This is the second episode for the new format of Arashi ni Shiyagare (嵐にしやがれ), and I’ve already come to the conclusion that the goal in this transformation was to somehow merge Arashi ni Shiyagare with Himitsu no Arashi-chan. Since I always found the former more interesting than the latter, I don’t really view this as an improvement. But perhaps they’ll eventually find a way to make it into something fresh?

Note: Probably due to the changes at the start of the new season, there aren’t any episodes of this show on Sept. 28th or Oct. 5th, and the next episode is on Oct. 12th. This may mean that this episode and the last one were some sort of preliminary episodes ahead of the real kick-off at the start of the new season. One can only hope.

The Arashis greeted their guest, Ueno Juri-san, in the waiting room before the show. I have to say that she seemed extremely nervous and apprehensive, even at this point. Not a good sign.

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They asked her what it would be appropriate for them to call her and she answered Juri-chan. They made a bigger deal of this than I thought was natural – more than a minute and a half. It quickly became apparent that the Arashis were nervous, too, as the laughter was somewhat awkward.

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They asked her what she called Matsumoto-kun and she said “Matsumoto-san or Matsumoto-kun”. Since both of those are more formal than ‘Juri-chan’ (which would be the equivalent of calling MatsuJun ‘Jun-chan’), it sort of made the question of what to call her even worse.

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They really dragged this waiting room scene out – it took about four minutes. Even the Ii Mise Kudoi Mise segment moved faster! Except for the question of what to call her, I don’t understand why they couldn’t have kept the rest of the talk for the main show. This backroom stuff should be limited to a minute and a half.

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At one point, the Arashis did that thing they sometimes do when the only other person on camera is very quiet – they started talking among themselves.

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At the beginning of the show, they made the obligatory point that she’s the first female guest on Arashi ni Shiyagare, though Nino-kun pointed out that it is not strictly true, since they had Morisanchuu on for the 24 hr-TV special. But hey, that was a special.

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Sakurai-san talked to Ueno-san about how she is with talk variety shows. She says she’s not nervous, but I beg to differ.

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They went through who has worked with her, which allowed MatsuJun to mention their new movie – Hidamari no Kanojo.

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They asked MatsuJun what kind of person Ueno-san is, but it felt really weird for them to be talking about her like this, especially without her participating or even saying a word. It might have been a bit better if they had done it when sitting down, but Ueno-san was showing so little reaction, it would have still felt awkward.

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But as it turned out once they finally sat down, all the talk was going to revolve around Ueno-san anyway. If I’m getting the prompt correct, they had to state the image they had of Ueno-san, and in the end she would decide who came the closest to the truth.

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I can’t really comment on what they apparently thought of her. All I know is that Ueno-san was supernaturally quiet as they made their statements. I mean, I would have thought that they would at least get one “eh!” from any guest – one objection – but no such luck. Ohno-san’s got laughter from the audience (as you’d expect), but only a shake of the head from her. Shocking.

At least she smiled and chuckled when deciding who came the closest to reality. She seemed to be finally loosening up here – talking about things she can do on her own/alone.

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Nino-kun asked her how she spends her days off. She goes shopping for clothes, by the way.

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Sakurai-san asked what she was into at the moment (hobby-wise or any unusual preoccupation), but she seemed to toss the question back to them so that they all gave it some thought.

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Strangely, Sakurai-san ended up answering it himself first.

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Aiba-kun’s answer seemed to turn the conversation to baths.

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Ohno-san was in good form in this episode, as he had another anecdote that got laughs and applause from the audience. I didn’t get what it was about, though.

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The discussion prompts were depressingly broad compared to what we’ve come to expect from the rumor section of Arashi ni Shiyagare, which used to revolve around specific details. For instance, the next question in the bottom left corner says “what kind of feeling/sense is usual/everyday?” You’d expect there to be a context to that, but there didn’t seem to be. The question after that was about stress.

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While we were told that this new format would involve a lot more research from the Arashi guys because it wasn’t an improvised show and they now know what’s coming up, there’s a distinct feeling here that they haven’t done their homework on their guest, and therefore can’t find topics to discuss.

Ueno-san offered the most interesting detail herself – that usually, especially when she speaks loudly, she uses Kansai-ben (the Kansai dialect) because she was born in Hyogo prefecture. Ah, if only she had come as her loud Kansai-ben self instead of this alternate personality, it would have been a much more interesting show!

It was up to Ohno-san to speak Kansai-ben with Ueno-san, but it took Ueno-san some time to switch to the dialect.

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Still, once she got into it, she seemed to lighten up tremendously. Too bad Sakurai-san cut it short – the exchange was just getting good.

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Since we’ve segued into the whole Kansai thing, they went into Kansai food and specifically the world-famous Kobe beef.

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We got a VTR about Kobe beef, but it seemed to cover what we already know about it – like the fact that the best way to eat it is in steak form. Honestly, did they really need to do street interviews to figure that out!

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Then they gave us some juicy gourmet glamor shots:

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This is all a parallel to the VTR we saw in the previous episode about a specific type of jeans. This time, it’s a specific restaurant where they cook up Kobe beef – a place Ueno-san favors. for a 180 gram steak plus some delectable sides, the cost is 18,900 yen (around $190).

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And sure enough, they bring back the requisite steak . . .

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. . . and Matsumoto-kun is in charge of preparing it:

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Ueno-san gets the first taste . . .

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. . . but the rest also get to dig in.

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The beef research didn’t stop there, though. For those who don’t want to pay over $100 for a meal, there’s Kobe burgers at 1000 yen ($10). It’s nowhere near the same grade of beef, but it’s still Kobe beef.

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And there’s also gyu don at 1000 yen.

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But 1000 yen is still a bit expensive if you have to pay that for every meal. What about the little guy who just wants to have beef all day every day? Is there nothing we can do?

Actually, this guy can help, if only to tell us where to go:

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I’m not sure about the details, but the people in the street gave “bokkake” as the answer. While that doesn’t sound very promising, the price tag says 260 yen for 100 grams, so the price is right.

Bokkake is a mix of beef and konyakku, and it’s up to Aiba-kun to bring it out for Ueno-san. You’d think that they’d give her the cheap stuff first and save the top grade Kobe steak for last, but they don’t.

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They handle the question of why it’s called bokkake, but I didn’t understand the reason. I was more amused that Aiba-kun first checked a note card with the answer, then clearly had MatsuJun ask the question so that he could set up his ‘Aiba quiz’. Gotta love Aiba.

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The Aiba quiz didn’t end there, and the net result of this was that we got all sorts of energy and mannerisms from Aiba-kun.

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Even a little dance . . . .

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There was more food after that, as well as the attendant “umai”s.

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And that was that.

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They spent the entire second half of the episode – 23 minutes program time – on food. The sad fact is that the food part was much more interesting than the rest of the show. The first fifteen minutes were just painful to watch, but Ueno-san started to seem more approachable during the Kansai-ben bit. Though she was still exceedingly quiet, she was at least more expressive from that point on.

In evaluating the new format, it’s not too hard to adjust for the fact that Ueno-san isn’t my favorite type of guest (I prefer loud and preferably funny entertainers and any sort of athlete). To put it simply – this format lacks any of the flexibility that made the old one interesting. If the main activity is that the Arashis present the result of some sort of independent research, that limits how much the guest can engage with them. It means people like Shimura Ken-san can’t get the Arashis to dress in kabuki makeup and learn his famous comedy routine. All that craziness with Himura Yuki-san is probably impossible with this new structure.

The Arashis themselves seem less prepared and engaged than when they had to improvise their way through the show. Without that challenge, they seem a bit complacent.

While we saw the guests in the previous episode giving the Arashi members a challenge, there was no such thing from Ueno-san this time. I guess researching the beef was all there was. Since the Arashi guys aren’t going out to do it on their own, but sending staff instead, it’s much less engaging.

There was a Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi, though. While Aiba-kun deserves an honorable mention for his efforts near the end of the show, Ohno-san wins the MOA because of numerous moments sprinkled throughout. He was the one who seemed to do the most to break the ice with Ueno-san, and I think his little Kansai-ben conversation with her was a major turning point in the tone of the show.