We don’t normally get new Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) episodes in the bottom half of the month, but this is a legit new episode. I guess with the Osaka specials on the first two Wednesdays of the month, Johnny’s couldn’t leave us with no Kanto representation at all, so here we are. And honestly, going into this, I have a good feeling about it. Can’t say why – maybe residual goodwill from the solid Kansai episodes. Maybe I just feel that they had to have some good stuff for us, or they wouldn’t have given us this extra.

It seems like we’re going to get a new episode on October 30th, and it’s likely that we could get four new episodes in a row – not totally sure on that yet, though.

Anyway, this episode started off with noon boyz doing the title call and leading the proceedings. Even though we got the horrible graphic opening, there was one change right away – they named the opening medley and put the title in the upper left corner briefly.

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The first song was Sexy Zone’s “Lady Diamond”, with all five members of the group performing it in pink outfits that . . . are as good as pink outfits get, I think.

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That was followed by KAT-TUN’s “Real Face” performed by Sanada-kun, Anderson Casey-kun, Masuda Ryo-kun (with a new hairstyle that almost made it difficult to recognize him), Teranishi Takuto-kun, and Kishi Takayoshi-kun.

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Nozawa-kun sang KinKi Kids’ “Yokubou no Rain” with the Bad Boys guys. Okay for a short version, but I still remember Nakajima Kento-kun’s much more vigorous approach to the song.

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Finally, all the juniors already mentioned plus Bakaleya4 performed “SHAKE” from SMAP. It was a okay opening – decent songs all around and sufficient energy, even though the songs were all very different in character (deliberately – the medley name specified the four different emotions being expressed) and didn’t mesh particularly well together.

And the reason why they had distinct emotions expressed in each of the songs at the start of the show, and made a point of that, is because this episode’s theme is, of course, EMOTION:

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Nakajima Yuto-kun and Yabu Kota-kun from Hey! Say! Jump were the hosts. I have to wonder, though – with the pending end of Waratte Iitomo in March, could Noon Boyz be up for consideration as the hosts of Shounen Club? I know they’re not necessarily going to drive viewership and aren’t a sufficient replacement for HSJ (though none of the groups likely to take the role are, either), but at least if all the other acts are still participating, that shouldn’t be a problem.

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I’m happy to say that they started the show strong – with SZ’s “Bye Bye Dubai”. The song itself is a slightly bumpy ride, but at least features some good vocals and a consistent and catchy theme (I know I’ve said this a few times in reviews already).

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The real highlight is the rather intricate choreography, which is very energetic, fun, and different. Really unlike what we normally see on Shounen Club, and sufficiently difficult to boot.

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I sure wouldn’t mind if more Shounen Club performances were done in the same spirit as this one.

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Another positive aspect of this particular rendition was the fact that the SZ members were in regular clothing (or regular-seeming, anyway). That’s a big shift from those pink outfits at the start, and probably explains why they weren’t out with the rest for “SHAKE” – they needed to change. We don’t get to see SZ perform without flashy colors and glitter very often (not to mention all the other Johnny’s groups), so I consider it a treat when we do.

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The two hosts spoke with the three elder members of SZ next. First of all – yay! the HSJ members are actually getting to do the interview! Maybe the group will retain their hosting role after all.

Otherwise, the SZ guys talked a bit about “Bye Bye Dubai”, and then moved on to the four emotions introduced by the opening medley – each telling a story connected to one of the emotions.

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Shori-kun’s was about Yamashita Tomohisa-kun, who he appeared the drama Summer Nude with. Shori-kun always tries to work in favorable mentions of other Johnny’s members when he can.

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I didn’t totally understand it, but why do I get the feeling that Fuma-kun had a really interesting story?

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A.B.C-Z performed “Like A Blow” next. With Halloween coming up, the song has a feel to it that matches that atmosphere. The dance is way quicker than the music itself (not a bad thing).

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I like it. I think the choreography is up to A.B.C-Z’s standard (which is way above anyone else in this episode of SC). My only qualm is with the lyric “blow-didi-blow-blow-blow” – it was a pristine lyric sheet if not for that really silly way to cover some spare syllables. If only the lyricist (Komei Kobayashi) had come up with something better to cover those six syllables, I would have been spending these lines saying how brilliant the lyrics were.

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Regardless, the song was excellent. Does anyone know if this is going to be a single, or has it already been released on something and I’m totally clueless? If it gets to be an A-side, it’d be their best single to date as far as I’m concerned.

The Monthly Ki ni Naru Kj segment was next with Kawai-kun and Goseki-kun hosting.

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This time, the featured Kansai junior was the ever-interesting Nishihata Daigo-kun. Somehow, Nishihata-kun always manages to be different.

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He’s also totally ready to speak at length about any topic.

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What do I mean by different? Well, he cited his specialty as twirling cushions:

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Of course, Goskei-kun matched his twirling feat without a problem, and Daigo-kun’s abashed reaction was great.

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But I’m sure Daigo-kun knows he has plenty of other specialties – it’s just that claiming this one was totally different from what any other junior would do.

Daigo-kun has a good word about Yamashita Tomohisa-kun (hmm – another Yamapi mention. If you don’t already know, Yamapi is on later in the show, and I don’t think this is a coincidence). But really, it would be too normal for Daigo-kun to idolize Yamapi – he actually likes Ninomiya-kun for the Arashi member’s movie roles.

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Not only that, but Daigo-kun also named Matsukura Kaito-kun as a fellow junior who admires Ninomiya-kun. Interesting.

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After Daigo-kun got his big chance to introduce himself, the show turned to the Kansai performance, which was Kanjani8’s . . . well, Wikipedia has it “Brule”, but if you told me “ブリュレ” was “Blu-ray” I wouldn’t correct you.

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The song is solid, of course (it’s shocking when a Kanjani8 song isn’t). The more interesting thing about the performance was who was involved. We had Hamada-kun, 7WEST’s Fujii-kun and Kamiyama-kun, Kin Kan’s Mukai-kun and Kaneuchi-kun, and Naniwa Oji’s Nishihata-kun.

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Which just goes to show the crazy thing about the main Kansai juniors – you could probably put their names in a box and pick out a random six, and that would still be a viable group. If you told me this particular team was going to debut, I’d be dismayed at the loss of the established groupings, but I wouldn’t have any doubts that this team of six could succeed.

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After that, the two hosts (and look! – they’re really getting to be hosts! – though maybe it’s only because of the A.B.C-Z involvement in the Kansai special) introduced special guest Yamashita Tomohisa-kun.

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Yamapi started off a bit weak – greeting the audience with a wave reminiscent of the British monarch – . . .

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. . . but he got some good laughs a short way into it. I think he said he was going to perform “Bye Bye Dubai”, and I’m sure that was a little tip-of-the-hat back to Shori-kun. He also took the liberty of introducing his backdancers – is it For You, Four You, 4 U, or something else (I know what it sounded like, but not how to render it) – but as it turns out, he also has a secret backdancer surprise for us.

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While Yamapi got set up, Yabu-kun and Yuto-kun got to chat.

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Yamapi sang “Sing For You”, which featured more of the kind of dancing that I’ve been wanting to see from his SC performances for a while – nice sharp choreography. The song was perfect for his voice – an interesting and effective use of falsetto, too.

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Then he turned to a second song with a really complicated name . . . “Genshiteki ja Night ~Analog Love~” (原始的じゃナイト ~アナログ ラブ~) and the surprise was . . . omg – a woman on the SC stage!

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I don’t have any objections in principle. However, the sexy level is getting a bit beyond the normal scope of SC:

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So I’ll call a foul on the more explicit parts of that dance, but otherwise the performance had a good Broadway-Vaudeville feel to it. Usually, Ziegfeld or Busby Berkeley would have had dozens of women involved (and if there was a female singer, dozens of men), but it’s the same basic idea.

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But after Yamapi was, in my opinion, the best part of the show – the Nekketsu Battle.

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And this Nekketsu Battle is really Nekketsu (passionate, hot-blooded). They’ve been getting better and better recently, but there’s nothing quite as exciting as a good game of . . . dancing musical chairs!

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After all, you get to involve a ton of people (always an important point for me). Aside from the hosts, the Johnny’s involved were Goseki (who was leading things), Iwahashi Genki, Kouchi Yugo, Iwamoto Hikaru, Jesse, Kishi Yuta, Jinguji Yuta, Fukusawa Tatsuya, Matsukura Kaito, Matsumuta Hokuto, Miyachika Kaito, and Yasui Kentaro. You know, all of the favorites.

Tsukada-kun tried to sneak in, but Goseki-kun told him it was a junior corner (!). Wait a minute – it’s really a junior corner now? Does that mean we’re finally through with having most of the people involved be A.B.C-Z or Sexy Zone? Let’s hope.

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The first round aimed to eliminate six of the twelve competitors.

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I won’t give away the final results, but I can’t resist throwing in a taste of some of the antics that ensue. There’s much more than this, and all of it is better in video form. I think the juniors involved ultimately got much better quality screen time out of this than they usually get from performances. That is, I think they increased their likability factor more like this than by singing and dancing.

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Tsukada-kun was such a troll during this, though!

Anyway, it was a great nine minutes. The game is an ultimate test of who the most rabidly competitive juniors are, and I think the results were therefore very easy to anticipate.

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Right after that, some of the juniors involved backdanced for SZ’s Kento-kun as he sang his solo “CANDY ~ Can U be my BABY~”.

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I’m just going to leave that one alone – it’s very clearly not meant for me, and I think the intended audience love it (just judging from the crowd reaction in the hall).

The next segment was Jr ni Q. The topic was the tastes of autumn – a food topic – and Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun were the hosts.

I’m not going to get into everyone’s answers, so let me just say that the respondents were Inoue-kun . . .

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. . . Teranishi-kun (is this his first time? A 49-related bump?) . . .

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. . . Jesse-kun . . .

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. . . Nakamura Reia-kun . . .

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. . . and Anderson Casey-kun (for this one I couldn’t resist putting his choice in the screenshot).

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Next up, Shori-kun did the same junior intro thing he did a few episodes ago – I think that one was set to SZ’s “With You” as well, wasn’t it?

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Anyway – it was the same idea – the juniors each got to show off their skills. Here’s Takahashi Fuu-kun with his breakdancing.

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There was a special intro for some chibis, and also others I associate with Twenty Twenty. I’m not going to list everyone, since I didn’t catch all the names anyway.

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When it came time to sing, Miyachika-kun, Iwahashi-kun, Jinguji-kun, and Kishi Yuta-kun were the singers.

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The ending song for the show was the second A-side on SZ’s newest single – “A My Girl Friend”. It’s a nice ballad, and so suited to the calmer mode of finale.

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Shori-kun started off the song, singing solo. He can hit notes and his voice is sweet, but now he has to work on getting it a bit stronger. The only way we can hear him singing right now is with the music soft and none of the others singing.

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Kento-kun and Fuma-kun followed up with their own sweet vocals.

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It was just the three of them, so I hope we get more from Sou-kun and Marius-kun in the next few episodes.

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For the Omake segment, Shori-kun interviewed Yamapi (of course).

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Since they’ve worked with each other and have traded little mentions during the show, you know there’s a good rapport between them.

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Yamapi also has a little gift for Shori-kun:

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Okay, it’s really hard for me to encapsulate this episode, so let me just try and list the good and bad points, seeing where that leads me. The best thing was the game – the dancing musical chairs. Performances I’ll gladly see repeatedly are “Bye Bye Dubai” and A.B.C-Z’s “Like a Blow”. The Kansai junior “Brule” performance was good, as was “A My Girl Friend” and the “With You” junior intro. I have some reservations about the junior intro, though – I would have much rather seen a proper junior performance. We didn’t get any real Kanto junior performances outside of the opening in this did we? It was very SZ heavy.

I’m not going to consider “CANDY” in my evaluation because . . . well, there’s a gap there, and I’m minding it.

On Yamapi’s performance, it’s probably the best he’s done on SC in a long time. Half of it was SC-appropriate, the other half really wasn’t. If only he had just done “Sing For You”, I would have rated it a highlight, but as it is I have mixed feelings. Put the same thing on Music Station, though, and I would have given it a thumbs-up.

The episode felt very fresh and there was plenty of new material, so that requirement was satisfied. However, the episode was skewed toward SZ, and while there was plenty of quality junior participation and backdancing, not really a junior performance.

So, I’m going to give this one a 9 out of 10. There are parts I’d skip, but also scenes that I’ll remember for a while.