Honestly, I’m way more eager to review the December 5th episode of VS Arashi (VS 嵐) than I am this one (because Chinen Yuri-kun is the plus one guest there, and that promises to be epic), but first things first. Will this episode be able to keep me interested despite the fact that I’m so strongly anticipating the next one?

Well, it sure looks promising with the Arashi guys decked out in camouflage gear – they seem ready for action.

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The opening talk began with congratulations for Ohno-san on his birthday two days before the episode aired. He’s 33 and still going strong. They invite him to send a special message to his mother.

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Well, if the Arashi guys look ready for action, the guest team . . . doesn’t. But for once that’s all right because they’re in costume.

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It’s the Sazae-san team. Sazae-san was a manga that started publication right after World War II and continued until 1974. It was subsequently turned into an anime, and the guest team represents the newest iteration of the TV drama. Incidentally, Sazae-san was first turned into a TV drama in 1965, and the leader of the guest team – Mizuki Arisa-san (観月ありさ) – has been the lead actress in the most recent four seasons/parts, which aired starting in 2009. Joining her were Tsutsui Michitaka-san (筒井道隆), Nishikibe Risa-chan (錦辺莉沙), Kataoka Tsurutaro-san (片岡鶴太郎), Shiraishi Miho-san (白石美帆), martial artist Musashi-san (武蔵), and two kids whose names I’m not sure of – possibly Shimizu Ren-kun (清水錬) and Nakano Haruto-kun (中野遥斗) but don’t quote me on that, I’m just going with the most common kanji pronunciation.

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Well, no offense to them, but except for Musashi-san, the rest of the guest team doesn’t look like they’re going to put up much of a fight in the games, and most of the amusement is going to come from the kids. This is not the first time we’ve seen the Sazae-san team on VS Arashi, by the way – Mizuki-san has led various cast member on the show over the years.

The plus one guest was Kojima Kazuya-san (児嶋一哉) of the comedy duo UNJASH (アンジャッシュ). He’s sort of a frequent flyer in the Arashi skies – not a particularly special guest. I also don’t find him very funny.

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So basically, it’s all up to the Arashi guys and the kids. And perhaps Musashi-san.

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Do these guys look pumped up to you?

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Anyway, the first game was Dual Curling, and MatsuJun, Kojima-san, and Ninomiya-kun faced four members of the opposing team. Annoyingly, instead of giving their real names, they continually refer to them by their character names in the show – even in the corner where they list the members playing. I can still tell you that Mizuki-san, Tsutsui-san, Nishikibe-chan, and one of the boys I couldn’t identify definitively were playing, but it took a bit more effort.

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By the way, the Sazae-san team on VS Arashi has a record so far of one win and two losses.

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I’m definitely betting on Arashi in this episode, even though the guys are fooling around and the Sazae-san team is going to get handicaps in their favor left and right.

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The second round featured the remaining members of each team. Ohno-san is on a roll in this episode as he, Aiba-kun and Sakurai-san showed that they understood they had to inject some fun and humor into this hour, or it would drag for the audience.

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Starting in this game, Musashi-san started to engage with Ren-kun to get some laughs on behalf of the guest team.

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Also, MatsuJun took a turn holding Haruto-kun:

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The second game was Kicking Sniper and the Sazae-san team was up first. Mizuki-san, Ren-kun and Musashi-san were up (again, I’m using their real names while Itou-san introduces them with their character names). Here again, we got to see some interesting interactions between Ren-kun and Musashi-san, who seem to have a rapport despite the 29 year age gap.

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I have to say that the three Sazae-san team representatives did better than I thought they would in this game. Can the Arashi team still beat them? Kojima-san claims to have had some soccer experience in elementary school, but if it’s been that long since he’s kicked a ball . . . .

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Let’s hope Sakurai-san and Ohno-san can score some points. Kojima-san mainly served as the target for some jokes from the quick-witted Arashi members – Nino-kun in particular.

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Announcer Itou-san asked Nishikibe-chan (playing Wakame-chan) who among the Arashi members she liked and she answered Ohno-san because he’s cool and sings well. Itou-san had asked the youngest kid during the opening and he, too answered Ohno-san. So, Ohno’s two-for-two with the kids so far.

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After that, they played Rolling Coin Tower, which was sort of unavoidable considering the composition of the guest team. And for once, the pregame talk wasn’t the interesting part of the game!

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No, all of that talk was nothing. The best thing that happened during Rolling Coin Tower was when the youngest kid on the guest team put an extra coin on the tower – a fourth coin when they’re only supposed to place three. Sakurai-san deftly removed the offending extra coin before it became a problem – nice stage work on his part – but the mistake leads to a good question: wasn’t the kid right to assume that he could place as many coins as he liked while the tower was in his zone? Maybe that’s how the game should be played instead of requiring them to place only three coins. It would certainly make the game more dynamic and require a lot more quick thinking if it was three or more coins.

The fourth game was Bank Bowling with the three kids taking the throws for the Sazae-san team. This is just wanton cuteness.

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Kataoka-san and Shiraishi-san tried to clean up after the kids.

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Aiba-kun and Nino-kun went up for the Arashi team and while their talk at the start could take a paragraph to explain . . .

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. . . the real fun came when Sakurai-san read out a letter from a viewer. I think the letter pointed out that Aiba-kun and Ninomiya-kun have not played Bank Bowling together (not sure about that – my ears were definitely missing some words). The upshot is that they ended up trying something that Nino-kun and Ohno-san did in a 2011 episode  . . .

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. . . tossing the bowling balls in tandem with an arm around the others’ shoulders.

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This . . . doesn’t look like it’s working out quite right.

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Could that possibly result in them getting a good score? The kids try to take the count.

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After that, there wasn’t anything for MatsuJun and Kojima-san to do except try for the spare. They certainly couldn’t top the humor.

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Korokoro Viking was, as it so often is, the last game. The little guy asks for some extra golden balls as a handicap. Naturally, he gets his wish, but will that be enough to lead his team to a victory?

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And what about that pesky -30 point slot during the Arashi team’s turn? Will that be enough to keep Arashi from a victory?

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What is Matsumoto-kun planning?

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Oh . . . dear.

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You’ll have to watch to find out how that turns out.

The entertainment value in this episode came from the people I expected – The Arashi guys, the kids, and Musashi-san. The guest team was all right, but the Arashis carried the show this time.

If what you want to see in VS Arashi is the Arashi members, then this was probably one of the best episodes of the year. They all contributed in definite ways. Most outstanding were Ohno-san’s interactions with the kids, Sakurai-san with that coin-grab during Rolling Coin Tower, Aiba-kun and Nino-kun during Bank Bowling, and MatsuJun at the end during Korokoro Viking.

The contributions were relatively balanced, but I think the Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi should go to birthday boy Ohno-san. He was the kids’ choice, after all, and helped to get the show off to a solid start.