Took a bit longer to get it, but the community came through as it so often has, and here we have the second Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) of August. The opening was led by Hashimoto Ryosuke-kun, Jesse-kun, and Matsumura Hokuto-kun in a very odd way – with their back to the audience, facing the upstage camera. While that gives the TV audience a good view of NHK Hall, I don’t approve – it’s bad form to open a stage show with your back to most of the live audience.

They and Noon Boyz kicked things off by singing SMAP‘s “Original Smile”.

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Totsuka-kun, Goseki-kun, Marius-kun, and Matsushima Sou-kun followed by singing “Yuuki 100%” with extensive junior assistance. I like the way the August openings have mixed everyone together instead of keeping the groups discrete – it has a good feel to it.

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The stage is sure getting crowded, though, but that led to some interesting methods in choreography that worked out nicely, I thought.

To round out the opening medley, the remaining members of A.B.C-Z, Shori-kun, and Kikuchi-kun joined the members of Bakaleya4 to sing V6’s “Wa ni natte Odorou” and then Kento-kun did Kinki Kids‘ “Jet Coaster Romance” with the Bad Boys team.

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The selection of songs was excellent, and the songs all worked well together as a medley. I think this is going to be one of the rare occasions where the opening is one of the highlights of the show, especially because of the fact that we got to see pretty much everyone.

Well, everyone except for the two Hey! Say! Jump hosts – Yabu Kota-kun and Takaki Yuya-kun. I wonder if they’re going to play much of a part this time, or if A.B.C-Z will continue to take over the hosting duties. The theme was, once again, Summer.

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The first main performance was from special guest Kis-My-Ft2! They’ve certainly been making the promotional rounds, and here they did “Ki-su-u-ma-i ~Kiss Your Mind~”, “She! Her! Her!”, and “Kimi to no Kiseki”.

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Their outfits were a bit jarring in terms of the way they enforced the 3/4 split within the group. I suppose KMF2 fans are probably used to that, but since I usually only watch them on their variety shows, where they’re treated more or less equally, I still haven’t grown used to it. Oh, and I’m also solidly against bare ankles on stage – just never liked that look. And the shoes. Really don’t like the shoes.

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Unlike the opening medley, the songs chosen for this medley were different in character – not horribly different, but enough so that the transitions between songs were rough.

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Performance-wise, it was all handled with pro style, though. The dancing was sharply coordinated and what you’d expect from a premier group. There were no noticeable problems with the vocals, though they weren’t particularly challenging to begin with. This was definitely more of a dance medley.

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I think it was a solidly enjoyable stage to watch except for the costume choice.

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Afterward, they got to talk with Kawai-kun and Takaki-kun. It was a minor miracle that Takaki-kun got any words in . . .

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. . . especially after Kawai-kun started standing up. By the way, I’ve made this point before, but they really need to rethink this seating arrangement for the interviews, especially when there’s more than five people involved. It would be best to just do it on stage and have them all stand, or sit in a semicircle.

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Anyway, Kawai-kun totally took things over, in what I assume is a sign of things to come. I don’t know exactly what they were talking about . . .

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. . . but it soon seemed like Kawai-kun and Kitayama-kun were picking on Takaki-kun (in a friendly fashion) and getting him to blush. Some attention also seemed to be given to the lower half of the KMF2 costumes.

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They went on a more concrete topic: who has the air-headed character?

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From the way Kawai-kun asked the question, I thought there’d be more than just one question, but the KMF2 guys took so long to answer this one that none of the others made the cut.

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The next performance was sort of a complicated one. Technically, it was Sato Shori-kun with juniors Iwahashi, Jinguji, Kishi, and Miyachika performing “With You”, but that was a frame for Shori-kun to introduce some juniors, beginning with . . . a tap-dancing junior who isn’t in my database. Darn it – we’re there already!? Anyway, after that it was all the the four already mentioned plus Kakuta Yuusei, Nakamura Reia, Matsukura Kaito, Matsuda Genta, Takahashi Fuu, Kuramoto Kaoru, Haniuda Amu and others.

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Remember how I bemoaned the fact that SZ weren’t getting enough hosting experience? Well, count this as a start for Shori-kun. The difficult part is interviewing, but he did that briefly with the kid whose name I didn’t catch.

Anyway, I love when they do this on Shounen Club – briefly highlight each junior by name while the juniors perform. It’s simply one of the best things they ever do, and I wish they did it more often.

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Eventually, they did get down to actually singing “With You”.

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The Gekkan Ki ni Naru KJ segment was hosted by Kawai-kun, Tsukada-kun, and Totsuka-kun, and featured Kamiyama Tomohiro-kun of 7WEST.

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Two things jumped out about his profile: no father listed as part of his family (and considering he has four siblings, I can only assume a tragic story behind that), and the fact that his specialty is monomane. Now, a lot of people claim that monomane is their specialty even though they’re no good at it. Will Kamiyama-kun be different?

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The Kansai junior performance featured all the usual suspects – B.A.D., 7WEST, Kin Kan, and Hamada-kun – doing what amounted to a Kansai junior Shounen Club cheer, then “Blow Out”. It was a high energy affair, but the vocals were muddy and flat because they were all singing in unison and there was minimal choreography, so there was no dancing to appraise. At points the smoke and the lighting were distracting.

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In short, it wasn’t a great performance – not at all a showcase of talent – but it was watchable.

It was followed by a talk segment between with Yabu-kun and . . . and Shori-kun again . . . interviewing Hokuto-kun, Yasui-kun, and Iwamoto-kun. That’s . . . an interesting trio to interview. It sure looks like they want to get Shori-kun hosting experience, but what about the rest of SZ?

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You could see where Shori-kun needed some practice right away – he had an opening spiel in which he asked Hokuto-kun to respond to something, but the spiel was flat in tone and rushed. I don’t know if he can some up with improvised side comments and questions yet.

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There was some sort of side moment (when others were talking) between him and Hokuto-kun that I couldn’t capture in a screenshot and I wonder what that was about.

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Otherwise, it was nice to see Yasui-kun and Iwamoto-kun getting some talking time – that’s pretty rare. They’re certainly riding the Bad Boys boom, and we’ll have to see how that goes for them.

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The next medley, though, featured two performers who benefited from the previous boom – Matsumura Hokuto-kun and Jesse-kun of Bakaleya fame. First was a Jesse solo of KinKi Kids’ “Giniro Angou”.

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While his voice was smooth, the volume was a tad too soft compared to the vocal on the backing track. Also, the song was not must of a vocal challenge to begin with.

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Hokuto-kun did his own solo after that, with Yamashita Tomohisa-kun’s “Gomen ne Juliet”. He didn’t have the trouble of competing against a backing track vocal, so his voice came in nice and clear, and there’s no question that I preferred his solo over Jesse-kun’s.

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Together, they sang KinKi Kids’ “Kimi wa Karma”. Here Hokuto-kun did the obligatory shoulder thing:

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Both of their voices sounded good on this last song, and I like the white and black outfits for them. I’m growing more and more enthusiastic about them as a pair . . . so how is the agency going to ruin this for me?

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On the first talk, we had a HSJ and an A.B.C-Z member hosting. On the second, a HSJ and a SZ. So, let the mix-and-match continue and, sure enough, we got an A.B.C-Z member and a SZ member this time – Hashimoto-kun and Kento-kun.

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I was pleasantly surprised by the interviewees – Iwahashi-kun, Jinguji-kun, and Kishi-kun. Wow, they’re really talking to the juniors these days, aren’t they? It’s about time . . . .

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I think the title of the segment was Improve Oneself/Yourself! Power Up Epic Battle (Onore wo Migake! Pawa-appu Daisakusen). Sounds like the sort of segment I’d like to see juniors do more.

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The point this time was enunciation – a critical skill for future TV personalities and stage performers alike. The juniors were given the mild tongue-twister “Namamugi Namagome Namatamago”.

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Kishi-kun took that one quickly, but how will he do on “Nana namamugi Nana namagome Nana namatamago”? I was able to the first one on the first try without trouble, but stumbled on the first switch from “na” to “ma” in this one, and I wasn’t the only one.

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The three juniors took us to the next stage . . .

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. . . which was A.B.C-Z performing a special medley starting with “Koi ni Ochita Bodyguard”, one of my favorite songs from them. I like the song because of its strong, instantly catchy melody. They were backed (and sometimes fronted) by a flock of juniors.

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They followed that with “Suna no Glass” (砂のグラス), which is another solid song in their repertoire.

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Then they continued the medley with “Desperado” and closed it out with “Bokura~ Love&Peace~”

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That was the best medley I’ve heard from A.B.C-Z in ages. Considering how negative I was about their performance last week, I wonder whether that was recorded after this, and they were just tired there. Anyway, kudos to them – this is yet another highlight for the reel.

Kento-kun and Fuma-kun handled the Shokura You Bin segment with help from Tsukada-kun and Goseki-kun (my favorite A.B.C-Z boke-tsukkomi pair).

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I’m not 100% sure about the topic, but I think it was about being offered food you don’t like and having to refuse. Goseki-kun’s solution was to continually make excuses (of the ‘there’s hair in it’ variety).

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The next performance was . . . wait a minute! . . . haven’t we already seen this?

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Well, Shori-kun started the SZ medley surrounded by about the same batch of juniors he introduced and sang “With You” with earlier. Shori-kun is getting quite a lot of stage time in this episode, but since he wrote the lyrics to this song (“Onaji Sora no Shita”), I guess it’s fair.

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And once again, we got to hear Shori-kun’s current voice (as opposed to the voice he has to use to sing with on the old SZ songs) and it’s a thing of budding beauty. Still in production, but showing a lot of promise.

Nakajima Kento-kun then did his own self-written solo, “CANDY ~Can U be my BABY~”. I found it cute that Shori-kun hopped with him on stage for a bit before clearing out.

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And yes, Fuma-kun has written the lyrics to a song, too – “FaKe”. The three solos are all very different musically, so the transitions are rough, but since we understand the reason for why the songs were picked, it’s definitely forgivable.

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After the three solos, the three members and their junior backdancers performed “Bad Boys”. The biggest take-away was that Shori-kun seemed to be loose and having fun. Kento-kun and Fuma-kun gave us their normal work, but throughout the whole thing right up to the end where he fake-punched Jinguji-kun, Shori-kun was the one who was full of energy.

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Junior ni Q was hosted by Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun, and continued with the topic from last week – Summer Recommendations. First up was Nakamura Reia-kun with an old favorite – swimming. Too bad I can’t swim . . . .

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Matsuda Genta-kun had an interesting one – get into the freezer. Naturally, the hosts didn’t quite believe this one and wondered how big his refrigerator is. I think he just sticks his head in, but anyway – interesting fellow, this Matsuda Genta.

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On the other hand, there’s Miyachika-kun, who answered with “gag”. Yes, that’s something Japanese TV doesn’t have enough of . . . .

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Tanaka Juri-kun’s response only had “My beloved/adorable mother . . .”, but he had an elaboration (that I didn’t understand well enough to summarize) ready:

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Last but not least, Morohoshi Shoki-kun answered by saying “my sweat”. Does that mean that he’s recommending that everyone sweat a bit for the summer or . . . or that he’s recommending the scent of his own sweat?

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Perhaps it’s safer not to find out. Right after that, we went into a junior performance with some people we’ve seen a lot of this episode performing Takizawa-san’s “Hikari Hitotsu”. It was the Jinguji-Iwahashi-Miyachika-Kishi quartet (they need an “L” to get I.J.K.L.M., but there are no “L” names in Japanese. Should I try to come up with a decent name for them after Think Yuuki was wasted?) plus Reia, Haniuda, and others. (hold it – if you count R as L, then Reia counts, and with Haniuda you get HIJKLM. I’m sure somewhere in the alphabet soup world of the Johnny’s agency there’s a person who knows this and is excited about it.)

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I think this is the first time I’ve heard a solo line from Jinguji-kun, though I might be wrong about that. Anyway, it was nice and clear with some strength behind it.

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They moved on to do KinKi Kids’s “99% Liberty” – one of many KinKi Kids songs we’ve heard in this episode that I’m not sure if I’ve heard before.

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They concluded with V6’s “Can do! Can go!” This brought up a question to my mind – are they not allowed to do Arashi songs? I mean, there are a ton of Arashi songs that would fit the juniors, but while I hear a lot of songs from pretty much all the other groups – especially KinKi Kids – Arashi songs are a relative rarity on SC. It only struck me because we’re heard a lot of songs from the Dai-senpai groups in this episode. Not much TOKIO, either, but we did get “Ambitious Japan” in the last episode.

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Jinguji et. al. did a nice job – it wasn’t anything particularly memorable, but it wasn’t a flop and didn’t break what has so far been an exceptional episode. So, how will it all end?

First, one last look at the HSJ hosts who barely said anything and were never on stage without either an A.B.C-Z or SZ member beside them . . .

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. . . and then we can turn to the close, in which A.B.C-Z sang “Za ABC~5stars~”. Well, so much for them only doing songs I like in this episode.

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But they did it well with top-notch energy. I seriously think they must have recorded what they did here before what we saw in the August 7th episode, or they were just warming up in that episode for the stuff we saw from them in this one. Nice work from the junior backdancers, too, after what was a very long night for Iwahashi-Jinguji-Kishi-Miyachika.

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Oh, and there was also an Omake, just in case you didn’t get enough of Shori-kun in this episode. It was an unusually long one – over a minute – but was also a good one because  Shori-kun was simultaneously drained and whimsical. A downside was the horrible transitions they used to edit things out – a jarring bubble effect – but this was counteracted by his guests – two of the workhorses of the episode – Iwahashi-kun and Jinguji-kun – as well as cameos from Takaki-kun and Kento-kun.

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Iwahashi-kun and Jinguji-kun got a second shot at enunciating a tongue-twister properly.

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Okay, so let me recap. There was a great opening – let’s just call that a 10. I can imagine better openings, but I have to work with reality here. By SC standards, the KMF2 stage was great, but I’m going to deduct a point for the costumes. I loved the junior intro + “With You” bit. The Kansai stage was okay but not something I’d watch again.The Hokuto-Jesse performance was very good with room for improvement – certainly they’d make for a good pair to succeed KinKi Kids.

I thought the A.B.C-Z medley featured a great selection of songs, and that sold it for me – call that a 9 or a 10. After the last episode, I’m a bit more sanguine about Marius-kun and Sou-kun not having a part in the SZ medley this time, and I enjoyed it – especially because Shori-kun seemed . . . the only word I can think of is ‘frisky’. Certainly, the development in Shori-kun’s voice was the only thing that felt relatively new in that medley (we only heard it in one performance before). The junior medley was good, but a bit low on energy compared to so much else that happened in the episode. Finally, the A.B.C-Z was good on the energy and, since it’s their début song, it’s always nice to see them do it with proper vigor after having sung it on stage hundreds of times already.

I can’t say there was a weak part to the show. I would probably skip most of the talk segments except Junior ni Q, the Power Up Epic Battle, and the Omake, but sticking just to the performances I can’t think of one that I’d ditch. Junior participation in the episode was great, though the focus was firmly on the Jinguji-Iwahashi team.

It’s really another episode that’s either a 9 or a 10, and there was so much good energy this time, I’ll give it the 10. The biggest improvement over the previous episode was definitely the A.B.C-Z medley, but having KMF2 as guests for a measured amount of time was a plus, too.

That all disregards a certain measure of disappointment I have that the August episodes clearly signal that Hey! Say! Jump may not be the hosts of Shounen Club for much longer. It’s not so much that I think SC needs HSJ or even the other way around, but rather that I want them to have a variety show where all nine members participate, and they don’t have that right now.