This episode of Sexy Zone Channel may not be as exciting as the previous two. I couldn’t resist scanning through the episode before writing this review, and I saw what I always dread seeing in Japanese variety shows: food. Now, it’s not that I don’t enjoy food or finding more about food – it’s that once variety shows start down the food road (especially with the main personalities sitting and eating as they will be in this episode), they have a tendency to get stuck on it.

That said, the boys do have an excuse for making this a chow-down episode. You see, they’re celebrating the birthdays of Kento-kun, Fuma-kun, and Marius-kun since all three of them have birthdays in March. So it’s sort of a party – and apparently a surprise party since only Shori-kun and Sou-kun were told where they were going ahead of time.

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They try to get the other three to guess what’s going on based on the clue that only the two of them know. Marius-kun guesses that they’re going swimming, which I’m sure all SZ fans would like to see, Kento-kun says snowboarding, and Fuma-kun opts for skating. I’m glad they all picked activities like that, since that shows what sorts of things we might get in future episodes (as opposed to more food stuff).

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So here’s the question: can SZ make a birthday party fun for the audience, or will it be an endless stream of ‘umai’ and ‘oishii’?

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The three birthday boys each get sashes expressing birthday wishes:

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When Shori-kun asks Marius-kun how old he is, Marius is a bit shy for some reason, so Kento-kun pipes in, guessing that he’s 6. Marius-kun seems unhappy about admitting that he’s turning 14.

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Fuma-kun is 19 now (though apparently he’s often mistaken for 22), and of course Kento-kun has turned the big 20. Shori-kun seems to be enjoying himself being the MC for this part. Too bad Sou-kun was sort of hidden in the corner.

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There was a long talk from Kento-kun about turning 20, and Fuma-kun at one point looked like he was dozing off.

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So, what sort of food will they be eating? Well, they’re all young men who have been faced with a lot of physical activity, so surely this calls for meat, no? And when we say meat, naturally it has to be yakiniku.

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That gets Fuma-kun awake. Actually, Kento-kun had talked about a yakiniku reward in the first episode, but here he feels it’s coming a bit too soon. The staff point out that the only activity they have for the hour is eating yakiniku so they face a challenge in making it worth watching.

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Heading in to the establishment, the guys were totally fascinated by everything, including the glittery door handle. Kento-kun is a total ham.

The three birthday boys were arrayed on the left, while Shori-kun and Sou-kun were on the right.

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Sou-kun introduced the types of meat and their prices. The skirt steak (harami) was 3500 yen for one portion, and it just got worse from there.

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To keep things moving along int he program, Shori-kun and Sou-kun planned some things to do. They decided that the birthday three would have to participate in a lottery for each of the dishes – one of the three wouldn’t be able to eat that dish.

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First, they get to order the food.

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While they were waiting, Kento-kun asked Shori and Sou what they would like to do for their birthdays, since the staff seems willing to fulfill wishes.

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About ten minutes of this chat were cut out . . .

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. . . and then the first meat arrived on dry ice, ready to be cooked in front of them.

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Sou-kun did a taste test to verify that it was delicious, then the other three drew straws to see who would get to eat it.

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And somehow, they make this scene really fun to watch. I’ve seen a lot of people eat on Japanese TV, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone as excited about it as this bunch. I guess you can tell by the fact that he’s standing up that Kento-kun was the one who didn’t get to eat in this round, and wow did he make up for it by providing silly entertainment.

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Points to Marius-kun for the maneuver where he pretended to offer Kento-kun some meat, but then redirected the chopsticks to his own mouth. Fuma-kun also took the liberty of taunting him.

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But don’t worry about Kento-kun not getting fed – there was more meat where that came from.

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Actually, he lost the second round as well (sorry for ruining the potential surprise), but there were a surprising number of rounds, and you can be sure he was extra-intent on winning all the rest.

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Anyway, if there was anyone who could make being left out like this entertaining, it was Kento-kun. Fuma-kun doesn’t have the same range of brilliant reactions (at one point, Kento-kun chewed a napkin), and if they had taunted Marius-kun it would have just come off as mean.

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The lottery system ended up being an amazingly successful way to spice things up . . .

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. . . but personally I enjoyed Shori-kun continuous attempts to pilfer food and the umai reactions from him and Sou-kun. So young, and already they’re pros at this.

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Kento-kun is the master of silliness. There’s no competition.

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We got to see what happens when Marius-kun tries to taunt Fuma-kun:

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Wow, they actually got rice, eh? And here I thought it was just going to be meat all the way.

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Shori-kun insists on the rules, though, so one of them will be garlic and carbohydrate deprived.

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The more expensive meat is still on the way, though, so the stakes (and steaks) go up as the episode progresses.

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Can you guess who didn’t get to eat here?

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This is just . . . .

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The key to their entertainment value is that they don’t bother sitting still:

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Marius-kun was great here. I really didn’t think he’d be this entertaining when he was left out, but he pulled out all the stops.

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These guys . . . the screencaps really speak for themselves:

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I’m trying to think back through all the years I’ve seen people eat on Japanese TV, and I don’t think I’ve seen a more entertaining or energetic food session. Yes, there was plenty of ‘umai’ and ‘oishii’, but they also ended up shouting a lot more than that.

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And doing stuff like this:

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This is emperor roast is 10,000 yen ($100) per person:

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Marius-kun thanks God and Kento-kun for the bounty.

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Shori-kun gets a taste of the emperor roast as well, and bows in thanks to Kento-kun.

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I couldn’t really include the screencaps without ruining who got to eat and who didn’t, so I might as well include the final tally:

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Looks like Kento-kun missed out on four dishes, Fuma-kun two, and Marius-kun only one.

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In the end, there was also a birthday cake and a serious special message from Shori-kun and Sou-kun.

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Sou-kun wasn’t even pretending to read the letter for much of his part – he had his own thoughts he wanted to express.

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After the party concluded . . .

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. . . there was still some time left in the show for the birthday three to share some thoughts with fans. It’s worth keeping in mind that this is still the end of the winter season, and a point where closing thoughts are appropriate.

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Still, much more than in the first two episodes, I felt that this episode was specifically targeted to fans, and this way of ending the show heightened that sense. Episodes one and two had more general appeal.

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Great photos during the closing credits, as usual.

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So yeah, even though it was totally food-centered, they managed to make it ludicrously entertaining. There was unbelievable energy, amazing expressiveness, and tons of craziness.

I’ve always known that Kento-kun had a great sense of humor, but he was in top form in this one. All three birthday boys were really good at pouring on the humor – something about people born in March, I guess. Shori-kun and Sou-kun were amusing in their own way, but more or less let the birthday three dominate this time.

It looks like April will be double-dutch month. The schedule on the official website has “Double-Dutch Challenge! First Part” on April 9th, which presumably means that we’ll get a second part on the 23rd. We’ll suddenly have a lot of young Johnnys on variety show TV – Shounen Club, this show, and the new junior show Gamushara! Oh, and Maido Jani on the Kansai side.