When, after the March 26th episode, I checked online and found out that April was going to be double-dutch month on Sexy Zone Channel, I . . . had mixed feelings about that. Could they really fill two full hours jumping over two counter-rotating ropes? I think there had been a Johnny’s Jr. Land double-dutch challenge a while back – Sexy Zone weren’t in that one – and it was pretty good, but had less than half the airtime devoted to it.

I’m happy to say that, having watched this episode, I’m no longer worried. They clearly couldn’t have fit all the hilarity and amazing feats into one episode.

The episode begins as usual, with the staff messing with the SZ members, who look like they’ve been waiting around for a while. The staff guy says “o-tsukare-sama desu”, which is usually said at the end of work and is often translated as “thank you for all your hard work”. Kikuchi-kun is the one who gets him for this strange approach.

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Marius-kun has been trying to make a building out of drink bottles, while Kento-kun is pretending to use water bottles to build some arm muscle. They talk about their yakiniku trip in the last episode, and Fuma-kun shows off some of his subtle humor. The best way to tell that he’s joking around is the way Shori-kun and the staff react.

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One thing they all seem to want to do is snowboarding, but that’s not the way they’re going to work off the yakiniku in this episode.

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While I know what’s coming, they only find out when they reveal the truth on the board. They never miss an opportunity to try and make things funny, and they even manage to do so here.

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I don’t think they have much confidence in the double-dutch arena, and that’s a good sign for entertainment value (it’s no fun if they’re already good at it).

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The staff guy says that it could be the group’s specialty – the way Kis-My-Ft2 has rollerskating and A.B.C-Z has acrobatics. They note that no Johnny’s group has double-dutch as a specialty (probably with good reason). Kento-kun decides to go with this premise, though I can’t imagine he seriously thinks it’s a good idea for them to jump rope as part of their concert performance. This is Johnny’s though, so you never know.

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They travel to the Tokyo YMCA sports center, where they meet the university team that will instruct them.

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I got a laugh out of the way Kento-kun tried to figure out what year of university they were in to establish whether they were senpai.

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Obviously, the university team is senpai to SZ in the only way that matter today – they’re world-class double-dutch competitors who are usually ranked second or third on the planet.

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The show’s director did a good job with this portion – everything was clear enough so I could get crisp screenshots even though these guys were moving about very quickly. This will continue to be true as I get shots of the SZ boys jumping. The director also mixed in the reactions of the SZ members in the gaps in the action.

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So, are the SZ members really going to learn how to do what the university students just did? It didn’t look impossible and probably wasn’t the team’s full competition set. Given two hours of program time and probably much more real time, maybe it’s doable. Shori-kun asked how long the team has been doing double-dutch, and they say they’ve only done it since high school – for about four years.

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They’re already thinking about what song they’ll double-dutch to, and muse that maybe “Lady Diamond” would be a good choice.

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After a quick VTR about the team, we turn to the lesson phase, but Marius-kun is missing. It looks like he went (to the restroom?) and took an absurd amount of time to return. So, Fuma-kun suggested that they should mini-prank him by all saying “ohayo gozaimasu” to him when he returned. They’re so mean to him sometimes, but he’s so amusing when flustered.

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The first lesson was how to enter the ropes, and Marius-kun was the first one into the fray. Fuma-kun noted that the explanation they were given was like an instructional DVD, so there’s no question that they’ve got competent teachers.

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The best thing about it is how SZ never fails to capitalize on humor when it’s available. While Kento-kun was in the lead in the previous episode, Fuma-kun is clearly the one plotting most of the laughs this time.

That said, after Marius-kun makes his entry, Kento-kun is the one who compares the youngest member’s jumping method to Marilyn Monroe – or, as the katakana would have it, Maririn Monro, which suggests Maririn as a nickname for Marius-kun whenever he pulls a move like this.

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Fuma-kun refers to Sou-kun as “sensei” a lot in this episode. How will he do?

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Continuing in reverse age order, Shori-kun was next, then Fuma-kun, and finally Kento-kun.

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They all admitted that it was tough, but Kento-kun somehow managed to do some poses while he was jumping – even imitating Kamenashi-kun according to Sou-kun at one point – so he’s clearly ahead of the game.

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Step two was to enter the ropes, jump twice, and then jump out on the third jump. Kento-kun went first, then Shori-kun and Marius-kun. Those three all had a fairly easy time of it . . .

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. . . but Sou-kun was clearly feeling the pressure from all the “sensei” talk.

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It ultimately got to the point that they had Fuma-kun go before him before letting him try again.

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The next stage was to slide back and forth between the ropes, doing dance moves on either side. Fuma-kun asked to be shown it one more time:

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And it looked really, really tough. I don’t think the explanation from the instructors was adequate here.

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The guys all had plenty of trouble initially. Sou-kun went first to redeem himself.

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Marius-kun went in confidently, failed the first time, but then did a good job after that.

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Shori-kun got it on the first try.

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Fuma-kun did well, cracking as many jokes as he could fit in, but Kento-kun failed on the first try in a surprise twist (considering how well he was doing). He invoked Hanyu Yuzuru (the Japanese figure skater who won gold at the Sochi Olympics) to get into the right spirit. He then did one of Hanyu’s moves during his successful try.

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The lessons got progressively more complicated from here, and I can’t easily describe the sequences of moves for some of these. They’re definitely trying to learn the skills they need to put on a serious performance. They’re jumping a few times, and doing some dance moves in between.

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It was all pretty impressive, but the first challenge the five SZ members faced as a team came about halfway intot he episode, when all five of them had to do three jumps of the rope then exit in turn. It was sort of a drill to make sure they could get into the tempo.

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As the tempo went up, so did the misses.

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Their next lesson was to alternate which foot they were hopping off of in order to increase the tempo – sort of the way a boxer would when jumping rope.

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Shori-kun did great here . . .

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. . . while Kento-kun struggled.

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They had a lot more practicing off camera, then it was time to speed things up even more. I’m sure they’ve already burned more calories than they got from that yakiniku in the previous episode.

The guys express some interest in learning how to be the turners, and if they’re really going to do this on stage, that’s something they’re going to have to learn. The turners definitely help out the jumpers by adjusting.

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Shori-kun was up first for the quick shuffle, and as good as he was in the last round, this was tough for him.

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They did a bit more practice on getting the stance right, except that Kento-kun can’t resist being a bit goofy . . .

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. . . and the attempts continued.

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When they were told that there was going to be a break, they all volunteered to quickly get an extra try before the intermission. Sou-kun made a triumphant comeback here after his slow start. Really, each of the members did well in certain parts and struggled in others.

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The SZ members ate bento with the university team, and then they relaxed while taking in lots and lots of liquids.

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Marius-kun in particular had wanted to learn how to be a turner, so they let him have the chance while the others relaxed. This showed how hard being a good turner is.

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After the break, they once again tried to master the quick step:

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To my own amazement and SZ’s as well, the university team did a freestyle sequence set to “Lady Diamond”. During it, they showed off some of the skills that the SZ members would get to pick from to build their own performance.

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Well, that really put the pressure on, doesn’t it?

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Each SZ members picked one skill to specialize in and paired up with the university member in charge of it.

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There was some talk about how quick the rhythm of “Lady Diamond” is, and the possibility of artificially slowing it down. Kento-kun did a hilarious impression of the slowed down version of the song, and I think they ultimately decided to stick to the original tempo of it even though it would take much more practice time.

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There was one final issue after that – Kento-kun wondered whether the university team would be able to stay later – up to 8 p.m. because that’s as late as Marius-kun can work – in order to give them the practice time they needed to do the song at full speed. The university team readily agreed.

As for how the rest of this challenge went, though, we’ll have to wait until the April 23rd episode to find out.

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I spent most of this episode laughing. Television doesn’t get much funnier than this, thanks to constant attempts from the SZ members to inject humor into every minute of the episode. They were unbelievably at ease and not only worked hard on the double-dutch challenge, which was difficult enough, but also remained entertaining beyond the main task.

Most significantly, though, was the way they interacted with the university team. This is the first time they’ve had substantial interactions with a group of people during an episode (instead of just a single instructor), and they did a wonderful job. It was pretty clear that the university team had fun with them and the atmosphere was amazingly smooth and relaxed. Seeing Kento-kun ask them if they could stay later was a pleasant touch at the end, because it encapsulated the tone of the episode.

Also impressive was the fact that all the members had their triumphs and fails, and it felt like they all contributed to the show equally.

Based on the preview, the guys will probably be more focused on the task and less prone to humor in the next episode, since the stuff they have to do looks pretty daunting and we fully expect to see a successful result by the end. I’ll be looking forward to the next episode impatiently.