This is the first of two Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) episodes in Osaka, as the Kansai juniors take over the show this month. Interesting, instead of the horrible graphic opening we’ve been getting at the start of the show for the past six months, they decided to start with a backstage bit with Kiriyama Akito-kun and Shigeoka Daiki-kun, followed by a more traditional opening.

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I wish they’d just stick to doing it this way with different juniors featured backstage at the start.

Naniwa Oji started the show with Nagase Ren-kun welcoming the audience, but they were only up for a few seconds before Shigeoka-kun, Kiriyama-kun, Nakama-kun,and Hamada-kun walked onto the stage for “Aoi Kisetsu”.

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The rest of 7WEST was placed slightly behind those four, so are we looking at a new seven person group here, with a four-three division mirroring Kis-My-Ft2’s three-four arrangement?

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After the main seven sang for a minute, Kin Kan also appeared . . .

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. . . and Naniwa Oji got a second crack at it.

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Then everyone did “NOT FINALE” with tons of energy on display – backflips and everything.

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I’ve come to expect the energy from the Kansai guys, though. One thing I have to be (and want to be) regularly reminded of, though, is how good Kiriyama-kun’s voice is. His vocals were among the best aspects of a solid opening.

At first, it looks like the Kansai juniors are going to handle the hosting duties on their own, which would be a welcome change from the usual Shounen Club pattern . . .

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. . . but then they introduce A.B.C-Z – the group that currently handles the bulk of the hosting duties for the Tokyo episodes. Of course, A.B.C-Z had been taking care of the Kansai corner for the past six months, so I guess they’re used to mingling with the Osaka crew, anyway.

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Will A.B.C-Z give us a reason to be thankful that this isn’t a Kansai-only episode, or will I end up wishing B.A.D. and 7WEST had taken care of all the segments themselves?

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The first main performance was Kin Kan with KinKi Kids’ “Natural Thang”. There’s just no end to these KinKi Kids songs – they already make up the bulk of the senpai songs we hear on Shounen Club, but somehow I don’t recall hearing this one before. Still a great song, like so many from the duo.

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The dance was properly vigorous, and just the sort of thing I look for from Kin Kan. Their vocals were clear, but weak – reasonable if they were singing it live.

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Okamoto Kauan-kun got a little moment with the camera, but otherwise he was totally mixed in with the other red-and-black suited juniors. Are these the Kansai side of Twenty Twenty or not?

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Next up, we got a little talk between B.A.D., Shigeoka, and A.B.C-Z’s Hashimoto, Kawai, and Tsukada. One thing that seems to be true of the new Kansai group being brewed is that B.A.D. and Shigeoka-kun will be the more prominent members, and it will not be a team of equals.

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The talk started off revolving around the peculiarities of Osaka and Kansai (I think), but I’m not sure how it evolved from there.

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B.A.D., Hamada-kun, and Shigeoka-kun then led a performance of “Another Tomorrow”. The other 7WEST guys were again in the background, but so were Kin Kan and Naniwa Oji among plenty of juniors.

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It was another great song, and somehow even though the stage was very crowded, all the usual suspects got camera time.

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Shigeoka-kun’s vocals here weren’t as annoying to me as they’ve been in the past – less nasal. He might win me over, after all – we’ll see.

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Goseki-kun and Kawai-kun were the hosts for the usual Kansai talk segment we get every month, but this time the context is different. What will the Kansai juniors do with this time now that they also have the rest of the show?

Well, first of all, I’m thankful that they at least included Kin Kan and Naniwa Oji instead of just having B.A.D. and 7WEST.

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Two other juniors brought out the equipment, and Kawai-kun got them to introduce themselves, too, which was nice.

The way Kiriyama-kun was bracing Nishihata-kun and Shigeoka-kun was doing the same for Onishi-kun was sort of interesting – it was like they were afraid the two younger juniors would suddenly collapse!

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Or . . . maybe they were just getting ready to push those two out first. At least, Nishihata-kun ended up being the first one to use a prop to do a gag.

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And that seemed the theme of the segment – each junior stepping forward to do a one-line gag using the props.

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The sheer number of things they came up with was definitely impressive, and it was mostly funny (even for someone who doesn’t understand Japanese).

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I really appreciated the broad participation in the segment, too. It was the best non-performance segment I’ve seen on Shounen Club in a long time.

Hirano Sho-kun and Shigeoka-kun had a brief talk that seemed to mostly revolve around nervousness.

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Then I got a real surprise – a medley which began with Nagase Ren-kun performing Yamada Ryosuke-kun’s famous solo “Asia no Yoru”.

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It was a shortened verse of the song, but Nagase-kun rocked it – my estimation of him instantly went up a few notches.

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Then Hirano-kun gave a good attempt at topping that with his own solo rendition of Yamashita Tomohisa-kun’s “Karina” (with lyrics and music by Naoto Inti Raymi-san, I noticed).

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Actually, Hirano-kun’s voice is very much like Yamapi’s in terms of texture.

The medley continued with Kotaki-kun doing Fujigaya Taisuke-kun’s “Love meeee”. I like the first two songs of the medley better, but considering this is the first time I’ve seen Kotaki-kun highlighted like this, it continued to be make this an epic medley.

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The three soloists closed out the song together.

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That was such a great performance, just from the standpoint of showing me what these guys can do (since even with the new Kansai segments, we don’t get anything like this).

Thankfully, they decided to follow that with a game segment – it was a good time to switch things up. And I was entirely in favor of the format of the game: A.B.C-Z versus Kansai juniors. Now we’re talking! So, we’re going to get some good fun out of having A.B.C-Z here, after all.

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The five Kansai juniors were Kiriyama, Hamada, Shigeoka, Hirano, and Kaneuchi. There were a lot of different competitions, and I don’t want to give too much away. The first one involved each team sending up three members in relay to dance for a total of thirty seconds. Their goal was to get as close to thirty seconds as possible.

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They also had three members of each team jumping rope – most jumps in thirty seconds wins. This was amazing to watch.

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And there was even tataite kabutte jankenpon (you know – rock-paper-scissors with plastic mallets and helmets. The face-off was between Hashimoto-kun and Shigeoka-kun.

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In other words, it was legit athletic competition between the two teams.

Then we got another brief talk between . . . between Hamada-kun and . . . Shigeoka-kun. Now seriously, couldn’t they have had someone other than Shigeoka-kun this time? He’s had quite a lot of camera time – quality time, at that – in this episode already, and he already had that talk with Hirano-kun.

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Oh, well. A.B.C-Z got to perform next, and they went with “Vanilla”, which is a nice upbeat song from them and totally in-keeping with the feel of the episode so far.

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A.B.C-Z looked sharp, though this wasn’t the most challenging of their dances.

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In a special segment, Kawai-kun and Tsukada-kun went backstage to the dressing rooms to have a word with B.A.D.:

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Tsukada-kun carried some topics in a box, and each of the B.A.D. members got to pick one . . .

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Time for the chibis! Naniwa Oji did an NYC hit medley (ugh . . .) starting with “Yuuki 100%” (yay!).

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Vocally, the group has a long way to go, but these are certainly the right songs for them to be singing at this stage. They’re certainly more appropriate for them than they are for NYC.

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“Yoku Asobi Yoku Manabe” in particular seems like a perfect song for this young group and the chibis behind them.

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Kin Kan joined them for “Yume Tamago” to conclude the medley.

Kansai Jr ni Q didn’t have a billboard with answers to a particular question. I think they basically just had juniors introduce themselves – a good idea, since I didn’t know any of these kids.

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The first little fellow was Oka-kun (sounded like Oka Yuri, but I’m not sure about the given name), and I think he said he was eleven.

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Next up was thirteen year-old Nakamura Ryunosuke-kun. I don’t have him in my database, either (I’ve got lots of updating to do).

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Thankfully, this guy is in the database:

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That’s Mouri Touwa-kun (or Mori Towa), and he’s going to be fourteen next month. He demonstrated his acrobatic skills.

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The last junior up was Okumura Souta-kun, who’s also currently thirteen (it was a good segment for thirteen year-olds). He admires Domoto Koichi-kun.

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With those intros through, Hamanaka-kun and Hamada-kun showed what they can do on stage, performing “Jungle” with some very impressive dancing.

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It wasn’t my sort of of song, but the dancing totally made up for it, as did a cameo appearance from Onishi-kun close to the end.

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After a bit more talk . . .

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. . . the show concluded with “Silhouette” (シルエット).

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It was a pretty typical Shounen Club ending song, and all the usual suspects from throughout the show were in attendance.

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To conclude, this was a very strong episode, but I was also struck by how much time was given to a single individual:

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Nothing against Shigeoka-kun, but he definitely got more than his fair share of camera in this one.

That said, the song selection in the episode was great, the dancing was spectacular, and there was nothing at all that I felt needed to be skipped. Usually I have both highlights and lowlights to point out, but I can’t really find anything to be critical of except for the excessive focus on Shigeoka-kun (often to the detriment of the other 7WEST members, who got very little time).

While I enjoyed all of the performances, the Nagase-Hirano-Kotaki medley was a particular highlight, as were the Naniwa Oji stage and the Hamada-Hamanaka one. I think I’m now a Nagase Ren fan, by the way. Aside from the song-and-dance, the game segment was fun to watch, and even the other segments were good.

Altogether, I think this deserved a 9 out of 10. It was actually a bit more subdued than I expected, and perhaps a little more of the energy that they normally show – maybe a little more B.A.D. – would have pushed this to a ten.