Previous episodes of Arashi ni Shiyagare (嵐にしやがれ) haven’t exactly left me eager to keep up with the show, but I took a brief look through these three episodes and decided to give them a fair shot, much as I did with ABChanZoo. The trick is that Arashi ni Shiyagare is twice as long, but only devotes half the time to the challenge portion. That’s not new, though – even before the format change, they didn’t spent much time on the really interesting part of the show. Will these episodes manage to entice me back despite the drawbacks of the format?

Well, first I need to skip the Tokyo Ii Mise Kudoi Mise parts, since I don’t think I’ll change my mind about them. Ohno-san and Sakurai-san did the eating on the November 2nd episode.

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The real show started with the introduction of the guest, Fukada Kyoko-san, who recently worked with Ohno-san for the 24hr TV drama Kyo no Hi wa Sayonara, was in the Yatterman movie with Sakurai-san, and otherwise has an impressive list of drama and movie roles. Along the way, if you go back far enough, she’s worked with all the Arashi members, though you have to go back to the 90s to get to MatsuJun and Aiba-kun.

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As usual, Ninomiya-kun kicks things off by giving a detailed run-through of the more intriguing aspects of her biography. Unfortunately, as usual, I understand very little of it.

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I got the first point – that she shares the same birthday as Marie Antoinette – but I didn’t catch whether they thought that was a good thing or bad thing. How good of a grasp do the Japanese have on French history?

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This is quite an image from when Fukada-san was fifteen:

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If the guest is someone interesting to you, it is really irritating not to have any subtitles during this part. I’m not particularly interested in the lives and times of the stars . . .

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. . . but some of the mannerisms and reactions from the Arashis really had me wondering what was going on.

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And I really wanted to know what she had to say about MatsuJun, who she went to school with (they were a year apart).

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Thoughtfully, Nino-kun inserted an activity in the middle of all the talk (just for people like me who don’t speak Japanese!). In this case, Fukada-san had to pick which Arashi she would be most likely to have a relationship with, but along the way she assigned Arashis to various roles – friend, etc. This backfired on Nino-kun, as she picked him as her father. Ouch.

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And she looks serious about it, too. (She gives some very well-considered reasons.)

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I won’t go through each role, but I will reveal that the one everyone was aiming for came down to two members – Aiba-kun and Matsumoto-kun. Who do you think it will be?

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Back to talking for a while . . .

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. . . and then the challenge begins at the 26 minute mark – way earlier than usual. We almost have half the episode left for it! This is looking good.

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Apparently, Fukada-san doesn’t have any interest in marriage, but somehow they decided to experience a wedding reception anyway (maybe to get it out of their system?). But not just any reception – the number one most popular wedding reception.

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It’s got the number one wedding producer, the number one marriage ceremony MC, the number one entrance music for the lucky couple, the . . . if you’ve figured out that you’re going to hear “number one” a lot in this segment, you’ve got the picture.

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Worth mentioning: Arashi’s own “One Love” is the No.2 most popular entrance music at wedding receptions. So close! The guys looked quite pleased when finding this out.

Mostly, there’s a lot of really expensive stuff in this segment. I doubt the wedding producer and MC work on the cheap, either. The fact that we’re told how much some of the stuff costs makes it seem like either an advertisement or they think that the sheer cost conveys how good something is. I tend to believe in diminishing returns (and value free stuff like Wikipedia and, well, this blog).

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But where’s the challenge? Are the Arashi guys just going to get to sit and watch for the whole episode?

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Well, not quite. They decide to recruit Matsumoto-kun to do the toast to the lucky couple in what was apparently a complete surprise to him. It’s especially tricky since he doesn’t know the couple and therefore can’t build on such knowledge to lead him.

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It was funny, and he got mixed results.

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Then suddenly, Aiba-kun popped up because he had been cued to do the Aiba quiz. I guess this is . . . the number one quiz?

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Fukada-san looks dubious about this part of the ceremony.

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Ohno-san gets to participate, too, but for the life of me I can’t decide what to call this. A crystal glass fountain? Champagne fountain? Something like that?

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He joins Fukada-san in doing the honors.

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Anyway, it costs 73,500 yen (around $735), so . . . yeah. Not exactly worth a computer in my book.

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Are they seriously trying to tell me COWCOW’s Atari-mae gag is the number one most popular . . . what?

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Doesn’t matter – as long as Aiba-kun and Ohno-san are doing the gag instead of COWCOW, I’m all right with it. It was a bit tricky, though – Ohno-san and Aiba-kun had to sing it, too, even though COWCOW usually has a loud recorded voice do it while they stay silent.

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This is how you can tell that it’s been a good episode:

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I guess I’ll still assign the Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi for each episode, and for the November 2nd episode I think it has to be Matsumoto-kun for various outstanding moments including the toast. Aiba-kun and Ohno-kun deserve honorable mentions, though – especially for their COWCOW imitation.

In the Nov. 9th episode, Aiba-kun and Matsumoto-kun took care of the preliminary munching . . .

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. . . and once they were all fueled up, they started the real show by bringing out the guest – Takahashi Katsumi-san. I last saw Takahashi-san in the drama Biblia Koshodou no Jiken Techou and he’s more recently been in the detective drama Kakusho, but I remember him best from Tokujo Kabachi!! where he worked with Sakurai-san. He was also in the all-star cast in Nobuta wo Produce (I really want to watch that drama again).

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Turns out MatsuJun felt safe about doing a fashion check on Takahashi-san and giving him a low score. Frankly, it doesn’t look like Takahashi-san dressed with the intention of getting his style appraised – he’s wearing a very straightforward suit.

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Ninomiya-kun went through Takahashi-san’s bio. His prefecture has set some national records for height, but Takahashi-san isn’t particularly outstanding in that respect.

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This time, the special activity was . . . eating. Don’t ask me why, but they ended up all getting a helping of pasta/yakisoba.

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The first turning point in Takahashi-san’s life occurred when he was four, and he appeared in a commercial.

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Umm . . . that’s a bit scary-looking:

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Even Nino-kun pointed out that the balance was bad.

At this point, they suddenly interrupted Nino-kun’s corner with . . . what’s this about security systems?

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This was billed as Arashi versus the face recognition system, but . . . why do I get the feeling Arashi isn’t going to have a chance?

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I don’t know . . . this doesn’t seem to be a very scientific test.

They continued with Takahashi-san’s biography, hitting his high school days where he picked up the guitar . . .

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. . . which led them to ask him for a performance to see how well he’s maintained his skills (not a total loss, but not particularly good, either).

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It was a lot better – well, funnier – when he tried to improvise a song for the occasion.

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After that, Aiba-kun introduced a new game. He had six cards, and one of them had ‘liar’ written on it. Each person had to tell a true story except for the person who drew the ‘liar’ card who, of course, had to tell a lie. Then they each had to guess who was lying.

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All of the stories involved other famous people. For instance, Matsumoto-kun had one about Ueno Juri-san.

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I’m not going to try to convey the stories, and nor will I give away who was lying. This is one of those segments that will be way more enjoyable with subs.

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It’s a good game, but they really need to speed it up a lot. In this episode, it took the final sixteen minutes – more than a third of the entire episode. I think it should be ten minutes at most.

The Most Omoshiroi Arashi for Nov. 9th is an easy choice – Ohno-san for his attempts to fool the face recognition camera.

On the Nov.16th, they tried an interesting tactic to try to spice up the Tokyo Ii Mise Kudoi Mise segment – they invited Morisanchuu’s Kurosawa-san to join Sakurai-san and Ninomiya-kun for the meal.

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As crazy as Kurosawa-san can be, I don’t really think her presence helped once they all sat down and started eating.

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The real guest for the episode was Maya Miki-san, who I last saw playing the Vice Principal in Kasuka na Kanojo. She was also in The Quiz Show 2 with Sakurai-san.

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Most impressively, though, she was a top star of the Takarazuka Revue – the all-female stage troupe we met in a previous Arashi ni Shiyagare. So, whatever else Nino-kun might have on his board . . .

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. . . which included a prefecture quiz because she likes maps . . .

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. . . we knew we would eventually get to see her in the Takarazuka Review. Here she was at the age of thirty-three:

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Her singing voice is great, and her dancing isn’t bad, either. Too bad I don’t think we’ll get to see an Arashi-Miki collaboration.

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Nino-kun wrapped up his corner a bit later than in the previous episodes, but that still left 19 minutes in the program time. They had a new corner first – The Touch (or, as Sakurai-san said it, “Za Touchie”).

There were a pair of extra-special helpers bringing out the items:

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I loved Arashi’s reaction on seeing them. They collectively said something to the effect of “hey, wait a minute – those guys were the real thing, weren’t they? They were just here to do the title call!?”

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Anyway, the Arashi members had to each pick out an item that they thought Maya-san had never touched before, and whoever got it right would be the winner(s). There’s also a chance that there will be no winner.

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As usual, I won’t give the result of the game away. It’s a fascinating premise – I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it before.

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It only took about five minutes, after which they turned to the same ‘liar’ game that they played with Takahashi-san.

2013.11.02-16 Arashi ni Shiyagare 103Once again, I approve of the game structurally, but I can’t totally appreciate it without subs.

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At pretty much every stage, the Arashi members each contributed equally, so I think I’ll pass on the Most Omoshiroi Arashi for the Nov. 16th episode.

On the one hand, I think these three episodes benefited from three top-notch guests. Fukada-san had worked with all the Arashis before and was comfortable around them – as was evident from how much she had to say when assigning them roles. Takahashi-san is a perennially good-natured guy, as you could tell by the way he reacted to MatsuJun giving his style a low score and also by how he kept plugging away at the guitar and singing even though he knew he wasn’t great at it. And finally Maya-san, who is so awesomely dignified in her bearing she could be royalty.

But even given the guests, the activities in the second half of the show were a significant improvement over what we’ve been getting for the month before this. The wedding scene was brilliant, but not repeatable. With the ‘liar’ game and ‘The Touch’, it’s clear that more effort is going into developing an array of games they can always play with the guest to keep things interesting. ‘The Touch’ is ready to go as-is, but they need to tighten up the ‘liar’ game a bit (not to mention I’m going to need to work harder on my Japanese so I don’t have as much trouble understanding what they’re talking about).

So yeah, I think this show is in a much better place if they keep coming up with and applying new corners like they did in the second and third episode. I’ll review subsequent episodes in my regular format. Provisionally.