there was one junior who was doing a great job laying on stylized vocals. That junior was 12 year-old Kaneda Yousei-kun (金田耀生).

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0292013.07.10 Shounen Club 030

I’ve been waiting to see what the younger juniors have been up to after being absent last month, and this was excellent work. Well worth the wait. The cameras also had an easier time keeping them in-frame because they don’t move around quite as much as their senpai.

A.B.C-Z’s Hashimoto-kun and Goseki-kun took care of the Kansai segment.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0312013.07.10 Shounen Club 032

The task for the Kansai juniors this time was to audition for a theatrical company – basically an open invitation for them to mess around in dramatic fashion. But instead of leaving it too open-ended, they narrowed down the prompt to a specific scene where Nakama Junta-kun played a foreigner trying to ask a question in his native tongue.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 033

It still ended up being a case of them messing around. Kiriyama-kun’s version was the best in my opinion.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 034

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0352013.07.10 Shounen Club 0362013.07.10 Shounen Club 037

For the Kansai junior live, Kin Kan started it off performing KinKi Kids’ “2nd Movement”. Nice to see them do some senpai songs, and the vocals came through well.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0402013.07.10 Shounen Club 041

Being able to focus on just the three of them with the juniors backing them up was a huge improvement compared to what we normally see on the Kansai junior live – a very, very crowded stage.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0422013.07.10 Shounen Club 043

This was a brilliant performance from Kin Kan. With SZ doing a three-person performance earlier in the episode, there are inevitable comparisons. Kento-kun and Fuma-kun have the clear vocal advantage. However, insofar as pulling off a cool image and being engaging, I think Kin Kan wins.

Speaking of the three SZ hosts, they got to interview Uchi Hiroki-kun next. Didn’t we already do this in the last episode? I suppose this means we’re going to get another song from him?

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0442013.07.10 Shounen Club 0452013.07.10 Shounen Club 0462013.07.10 Shounen Club 047

Yup. Uchi-kun sang Shounentai’s “Hoshikuzu no Spangle” (星屑のスパンコール – Stardust Spangle). I’ve never heard the song before and luckily, the opening verse was really simple requiring very little range, so Uchi-kun didn’t do too bad a job of it. Because it was so straightforward, he also thankfully omitted his attempt at vocal ornamentation.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0492013.07.10 Shounen Club 0502013.07.10 Shounen Club 051

By the time the first chorus came around, he had ample vocal backup. More competent vocalists including Jesse-kun, Taiga-kun  and Masuda Ryo-kun, along with Yasui Kentaro-kun and noon boyz, covered up for their senpai.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0522013.07.10 Shounen Club 0532013.07.10 Shounen Club 054

Thanks to the intervention, it was a decent performance. Nothing that the juniors couldn’t have done on their own – it’s such an easy song, it’s a total yawn for them.

Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun were back for the Ki ni Naru J segment – this time introducing a non-Twenty Twenty junior (presumably – it’s hard to keep track).  As a result, we got a special dose of Hashimoto Ryo-kun’s irrepressible smile.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0552013.07.10 Shounen Club 056

I don’t have a date for when he entered Johnny’s, but it must be around three years ago, so it was sort of a surprise to see that he was still only twelve.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0572013.07.10 Shounen Club 058

His hobby is reading, which bodes well.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0592013.07.10 Shounen Club 061

After I complained about the absence of chibis in June, suddenly we seem to be getting a flurry of them – it might be better if it was all spread out more evenly.

Next up, the Bad Boys team (Iwamoto-kun, Fukusawa-kun, and the other major junior contributors to the drama Bad Boys J) performed Kis-My-Ft2’s “Dancing Star”.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0622013.07.10 Shounen Club 0632013.07.10 Shounen Club 064

Okay, they did a great job, but here’s my problem: should I get excited about them when Bakaleya Six got no serious backing from the agency once the flurry of attention from that drama and movie died away? Won’t this group – conveniently another group of six – just go through the same arc ending with the movie release? If Bakaleya had continued to be a stable entity with some hope of debuting as a unit, I think the excitement about this Bad Boys unit would be much higher than it is, because there would be every hope that they, too, would be on the fast track. Now, though, there’s no such impression.

Kento-kun and Fuma-kun took care of their usual Shokura You Bin corner (which they handle even when HSJ is present).

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0652013.07.10 Shounen Club 066

But even here, they couldn’t do without A.B.C-Z members. Kawai-kun and Hashimoto-kun offered their expertise.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0672013.07.10 Shounen Club 068

The experts decided they needed Uchi-kun to play a role as well – he was the friend who doesn’t say goodbye when everyone else (at a party, for instance) has left.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0692013.07.10 Shounen Club 0702013.07.10 Shounen Club 071

What should Hashimoto-kun do to encourage Uchi-kun to go home?

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0722013.07.10 Shounen Club 073

Kawai-kun also had to present a solution to the Uchi-won’t-go-home problem.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0742013.07.10 Shounen Club 0752013.07.10 Shounen Club 0772013.07.10 Shounen Club 078

The audience was certainly satisfied with the result:

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0792013.07.10 Shounen Club 080

A.B.C-Z’s song for the episode was “My life”. It suddenly occurred to me – we’ve seen a lot of red costumes in this episode, haven’t we? SZ, Twenty Twenty, Kin Kan, and now this – it’s been red and black all the way.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 081

The music was good and the performance reasonably sharp except for one point when the vocals from Totsuka-kun and Kawai-kun were shockingly bad.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 082

Hashimoto-kun’s singing is a saving grace, though.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0832013.07.10 Shounen Club 084

Okay, on to Junior ni Q, which was hosted by . . . you guessed it! Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun!

The first junior to tell us what he likes to eat when the weather’s hot was Hokuto-kun, who answered with green tea.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 085

Kawai-kun got on his case because it isn’t something you eat, but I’m on Hokuto-kun’s side on this one as I was with Nakamura Reia-kun. In the summer, the line between food and drink becomes blurry, especially once your ice cream melts.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 086

I think Sanada Yuma-kun answered with cucumber, which is a fair choice.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 087

Miyachika-kun went with starch syrup (水あめ), which wouldn’t go down well for me.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 088

Yasui Kentaro-kun opted for . . . what the heck is ethnic (エスニック) supposed to mean? He offers tom yum goong – a Thai soup dish – as an example.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0892013.07.10 Shounen Club 090

Next up, a mysterious hooded figure took to the stage to perform the song “FaKe”, which he wrote the lyrics to.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0922013.07.10 Shounen Club 093

It was Kikuchi Fuma-kun, and while I love his singing, the music irritated the heck out of me – I don’t do the obnoxiously electronic style.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0942013.07.10 Shounen Club 095

I also could have done without the rap portion – it would have been a beautiful vocal performance without it.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 0962013.07.10 Shounen Club 0972013.07.10 Shounen Club 098

So . . . call it a mixed bag on this one. Just not my style.

With that, it was time to call it a night, and the job of closing things out was left to . . . yes, A.B.C-Z. They did “Dream ~5つの願い~” (Dream Itsutsu no Negai).

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 1022013.07.10 Shounen Club 103

It was an appropriate finale song and Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun both found their notes and the right tone in this one.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 1042013.07.10 Shounen Club 105

While there were other juniors on stage, it was definitely an A.B.C-Z moment.

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 1062013.07.10 Shounen Club 107

So, how about some omake? Wait, it’s Uchi-kun . . . maybe I’ll pass . . . but hold on – is Shori-kun seriously giving Uchi a signed Shori uchiwa as a gift!?

2013.07.10 Shounen Club 108And that’s the way it was.

Once again, I felt really positive about the first half, and then less enthusiastic about the latter portion of the show. Camera work aside, I thought the opening was all right though far from a highlight and the SZ performance was about the same. The highlights were the Twenty Twenty, Kin Kan, and Bad Boys performances. Nothing wrong with the A.B.C-Z offerings except for that Kawai-Totsuka singing iffiness I noted, but I also felt like I saw way too much of A.B.C-Z in this episode, particularly by the time we got to their performances near the end. The talk portions also seemed to dominate the second half of the show.

The Fuma performance is a bit difficult to judge – it’ll depend heavily on the viewer’s preferred style of music.

We got some new material in this episode, but nothing that really grabbed my attention.

Except for the three highlight performances, this episode was generally weaker than the last episode, so I have to give it a 7 out of 10. I’ll be looking forward to HSJ’s return next month.