After a mild disappointment with the previous Aiba Manabu (相葉マナブ), this one looks much more promising. It’s about ranking the prefectures of Japan – always a good topic offering a geography lesson for those interested in the country (like me!).

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For instance, here’s a chart of the top three prefectures in terms of average life expectancy for men and women. Nagano takes the top spot for both genders, and women have almost seven extra years than men:

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Women seem to fair well in Okinawa – it ranked third on that table above.

But that’s just the start of the ranking . . .

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. . . and there’s a twist to make it all hit home to Aiba-kun a bit more. Instead of just one list after another, they’re going to focus on highlighting the things in which Chiba prefecture – Aiba-kun’s home state – is #1. But it’s all going to be in the form of a guessing game (which means we get to play along, too!).

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Aiba-kun meets Watabe-san, Suzuki-san, and Sawabe-san at a supermarket, and took the liberty of asking where each of them were from. Watabe-san was from Tokyo, Suzuki-san from Kanagawa, and Sawabe-san from Saitama. In other words, there’s the potential for some prefecture competition/rivalry here, and apparently there’s a particular tension between Chiba and Saitama.

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This time, the specialist was from the Chiba prefecture government public relations department. Well, she’ll definitely know what Chiba-ken is good at.

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But she’s not alone – they’re also joined by Chiba-kun – the prefecture mascot who has a profile shaped like the prefecture itself:

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That’s actually pretty clever.

We get some more basic facts about Chiba, like its population of 6,210,000 . . .

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. . . which is sixth among the prefectures. I can’t even read the names of the ones from 44 to 47 – they come up so rarely.

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I don’t quite get what the next bit was about – something like Kanto sphere of influence? Anyway, Tokyo took the top followed by Kanagawa, but it was pretty clear why there’s competition between Saitama and Chiba.

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Okay, so on with the game side of things. In each round we’re presented with a selection of like objects, and have to decide which one Chiba is best at (usually in producing). For instance,which of five greens is Chiba best at?

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How about fruits? Is Chiba the best in Japan at bananas?

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As always, I’m not going to give anything away (unless by accident), so you can play along. For each type of item, they give a discrete number of choices, so it’s a multiple-choice game that anyone can take a stab at. You’ll have to pick quickly, though, since the Chiba PR person doesn’t give too much warning before revealing the answer.

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They give away the type of fish pretty quickly, but what type of seafood is Chiba-ken tops at?

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I didn’t completely understand the point of the next one – something about being concerned with money. I didn’t know what the basis for picking between the choices was supposed to be.

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Actually, quite a lot of what follows has to do with money, and this part is a bit more obscure. For instance, there’s a bit about credit card use . . .

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. . . which involves this rather grim-looking specialist (he’s a marketing consultant – can you tell?):

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There’s also stuff about savings.

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I might as well give away this comprehensive chart of average savings in each prefecture, with Kagawa at the top with roughly $197,000 and Okinawa at the bottom, with $58,700 (assuming 100 yen = 1 dollar).

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Here’s the chart for debt. As you’d expect, the places with the most expensive housing – Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Saitama – were at the top in this category. Chiba is all the way at #12.

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They also went through a salaryman’s monthly pay, and another one of these:

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There are rankings in there for how many computers per household, piano ownership, and trips overseas.

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I think you get the gist of the show, though the little cartoons that usually help us English speakers understand what they’re talking about are a tad inadequate as the show progresses. It’s not impossible to play along, but it gets really challenging. It still comes down to picking between which of five things Chiba is #1 in.

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At least the graphics are as cute as ever:

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And the guys are animated:

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So, this was a definite improvement over the last episode, and we can just go down the list of the problems last time. The topic was properly informative – in fact, I don’t think they could have packed more information about the prefectures of Japan into twenty-three minutes without making it indigestible.  The guys were standing up, which also gave a sense of energy and engagement. It was a location shoot, so there were useful props around. There was a proper cohesive game and, especially for the Japanese-speaking audience, that would have increased audience engagement compared to the looser attempt at a game in the previous episode.

It wasn’t the best Aiba Manabu, since they didn’t move around much and there wasn’t a variety of activities, but it was a solid effort.