Apparently, Ninomiya-kun’s extreme fashion escapade in the previous episode of VS Arashi (VS 嵐) led the group to crack down on such excesses and to adopt a clearer team uniform. After all, they’re always supposed to be wearing the same color even if they’re wearing different clothing, but Nino-kun’s outfit last time was . . . a bit too broad in the colors it encompassed. To be fair, though, the others also only had a smattering of the color they were supposed to be wearing – red. This time, they look a lot more like a unified team:

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Well, okay, maybe they just got paid by Nike, since that was mostly (or possibly all) Nike gear.

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But I thought it was an improvement, since they looked like they were ready for action, and they were facing a guest team that was also decked out in serious athletic uniforms – the Yomiuri Giants. And though Murata-san and Ohno-san are the same age (actually, Ohno-san is a bit older), they comment that Ohno looks more like Murata’s son:

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Representing the baseball team were Murata Shuichi (村田 修一), Utsumi Tetsuya (内海 哲也), Kamei Yoshiyuki (亀井 義行), Terauchi Takayuki (寺内 崇幸), Chono Hisayoshi (長野 久義), and Sugano Tomoyuki (菅野 智之). Of the six, only Utsumi-san and Chono-san are back from the Giants’ last appearance on VS Arashi on January 17th of last year. Since they beat the Arashi team by a whopping 655 points – I think the biggest margin so far – you can bet that the Arashi guys are glad there’s been such a big turnover in the team. But will the Arashis be able to defeat this formidable team this time?

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Well, I think they could have used someone other than a comedy duo as the plus one guests added to their team, but they got a pair of comedians anyway. The duo’s name is Chidori (千鳥), and I don’t know much about them. The Japanese Wiki says that they’ve been a manzai team since 2000, but they’ve never gotten in the top 5 in the M-1 Grand Prix. I feel like I’ve seen them around, but they haven’t made much of an impression.

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Frankly, this is not going to be an episode for laughs – I’m looking for a hard-fought battle between the Arashis and the Giants, and for the Arashis to make up for their dismal loss last year.

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The best thing that can be said for Chidori is that they’re dressed to help in that fight.

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When I said ‘hard-fought battle’, I was naturally looking for some physically challenging games, so I was disappointed (as is so often the case with the choice of games on this program) that they went with Korokoro Viking first. Well, at least they’re not going to end with it.

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Then again, this is a repeat of the pattern from the last time the Giants were on and, as the Giants team took the first crack at the game, we were reminded that they got 260 points last year compared to 55 for the Arashi team. Ouch. So yeah, they were winning right from the start last year, so the Arashis had better be careful not to give up any ground early.

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Murata-san and Utsumi-san were in charge of the orange zone and announcer Itou-san asked how the two of them were as a combination. Utsumi-san just said that they’d probably be all right – rather a lukewarm assessment!

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The Chidori guys might be good at distracting the Giants team (I say ‘might’), but how will they be when the pressure is on them?

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For Arashi, the critical orange zone was manned by Matsumoto-kun and Sakurai-san. At least they’re not going to take any chances putting the comedians who lack experience there, but what sort of combination will Sakurai-MatsuJun be? I don’t remember them working together in the games very often.

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By the way, the Giants say that the regular handicap the Arashis give (they have a -30 point slot in this game) isn’t necessary – the two teams will compete on even terms. Hmm . . . quite confident, aren’t these baseball players? You know what they say about pride, so it’s a good thing Ohno-san is quick to abandon any pretense of it.

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How will the Arashis do? They don’t have any excuse this time.

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Still, this wasn’t the only game they have to close the gap on – there’s still the rest of that 655 point deficit they had last time.

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The second game was Cliff Climb with Sugano-san and Terauchi-san going up for the Giants. Terauchi-san said he was nervous – as nervous as during the Japan Series – and he’ll be the one taking on the tougher part of the climb – the bit with that chin-like protrusion.

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No amount of highlight clips will make them look cool if they don’t get a perfect score.

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For the Arashi team, the climbers Chidori’s Daigo-san alongside Arashi’s Ohno-san. Daigo-san expresses great confidence, claiming to be able to do his part in 20 seconds, but he’s not the one I’m worried about. Will Ohno-san really be all right with the overhang? What’s his plan to approach it?

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The third game was Bank Bowling. Nothing can really follow Cliff Climb, but maybe with both the Giants and the Arashis trying their best, we might see our first spare?

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Kamei-san and Utsumi-san tried to give the Giants team a shot at it, while their compatriots Chono-san and Murata-san attempted to seal the deal. Incidentally, Murata-san and Chono-san were senpai-kouhai in university.

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For Arashi, it was Chidori up first, then Aiba-kun and Ninomiya-kun bowled clean-up.

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On their turn, Aiba-kun and Nino-kun decided to bowl in tandem with arms across each other’s shoulders, as they had in the November 28th, 2013 episode to surprising success – taking down the red pin. Will they get similar results this time?

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Next was Bound Hockey and the Giants were up first once again. This really isn’t their sort of game, is it? If they haven’t gotten a lead by now, they have to be worried about their chances.

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During the Arashi turn, Koike-san from Chidori had some complaints about Ohno-san passing during practice. MatsuJun contemplated restoring the handicap – the Arashi team was going to get the same number of x2 blue pucks as the Giants team – much to dismay of his teammates (especially Ohno-san). Will the Giants team ask for the restoration of the handicap or insist on playing on even terms?

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The last game was, of course, Kicking Sniper (because it’s always Korokoro Viking or Kicking Sniper, and usually the former – at least for the past year). So, will the baseball players be able to handle a game that is radically unsuited to their evident skills?

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Or will Chidori, Ninomiya-kun, and Sakurai-san be able to secure an Arashi victory in this episode?

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This was a very game-focused hour. There was some of the usual side-talk, but it either provided flavor because they were talking about the game, or it was otherwise a distraction. It was nice to see both teams trying their best – it might not be the most interesting viewing for everyone since it was all the usual games, but at least it had the benefit of not requiring much by way of language skills.

The Yomiuri Giants weren’t the most charismatic team ever to appear on VS Arashi, but they did a pretty good job. They were short on facial expressions, but good with the comments (judging from the crowd reactions).

Chidori contributed during the games and that was all I asked for. Daigo-san in particular made a solid effort during Cliff Climb.

The Arashis were all present and engaged. I appreciate the Aiba-Nino thing during Bank Bowling, but I don’t think they deserve extra consideration for repeating something they did only three months ago. Actually, the choice for Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi is pretty clear. The person who tackles the overhang in Cliff Climb is always a leading contender, and Ohno-san also had a number of other moments – the comparison to Murata-san at the beginning, dropping the handicap during Korokoro Viking, and resisting MatsuJun’s suggestion to restore the handi in Bound Hockey. So, Ohno-san is definitely the M.O.A. for this episode.