I’m going to have a very entertaining Sunday thanks to the first episode of Gamushara J’s Party, the start of a new era in Shounen Club, and also a complete surprise JUMParty 4 that I had no idea was coming. But before all that, this episode of Johnnys’ Jr. Land is one I’ve been looking forward to because of the juniors involved.

Perhaps most significantly considering his increasing prominence among the juniors, this was the first time Iwahashi Genki-kun was part of the Super Battle Colosseum segment. He was the leader of the pink team alongside Kobayashi Mizuki-kun and Akiba Ryusei-kun. The blue team had Yamashita Kazunari-kun, Tanimura Ryuichi-kun, and Takahashi Saneyasu-kun.

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Yamashita-kun noted that his team was all middle-schoolers, while the pink team members were all high-schoolers, so it was sort of a generational battle here. It was nice to see him in the leadership role – yet another one of the interesting features of the episode.

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Watching Shounen Club, I had the impression that Iwahashi-kun has gained confidence over the past few months, but seeing him in this episode from two years ago, he’s changed less than I thought he had. Even though he’s a bit hesitant here, he still has poise.

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Nice to see Kobayashi-kun here. I haven’t seen much of him on Shounen Club – is he still in the junior mix?

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Anyway, the battle in this episode had to so with designing aquarium layouts:

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I like this sort of challenge because there’s a lot of flexibility and the juniors get to show some of their personality through their projects. The specialist for this battle was Miyazawa-san:

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He went through his intro spiel very quickly and conveyed a good sense of energy. There were also some nice shots of fish mingling with . . . I guess they’re sponges? Admittedly, I don’t know much about aquatic wildlife.

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The arrangements all seem to focus on living creatures – plants, sponges, and fish – and the inanimate objects are made very unobtrusive (covered in plants, for instance). Each piece also has a theme – one of them invoked Yakushima, while another conveyed the Amazon.

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After a bit more of the basics . . .

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. . . the boys each got to pick from some simple props . . .

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. . . and place them in their own mini-aquariums (aquaria?).

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They also have tools to arrange things, including long scissors. Miyazawa-san points out that they have to decide whether to put the pieces in the center or off to the side, and what orientation to use.

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Then there’s the matter of rocks. How many rocks are too many? Where should they put them? Seems like you could spend quite a while pondering such questions.

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They each get to explain the logic of their placement, but Miyazawa-san had plenty of observations as well.

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Step three was placing plants into the tanks. The tanks were drained of water before, but with this step they’ll be full of water because the plants need it and it also helps the artist to see how the plants will behave in the water – they’re quite dynamic. Because of this added complication, the guys all paid close attention as the specialist showed how to place the plants properly.

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With those preliminaries over, the real battle will occur in the next episode.

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The Jr. Dream Live was next, and here we got a special treat – Masuda Ryo-kun and Yasui Kentaro-kun singing “Bokura no Machi de”. The Dream Lives in previous episodes generally didn’t feature much by way of vocals, but this one tried to make up for that.

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With some help from other juniors including Hagiya Keigo-kun, the pair also showed off some fancy dance moves and sang “weeeek”.

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It was an altogether excellent performance – quite a few steps up from the previous week’s.

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The next segment was Answer Station, in which Akiba Ryusei-kun expressed trouble dealing with heights and wondered what he should do to conquer this fear. Kawasaki Shota-kun and Yamashita Kazunari-kun were present to help him explore the answers offered by viewers.

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Kawasaki-kun brought up roller coasters. Akiba-kun said that they were no-gos for him. Yamashita-kun said that he was stiff while riding on them.

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Among the suggestions from the viewers was the glass floor in Tokyo Tower where you can look down on the roadway hundreds of feet below. I think they suggested that he should jump on it.

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In general, the viewer recommendations seemed to revolve around him going some place high. No big surprises.

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I think this has to happen, Akiba-kun – you’re going to have to go somewhere high . . . .

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After Akiba-kun picked an answer that suggested going to a high place that was fun to build fond memories of being high up . . .

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. . . they decided to do it. Well, not quite. You see, they found a Ferris wheel and everything . . .

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. . . but Mogi-san broke the news that Akiba-kun wasn’t present. In his absence, they decided to round up another junior who has trouble with heights – Abe Aran-kun.

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Abe-kun is another junior who has experienced a bit of a boom recently, and he’ll have a major role in the second season of the drama SHARK, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does there. I didn’t have much awareness of him until his role in 49.

There were two other juniors along for the ride – fellow Travis Japan members Kajiyama Asahi-kun and Miyachika Kaito-kun. Nakamura Reia-kun and Yoshikawa Shizuya-kun were also present. They were outfitted as reporters in the Pressure Press Club segment.

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Abe-kun can’t really deal with anything above the fourth floor of a building, so . . . it’s going to be fun watching him squirm, right? I mean, if he ends up being all nice and calm in the Ferris wheel, it’d be sort of a letdown.

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In full Pressure Press Club style, they asked plenty of questions. They should do the segments on location more often.

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Up they go . . .

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. . . and Abe-kun started getting nervous as soon as they got above the trees.

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Look how he’s gripping that thing!

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Actually, Mogi-san said he was a bit scared, too – especially whenever Kajiyama-kun stood up and rocked the tiny cab.

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In keeping with the viewer suggestion given to Akiba-kun, they tried to play some games at altitude.

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Ironically, they picked a rather nerve-wracking game. They interrupted play when Mogi-san noted that Abe-kun wasn’t acting scared – he was too distracted to be frightened. Once he looked outside the window, he started to be iffy again.

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I would describe his fear of heights as fairly mild, though. He didn’t have much trouble looking out the window. He was really the type who just needs to have more high altitude experience.

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And with that, the episode came to a close.

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I think this was an exceptionally good episode of Johnny’s Jr Land thanks to the array of segments, the juniors who participated, and especially the little field trip at the end. Even the Jr Dream Live was excellent – Shounen Club level stuff. The only weak point was that we were on the intro portion of the Super Battle Colosseum instead of the competition part, so we didn’t get to see the juniors really putting their creative skills to work.

This was a solid 9 out of 10, improving over the previous episode by having two outstanding segments – the Dream Live and the part with Abe Aran-kun at the end.