This Aiba Manabu (相葉マナブ) is about superstition (迷信 – meishin):

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And this gave me pause because, frankly, the Japanese seem to put more credence into a lot of things (ghosts in particular) that I don’t, and I’m going to get annoyed if I have to sit through half an hour of ghost stories. The fact that we started with a two-and-a-half minute VTR about three superstitions did not make me happy about the way this episode was going to go.

The first example deals with why a person who is sleep-talking can’t reply. The superstition is that their spirit/soul has slipped out and is elsewhere. They do not, however, explain what the real reason is. I sure hope they do later in the show, because I don’t consider finding out about superstitions to be learning unless we go mythbusters on them.

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I didn’t understand the next one at all. though it was clearly well-known. Had something to do with an action performed when a certain kind of vehicle passes (I guess the equivalent of a hearse?). Anyway, looks like it’s about ghosts, so . . . yeah.

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And whatever the connection between cleaning a toilet and the birth of a baby . . . I really don’t want to know.

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So, with more than a tenth of the time already out the window, we finally get to our hosts – Aiba Masaki-kun and his buddies Tsuchida Teruyuki-san, Bibiru Oki-san, and Sawabe Yuu-san . . .

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. . . but only for a second, because we had to go back to the VTR to find out the original of the toilet-cleaning/baby thing . . .

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. . . and then they just went into more VTR of the next superstition. And I’m already done – I’m not going to consult my dictionary to translate the details of superstitions. The next one was easy enough – it had something to do with sneezing and rumors (someone talking about you behind your back?).

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The guys got twenty seconds to discuss it . . .

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. . . and then there was another VTR for half a minute which basically said, yes, we’re supposed to be ‘learning’ about Japan’s superstitions this time.

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After which we were introduced to an odd-looking specialist from Edogawa University who had a sign with his surname written on it with the furigana, so I know that he’s Toki-san. I guess he must be proud of the name.

Frankly, I take a dim view of anyone with this specialty, so I admit to being biased against him. Irrationality and the spreading of irrationality without taking a critical view of it is not a proper field of study.

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And after he got introduced and has a short spiel . . . you guessed it, another VTR-explained superstition. It had something to do with nail-clipping and someone dying.

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This time, the four guys got to guess what its origin was, and Aiba-kun got it on the first try. This isn’t rocket science, after all.

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The next one was about whistling and snakes falling from the sky. No, I still don’t care.

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The next one had to do with pissing on earthworms causing a swollen penis. I’m not sure how to take this . . . .

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I wouldn’t mind getting hearing Aiba-kun’s explanation, though.

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The reality is, of course, simple – to find the earthworms, the boys used their hands to play in the dirt, and when the boy peed on the earthworm, his hand was still dirty. At least this one had a rational explanation that didn’t involve souls and ghosts (neither did the nail-clipping one, by the way).

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The next one was about something causing a guy’s hair to turn grey, but that’s weak – the ones where all the guy’s hair falls out are better.

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Aiba-kun’s explanation didn’t have anything to do with the superstition, but at least it showed that he has an active imagination.

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There was a whole special category of food superstitions.

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And, of course, they can’t investigate these food superstitions without having the food in front of them . . .

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. . . and doing janken to decide who gets what.

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So now it’s a food show (just as I was wondering if they could make it worse for me). And no – it’s not that they get the food if they guess the answer of the origin of the superstitions correctly. They’re really getting to eat anyway.

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They finally get out of their seats . . . in order to sit down:

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At least this results in Sawabe-san producing a funny scene as he actually tested the superstition about how to solve the fact that your legs have fallen asleep by the time you try to stand up – by tapping your forehead. But, of course, it doesn’t work – that’s why it’s a superstition instead of a clinical fact.

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If it isn’t obvious, I didn’t like this episode at all, making it the first one of this series I’ve been down on in ages. There are three concrete reasons – the topic, the excessive amount of VTR involved, and the fact that Aiba-kun and his friends spent the entire episode sitting down. This was the most intrusive episode in terms of VTR use that we’ve seen so far – the time spend on Aiba-kun and the others was truly minimal, and I felt it was a lot more like the shows I don’t bother covering than what I’ve seen from Aiba Manabu so far. The lack of activity only made it worse, because all the four guys were doing when we did see them was the guessing game about the origin of the superstitions – there wasn’t much diversity of activity. It had none of the features that I’ve applauded in previous episodes, like location shooting, varied activties, and a sense of energy. The most exciting moment was when Sawabe-san’s legs fell asleep, for heaven’s sake!

So yeah, hopefully they’ll have something better in the September 1st episode. I know I’m late with this review, and I hope to get to that one soon.