The beginning of this episode of VS Arashi (VS 嵐) was quite busy, and so was Ninomiya-kun’s outfit.

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What could have possibly possessed him . . . how distracted am I going to be while watching this episode by how ludicrous this looks? Even the Assistant Director laughed audibly when Nino-kun tried to strike a fashion pose.

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After making note of Nino-kun, the guys congratulated Sakurai-san on his birthday (technically on the 25th), and Ohno-san did his usual gag on this sort of occasion – addressing the mother of the birthday boy.

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The guest team was the cast of the drama Boku no Ita Jikan – Miura Haruma-kun, Tabe Mikako-san, Saito Takumi-san, Yamamoto Mizuki-san, Nomura Shuhei-kun, and Koichi Mantaro-san. Unfortunately, Kazama Shunsuke-kun wasn’t present, but between Miura-kun, Mikako-san, and Saito-san, that’s a lot of familiar star power to pay attention to. Actually, I’ve even covered two dramas with Nomura Shuhei-kun in them – he had guest roles in GTO and Kuro no Onna Kyoushi.

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Oh, they did all wear pins in honor of Kazama-kun holding up a VS Arashi sign, which was a hilarious touch.

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By the way, Tabe-san’s birthday is also January 25th, so she and Sakurai-san congratulated each other, and Ohno-san did the normal gag again – addressing Tabe-san’s mother with his special message.

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The plus one guest added to the Arashi team was the comedy duo TKO, and they immediately came in with something about Saito-san. TKO are quick-witted pros, so I think their contributions will be smooth, though hard for people with limited Japanese skills (like myself) to understand.

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So here are the two teams:

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To my great disappointment, they began with Rolling Coin Tower. It was a disappointment because the guest team is relatively young and should have been able to play some of the more athletic games. At least they should have brought out Jungle Bingo, which hasn’t seen the light of day in a while.

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Anyway, as usual, announcer Itou-san prompted guest team leader Miura-kun to express how much he wanted to win against Arashi, but Miura-kun said it while inexplicably looking at MatsuJun instead of his own team members.

Meanwhile, Sakurai-san asked Tabe-san a question (I think probably whether she had played this game before??), but what caught Itou-san’s attention was that Sakurai said “Tabe-chan” when referring to her. In response to that, it turned out Kazama-kun had a little comment prepared for Miura-kun to deliver – to call Tabe Mikako-san “Mika-chan” instead.

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You see, Sakurai-san and Ninomiya-kun  picked up “O-Tabe-chan” while working with her in Yamada Taro Monogatari all the way back in 2007. I think it was decided to determine what they call her by whether they win or lose by the end of the day – if they lose, it’ll be “Mika-chan”.

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So, will the Arashis end up calling Tabe Mikako-san “O-Tabe-chan” or “Mika-chan”? Either way, she’s still Tabe-san to me.

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By the way, I think MatsuJun was deliberately trying to psych out Miura-kun throughout this whole thing, right from pouncing on him before the game, then with some daring coin placement, and then even afterwards. That said, Miura-kun looked nervous right from the start anyway, so it’s tough to say whether the psychological warfare worked or was even necessary.

The next game was Kicking Sniper with Nomura-kun, Miura-kun and Saito-san up for the Boku no Ita Jikan team. While athletic, Nomura-kun is a baseball player rather than a soccer type. I continue to think they need to get a game that somehow uses baseball-ish skills. Popcorn Hitter was close, even though it was more badminton.

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His manner of answering the questions got the comedic attention of Kinoshita-san of TKO, who noted that all of his answers seemed half-hearted/incomplete (中途半端 – chuutohanpa). Total credit to Kinoshita-san – Nomura-kun was not doing himself any favors, giving a weak impression in this rare chance for him to get people’s attention, but Kinoshita-san gave him a chance to laugh at himself, which is always something people look positively on.

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Saito-san is a soccer player, and he gets a little jab in at the other TKO guy – Kimoto-san.

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Miura-kun is also a soccer type, but with Saito-san ahead of him, will he even get a chance to knock anything down?

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For Arashi, it was Ninomiya-kun, Matsumoto-kun, and then TKO. Here, Kimoto-san claimed that TKO are close friends with Nino-kun and MatsuJun. You’ll have to watch to see whether the Arashis corroborate this claim.

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More importantly, while MatsuJun looks dressed for action, will Ninomiya-kun’s silly outfit allow him to kick properly?

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Bank Bowling is another one of those games that we see too much of these days, and really should be replaced with something more challenging when we’ve got a sufficient number of people younger than the Arashi guys.

Miura-kun and Tabe-san bowled first for their team, and they explained some of the relationships in their drama. Standard stuff.

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Yamamoto-san threw in the detail that the relationship chart for the drama explicitly says that her character finds Kazama-kun’s character disgusting.

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Koichi-san and Yamamoto-san tried to take care of the remaining pins, then Aiba-kun and Ohno-san went up for Arashi.

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Sakurai-san took the liberty of bringing up Last Hope, which both Aiba-kun and Tabe-san were in, and asked about her impression of him (especially in terms of being the leader of the cast). Tabe-san was characteristically and delightfully honest.

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Aiba-kun eventually tried to cut the conversation short by first taking up a bowling stance, looking like he was going to start whether everyone else was ready or not, and then by just asking Tabe-san to stop. Too bad I can’t get Japanese subs for these shows the way I can for some of the dramas, or I’d definitely make a go at translating what Tabe-san was saying. Unfortunately, my Japanese listening comprehension is still practically worthless.

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Nino-kun and Kinoshita-san tried to clear the rest of the pins, and did a bit of a comedy sketch while they were up there. That scene might be enough to get Ninomiya-kun the Most Omoshiroi Arashi for this episode (in combination with his outfit), we’ll see.

We got Cliff Climb next, so at least this didn’t end up being the worst possible selection of games (if they had put Dual Curling here instead, with that game being a total crap shoot, that would have been the worst). Miura-kun and Nomura-kun were the climbers for their team. They play brothers in the drama, and Nomura-kun is Miura-kun’s kouhai in their agency.

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Nomura-kun is apparently a top-notch BMX rider. Cool as that is, it is yet another sport that will not help him at all in VS Arashi. Hopefully it at least means that he has strong legs and good balance.

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Miura-kun will be the one to take on the dreaded overhang. Can he show up the Arashi guys by handling it with ease, or will it be too much for him?

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During the climb, Tabe-san whispered to Yamamoto-san that one of the climbers was like a monkey, not realizing she was audible to the mike. Itou-san pointed it out afterward to her embarrassment. But which of her two teammates inspired that comment from her (technically a compliment in this game, though not the most artful way to put it)?

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The Arashi team climbers were Sakurai-san and Kimoto-san. The overhang was inevitably Sakurai-san’s responsibility – can he succeed where he and the other Arashis have so often failed? Can he get revenge?

At the risk of giving too much away (spoiler alert!), Sakurai-san says that he’s Arashi’s Miura Haruma. That was just too funny for me to pass up:

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Kimoto-san offered to take on both the center and the right, but they decided against that. Instead, they chose to have Sakurai-san go up first, an approach that hasn’t been done since they put in the overhang – the Odaiba Chin. Will it give Sakurai-san the time he needs to climb the chin? Will Kimoto-san have enough time to do his part?

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After the excitement of that strange attempt, do we really have to hang around for Korokoro Viking? Just once, I wish they’d dispense with this game and try to do something different, but so far it’s been the same old pattern in 2014.

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Naturally, Miura-san and Tabe-san had the orange zone for the guest team . . .

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. . . while it was the Cliff Climb team of Sakurai-san and Kimoto-san doing the scoring for Arashi. Was the Cliff Climb pair tasked to do this because they had proven their teamwork, as a method of penance for a horrible climb, or just by chance?

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It was a pretty good episode – certainly better than average thanks to a few outstanding moments. The downside was really the selection of games, which was entirely too regular.

Miura-kun was soft-spoken as usual, but they managed to get some laughs out of him. Tabe-san was a bit reserved, but they got a few good scenes out of her, too. Some of her expressions were delightful. Saito-san was great whenever they tossed the spotlight to him, which was not too often enough. Too bad the Miss Pilot team didn’t come on VS Arashi. Nomura-kun clearly needed to loosen up a bit during Kicking Sniper, and he seemed to be better after Kinoshita-san’s little jab at him. Not much from Yamamoto-san or Koichi-san, but with all the other star power, that wasn’t too surprising.

TKO were good fun as expected. Nothing too silly from them – just the occasional wry comments. Kimoto-san also had an unexpected contribution to the entertainment during Cliff Climb and Korokoro Viking.

Now, what about the Arashis? Well, there were two main actors this time – birthday boy Sakurai-san and fashionista Ninomiya-kun. In a show where there were a lot of questionable clothing choices (the striped trousers Tabe-san was wearing immediately come to mind, along with many other examples), Nino-kun still took the prize for his . . . I don’t really know what to call that outfit. He also had that Bank Bowling moment with Kinoshita-san. He and Sakurai-san collaborated on the matter of what to call Tabe-san, and of course it was the two of them who ended the show – either calling her Tabe-chan or Mika-chan, depending on whether they won or lost.

The Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi, though, has to go to the birthday boy. Sakurai-san not only sparked the Tabe-chan thing during Rolling Coin Tower, he also got Tabe-san to talk about Aiba-kun during Bank Bowling, then he had his whole Cliff Climb escapade where he declared himself the Miura Haruma of Arashi, and finally he played a decisive part in how the episode ended by controlling the orange zone during Korokoro Viking. No doubt about it, Sakurai-san dominated this episode.