The April 3rd episode of VS Arashi (VS 嵐) was the Most Most Dame Arashi special, in which the group determined who was the most useless Arashi member on the show during the past year. I watched it and elected not to review it this time because the format was the same as the previous times they’ve done MMDA, and viewers can decide without any help whether they’d enjoy that kind of highlight episode. On that note, was the first regular episode of the new season worth watching? Let’s find out.

Fair warning, though: if you haven’t watched the MMDA special but want to, they start this episode by talking about MMDA and who got the punishment. I’ll leave out the screenshots of that, just in case.

After that talk, the guest team – the cast of the movie L♥DK (hereafter – and on most of the internet – L-DK) – emerged.

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The members were Gouriki Ayame-san, Yamazaki Kento-kun, Nakao Akiyoshi-kun, Okamoto Rei-san, Kiriyama Ren-kun, and . . . and the last member isn’t on any cast listing that I can see – most critically not on the one at the Japanese Wikipedia. That last member was Suenaga Mai-san (末永真唯) whose main credits on the internet seem to be in conjunction with Gouriki-san’s variety show GO!オスカル!X21, and who Gouriki-san introduced as the youngest member of the team (she’s entering high school this month).

It was also interesting to see Yamazaki-kun here so soon after going on Arashi ni Shiyagare to promote his new drama with Ninomiya-kun – busy guy.

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The plus one guests were a delight to see – Yama-chan and Shizu-chan of Nankai Candies. The Arashi members greeted Shizu-chan as a sixth member of Arashi, thereby producing some humor by pretending Yama-chan didn’t exist. Frankly, I’d be more excited to have Shizu-chan on my team, too, but perhaps Yama-chan will surprise us.

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That “MEE RULE” tee-shirt was a good laugh, too.

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The first game was Kicking Sniper (which means that everyone should know that the last game will be Korokoro Viking, right?). The L-DK team was up first and they sent Gouriki-san, Yamazaki-kun, and Nakao-kun to take the kicks.

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It’s here that Sakurai-san brought up the fact that Yamazaki-kun was working with Nino-kun on the new drama. They also call him “Zakiyama”, which is apparently from his youth soccer days, but that got a laugh because there’s a comedian who gets the same nickname – the Yamazaki who appears on School Kakumei – and Yama-chan here noted “so, there are various Zakiyamas then~”.

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Nakao-kun didn’t express any confidence in his soccer skills, and Gouriki-san also downplayed hers (though she’s quite athletic), basically putting the entire burden on Yamazaki-kun. How will he do?

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Will he make his sensei proud (even though this is soccer instead of baseball)?

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For Arashi, the three kickers were Matsumoto-kun, Yama-chan, and Sakurai-san. They’re up against a much younger team – can they show these upstarts that thirty-somethings aren’t to be trifled with?

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Matsumoto-kun wants four – or possibly five – perfect knock-downs. Since he’s the last kicker, it’s up to him to make sure that happens.

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The next game was Pinball Runner and Shizu-chan handled the difficult part for the Arashi team. She’s been running everyday for her training, so she’s pumped up and ready to go here (even though her voice always has that amusing laid-back drawl that contrasts do well with Yama-chan).

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Ninomiya-kun decided that Ohno-san should handle the pink balls, then Aiba-kun decided that he’d take the first half of the yellow balls while Nino-kun would take the second half. Except, when Aiba-kun wanted to say he’d take the first half, he actually said とりあえず – toriaezu, which means (according to my dictionary) “at once, first of all, for the time being, for now”. So, Aiba-kun’s typically odd choice of words.

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It turns out that Nakao-kun does boxing, too, so Nino-kun and Ohno-san propose that Nakao-kun and Shizu-chan should spar. Nakao-kun is immediately willing and starts to take off his jacket, but then Ninomiya-kun throws a curveball (drama pun intended), pointing out that it would be inconvenient to have Shizu-chan take off the basket now, so maybe Yama-chan could take her place – just holding pads for Nakao-kun to punch into.

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This was, of course, funny.

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So was the actual run. Shizu-chan did her best, of course, but her assistants were . . . .

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Kiriyama Ren-kun was the runner for the L-DK team, and he probably wasn’t feeling much pressure considering how the Arashi team did.

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He got number-calling support from the three women on his team. Gouriki-san chose to call the yellows, and decided that they would all call out the pinks.

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MatsuJun is not amused:

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Just kidding – that was one of those split-second screencaps that happened to be very characteristic even though it didn’t have any bearing on what was going on.

The next game was one that we haven’t seen in ages – and Matsumoto-kun outright said so (hisashiburi): Jungle Bingo! With Arashi up first, the guest team had better keep their eyes open to figure out the best routes up the maze.

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They plan out their strategy – which in this game consists of deciding which spaces they’ll aim for first.

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This seems like the kind of game where we’ll really see which team is younger at heart.

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Yama-chan makes a crack at Nakao-kun’s expense (though Nakao-kun totally set himself up for it) and Nakao-kun called for the boxing gloves again in response. Yama-chan begged for mercy.

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That didn’t stop Yama-chan from making more clever comments right away. He noted that Gouriki-san seems to do great whenever she says she’s hopeless (dame) at a game.

After that, it was Bank Bowling time with Aiba-kun and Shizu-chan, and the two of them seemed quite enthusiastic about it. Shizu-chan apparently likes Aiba-kun due to an experience in which he helped her as she fell off of a rhinoceros in Tensai! Shimura Doubutsu-en in 2007. Well, out of all reasons to like Aiba-kun, that’s certainly a unique one.

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Does this connection mean they’ll have chemistry as they try to knock down the bowling pins?

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Matsumoto-kun and Ninomiya-kun went up to try to clear the remaining pins. In the MMDA episode, they tallied up all the stats, and one stat was how many times each member toppled the red pin in 2013. Turns out that Ohno-san was the red pin specialist and Matsumoto-kun didn’t manage it at all. MatsuJun wonders whether Ohno-san wants to take his place based on the record, but Ohno-san is totally off-guard. Sakurai-san explains that Ohno-san is in off mode right now, and the reboot will take time.

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On the L-DK turn, it was Gouriki-san and Yamazaki-kun up – the lead couple of the movie. Well, let’s see if they have more chemistry than Aiba-kun and Shizu-chan. Has Yamazaki-kun ever helped Gouriki-san with a rhino?

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Well, they’re certainly a photogenic pair.

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The clean-up batters were Nakao-kun and Okamoto-san. Yama-chan had a funny story to tell about Okamoto-san, so if she thought she’d make it through the episode without being the target of one of his funny comments, no such luck.

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The Arashi bench looks a bit despondent . . .

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. . . as the L-DK team goes up first for Korokoro Viking (so yeah, no change in that pattern for the start of the new season).

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Can the L-DK team win the day decisively or will the Arashi team end up with the victory?

It was an okay episode – very smooth, but nothing spectacular. The L-DK team was certainly the most photogenic guest team we’ve had in a while, and I also like the idea of Arashi facing off against their entertainment kouhai (because it helps to keep them on their toes). The L-DK was at its best when it came to playing the games, giving the Arashis exactly the challenge that I wanted to see . . . mostly.

For entertainment value beside the games, it was all about Yama-chan, who seemed to have something to say at every turn, and largely drove the between-game conversation. Shizu-chan focused on playing the games – a good thing, since the Arashi team needed all the help it could get.

The selection of games got a boost from the addition of Jungle Bingo, but the fact that it replaced Cliff Climb in the usual line-up meant that the result was a wash. The producers really like to keep things easy for these actor teams.

For the Arashi team, the members each had their little moments, but since the day was mainly about the games and whether they could stand toe-to-toe with these young actors, I think the Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi was Ohno-san. Yes, he might take a while to boot up, but when he’s on, he’s on.