Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) is a music variety show usually hosted by Japanese idol group Hey! Say! Jump that showcases the song-and-dance skills of the Johnny’s Entertainment agency’s most recently debuted groups – A.B.C-Z and Sexy Zone – as well as the agency’s trainees (known as juniors). Generally, the first episode of each month has more from the younger juniors, while the second episode focuses on the older juniors. Aside from backdancing, only the most prominent younger juniors got much time last week. Will the older juniors be front-and-center this week, or will debuted groups and solo performances dominate the hour again?

The show starts promisingly, with Noon Boyz handling the intro . . .

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. . . however, they quickly clear the stage for A.B.C-Z performing “Miyabi” in what must be something from a concert/butai, right? I mean, otherwise these costumes and staging were totally wasted:

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This was way elaborate with the masks and everything. Of course, it was meant to tie into the song’s title, which translates to ‘elegant’ or ‘refined’. Nothing says elegant or refined like really huge fans (and I mean the kind that keep you cool during hot day – not the kind that were screaming throughout this performance).

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This was way beyond what we normally get on Shounen Club and a very nice stage to start the show with. Sets the bar a bit high, though, doesn’t it?

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Host Nakajima Yuto-kun and Yabu Kota-kun from Hey! Say! Jump discussed the theme of the show – “wa” (和 – meaning peace. harmony, and Japanese style) – with the A.B.C-Z members.

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Somehow, Yabu-kun snuck the Olympics into the discussion . . .

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. . . and gestured to the juniors back there. Now, I’m going to assume they’re part of Twenty Twenty because every junior around that size is, but the words “Twenty Twenty” were not mentioned and this was not a performance with those juniors up front.

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Instead, they were just backdancing for Sexy Zone, who performed “A My Girl Friend”, which seems like it has nothing to do with the theme. That’s . . . very strange. At least they could have picked a song with a Japanese name . . . or maybe “Sunrise Nippon” from Arashi?

Anyway, I like the song at least. I’m just saying that we usually get a medley related to the theme around now.

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Sato Shori-kun’s singing is improving steadily. He’s almost got it strong enough so that he can hold his own in a duet with either of the elder members of the group.

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By the way, though I don’t usually credit backdancers, it was hard to ignore Matsukura Kaito-kun and Matsuda Genta-kun here. They only got a brief moment, though, since the array of backdancers seemed to be in constant flux.

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Altogether, it was a solid performance thanks to beautiful vocals.

The Ki ni Naru J segment followed that, and I was happy to see one of the many, many juniors who doesn’t get much attention – Kakuta Yuusei-kun.

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Looks like he’ll be turning eighteen this year. He so doesn’t look the age, though. For some reason they got hung up on his blood type, apparently waiting for him to speak up.

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He is definitely a quiet sort and very laconic, letting Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun do practically all the talking. He reminds me of someone else – one of his senpai – but I can’t put my finger on who it is.

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Yabu-kun and Kawai-kun introduced the next performance – the juniors performing Hikaru Genji’s “Diamond Hurricane”

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Kakuta-kun and Nakamura Reia-kun showed off their skating skills, and were joined by Takahashi Kaito-kun in center stage. I think we’ve seen this configuration before – hopefully it’ll become a thing. For those who wonder if skating skills can really be the basis for a group, just remember Hikaru Genji and Kis-My-Ft2. Johnny’s has a thing for skaters.

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Besides that, the trio really did a great job selling the song, making this a highlight of the show.

SZ’s Kento-kun and Fuma-kun handled the Shokura You Bin corner as usual. The writer of the fan mail said that she liked Shori-kun . . .

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. . . so naturally they had to bring the middle member of their group out to talk about the topic that the letter introduced – a little bit of good luck or happiness encountered while commuting to school.

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I didn’t quite get their responses to the prompt – certainly there were no outrageous antics like we often get in response to the fan mail.

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Fuma-kun read another piece of fan mail, and this one just outright asked Shori-kun about his charm point. Umm . . . shouldn’t they just read idol magazines or something?

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That was the least interesting Shokura You Bin I’ve seen in a long time. Come on Japanese fans! This is your opportunity to get them to do some crazy stuff – be creative!

Actually, maybe the real fan mail got too crazy and they decided to throw in that stock question because they didn’t have anything else safe.

Nakayama Yuma-kun took the stage next with “Mizu no Kaeru Basho”.

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We’ve seen this before on Shounen Club, but it’s still a great performance and a shoe-in for the show’s highlight reel.

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Yuma-kun’s voice can’t miss, and the backdancing was still a great compliment. The black-and-white motif is so typically Yuma . . .

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. . . that Kiriyama Akito-kun and Nakama Junta-kun decided to pop on stage to mess with Yuma-kun . . . I mean, to help him break away from that stern-faced image he always seems to project in his performances.

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I guess this is the best way to soften Yuma-kun’s image, though he inevitably looks a bit stiff standing next to the B.A.D. guys. You know what they need to do? They need to have Yuma-kun chat with some little Kansai juniors who are really nervous. Make him do the compassionate senpai thing.

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I’ve occasionally advocated the on-stage talk instead of the one where they sit down on benches off to the side, and here we saw a great example of why it provides a much more active transition since they were able to move around and express themselves a lot more.

B.A.D. performed next, of course, and the song was “Izanau”. It looked very much like the opening in terms of style thanks to their costumes and props (in this case, traditional-style umbrellas and small fans), and therefore was the first song since the opening that had any regard for the theme of the show.

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The song itself was unremarkable and repetitive, but the pair’s dancing was spectacular and very sharp.

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So far, I haven’t seen much from the older juniors, but it’s still been a good show.

The Junior ni Q segment was next, and unfortunately it was a food topic – Japanese-style meals, to be precise. I’m not going to cite everyone’s dishes because . . . well, because I don’t care, honestly. What I will discuss is how they present themselves.

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The first junior interviewed by Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun was Kishi Yuta-kun, who we don’t get to hear from too often, and didn’t get to hear much from this time, either. Just like with Kakuta-kun earlier, Kawai-kun did almost all of the talking (I hope he gets to review this tape and encourages the juniors to talk next time).

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Even Matsukura Kaito-kun had to wait a while to get a word in between Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun, but he ended up doing a solid job and had the longest part in the segment.

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Jinguji-kun picked tonkatsu, which I thought was considered a European-style dish, but it turns out that while it used to be considered European-style in the first few generations of its existence, it originated in Japan and is now considered Japanese-style.

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As usual, Jinguji-kun seemed 100% prepared. He had full details on his view on tonkatsu and its preparation and delivered it with a rhythm, making him the most conversant junior in the segment.

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Morita Myuto-kun seems to be gaining some popularity, especially after his recent drama roles. He looked confident here.

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Last but not least, Kyomoto Taiga-kun . . . Taiga-kun looks like a rock star, doesn’t he? Seriously, they should give him a chance to sing in front of a band and give him some edgier songs to work on – he can’t be worse than Uchi-kun. Anyway, hair like that is going to waste otherwise.

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The two Nakajimas (not related) introduced A.B.C-Z singing “Never My Love”. Nice work from Kento-kun getting the pronunciation, by the way – note how careful he was with it. If only more Johnny’s showed such care and attentiveness around those ‘l’s and ‘v’s  instead of saying ‘rabu’!

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Of course, the A.B.C-Z guys still have the Johnny’s record for best pronunciation of English in a song, and they did a top-notch job of it here.

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As often as I’ve already heard the song, I wasn’t bored hearing it this time, and it really sounded above-average except for some strange styling from Totsuka-kun early on in the song.

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Interesting looks to the camera from Kawai-kun always put a smile on my face.

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And a nice dynamic finish:

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Now, if there was one junior who got plenty of stage time in the last episode, it was Jesse-kun. He performed a solo last week and this time he got a sit-down chat with the two hosts. Where’s Hokuto-kun, by the way?

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They asked him about Japanese-style in his life, and it sounds like the American side of his family is nevertheless quite into things Japanese-style. Natto was mentioned.

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And . . . Jesse-kun managed to get center stage for a second week in a row. This time he was accompanied by Masuda Ryo-kun and Hanzawa Akatsuki-kun for KinKi Kids’ “Kimi to Boku no Uta”.

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Matsuda-kun is the best, hands down, but all three of them showed off stunning vocals and we really don’t get to hear Hanzawa-kun often enough.

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On the one hand, the attention given to Jesse-kun to the exclusion of time for a Bakaleya stage, a Bad Boys stage, a Noon Boyz stage, or any combination thereof this month was odd to say the least. I can’t say I’m happy with it. Then again, if they’re going to put Jesse-kun out there, at least it was pleasant listening and we got to hear from Ryo-kun and Hanzawa-kun as well.

As if we didn’t get enough Kansai in this episode already with B.A.D. and Yuma-kun, Kawai-kun and Goseki-kun gave us the regular Kansai segment. The mission was a recycled one – make Goseki-kun’s heart throb (mune kyun) – but the participants were different. This time, it was Kotaki Nozomu-kun, Nakama Junta-kun, and Mukai Koji-kun

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Kotaki-kun went first and I just couldn’t get over the fact that he’s a full head taller than Goseki-kun. Kotaki-kun created a scenario that would involve him coming up to Goseki-kun from behind, which conveniently meant that the perspective would minimize the height difference. His scenario definitely impressed them all – they were remarking at the fact that he was only 19, so I guess he managed to sound very mature.

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Junta-kun has a high bar to surpass. Can he manage it?

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Mukai-kun is surely the underdog in this one. Will he nevertheless win Goseko’s heart in the end?

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The Kansai stage featured B.A.D., Shigeoka Daiki-kun, Kotaki-kun, Hirano Sho-kun, and Nagase Ren-kun singing “Naniwa Ittoushou”, which is one of those fun Kansai songs – you know the type.

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It was a light-hearted upbeat performance, and unlike last week’s effort, the stage was not overly crowded so it was easy on the eyes. One strange thing was was how weak Shigeoka-kun’s voice was. It might have just been the mikes, but when he got solo lines it was barely audible.

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I guess we’ll be seeing a lot of this comedy pair now that they’re going to début:

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Special credit goes to Nagase Ren-kun, who not only started the song at center stage, but was often the most energetic guy on stage, keeping up with his senpai.

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With that, we’re already at the last song of the show. It seemed rather short somehow. Anyway, Yabu-kun and Yuto-kun introduced the finale song – SMAP’s “Dear Woman”.

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The performers? All the older juniors who didn’t get much time in this episode – Noon Boyz, Bakaleya, Bad Boys – the lot. I guess . . . this counts?

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But really, I’m sick of this ‘throw them all together’ thing. We’ve seen all the older juniors sharing the stage like this in previous episodes, too, and it doesn’t work any better here than in those other episodes, even though some effort was made to feature them in mini-blocks.

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Having them all in white didn’t help . . .

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. . . nor did the fact that Sexy Zone and A.B.C-Z joined in at the end. I

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The credits rolled, but that wasn’t quite the end of the show – we got another Shori Omake. Last time, Shori-kun almost got squished by Nakama Junta-kun, so it’s only fair that the other member of B.A.D., Kiriyama-kun, got his crack at playing Tataitte Kabutte Jankenpon (rock-paper-scissors with mallets and helmets) with Shori-kun, presumably to finish the job.

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Shori-kun was unbelievably affable here – clearly at his best.

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I hate to spoil it, but this was the most epic Shori Omake ever, and one of the best endings to a Shounen Club. If only they played more games like this . . . .

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Speaking of which, we didn’t get a game segment this month, did we? A shame, that.

This episode was powered mainly by two things – really great vocals and B.A.D. With all the older juniors squished together right at the end, we didn’t get much of them. What we did get was the Reia-Kakuta-Takahashi team, so score another compelling potential unit for the younger juniors.

There was no bad in this episode unless you want to be picky about the Shokura You Bin. Among the performances, I wouldn’t mind watching any of them again. The highlights were the stylish opening, Reia-Kakuta-Takahashi, Yuma-kun’s performance, Jesse-Masuda-Hanzawa, and the Omake at the end. Honorable mentions go to the Sexy Zone stage, “Never My Love” from A.B.C-Z, and the B.A.D. performance. I’d rate the Kansai junior performance and “Dear Woman” as okay, but not great, though with a tip of the hat to Nagase Ren-kun in the former case.

This episode didn’t have the flood of new material that we saw in the last episode, and it also didn’t have more juniors featured. On the bright side, it didn’t have some of the glaring flaws of last week’s episode, either.

As much as I hesitate to do so for an episode that lacked better depth in terms of junior performances, I have to give this episode a 10 out of 10, simply because it was so easy to enjoy it.