After a bit of a hiatus during the shift between seasons, Arashi ni Shiyagare (嵐にしやがれ) is back. Will they get this new format going on a better trajectory, or are viewers going to be disappointed? There’s no better time to start fresh than the beginning of the season.

Aiba-kun seems to eye the water suspiciously, but ultimately concludes that it’s just regular water. They all still seem quite nervous and fidgety at the beginning. They seem more nervous than they were in the old format, but in that they were improvising everything and they didn’t know the guest. Here, they know the guest and everything that’s going to happen.

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Matsumoto-kun takes the opportunity to remind everyone about his new movie, Hidamari no Kanojo, which opened on the same day this episode aired.

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The guest was singer-songwriter/actor Tamaki Koji-san (玉置 浩二). Now, if this was old Arashi ni Shiyagare, he’d share with them some of his secrets to songwriting and they’d end up doing a collaboration performance by the end (we got a few of those just this year). We can therefore compare what we actually get in this episode to that baseline to see how this new format shapes up.

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A long, long time ago, Tamaki-san and MatsuJun acted in a drama together – all the way back in 1997 before MatsuJun debuted:

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Aww, doesn’t mini-MatsuJun look cute!

Ahem, anyway – boy does Tamaki-san look different from back then, not to mention from the images you’ll find of him on the web. MatsuJun makes this point – that Tamaki-san has undergone quite a change in fashion.

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The Arashis get Tamaki-san to do some singing.

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So that was a much better backroom scene than they had with Ueno-san, but Tamaki-san was a much more obliging guest. It was three and a half minutes, which I still find excessive.

They’re sticking with the tacky set despite having some time to reconsider that. I guess it was too much to hope for that they’d come up with something better after already investing in this one.

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As with Ueno-san, the first segment had to do with each Arashi giving their point of view about Tamaki-san’s image . . .

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. . . and then the guest deciding at the end who came closest.

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Helpfully, they listed all the opinions about Tamaki-san from each of the members in a single graphic:

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I’m not going to try to translate it all (because I don’t really care about what they think Tamaki-san is like), but just to give you a taste, Ninomiya-kun said that he thought that while Tamaki-san was an amazingly free spirit, he was also amazingly prone to nervousness.

I appreciated the way Tamaki-san acknowledged each of their views – laughing, giving a nod of approval, a thumbs-up, etc. This was a problem with Ueno-san’s approach, where she stayed absolutely still and didn’t react sufficiently to what they were saying, which made it seem like they were insulting her. Here, Tamaki-san’s reactions made it clear that he didn’t mind them having these views about him.

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Next, Tamaki-san tasked the Arashis to think about familial love (家族愛 – kazoku ai).

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Naturally, he started things off with his own thoughts:

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But just when I was hoping they would have to write a song about familial love or something . . .

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. . . somehow the topic changed to a nabe kaigi (鍋会議 – literally, a nabe/pot meeting). In other words, food. The plot is that they asked an array of entertainers to suggest nabe dishes, and the Arashis would ponder familial love while eating the food (I think).

It all started with a nabe map:

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Each Arashi was tasked to ask the opinion of an entertainer from each of the marked regions. Well, actually, the staff did everything – the Arashis didn’t directly interview anyone, nor did they go get/make the nabe themselves, nor did they even do the narration for the VTRs that they were supposedly responsible for. In fact, I’m at a loss to point out exactly what the Arashi members did in this ‘research’.

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They did eat and say ‘umai’, though.

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If you’re interested in nabe, this is unquestionably the episode for you, as they sample a selection of dishes, and you get some idea of the background of each one.

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Personally, I feel like it’s the sort of thing I’d construct according to my own taste rather than imitate an existing form of, so seeing the established forms of nabe doesn’t interest me.

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Given that, watching them eat again . . .

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. . . and again . . .

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. . . and again . . .

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. . . really held no interest for me. The presentation of nabe and consumption thereof lasted through more than twenty minutes of program time, right through the heart of the show.

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At the end of all the eating, I think they discussed Tamaki-san’s propensity for making a clean break without regrets, but I didn’t totally understand that. After that, he got in the mood to sing a special Arashi version of one of his songs.

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The Arashi members each had interesting reactions to hearing their names worked into the song.

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This bit was proper fun.

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It’s pretty clear the Arashis enjoyed it, too.

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Tamaki-san then called on his wife, Aota Noriko-san, to come out with her own nabe set. I believe Aota-san is actually Tamaki-san’s third wife – they’ve been together since 2010.

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So yeah, more eating.

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Oh, to cap it off, Tamaki-san showed off his hairdo . . .

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. . . then put his accessories on Aiba-kun:

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Okay, I’ve had enough. To recap: Tamaki plays guitar, Arashi says what they think Tamaki is like, nabe, nabe, nabe, nabe, nabe, Tamaki plays guitar, nabe. That’s about it – unless I missed a nabe.

There was a video from Kamenashi Kazuya-kun at the end, by the way – he’s in the drama with Tamaki-san.

Tamaki-san was a great guest – a very engaging guy who brought plenty of energy. While he was on screen, it was at least not boring. His interactions with the Arashi members were great, and his singing was the highlight of the show.

But what happens when the guest can’t carry the show? I don’t see the Arashi guys stepping up quite yet, though there are some minor signs. Of course, this was a major improvement over the Ueno Juri episode, but that’s not saying much.

I’m starting to agree with the commenters who said this format reminds them of Arashi no Shukudai-kun. This episode definitely gave me flashbacks of that series. But even when there was a lackluster guest on that series, it had one saving grace – it was only half an hour long.

The problem is ultimately with the new format itself, and we can see that because we know what the show would have been like with Tamaki-san as the guest in the old format. That would have been much more entertaining (and would have involved far less nabe). I still don’t understand why the change was made at all, especially when I see the results.