Now that I know ABChanZoo has turned into a show I’d enjoy watching, I still need to desperately try to catch up with it. To that end, even though I just posted three October episodes a few days ago, here’s two more! Considering how good the October ones were, I was highly motivated to continue watching more.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get my hands on a good copy of the November 10th one, so this will just be November 3rd and 17th. And that’s all right, because there were plenty of surprises for me in just these two:

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The November 3rd episode continued the diving mission from the previous episode, but as you can see from the screencaps, it began with a uniquely A.B.C-Z live performance – once again using only one camera with no cuts. They were cosplaying various workers for TV Tokyo (Tsukada-kun was the receptionist, Hashimoto-kun was a janitor, Kawai-kun a director) but then all had to get changed in the control room – while performing – into their stage costumes:

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And then they went into the studio in front of the live audience.

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That was . . .  insane.

But not as insane as four guys who have trouble swimming trying to keep up with a woman of the sea – an 85-year-old who has been shell diving for 70 years.

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They get settled in, putting confident smiles on:

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I loved it when they highlighted the ama-san’s goggles – these sure look classic.

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She’s got other custom equipment to help her in her work, too, as explained in a graphic.

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For now, the guys just look on as she does her thing . . .

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. . . and then get a look at the catch she brings up after half an hour of diving. She’s understandably tired after spending so long at it, but she’s got a full bag of sazae – turban shells – to show for her effort. There are thirty-six of them, but she doesn’t seem pleased with that. Apparently, they only get 1000 yen ($10) for every kilogram, and it takes about twenty shells to make a kilo, so this amounted to an $18 catch. Considering you can’t spend eight hours a day diving, that’s a meager result, so even though the A.B.C-Z guys are impressed, it’s understandable that she doesn’t feel it’s her best work.

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But can the guys help her out? Hashimoto-kun and Tsukada-kun go in first. Tsukada-kun seems fairly good at it despite the trouble he seemed to have holding his breath in the previous episode.

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The underwater shots were pretty good in this, by the way – better than in a similar HamaKisu episode – but the screenshots were too blurry because they were moving about, so I couldn’t include them.

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Tsukada-kun and Hashimoto-kun each manage to get one sazae, and back on the boat Hashimoto-kun boasts that his is bigger, and Tsukada-kun basically responds that size isn’t everything (or, to be more accurate, how big it is has nothing to do with who won or lost).

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Kawai-kun and Goseki-kun went next, but they weren’t alone . . .

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. . . oh, wait, that’s not a ray – that’s Kawai-kun’s flipper! Oh dear – he’s not very good at this, is he?

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It gets worse – on another attempt, he actually bumps into the boat. Goseki-kun’s main fault is that he looks horrible in pink goggles, but he also doesn’t have much luck fetching sazae.

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This is pretty sad – after half an hour, they weren’t able to get a single one. Well . . . maybe the ama-san, Tsukada-kun, and Hashimoto-kun got all the easy ones?

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Anyway, time to head back in (though Kawai-kun wasn’t actually able to move at all) . . .

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. . . have a bath (note that it’s only three of them – Kawai-kun is still recovering) . . .

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. . . and then eat a super seafood meal.

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And there you have it – another genuine challenge episode, complete with struggle, a bath, and a reward. While I wasn’t too excited by the first ama-san episode, they sure did a good job wrapping it up.

That November 3rd episode, though was nothing – nothing – compared to what Hashimoto-kun and Tsukada-kun faced in the episode on the 17th.

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But first, a performance of “Never My Love”. This one didn’t have any clever gimmicks because it was only three days before the single’s release date, and they wanted to entice people properly (and considering it got the best first-week result since their debut, I guess it worked).

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It was a good performance of the song. I actually like the B-side better, but that’s true with me and so many Johnny’s singles these days.

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Anyway, the main point of the episode was to get Tsukada-kun and Hashimoto-kun to the circus . . .

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. . . and give them three hours to learn a trapeze act before having to do it live in front of an audience.

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You’ll have to forgive me, but I couldn’t get too many in-air shots because they mostly came out blurry, but I did get plenty of screencaps of Hashimoto-kun and Tsukada-kun on the ground looking nervous:

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Oh, and on the platform, too. The camera work in this episode was great – I really haven’t seen trapeze acts from some of the angles we saw in this episode. It always looks much more impressive from a high vantage point, where you can see the seats.

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Even the pros sometimes need to rely on the safety net, and you can be sure Tsukada-kun and Hashimoto-kun are going to get very familiar with it.

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We get a detailed explanation of what they’re supposed to do via a VTR.

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They get presented with ‘special professional grips’, but Hashimoto-kun still looks crazy nervous. Tsukada-kun, while nervous, always looks like he’s born for this sort of thing.

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Watching them practice in the last half an hour before the real show is great. We know they’ve already been through hours of falling, and they’re getting closer and closer to the finished product, but there are still kinks to work out.

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With the audience in the tent, they’re all dressed up and ready for action.

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Other circus performers are running around backstage, doing their own thing. And while the guys have some fun with them at first . . .

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. . . it’s ultimately time for them to get their game faces on and to do a gut check.

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How did they do? Well, you’re going to have to watch to find out!

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One way or another, the audience is going to get a kick out of it . . .

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. . . and Tsuakda-kun isn’t going to miss a chance to go crazy and steal the show during the dance finale.

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Well, I think there’s no question that these were two superb episodes – pretty much exactly what I want to see from Japanese variety shows in general, and A.B.C-Z in particular. They got my attention back with the October episodes and made me confident that I should keep watching with these.

I hope future groups, and the production teams who put on Johnny’s shows, will look at what these guys are doing and take it as an exemplar. I started reviewing variety shows in the hope that I would get a chance to see and write about stuff like this – shows that would obviously appeal to people even if they don’t understand the Japanese language. I thought HamaKisu did a good job of it before it turned into KisuHama, but now ABChanZoo has taken up the reins. Can they manage to keep up this pace? Well, I’ll definitely be tuning in to find out.

Oh, and the live performances are amazing, too – quintessential Johnny’s. Almost forgot to say that.

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