Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) is a music variety show usually hosted by Japanese idol group Hey! Say! Jump that showcases the song-and-dance skills of the Johnny’s Entertainment agency’s most recently debuted groups – A.B.C-Z and Sexy Zone – as well as the agency’s trainees (known as juniors).

It was A.B.C-Z starting the show off this time, singing “Za ABC ~5stars~” – their début single.

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Well, the group was obviously able to perform this one just fine. The backdancing from the juniors was noteworthy, too – Masuda Ryo-kun in particular was making the most of the time the camera was on him.

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Next, Sexy Zone sang . . . sang “Bye Bye Dubai”. Really? This is the fourth episode in a row – the fourth week in a row – that they’ve done this song! I’m sorry, but as much I prefer this song over their previous two singles, I really think it’s past the limit now.

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Like last week, the HSJ hosts were Yabu Kota-kun and Okamoto Keito-kun, and they introduced the theme for the show – “Star”. Okay – which type? If it’s the performing type, that’s not going to be much of a problem because the stage is going to be full of stars, but if it’s the sphere of fusing hydrogen type, there are only a handful of songs that re relevant.

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Well, the first song of the Star medley was KAT-TUN’s “Star Rider”, so it might be the latter meaning of the word (?).

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Jinguji Yuta-kun led an incredible vigorous pack of juniors, but I’m not sure why he was highlighted, since I couldn’t pick out his voice at all. The second rank in the red jackets, including Matsuda Genta-kun, Matsukura Kaito-kun and Hayashi Ippei-kun, could have probably handled it. Jinguji-kun looked a bit awkward here.

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Next, Kishi Yuta-kun and Miyachika Kaito-kun did “Yume Monogatari” (still one of my favorite Johnny’s songs), which does have a brief mention of stars in the lyrics. The vocals of the leads was clearer here than it was with Jinguji-kun, and the two of them also gave more of a Tackey & Tsubasa-like air.

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How about a KinKi Kids song? It was “Zenbu Dakishimete” with Iwamoto Hikaru-kun and Fukusawa Tatsuya-kun in the lead. Again, this has been a month of duos, but this was a surprising one. I don’t know about the vocals, but the pair have a good feel about them – they’ve basically been working together for years, so I guess that makes sense.

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They also did V6’s “Good Day!!” with Nozawa Yuki-kun at center stage.

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And the medley ended with the song I thought of immediately when I saw the theme “Star” – NEWS’ “Hoshi wo Mezashite”. Again, one of my favorite songs from Johnny’s. The performers were an interesting mix this time – Morimoto Shintaro, Morita Myuto, Kouchi Yugo, Morohoshi Shoki, Anderson Casey, and Kishi Takayoshi. Ah, Johnny’s! You really want to keep us guessing about the junior units, don’t you?

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So that was a very interesting and fun medley featuring quite a selection of juniors. I still wonder about Jinguji-kun being out there solo – where was Iwahashi-kun? Was it that normally they’d do that one together but for some reason Iwahashi-kun was absent this time so Jinguji-kun had to do it on his own?

Anyway, Yabu-kun and Keito-kun introduced the special guest . . .

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. . . Nakayama Yuma-kun performing “Mizu no Kaeru Basho”. Yuma-kun’s voice on this one is a highlight on its own, but it was paired with some elaborate choreography to make the stage extra-special.

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The backdancers included Teranishi Takuto , Masuda Ryo, Hagiya Keigo, Yasui Kentaro, and Morita Myuto. I’m missing one person I couldn’t identify – was it Morohoshi?

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So that was a not-to-be missed performance (as usual from Yuma-kun).

Yuma-kun sat down with Yabu-kun and Keito-kun to talk about walking a lot . . .

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. . . only to be joined by the next performers – B.A.D. Well, that should save Yuma-kun from having to say anything more.

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They answered questions like “who out of the three of you is the worst at waking up?” I can’t say I was especially interested in the talk, though it seems like the sort of thing fans usually get a kick out of. The audience sure reacted.

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After that, B.A.D. took the stage for “Ko-wa-re-so-u” and . . . it’s amazing how used to seeing them surrounded by a ton of other juniors I am. The stage looked very bare  . . .

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. . . until they switched to Nakama-kun singing “Love Criminal”, as he had Anderson Casey and associated juniors backdancing. Kiriyama-kun followed by doing “5W1H” with juniors I couldn’t get a good look at behind him. The camera work here was really irritating as it kept zooming in and out while I was trying to figure out who was on stage.

To round things off, the pair sang “Another Tomorrow” with chibis, Jinguji-kun, and Kishi Yuta-kun dancing with them.

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I’d say that it was a solid medley – especially because I wasn’t expecting a medley at all, much less a brief solo from each of them. Nicely done.

The Jr. ni Q segment was next, and we continue with the vague topic where the juniors are asked to reveal something about themselves. Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun from A.B.C-Z were the hosts.

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The first guest was Kuramoto Kaoru-kun, whose response has already made it into the database thanks to the eager efforts of hikarusgirl, who commented about it just a day after the episode aired. You see, Kuramoto-kun talked about his prodigious height – 170 cm at the age of 13. He’s grown 10 cm on average each of the past three years for a total gain of 30 cm since he was 10. That’s remarkable.

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As he notes, he’ll make it to two meters by 16 at this rate! Well, that would certainly be a sight to see, though for his sake I hope it doesn’t happen – the entertainment business isn’t particularly kind to tall people. Anything above the astronaut height limit (75-76 inches = 190.5-193 cm) is probably a no-go.

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Next up was Sanada Yuma-kun who talked about being a memo guy.

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Kawasaki Shota-kun does singing monomane, and shows his Kikuchi Fuma-kun impression. Now, Fuma-kun is one of the better singers in Johnny’s, so it was quite impressive to see Shota-kun do a good job of singing. He doesn’t have Fuma-kun’s tone, but there’s no doubt that Shota-kun is also a talented vocalist.

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Yasui Kentaro-kun boasted that he could probably cry on demand in ten seconds, but he admitted that he wrote that just to get called up. Smart fellow, but can he do it after all?

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Kyomoto Taiga-kun said he could maybe do it in five seconds, but it turns out he was fooling around, too. I think Johnny-san might crack down on this sort of ploy.

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Still, it was funny watching both Yasui-kun and Kyomoto-kun try to cry.

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Hashimoto-kun and Kento-kun hosted the Power-up Battle next. We haven’t seen one of these in a while, but I’m glad they decided to try it again. The contestants were . . . omigod what is he wearing?!

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Ahem, the contestants were Pink Boa – no, I mean Matsumura Hokuto-kun, Yasui Kentaro-kun, and Fukusawa Tatsuya-kun.

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Whatever the game is, Hokuto-kun has to lose just for wearing that – you can’t power up while wearing a pink cardigan and boa, dammit!

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I really didn’t understand the scenario for this challenge, but it resulted in some funny faces.

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Altogether, it was a pretty disappointing round of what might otherwise be a decent segment.

Sato Shori-kun sang “Kimi wo Hanasanai Kimi wo Hanarenai” with juniors appearing one at a time to join him. His supporters were Kishi Yuta-kun, Iwahashi-kun, Miyachika-kun, Jinguji-kun (shall we call them the Fab Four, blatantly stealing the title from The Beatles?).

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Iwahashi-kun was around for the recording of the episode, after all, so I still don’t get the Jinguji solo earlier.

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Nothing really special about the performance – pretty easy stuff for these guys. I guess they had Shori-kun do it with the juniors because he wrote the lyrics to the song, but since he needed singing support anyway, the only reason they didn’t have him do it with SZ was that he’d be overshadowed by these two:

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Ah, Kento-kun and Fuma-kun. Well, they had solo performances recently, too, right? I’m just waiting for the day when we get solos from Sou-kun and Marius-kun.

Anyway, the Shokura You Bin segment featured a hilarious little skit from the two elder SZ members. The fan mail seemed to ask for a cool, original winning pose (Usain Bolt-style, I think), but the two of them went in what seemed to be a very strange direction.

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So, they called in two experts – Hashimoto-kun and Goseki-kun. I think Goseki-kun had some of his best Shounen Club moments right here.

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I think Kento-kun messed up the title of A.B.C-Z’s song – a surprise since I thought he had made reasonable attempts at English before.

“Like A Blow” was spectacular – I think the dancing was much sharper than the last time I saw it, and I still love the song. I might even say that it’s my favorite A.B.C-Z song.

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They really put their backs into it this time:

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Next was another junior medley. Jesse-kun started it off with KinKi Kids’ “Misty”, singing what was probably a duet completely alone – no backdancers.

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Kyomoto Taiga-kun totally caught me by surprise. First of all, I was expecting Pink . . . I mean, Hokuto-kun next. There was his song choice – “Hitoribocchi no Haburashi” which was written by Tsunku-san for TOKIO’s Nagase Tomoya-san’s character in the drama Mukodono. Most importantly, though, while it shouldn’t be a particularly difficult song for Kyomoto-kun, but he wasn’t very good with it. Shakiest singing I’ve heard from him in . . . I don’t know how long.

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Hokuto-kun followed with Yamashita Tomohisa-kun’s “Gomen ne Juliet”. He sounded fine, but looked ridiculous.

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Yasui-kun appeared to sing Kamenashi Kazuya-kun’s “Lost My Way”. Wait . . . Yasui-kun does solos? It was unfortunate that he followed the other three – he had solid dancing, but his singing was weaker than theirs.

The juniors kept coming as Sanada Yuma-kun gave Yamapi’s “One in a million” his best shot. His singing was horrendous. He and Yasui-kun are a long way off from being able to do solos – even on Shounen Club.

Finally, all five soloists performed Kis-My-Ft2’s “Fire Beat”.

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That was a long medley that didn’t seem to do anyone any good. None of them got to do a substantial portion of the songs, and with the bits they did do, none of them showed substantial improvement over what I knew they could do. Some of them disappointed.

Kawai-kun and Goseki-kun handled the Kansai segment next, and the mission was manzai (stand-up comedy usually done in duos or trios). The Kansai juniors seem to do manzai just while standing around, so it wasn’t a surprise that they were well-prepared for this.

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I don’t remember seeing Kin Kan do an elaborate skit like this, though – it was a real pro attempt.

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Hamada-kun, Fujii-kun, and Kamiyama-kun tried to get laughs next, and their skit seemed to revolve around Kinpachi-sensei. Unfortunately, all I could think while watching it was “what the heck is up with Kamiyama-kun’s shirt?” You’ll have to watch to really understand, I think, but then it’ll be immediately apparent what I mean. It’s clearly a strange style thing that I hope nobody ever does ever again.

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Top marks go to Hirano Sho-kun in that segment, I think.

The Kansai juniors then performed “Naniwa Ittoushou”, which featured Naniwa Oji, Kin Kan, 7WEST, and B.A.D. This was a Kansai cheer song. Musically, it was a harsh in construction, but tries to make up for that with lots of energy.

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I didn’t like it. Is it fun? Yes. But it was unkind to my ears and highly repetitive. I’ve heard better fun, energetic songs from these guys.

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A.B.C-Z wrapped up the show by performing “Twinkle Twinkle A.B.C-Z”, which is a fair song to close on.

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Their attempts at English are tolerable – seems like they’re in the lead in the English pronunciation category in Johnny’s (except for Akanishi Jin-kun, I guess). Wouldn’t it be remarkable if they eventually managed an American market release?

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Anyway, it was a nice closing with the juniors all showing up . . .

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. . . but it wasn’t the end of the show, because we also got an omake segment hosted by Shori-kun.

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His guest was . . . Yasui Kentaro-kun. Well, surprises about. Yasui-kun is surely the youngest person to be featured, isn’t he? Not to mention the only junior except for Uchi Hiroki-kun, who’s a special case. Shori-kun and Yasui-kun are working together in the drama “49”, so it was an amusing little addition to the show – no awkwardness.

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Okay, so that was . . . the whole episode felt sort of strange, actually. Maybe it’s just because we’ve been getting so many episodes in a row, but I think it’s also true that I’ve never seen an episode quite like this before. A lot of juniors were featured individually or in small groups. Not as much SZ this time – it was definitely more A.B.C-Z focused – but it didn’t feel like A.B.C-Z dominated the time or anything like that. Pretty even altogether.

There were some strong highlights – the Star medley, Yuma-kun’s solo, and “Like A Blow” are at the top of my list. The Kansai manzai segment was good, too. The B.A.D. medley was okay, but not really a highlight, as was “Twinkle Twinkle A.B.C-Z”.

Otherwise, everything was more of a shrug – par or sub-par.

Despite a pretty concrete view on each performance, I didn’t really get a feel for the episode, and I don’t know why. I guess I’d call it choppy, but I can’t put my finger on an explanation. I’m going to rate this one an 8 out of 10, but I considered giving it a 7. Maybe it’s just the fact that none of the juniors seem to be part of stable groups anymore and there was nothing new in the episode.