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).

This week, A.B.C-Z handled the opening song, which was their own “Crazy Accel”. Right away, it was clear that they were going to put their full acrobatic energy into this one, as they did some tumbling while Hashimoto-kun welcomed everyone to the show.

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Considering how they were moving, it’s amazing that I got as many clean screenshots as I did. Most of them were blurry.

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I can tell you right away – this opening is one of the highlights of the show.

The HSJ hosts were Nakajima Yuto-kun and Yabu Kota-kun. Yabu-kun couldn’t resist complimenting A.B.C-Z right away for the acrobatics.

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The theme for this episode was entertainment, and Yuto-kun commented that it was well-reflected by the opening. So, glowing reviews for A.B.C-Z all around. Will the rest of the show keep up the tempo?

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The next performance was “With You” performed by Sato Shori-kun backed by Goto Hiromi-kun on violin, Ishigaki Daisuke-kun on keyboard, Ogawa Yuu-kun on guitar, and Hagiya Keigo-kun on drums. Shori-kun introduced the members of the band at the start, and that was real good to see. Of course, I just reviewed the Johnny’s World DVD, where these guys were quite prominent, but they hardly get any Shounen Club attention.

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Somebody needs to tell Hagiya-kun to smile. Seriously. He tried to at one point, but it still looked like he was in pain and drumming against his will. Not the most pleasant impression.

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When it came to singing, I really couldn’t distinguish Shori-kun’s voice from Ishigaki-kun’s and Ogawa-kun’s. So, no real read on his development this time.

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Still, any time the instrumentalists get highlighted like will get high marks from me.

The monthly introduction of Twenty Twenty members followed. And since we now know Tokyo is the host city for the 2020 Olympics, the stakes are sky high for Johnny’s to come through with this slowly forming group. But when this was recorded, they weren’t sure that Tokyo would win it (though it was the favorite), so I think they’ll show more excitement around this segment in the October episodes.

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Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun facilitated the introductions. The new members were twelve year-old Inaba Manaya-kun (稲葉愛弥), who was clearly nervous, but a good talker with a deep and subtle voice, . . .

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. . . Takahashi Kaito-kun, who by contrast has an extremely high-pitched voice at the age of 14 and needs his voice to change in the worst way, . . .

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. . . and finally the cool-looking fifteen year-old Kawasaki Shota-kun, who gave us a taste of his vocals. Considering how much he was bouncing around from nervousness, his singing wasn’t too bad, though it’s still a work in progress.

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By contrast, the next performance was kicked off by Kikuchi Fuma-kun, whose voice is surely one of the sweetest in Johnny’s. The song was KinKi Kids’ “Ne, Ganbaru Yo”, and Fuma-kun, Masuda Ryo-kun, and Kyomoto Taiga-kun each took a line a cappella before the music started and they sang in unison.

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I was loving it, then suddenly we got a rap passage from Tanaka Juri-kun. But . . . there’s no rapping in “Ne, Ganbaru Yo”! This is heresy! (It’s one of my favorite Johnny’s songs – I had to pause SC and listen to the original KinKi Kids recording immediately)

Anyway, realizing that they had just made a grave mistake on that song after such a promising start, they tried their luck on Tackey & Tsubasa’s “REAL DX”. Here, it was Bakaleya4 out front.

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While the performance was competently done, it felt a bit stiff – there wasn’t much by way of the playful spirit we’ve sometimes seen from the Bakaleya bunch.

Now, they call it the monthly Ki ni Naru KJ, but we got one last week with Hirano Sho-kun, didn’t we? I guess I can’t complain, though, because at least the junior being introduced was a member of the younger cohort instead of the members who have been around for ages.

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It was Onishi Ryusei-kun, who had a most interesting struggle with the smile that kept creeping onto his lips.

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We already know that he’s an ardent Sato Shori fan, so I guess the only points of interest in his profile were that he likes egg . . .

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. . . and his hobby is this game with a ball on a string:

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I find the game entirely silly, but Onishi-kun is totally cute in his enthusiasm when he plays it.

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Naniwa Oji were out front at the start of the Kansai stage. The first song was “Super Star”, which is a light pop number that suits the young group. I don’t think I’ve heard it before, so that was another plus.

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Then the rows switched with the song, and we got Kin Kan up front with Yamapi’s “Daite Senorita”, which is again appropriate for their image.

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Then the Kansai elder juniors – B.A.D. and Hamada-kun, led the way for “UME Goin On!” which was a fun, energetic song that got the crowd hopping.

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The Kansai performance definitely got top marks from me this time – good fun, clear participation from all the groups, and a manageable three songs instead of more.

Last week’s special guest, Akanishi Jin-kun, was back this week, and Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun interviewed him on the topic of ‘entertainment’. If I got it right, Akanishi-kun considers Disneyland to be the pinnacle of entertainment.

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Kawai-kun redirected him to Johnny’s entertainment, and asked him two pick between A.B.C-Z, Sexy Zone, and Kis-My-Ft2. Akanishi-kun expertly dodged this by wondering why there was a ‘2’ at the end of Kis-My-Ft2 – a question he knew would totally divert everyone.

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Having done the A-side to his newest single last week, he performed the coupling song – “Summer Loving” – this time.

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Again, it was electronic vocals . . . and no dancing. There’s not much for me to comment on, is there? Heck, it’s not really Johnny’s material at all, but more akin to the music that I fled to J-Pop to escape.

Yabu-kun and Yuto-kun finally played some part in the episode with a special corner . . .

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. . . in which they interviewed Goto Hiromi-kun and got to show off his violin skills. In the hands of an expert like Goto-kun, hearing the violin in isolation is a treat.

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Next was the Jesse-Hokuto medley. It started with Jesse-kun performing KinKi Kids’ “Misty”. Lots of KinKi Kids today.

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After a few times where I thought his voice was lacking, he was back with a vengeance this time. This was beautiful work from him – probably the best I’ve seen from him altogether.

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After dancing with Jesse-kun briefly, Hokuto-kun took over and sang NEWS’ “Bambina”. His voice continues to get better, though it sounded a tad on the weak side during this song. Showed good range in the latter half of the song, though.

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It was a shame that we didn’t get them singing together this time, considering how well their voices go together, but it was still nice to see something new from this duo.

Next, Kawai-kun took Kento-kun’s place for the Shokura You Bin, but Fuma-kun was the one who read the fanmail. And it was one of the more interesting fanmail readings we’ve seen on SC, because during the course of it Fuma-kun chuckled, said “oh!”, and otherwise just read it in a funny way.

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Usually we get older juniors to help the fan out, but the topic this time was one all idols have to practice on – the mune kyun (getting someone’s heart to throb). So, we got a younger panel of participants-  Sato Shori-kun, Jinguji Yuta-kun, and Matsumura Hokuto-kun.

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Jinguji-kun volunteered to go first. Somehow, I have confidence that he has about a dozen of these prepared for all occasions, and the speed with which he volunteered and explained his scenario bears this out. But perhaps spontaneity earns more points?

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Hokuto-kun went next. His was quite long and I didn’t understand it, but it got a good response out of Kawai-kun.

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Shori-kun’s was surely the funniest, especially because of Fuma-kun protesting afterward that he didn’t understand the meaning of it at all . . .

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. . . to which Shori-kun gave this kind of look:

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Shori-kun was definitely going for a laugh more than anything else with it, and I appreciate that.

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Fuma-kun invited Kawai-kun to give his best “Aishiteru yo”.

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But then they had a nasty surprise for me – Uchi Hiroki-kun. I . . . I thought we already had a special guest with Akanishi-kun. Obviously, my trepidation isn’t at the mere appearance of Uchi-kun, but rather the near-certain knowledge that he’s going to sing, and if you’ve read my review of any of his past appearances, you know how low an opinion I have of his vocal ability.

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Here, he decided to do his own mune kyun skit and enlisted Shori-kun as his girlfriend. Shori-kun looked entirely uncertain about it – and with good reason. All I can say is, I actually found it rather disturbing and I don’t think Shori-kun enjoyed the result, either. On the bright side, Shori-kun’s expression afterward was endearing.

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Uchi Hiroki-kun sang “Nami”. I haven’t heard the song before, and I’ll concede that it was about as well-suited to Uchi-kun’s voice as possible.

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It was really, really slow, though, and he was sitting down while he sang it. On those grounds along, it doesn’t seem like a song suited to Shounen Club.

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The best aspect of the performance was hearing and seeing the four instrumentalists again. Will they only be featured like this when Uchi-kun is on to perform? That’d be a harsh trade-off.

Junior ni Q followed, and the topic is still places the juniors would like to visit. Hashimoto Ryo-kun chose Las Vegas. That, at least, is a likely possibility – along with Hawaii and New York, it’s one of the places in the U.S. that Johnny’s loves to send its talents.

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Haigya-kun picked Guam. What an interesting fellow.

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Speaking of New York as a likely destination for Johnny’s, Kyomoto Taiga-kun would like to take that trip. However, it sounds like his reason is food-related.

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Iwamoto Hikaru-kun had the most interesting answer this time – Kenya! I didn’t understand his reason, though.

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For the next performance, Hashimoto-kun sang KinKi Kids’s “Renrui” , with five co-stars from the Bad Boys J drama (the Bad Boys team) supporting him both with backdancing and vocals. Have I mentioned that there have been a lot of KinKi Kids songs in this episode?

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It was a solid performance. The most striking thing about it, though, was the fact that the Bad Boys team didn’t get a performance of their own, but were led by Hashimoto-kun in red.

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I think it would have been a much more noteworthy performance if it had just been the Bad Boys team singing this one. Yes, Hashimoto-kun was in the Bad Boys J drama, too, but since he’s a debuted performer and also set apart in red, it has the appearance of a solo performance with a bunch of backup singer/dancers.

After the concluding talk on the theme from Yabu-kun and Yuto-kun, the juniors, A.B.C-Z, Fuma-kun, and Shori-kun sang . . . “Let’s Go To Earth”. Thankfully, thankfully, it was the primarily Japanese version rather than the English, so no problem on that score.

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While I’m not thrilled by it musically, it did give a lot of people camera time. Also, it was staged as a full-fledged spectacle (with vigorous dancing from the guys up front), so it served as an appropriate closing to the show.

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There was an omake in which Shori-kun talked with Uchi-kun. Now, at first glance this would have been an auto-skip for me, but Shori-kun carefully explained that he had placed a whoopee cushion under the regular cushion of Uchi-kun’s seat and there was no way I could miss that. You’ll have to watch to see how the prank played out.

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This episode definitely had its good and bad points. The opening was great, as was the Kansai medley. The Jesse-Hokuto medley was good, as were the Fuma-Ryo-Bakaleya medley and the Hashimoto-Bad Boys performance. On the downside were Akanishi-kun’s performance, which lacked the qualities I look for in J-Pop (though his talk segment was funny), and Uchi-kun’s performance, which was way too slow for SC (though the omake was good).

The best part of the episode was probably Goto Hiromi-kun playing the violin during his special interview with Yabu-kun and Yuto-kun, to be honest.

While the great parts were impressive, there are large swathes of this episode that I’d skip in a future viewing, and I’d probably prefer to watch discrete clips rather than sit through the episode again. This is the first episode in a while that I have to say that about, so I’m going to give it a 7 out of 10.