I really need to catch up on VS Arashi (VS 嵐) and the other variety shows (including some new ones), so hopefully I’ll get a chance to give them some quality time this weekend. The dramas this season are do interesting, though . . . .

There was an interesting feel to this show right away as Ninomiya-kun seemed to get right into the camera during the opening and Ohno-san had to gently but firmly pull him back. I didn’t get a good screencap of that – too blurry.

What I did capture was the group promoting their new album “LOVE” . . .

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. . . and something about choreography in/from New York. I guess that’s impressive in Japan, but for an American like me . . . not so much. Now, if it was somewhere like San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago, Seattle, or any of our other great cities except for New York, Las Vegas, and Honolulu, then I’d give them a bit more credit. Motown used to have some good dancing (might still do), so if they mentioned Detroit, that would be something. Detroit could use a boost.

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The opposing team was the International team. Now, when you think ‘international’, you might suppose that this team was composed of people from other countries that immigrated to Japan. But in Japan, having any foreign blood – even if you’re born in Japan and half-Japanese (or more) – qualifies, and that’s the situation with everybody on the guest team. The team was comprised of JOY-san, Yuuji-san, Maggie-san, Darenogare Akemi-san, Ueno Yukio-san, and Antony-san.

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Now, it’s interesting enough to see both JOY-san and Yuuji-san together – it’s happened before, but it never gets old how they look like brothers. But the real story was this guy:

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Ueno Yukio-san was just on VS Arashi the previous week! Has there been a case before where a guest was on two weeks in a row? I don’t remember one, and I don’t think they tell us. Considering how energetic he was last time, I sure don’t mind a repeat performance.

But just when I was musing about how interesting the guest team might be, and looking forward to that, Sakurai-san introduced the “plus one” guest added to the Arashi team . . .

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. . . and it was Miyake Ken-san from V6! I haven’t seen him in anything for so long! The great thing about him is that not only does he look younger than all of the Arashi guys (he’s older than all of them), but way younger. Will his energy level match his image?

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Miyake-san watched Morita Go-san’s appearance on VS Arashi, so perhaps he’s got a good idea on how to approach things. At least it sounds like he won’t laugh after missing the target in Kicking Sniper.

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So here’s how the two teams look:

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Place your bets now!

The first game was Korokoro Viking with the International Team up, but MatsuJun couldn’t do the title call properly because the guests were chatting away too loudly – he had to quiet them down first. Like I said, there’s a fun atmosphere to this episode already.

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When asked about this own split heritage, Antony-san said he was half-American, half-Japanese. Of course, that was a bit strange to hear since no one is half-American (unless they’re half Native American) in the United States. I wonder if the Japanese have a concept of the divisions in the United States between ethnicities.

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They asked him what his favorite word in English is (a question which I have never been asked or thought about, so I’d be totally flummoxed by), and he answered potato. I guess . . . good answer? At least the audience seemed to get a kick out of it. It would have been total crickets if he had answered something like ‘existentialism’ or even ‘symmetry’.

I was even more awkward for Antony-san than it would be for me, since as the graphic at the bottom of the screen notes, Antony-san can’t speak anything except Japanese. Ah, the perils of having mixed ancestry in Japan – always having to face the assumption that you know every language spoken by your ancestors.

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JOY-san and Ueno-san had control of the critical orange zone. Ueno-san was in good form – I really need a translation of the conversation he sparked. It looked particularly interesting because it was purely within the guest team and lacked any of the inane stock questions the Arashi guys were likely to have.

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The Arashi team had Aiba-kun and Miyake-san taking care of the orange zone.

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Aiba-kun had been nervous opposite Morita Go-san (who he calls Go-kun), but said he wasn’t at all nervous being paired with Miyake-san (who he refers to as Ken-chan).

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Miyake-san gets him back, noting how he had impressions of each of the other Arashi members from when they backdanced for V6, but of Aiba-kun . . . not so much. He suggests that Aiba-kun was just tossed into Arashi all of a sudden.

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There’s been a lot of Morita talk so far, but don’t worry – V6’s leader Sakamoto-san prepared some memos for Miyake-san.

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Nino-kun has a good moment here, but I don’t know how to translate it.

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Well, they’re sure making the most out of Miyake-san’s appearance so far. The Arashi guys seem to be much more comfortable with him than with the other V6 members who have appeared on this program. Miyake-san is as animated as we could hope, even shouting “Aiba!” during the game.

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The second game was Dual Curling, and Antony-san, Yuuji-san and JOY-san had the first round for the International Team . . .

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. . . while Ohno-san, Miyake-san, and Sakurai-san (the elder three) handled it for Arashi.

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There’s another Sakamoto memo. Miyake-san looks like he’s getting ready for the punchline:

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He has some explaining to do afterward.

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At one point during the game, Miyake-san actually hid behind Ohno-san in shame. Don’t miss it!

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Maggie-san, Ueno-san, and Akemi-san faced Ninomiya-kun, Aiba-kun, and Matsumoto-kun in the second round. Aiba-kun is pumped up and in good form.

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This is a really high-tension match-up.

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Bank Bowling was next, with JOY-san and Akemi-san taking the first toss for their team (with JOY-san admitting to abysmal scores in bowling but confident because this is totally different) . . .

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. . . and the camouflage pair Ueno-san and Antony-san following up. Boy were these two talking fast – they were like a proper manzai pair (and funnier than most manzai performances I’ve seen – at last to me). Somewhere in there, there was something about Halloween parties, baseball teams, and the Sphinx.

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Ueno-san does look a bit like Freddie Mercury, but I was really happy that he didn’t actually attempt an imitation.

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Ninomiya-kun and Miyake-san had the first crack at it for the Arashi team.

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Nino-kun gives an account of how much Miyake-san enjoys bowling and we even get a graphic at the bottom that lists a few of his legendary accomplishments – like bowling twenty games alone in one day. After work, he goes bowling before even grabbing a bite to eat. His top score is 250. So . . . does that mean anything in this case? Well, he’s sure excited to give this a try.

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Oh dear – what happened to Ohno-san and Sakurai-san?

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Yay – it’s Cliff Climb! Maggie-san and Yuuji-san tackled the wall for the International Team. Yuuji-san took the tough part with the overhang, but credit to Maggie-san – there were certainly others on her team who could have done it, but she decided to give it a try even though she wasn’t necessary confident and said she was worried about it.

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On the Arashi turn, Miyake-san and Matsumoto-kun did the honors, and Miyake-san was the one who took the tough part of the climb. Will he be able to handle the overhang part and get to the top?

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Well, however Miyake-san did, he had a good word about it afterwards, and the comment involved Aiba-kun. There’s a definite Aiba-Miyake connection here – Miyake-san notes that they’re similar characters in their respective groups.

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No surprises about the last game – it was Kicking Sniper. After Miyake-san made a point about Morita-san’s performance in the game, it was inevitable that they’d save it for last to see how he’d do.

First, though, the International Team got their chance. Akemi-san, JOY-san, and Ueno-san took the shots. As usual, we got an account of their sports backgrounds.

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Well, I don’t know about all that – all I know is that you’re going to see some of the weakest kicks ever.

For Arashi, it was Aiba-kun, Miyake-san, and Ohno-san. All three of them admitted to having zero formal soccer experience. They’re all on the baseball side (well, Ohno-san is sort of complicated). I’ll omit the screenshots because they all have the point gap between the teams in the upper right.

So . . . that was a thoroughly excellent and amusing episode. Actually, it might have been the best all-around regular episode in a while (not including specials).

It was all about the guests and not at all because of the games. The International Team was feisty, with all of the members fully involved. I haven’t such a pack of chatterboxes on VS Arashi in a long time.

But with just them it would have only been a good episode, because I think the Arashi guys would have been largely left out. It was thanks to Miyake-san that we got some decent participation and humor out of the five hosts. It might be a bit controversial, but he’s my favorite Johnny’s guest since . . . well probably since Yamada-kun and Chinen-kun were on like . . . four years ago, I think? The totally fit in with the Arashi guys, showed good quick-witted humor, and the banter flowed easily. Also, it was nice to see him give the new and improved Cliff Climb a try.

After Korokoro Viking, the interaction between the two teams was relatively limited – most of the fun came when the team members talked to each other. So, the main contribution from the Arashi side (except for Sakurai-san conducting his normal hosting duties, of course) was in the fun they had with Miyake-san. Of the members, I think Aiba-kun definitely got the most mileage out of this, with Ohno-san and Ninomiya-kun also having some good moments. For that and a little game simulation at the end, Aiba-kun gets the Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi for this episode.