A commenter suggested that I should check out the newer episodes of ABChanZoo, and it turns out that the three episodes I used to retest the waters – airing October 13th, 20th, and 27th – were excellent. They were more of what I thought the show would be when it started – with the A.B.C-Z guys facing legitimate challenges rather than food missions. So, in an effort to catch up and potentially begin covering this show more consistently, I present these three classic episodes of ABChanZoo.

The October 13th episode started with a long and convoluted VTR detailing some of A.B.C-Z’s activities alongside examples of their acrobatic prowess, and that was a shame because it cut into the time necessary for the main event. You see, Goseki-kun, Tsukada-kun and Totsuka-kun were heading in to meet . . .

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 000 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 001 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 002

. . . a rhythmic gymnastics team. So can the Johnny’s group most known for acrobatics keep up with young men who focus on nothing else? We’re going to find out. The coach for the team is a former All-Japan champion, and the team has a historic record to live up to, so this is no mere after-school club.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0032013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 004

The trick is doing the tumbling and flips synchronized – to the point where they have to be at the same angle in the air at the same time.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 005

But what’s the nature of the challenge for A.B.C-Z? Surely the guys aren’t just going to stand around watching!

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 006 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 007

Whatever it is, Tsukada-kun assures the coach that they have confidence, but the coach wants a demonstration of their ability. I can’t really offer a screencap of that, because it’s a blur.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 008 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 009

Thankfully, they get out of those overalls, and switch to shorts. Why on earth does Totsuka-kun tuck in his shirt like that though!? That was totally distracting.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 010 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 011

Well, they don’t have a flexibility problem (well, Goseki-kun might be getting a bit old for this):

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 012 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 013

Then again, the rhythmic gymnastics guys sure take things to the next level:

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 015

Can Totsuka-kun do it?

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 016

Tsukada-kun has all the pride and ability of someone who once aimed to be an Olympian . . .

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 017

. . . while Totsuka-kun is . . . weird.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 018

Their hosts aren’t satisfied, and decide it’s time to torture them directly.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0192013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 020

So, now that they’re all stretched out, can they do some a rhythmic gymnastics move from a handstand?

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 021

Well, the trick isn’t just doing to move, but performing it with the precision and speed that will be necessary if they’re going to match the other guys.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 022 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 023

Looking at these screenshots, I think you understand why I think that VTR at the beginning was rather unnecessary, though I guess it was a fair way to promote the group’s activities.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 024 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 025 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 026

With all of this, I think you’ve already guessed what the challenge is.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0272013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0282013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 029

That’s right! They have to do a performance alongside the rhythmic gymnastic team! How awesome is that! (Well, a lot more awesome than picking garlics or watching other people haul in nets full of fish, which was what they did in the first few episodes of the series).

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 030 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0312013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0322013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 033

I think I’ve made my case about how great the October 13th episode was, but what if it was just a one-off thing? What if they went back to eating food in the next episode?

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0352013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0362013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 037

Well, here’s a screencap from the October 20th episode that should suggest otherwise:

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 038

The episode started innocuously enough with a live performance of “Twinkle Twinkle A.B.C-Z”. Having the guys in trees was interesting, though for some reason I feel this is more of a nighttime song – you know, a song for when there are actually stars out.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0392013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 040

This was a special live in other ways, too. As noted in the upper right corner, this was a one camera, no cut live – that is, the editor couldn’t cut to a different camera to hide something embarrassing.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0412013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 042

Speaking of embarrassing, what’s with the . . . is that supposed to be a banana?

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 043

I don’t know, seems like a cross between a banana and the screaming figure from Edvard Munch’s famous painting.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 044

Anyway, on with the main event – forcing Kawai-kun to face his fear of heights. For that, they picked out a tall tower . . .

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 045

. . . with glass floors.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 046 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 047

Can I say that Kawai-kun was totally cute here? It was like he was suddenly a kid again, and not necessarily in the way he would have liked.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 048

They quickly moved on from that tower to something even worse:

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0492013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 051

You know it’s getting serious when they have to wear helmets.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 052 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 053

Yes, they’re going up to the top of one of the suspension towers . . .

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 054

. . . and the way Kawai-kun was gripping Hashimoto-kun’s arm was . . . .

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0552013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 056

Honestly, I didn’t even realize that they bothered to put elevators into the suspension towers. I guess it makes sense for maintenance reasons.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 058 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 059

And this is where Kawai-kun steps out into the fresh air at an altitude of 300 meters – over a roadway.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 060 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 061 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 062

And to think – this isn’t the most extreme thing he’s going to have to do in this episode to get over his fear.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0632013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 064

No, the ultimate test is cleaning the windows on an eight-story building!

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 069

And it’s not one of those situations where the window cleaners get to stand on a platform. No, they have to do it with only ropes supporting them.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 070 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0712013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 072

Even Hashimoto-kun isn’t enthusiastic about this at all, but if Kawai-kun wants to show that he’s over his fear, this is sure a convincing way to do it.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 073 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0742013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 076

So . . . will we still be hearing about how he’s afraid of heights, or were these experiences really enough to snap him out of it? Sounds like he’s about 30% cured, which leads Hashimoto-kun threaten that they’ll have to try taller buildings next time.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 077 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 078 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 079

Cleaning windows on a building like that is definitely a legitimate challenge, making it at least a solid episode. Add to that premise Kawai-kun’s expressions, and it was a wonderfully entertaining half-hour.

And so we turn to the last of the three episodes I tried out – the one from October 27th. For the first time, the guys started out in a studio with a live audience:

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 081 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 082

But it wasn’t for a live. No, it was just so they could point out one of their failings in front of as many people as possible. You see, four members of the group have trouble swimming. Well, those four – Kawai, Hashimoto, Goseki, and Tsukada – are going to be taught by an 85 year-old female diver (ama – 海女).

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0832013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0842013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 085

I sure hope I’m in as good shape at 85 as she seemed to be. I don’t do any swimming, though, so . . . I’m pretty sure I won’t be.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 086 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0872013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 088

The local men don’t seem to think these young’uns are up to the task.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 089 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 090

Well, the first step is to dress for the job, and that once again means getting out of those overalls . . .

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 093

. . . and into wetsuits.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 094 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 0952013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 096

Step two – figuring out how long they can hold their breaths under water. They need to manage 30 seconds minimum.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 097 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 098 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 099

This might take some of them a few tries.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 101

And things only get harder from here. They need to put on some weight . . .

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 1022013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 104

. . . and chase after colored balls in the water. Keep in mind that they aren’t even swimming alongside the diver yet – they’re just practicing so that they can qualify. If they can’t get the colored balls, how are they going to help retrieve the seafood that the ama-san is after?

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 105 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 106 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 1072013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 109

After spending a fair amount of time at this . . .

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 110 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 1112013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 112

. . . they’re finally ready for the main event – working with one of the legendary women of the sea.

2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 113 2013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 1142013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 1152013.10.13-27 ABChanZoo 116

Between the three episodes I liked this one the least, but it was still a good, fun episode. In fact, they did a better job than similar episodes on other programs thanks to some decent underwater shots as well as the compelling storyline involving their lack of swimming acumen. Obviously, this was a huge improvement over the fishing expedition they went on in the early episodes of the series.

Incidentally, they finish the diving mission in the next episode (and, of course, cook and eat their findings).

In short, I think ABChanZoo has improved tremendously over its first three episodes and, as long as they keep this up, I’ll hunt for new episodes and try to get the reviews up.