Arashi ni Shiyagare (嵐にしやがれ) is an hour-long variety show that features Arashi and famous guests from a range of backgrounds who share their expertise with the five hosts. And this time, the show did not begin with the Tokyo Ii Mise Kudoi Mise segment (hallelujah!), jumping right into the action with the main guest.

However, judging from this graphic at the start of the show, I started to doubt whether this would be my kind of episode:

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That’s . . . a lot of hearts. From the looks of it, the soccer player guest is something of a heart-throb whose relationships are avidly tracked. Unfortunately, I’m not particularly interested in another guy’s relationships, so . . . yeah. At least the Arashi guys are looking cool in black:

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They start off talking about how hot it is (well, then black is the wrong color to wear, right?), which really struck home because it’s been painfully hot around here as well. In fact, I spotted a story that SMAP’s Nakai-san was filming in California recently and got caught in one of our blistering heatwaves. I don’t know which one because it’s impossible to tell when one heat wave ends and the next one starts – it’s like one day when the temperature is finally less than a 90 degree (Fahrenheit) high, then it goes right back into the triple digits.

But I digress. Here’s the guest – soccer player Uchida Atsuto-san (内田 篤人).

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I don’t know if his soccer play justifies this kind of reception – he’s a right back with one goal in sixty games in his international record. Tough to say with a defenseman, though.

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They talk about previous appearances from soccer players. Let’s hope that this will be a more athletically-oriented episode like those were – I think that’s what they’re setting us up for.

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Since it’s likely that viewers haven’t heard of Uchida-san, there’s a one minute rundown of who he is.

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At least he seems embarrassed to be repeatedly called an “ikemen” in the video in front of Johnny’s idols, but he’s going to get a lot more of that.

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For the rumors, we immediately go back into another VTR of TV appearances and magazine interviews where he seems to have quite the string of famous women that he likes – his preferred type seems to keep changing. Oh horror, please tell us why this is so.

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This is where that chart with all the hearts comes in – it’s to help the audience understand the vicissitudes of his love. The audience laughs when it’s rolled out, so this is all tongue-in-cheek, I think.

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This becomes an extended (read: painfully long) guessing game, and I want to leave the results out . . .

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. . . but I can’t resist including this sequence of faces from Ninomiya-kun:

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Okay, enough of that! I was also getting tired of VTRs and glamor shots of Uchida-san, which we got another round of here. At least the VTR ended up including a funny graphic, but it beats me what it was about:2013.07.20 Arashi ni Shiyagare 033 2013.07.20 Arashi ni Shiyagare 034

Somehow, they got down to the topic of doing comic skits and one-off gags. Naturally when asked to demonstrate, Uchida-san picks Aiba-kun as his partner.

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As Aiba-kun and Uchida-san head to the back to practice the skit, the other members have a bit of fun with Ohno-san, but while I have some idea what it was about, I think it would be prudent to withhold my guesses. This will have to be left to the real translators.

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The gag that Uchida-san and Aiba-kun came back with was short and, at least to me, indecipherable. I can say this: the hard part was totally on Aiba-kun – I think he might have actually hurt himself the second time because of the way he was rubbing his tummy.

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They continued by discussing Uchida-san’s fellow national players. I’ll give this to Uchida-san – he’s certainly willing to talk and a solid interviewee.

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But have I mentioned how irritated I am by the VTRs and glamor shots that are supposed to show how cool and popular he is? Well, we get yet another round anyway.

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Finally, finally, we get to what I’ve been waiting for – the challenge portion of the show:

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Oh wait, first there’s the Encounter the Unknown segment where Ninomiya-kun gets to eat food. It’s better than the Tokyo Mise segment in two respects: Ninomiya-kun has some concrete goals to meet, and it’s not at the beginning of the episode where it sets the wrong pace.

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His instructor is the owner of a Spain baru (バル), which he explains is not quite a restaurant and not quite a bar. Well, I think restaurant covers it, but this is all an attempt to market the exotic (from the Japanese perspective).

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And they’re successful – there are 400 to 500 such establishments in Tokyo:

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To fulfill his task, Ninomiya-kun has to learn some Spanish, and his attempts at this were the highlights of the segment (they were hilariously bad).

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Oh wait, there’s also his funny looks – he’s really got a boatload of them in this one:

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I didn’t get the bit about the almond.

Anyway, that left us with about fifteen minutes for what I really wanted to watch – Arashi playing sports in soccer uniforms.

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The deal here is that if the Arashi members win any of the games, Uchida-san will sign the white jerseys that they’re currently wearing. If they win all the games, they get a signed copy of the blue Japanese jerseys. It’s sort of weird for Arashi to be playing to try to win the autograph of someone younger than them who needed a stream of VTRs to explain who he was, isn’t it?

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I was dismayed by the first competition because, instead if it being something athletic, it was a jigsaw puzzle. Uchida-san likes jigsaw puzzles. But did they really get all dressed up for this?

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MatsuJun revealed that he also likes jigsaw puzzles, so you’d think he’d be up as Arashi’s representative. Katsumata-san – the referee, if you will – picked Ninomiya-kun instead. Nwo, I actually have a neat 1400 piece 3-D jigsaw of Tokyo waiting to be built (I plan to start work on it tomorrow), but given the time constraints of this show, they obviously couldn’t do puzzles with nearly so many pieces. But 9-piece jigsaws of the Mona Lisa!? That’s just pure reaction time!

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So, who do you think has the better mind for a nine-piece puzzle – Ninomiya-kun or Uchida-san? Yes, Uchida-san has a soccer player’s reaction time, but don’t forget that Nino-kun plays video games.

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How did they manage to sneak food into this part of the show!? It’s the second challenge, and I was feeling cheated at this point.

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The challenge was that they had to figure out the correct way to eat the food, which is admittedly a bit tricky to handle:

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Okay, now they have a scoreboard up, so unless they really want to annoy me, at least the third game should be something sporty, right?

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It’s soccer volleyball (that is, volleyball where they can’t use their hands except to drop the ball during the serve), and Sakurai-san and MatsuJun faced Uchida-san first:

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The margin of error in this game was slim because the playing area was slim, and launching the ball out-of-bounds gave the opposing team a point.

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Eventually, things got a little crazy, with Nino-kun carrying Aiba-kun to create more of a wall against Uchida-san.

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So the episode ended with good fun, but it sure took a long time to get there. The rumor segment was slow and VTR-riddled. The Encounter the Unknown segment was good because of Nino-kun’s Spanish-speaking attempts and his expressions. The first two challenges were a total let-down, but the insanity in the last six minutes thanks to the last competition made up for it. In the end, I’d call this an average episode with an excellent ending. If you don’t feel like being patient, I’d recommend watching from the 39th minute onward.

Uchida-san was more talkative than the other soccer players who have appeared on this show, but the topic of discussion left a lot to be desired. I think the VTRs ended up serving to undermine his image in my eyes – I think he would have come off better without them.

The Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi for this episode was undoubtedly Ninomiya-kun, who had much more quality screen time than anyone else. Not only did he have the Encounter the Unknown segment, but also the sequence where they talked about Takeuchi-san, the jigsaw puzzle part, and the carrying-Aiba part. Tied for second were Ohno-san and Aiba-kun.