This was the two-and-a-half hour Arashi ni Shiyagare (嵐にしやがれ) New Year’s Special. It actually has nothing to do with the regular Arashi ni Shiyagare (no sets, no format, no nothing) and they’re just using the show’s name because that’s the variety show Arashi hosts on the network. That’s probably for the best, though.

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The first order of business was to announce the hosts of the 24-hr TV telethon that will air in August 2014, and it will not be Arashi. Instead, veteran hosts Kanjani8 will be doing the honors:

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Disappointing how the Arashi members were totally not shocked when Kanjani8 burst through the wall – they need to get a serious talk from Degawa-san about how to be variety show hosts since their reaction comedy is totally rusty. Anyway, I hope Kanjani8 will show us some interesting stuff this year, and in particular make the show interesting enough for me to sit through. I started watching the 2013 24-hr TV telethon, but never finished it.

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Unfortunately, Kanjani8 aren’t hanging out for the rest of the show, but we do have a cast of supporters as the Arashis take on various challenges.

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These supporters mostly just sit and watch, though . . .

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. . . except for soccer player Miura Kazuyoshi-san (nicknamed King Kazu, he was the first Japanese soccer superstar), who will be at the center of a talk segment later in the show.

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The challenges the Arashi members face are based on famous TV shows, and Matsumoto-kun drew a candid camera show (dokkiri camera) . . .

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. . . so he had to turn into Matsumoto Junko.

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Last year it was Ohno-san who had to do this, but we can be sure that MatsuJun will take it further. That said . . . I think it was way harder to recognize Ohno-san last year. MatsuJun is a bit too obvious.

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Unlike Ohno-san, though, Matsumoto-kun has to get close to customers while acting like a store clerk giving them help (and full credit for this – it took some serious guts to give women underwear advice).

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Since he didn’t get recognized there and it looked like it would never end, they decided to give him a new role – sending him to a Harajuku pancake restaurant.

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The place is full of young women, so surely Matsumoto-kun will be detected this time, right?

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Well, you’ll have to watch to find out.

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After the VTR, MatsuJun looks somewhat proud of himself . . .

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. . . but Degawa-san has some observations about how it really should be done. Like I said, he really needs to get the Arashi guys aside to give them the benefit of his variety show wisdom.

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So, I’d say that MatsuJun’s challenge was nowhere near as much fun as I thought it would be. This looks promising, though:

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Sakurai-san’s challenge was to participate in a quiz show. Well, not just any quiz show, but a famous one where comedians put their bodies on the line when they answer questions. You’ve probably seen other imitations of it before, including once in a regular episode of Arashi ni Shiyagare.

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I hate to include spoilers, but I can’t resist in this case. Besides, maybe seeing Sakurai-san like this . . .

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. . . might jog your memory about this particular game show. It’s not just taking a dive in flour, though – the contestants also face explosives which they see demonstrated on a test dummy:

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A question claimed that Einstein didn’t get a Nobel prize – will Sakurai-san correctly determine whether that’s true or false? Can Gushiken Yoko-san still survive explosives at his gae?

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That was a huge step up in excitement from MatsuJun’s segment, and Sakurai-san did a fine job with his reactions, but I’m still thirsty for more.

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Ninomiya-kun doesn’t really do excitement, but will his challenge at least be intriguing and novel?

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At face value, it seems like a recipe for boredom – he has to try to sit in chairs. Of course, they’re specific chairs normally occupied by famous people, but how interesting can he really make a premise like that?

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His first goal is to sit in the seat of the manager of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team –  Hara Tatsunori-san. That seat is in the clubhouse of Tokyo Dome, a place Nino-kun is entirely familiar with. In fact, this was only days before Arashi was set to perform in Tokyo Dome, and Arashi fans were buying concert goods outside so Nino-kun had to sneak by.

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In the end, Nino-kun couldn’t get into the clubhouse, even after asking for permission, so he just occupied the home team bench:

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Will his second target – the chair of the J-League (soccer) chairman – lead to more fruitful results?

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How about his final target? Can you tell you once sat in this elegant black chair?

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Hmm . . . well, Nino-kun definitely did his best to make it seem interesting, but there was no saving the fact that the premise was more like something Arashi should be doing in a regular episode of their variety shows (similar to what they used to do in D no Arashi and G no Arashi) rather than in a special. Still, the “Sekai no Ninomiya” thing was hilarious.

Ohno-san . . .

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. . . after a strange encounter with a woman named Selina who is apparently American because she’s wearing an American flag hat (and I presume all Japanese in the U.S. are expected to wear Japanese flag hats, right?) . . .

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. . . went fishing.

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I’m serious.

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This is definitely something more suited to a regular episode of a variety show more than a special. I don’t think it was really possible for a fishing segment to keep me entertained anyway, but it would have benefited from having more entertainers involved instead of just Ohno-san.

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So . . . yeah. Sorry, Ohno-san.

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Next was the talk segment with Miura Kazuyoshi-san, in which the Arashi members each brought up certain concerns they had and got Kazu-san’s advice on those issues.

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Sakurai-san’s question had to do with wearing hats, so I immediately got the sense that the questions would be superficial rather than substantive.

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I’m not going to go through the questions and answers since they didn’t seem too interesting. Also, we only got questions from Sakurai-san, Ohno-san, and Nino-kun. I’m sure the other two prepared questions, but I guess they didn’t have time.

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At least there was one part of the show that couldn’t miss – the 15th anniversary nonstop special live in which the Arashi members sang one song from each year they’ve been together.

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The fifteen-song medley had all the usual songs, but it was still a strong selection because of the way it started out entirely upbeat (genki) and then turned the cooler songs late in the medley (though “Wild at Heart” went briefly back to genki).

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The songs were “A-ra-shi”, “Sunrise Nippon”, “Kimi no Tame ni Boku ga Iru”, “A Day in Our Life”, “Hadashi no Mirai”, “Pikanchi Double”, “Sakura Sake”, “Kitto Daijoubu”, “Love so sweet”, “truth”, “Believe”, “Hatenai Sora”, “Meikyuu Love Song”, “Wild at Heart”, and “Breathless”.

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It wouldn’t be the selection of songs I’d pick to introduce a person to Arashi, but it was a fun sequence nevertheless, and the best part of the show so far.

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There was one member left to face his challenge after the medley – Aiba-kun. He had to face a sequence of thirty pranks.

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Now that sounds really interesting, and last year’s dokkiri (pranks) were positively inspired – Aiba-kun was chained up in an exploding shack – but this time the staff seemed to run out of ideas. I understand that this was meant as a sequence of minor pranks, but they should have still been thirty unique pranks.

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I mean, out of the thirty, a staff member farting was like half a dozen of them.

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This segment was actually much more interesting because it showed some of the backstage stuff the Arashis go through on a regular basis. The bit where they got Aiba-kun to do some five-second PR spots with different personalities was really cute, though:

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No matter what ideas the staff might come up with, Aiba-kun is the best member to dokkiri.

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After the VTR, they decide to celebrate Aiba-kun’s birthday (because this was recorded on Christmas Eve – exactly on his birthday).

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But what’s with the cord going into the cake?

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I lost count of the dokkiri in the VTR – is this number 30!?

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The show ended on that.

I was a bit disappointed on the whole, since this fell way short of what they did last year. MatsuJun’s segment was okay, Sakurai-san’s was good, Nino-kun’s had a weak concept, Ohno-san was fishing, and the best of the lot was Aiba-kun. The pacing of the show was fairly slow, though it picked up toward the end with the medley and Aiba-kun’s part. I don’t know what they were thinking with the Miura Kazuyoshi talk segment, but that felt like filler. With a soccer star like that as the judge or opponent, I would have liked to see them take on some sort of soccer challenge as a group.

The Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi is a no-brainer – there’s a reason they saved Aiba-kun’s segment for last. The birthday boy was clearly the most entertaining member this time. That’s somewhat ironic because we mainly saw him when he wasn’t particularly trying to be entertaining – he was just reacting normally to things. Anyway, it was an easy call because aside from the 15-song live stage, his was the only part I would consider watching again.

Contrast that to the 2013 special in which I enjoyed all the segments – Ohno-san as a girl, Nino-kun hunting the smelliest smell and the tallest man, Matchy-san as the talk segment guest, MatsuJun facing a haunted house, Sakurai-san doing charades under water, and finally Aiba-kun fearing for his life as he was left handcuffed to a pole in a shack with explosions going off all around. Now that was a special I’d try to convince other people to watch.