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 . . .
. . . 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.
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.
But what’s the nature of the challenge for A.B.C-Z? Surely the guys aren’t just going to stand around watching!
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.
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.
Well, they don’t have a flexibility problem (well, Goseki-kun might be getting a bit old for this):
Then again, the rhythmic gymnastics guys sure take things to the next level:
Can Totsuka-kun do it?
Tsukada-kun has all the pride and ability of someone who once aimed to be an Olympian . . .
. . . while Totsuka-kun is . . . weird.
Their hosts aren’t satisfied, and decide it’s time to torture them directly.
So, now that they’re all stretched out, can they do some a rhythmic gymnastics move from a handstand?
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.
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.
With all of this, I think you’ve already guessed what the challenge is.
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).
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?
Well, here’s a screencap from the October 20th episode that should suggest otherwise:
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.
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.
Speaking of embarrassing, what’s with the . . . is that supposed to be a banana?
I don’t know, seems like a cross between a banana and the screaming figure from Edvard Munch’s famous painting.
Anyway, on with the main event – forcing Kawai-kun to face his fear of heights. For that, they picked out a tall tower . . .
. . . with glass floors.
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.
They quickly moved on from that tower to something even worse:
You know it’s getting serious when they have to wear helmets.
Yes, they’re going up to the top of one of the suspension towers . . .
. . . and the way Kawai-kun was gripping Hashimoto-kun’s arm was . . . .
Honestly, I didn’t even realize that they bothered to put elevators into the suspension towers. I guess it makes sense for maintenance reasons.
And this is where Kawai-kun steps out into the fresh air at an altitude of 300 meters – over a roadway.
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.
No, the ultimate test is cleaning the windows on an eight-story building!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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).
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.
The local men don’t seem to think these young’uns are up to the task.
Well, the first step is to dress for the job, and that once again means getting out of those overalls . . .
. . . and into wetsuits.
Step two – figuring out how long they can hold their breaths under water. They need to manage 30 seconds minimum.
This might take some of them a few tries.
And things only get harder from here. They need to put on some weight . . .
. . . 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?
After spending a fair amount of time at this . . .
. . . they’re finally ready for the main event – working with one of the legendary women of the sea.
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.