There was no ignoring Ohno-san’s tee-shirt at the start of this episode of VS Arashi (VS 嵐), so it was good of Sakurai-san to bring it up right away. It’s definitely good humor, and it got a solid applause. The tee-shirt is also definitely seasonal and, since the Arashi team was coordinated in blue, there was room to take advantage of the sea theme. So, nice choice all around.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 000

Sakurai-san also brought up the other elephant in the room – Arashi’s horrible 1 win 10 loss record since April. But what can they do? The last taking-stock special they had in March seemed to have the opposite effect of what they intended (except that Ohno-san seemed to be participating a bit more actively and Sakurai-san is making more effort on Cliff Climb).

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 001

The team standing between them and victory this time was the Starman ~Kono Hoshi no Koi~ team (hereafter the Starman team) which certainly went young in picking representatives from the drama’s cast:

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 002

Hirosue Ryoko-san (広末涼子) led the team, with its youngest member, four year-old Igarashi Hinata-kun (五十嵐陽向) in her care. I wonder if Hinata-kun is the youngest person to ever appear on VS Arashi. The other members were Fukushi Sota-kun (福士蒼汰), Kuroda Hiroyuki-kun (黒田博之), Naniwa Oji member Onishi Ryusei-kun (大西流星), Koike Eiko-san (小池栄子), Arimura Kasumi-san (有村架純), and EXILE’s KENCHI-san. This is an interesting context to see Onishi-kun in – I’m used to seeing him as the youngest in a group, but here he’s sort of the older brother.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 003

So, will Arashi be able to defeat this very young (on average) team which includes one of their kouhai, or will they continue their losing streak? Working in their favor is the fact that Hirosue-san doesn’t do game or quiz shows. But perhaps that means she’s a wildcard?

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0042013.07.11 VS Arashi 005

Well, I’m not sure that Arashi will get much help from the plus one guests added to their team – could go both ways. The plus one guests were the comedy duo Impulse (インパルス) – the big fella is Tsutsumishita Atsushi-san and his partner is Itakura Toshiyuki-san. Comedians can be surprisingly athletic because physical humor requires a lot of energy, but they can also go for laughs instead of a win. I think we’re long overdue for an athlete as plus one guest to help get Arashi out of this slump, but at least Tsutsumishita-san seems ready for action.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0072013.07.11 VS Arashi 008

The first game was Korokoro Viking (so . . . I guess that means Kicking Sniper will be the last game, right?) and the Starman team was up first. We found out that Hirosue-san has the kids well-trained, as she quizzed Kuroda-kun on which balls were the golden balls worth double the points (the fourth and last).

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0092013.07.11 VS Arashi 010

But will that be enough with Hirosue-san, Kuroda-kun, and Fukushi-kun handling the key orange zone?

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 011

Here, right away, I got to see a new side of Onishi-kun, who conveyed an amazing degree of poise, maturity, and confidence in this short moment – at least, for an eleven year-old. Heck, he did well for a sixteen year-old.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 012

KENCHI-san and Koike-san also had an interesting exchange. Fukushi-kun had to reassure that, unlike his former role in Kamen Rider Fourze, he will not be doing any transformations (変身 – henshin) in Starman.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0142013.07.11 VS Arashi 015

So, the Starman team all had good moments to kick off the show – regardless of the game result. How about Arashi?

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 016

Well, they had to deal with Tsutsumishita-san, who did his best Kuroda impression, then objected that he wanted to play, too. The Arashi guys played along – he could have just shared the spot with his comedic partner, but they pretended to be reluctant.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0172013.07.11 VS Arashi 018

The best part of all this was when Hirosue-san said to Igarashi-kun that the blue uncle (aoi ojisan) was being too loud – meaning Tsutsumishita-san – but Tsutsumishita-san pointed out that all the members of the Arashi team were blue uncles, because they were all wearing blue.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 019

It sure looks like Tsutsumishita-san is going for laughs instead of winning. Will Arashi be able to get their first win in six weeks like this?

The second game was Pinball Runner with Aiba-kun running for Arashi first. The members of Impulse joined Matsumoto-kun in shouting numbers.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 021

Aiba-kun had doubts about Tsutsumishita-san’s ability to help out in the games after his antics during Korokoro Viking, and Tsutsumishita-san’s behavior here didn’t inspire confidence.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0222013.07.11 VS Arashi 023

Tsutsumishita-san tried to counter this impression that he’d be totally dame (useless) by taking on the number-shouting task on his own. In theory, having only one person do the shouting should improve  performance, but does Tsutsumishita-san really know what he’s doing?

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0242013.07.11 VS Arashi 0252013.07.11 VS Arashi 026

Arimura-san ran for the Starman team, and the three kids joined Hirosue-san in supporting her by calling the numbers. Arimura-san has tennis experience, so she should be good to go on the running.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 027

Onishi-kun explained the arrangement – he’ll call 1-5, Kuroda’ll handle 6-10, and the other two would shout the pinks. While Onishi-kun made this sound like a good idea . . . it isn’t. After all, it’s entirely possible for a ball to be at 3 and another at 7, and then they’ll be calling both numbers at once an confusing the runner . . . which they did.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0282013.07.11 VS Arashi 029

Will Arimura-san be able to do well despite this faulty plan?

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 030

After that, we got the new, improved Cliff Climb. Ninomiya-kun and Ohno-san were the climbers for Arashi, with Ohno-san (or, as Sakurai-san dubs him, Bikini Man) taking care of the perilous overhang.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0312013.07.11 VS Arashi 032

Just they seemed to be confident . . .

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 033

. . . announcer Itou-san announced that a grip at a critical point of the overhang would be removed to make things more difficult.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0342013.07.11 VS Arashi 035

But this only gives Ohno-san a chance to do what they call a “bikini kick” to activate the button he can’t otherwise reach (but can he really reach it by kicking?).

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 037

The climbers for the Starman team were KENCHI-san and Fukushi-kun, with the latter giving the overhang a try. Of course, Fukushi-kun only recently tackled Cliff Climb in the April 27th episode alongside V6’s Okada-san to great success . . . but this is a totally new challenge.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0392013.07.11 VS Arashi 038

Will this super-strong combination manage a perfect score?

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0402013.07.11 VS Arashi 041

After that excitement, I guess we were due for something slower, but Bank Bowling is a huge pace-killer.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 043

Arashi sent up the Impulse duo and . . . I’m getting irritated by Tsutsumishita-san. Hirosue-san was right – he’s too damned loud.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 044

Matsumoto-kun and Sakurai-san cleaned up for the first pair, and Sakurai-san had a funny exchange with tiny Igarashi-kun, who is getting progressively more excited and likely to talk as the episode progresses.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0452013.07.11 VS Arashi 0462013.07.11 VS Arashi 047

Hirosue-san brought all the kids up with her to the platform again. Finally, Onishi-kun was addressed directly by Sakurai-san, who ultimately prompted Onishi-kun to do some dancing.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0482013.07.11 VS Arashi 049

Honestly, it wasn’t the best I’ve seen from Onishi-kun, but he was extremely nervous. It was once again amazing that he was as poised as he was, though at this point we was looking a bit stiff rather than confident.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 050

We also got the . . .  the treat, I suppose . . . of a dance reply from Bikini Man:

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0512013.07.11 VS Arashi 052

Well, at least Ohno-san’s efforts got a good review from his kouhai:

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 053

The three kids bowled together . . .

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 054

. . . and Koike-san and Arimura-san tried to finish the pins off.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 055

The final game was Kicking Sniper. Aiba-kun, Nino-kun, and the Impulse pair did the honors for Arashi. And insofar as there was humor at this point, it was overshadowed by the question of whether Arashi could win and start the new season on the right foot.

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0562013.07.11 VS Arashi 0572013.07.11 VS Arashi 058

Or would the Starman team with Hirosue-san, KENCHI-san, and Fukushi-san kicking win the day?

2013.07.11 VS Arashi 0592013.07.11 VS Arashi 0602013.07.11 VS Arashi 061

Well, let me get the obvious out of the way first – Tsutsumishita-san was annoying and I would have preferred it if just Itakura-san had been the plus one guest, since he at least seemed to be trying hard on the games.

The Starman team was really impressive and definitely came to play. KENCHI-san, Fukushi-kun, and Arimura-san did amazing work, keeping the audience engaged by their physical performances. We got to see a different side of Onishi-kun, but because he repeated the same pattern every time he got camera time, it ended up making him seem stiff – as if he had rehearsed this way to answer questions instead of just being his natural self.

The Arashi team . . . it didn’t feel like they ever felt the heat of their horrible record. There really ought to be a punishment worse than the normal MDA drop on the third loss in a row and any subsequent loss – something that the whole team has to go through. As it is, there was no real tension or sense that they were in this one to win, regardless of the actual result.

I don’t think there’s any question about the Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi of this episode – it was Ohno-san and his bikini tee-shirt, and his eventual transformation into Bikini Man, complete with a character dance. That and the efforts of the Starman team made this a great episode. Now, if only we could get some decent plus one guests . . . .