The best thing about a variety show is the variety, and the worst thing that can happen to a variety show is if it gets too narrowly focused and seems to be doing the same thing every week (especially if that thing is mundane). In this episode of Sexy Zone Channel, they broaden their horizons a bit. Previous challenges have mostly been focused on physical challenges (except for the birthday celebration episode), but that won’t be true this time.

Sure, it all starts out looking normal enough, with the boys dressed for action as usual, waiting for the staff to tell them what’s going on (and mess with them). It’s 7:30 a.m., and one of the first things we see is Kikuchi Fuma-kun yawning. The others seem fresh, though.

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Kento-kun said something about filling out a questionnaire so that the script writers could do their writing. I don’t think it was for this show, but a lot of variety show hosts rely on a script written on cue cards replete with details about the guests and questions to ask the guests, and it would be for a show like that.

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After Fuma-kun complained about the timing, the staff explained that they had to go to the location before it opened for regular business hours – they would have to finish before the start of the workday for the place.

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The task was certainly a total surprise to me – the guys had to pick out DVDs and manga that they would recommend, and then do a quick presentation about them. That’s very, very different from the other challenges they’ve faced, but also quite appropriate – it involves some variety shows skills that will be useful to them in the future. And as with the birthday party episode, there’s a question of whether they can make this interesting.

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The staff guy noted that he and the rest of the staff listened to SZ’s album “Sexy Second” and enjoyed it, but there was a question about how to sing the latter half of “Congratulations”, which was hard for them. Apparently, there was a desire to sing it in karaoke! That made Kento-kun crack up.

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Anyway, on to the challenge! They relocated to a rental store with a broad selection of DVDs and manga. Somehow, Kento-kun managed to get started right away, just grabbing some manga right by him and commenting on them. One of the manga he just happened to get his hands on was Silver Spoon – the one that was adapted for the movie he was in. Nice plug.

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Both Kento-kun and Marius-kun watch movies as a hobby. Shori-kun goes with Sou-kun to watch them – even watching two movies in a day. In short, this is a movie savvy bunch except . . . I didn’t really hear much from Fuma-kun, who sort of seemed out-of-the-loop here.

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They have fifteen minutes to comb the store and make their picks.

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Not so fast! It’s not so simple – they also need to pick out cameras that would be following them around to record their activities. There was a full range of cameras – from a cheap-looking mini-cam with dubious quality to a full, heavy studio camera. Always picking on Marius-kun, they made sure he got the mini-cam despite his hope that they could do janken to pick cameras. It seemed too much like bullying for my taste, and I hope Marius-kun doesn’t take this sort of treatment badly. He’s still at a tender age, after all.

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From then on, we tracked each member’s progress through their own camera-person.

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Looking on the manga shelves, he somehow sees his own Silver Spoon DVD – with him on the cover. I can’t tell if he arranged this or whether the DVD was put on the shelf because the Silver Spoon manga was right below it. Anyway, Kento-kun sure stops at nothing to promote his work – very laudable in this business.

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Shori-kun knows what movies he’s looking for – “Dark Knight” first of all – but he’s having trouble finding them. Apparently, the Japanese equivalent of alphabetical order is not his strong suit, or perhaps the way DVDs are categorized in the store?

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There was the first of many cross-encounters, as we see through Marius-kun and his cameraman through Shori-kun’s camera.

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Marius-kun’s small camera not only has fuzzy quality, but it also doesn’t have the same image stabilization technology as the other cameras, so it’s very shaky. He complains about the other members’ treatment of him to the cameraman, who is actively conversant with him. That’s good – as long as he can talk about it, that’s a positive.

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Kento-kun first stalked Fuma-kun a bit – I think he vocally wondered if Fuma-kun was unable to see him – and then messed with him. He then encountered Marius-kun and remarked on one of Marius-kun’s choices, saying that he liked that one, too. Kento-kun then offers to high-five him, but Marius-kun shies away from Kento-kun’s hand. With good reason – he suspects that Kento-kun will pull away from the high-five at the last minute and leave him hanging, and it looks like that was Kento-kun intention.

Kento-kun reflects that he seems to have a sadistic approach to Marius-kun today, and they eventually sort of . . . reconcile through a set gag. I guess gag comedy brings people together?

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Sou-kun seems to be having the most trouble with his choices. The first one he takes a detailed look at is a samurai movie.

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I swear, Kento-kun just roams around making jokes throughout this whole thing, bumping into one member after another. He seems to be taking primary responsibility for keeping things amusing – possibly because he already had lots of selections in his basket early on.

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Fuma-kun doesn’t talk to the camera the way the others do, and often voices his thoughts facing the other way. Facing the camera more often when talking is one of those things he might want to improve on, though part of the blame might go to the camera person. Of course, when not making jokes, Fuma-kun tends to be the quietest of the members. Sou-kun sometimes seems like the quietest, but he’s actually very comfortable voicing his thoughts and speaking to the camera.

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Kento-kun says he likes all sorts of movies, but romantic movies especially. I guess he has to get that love-holic prince material from somewhere . . . .

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To my surprise, even the staff eventually noted that Fuma-kun forgot about the camera.

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Marius-kun was the complete opposite, frequently mentioning why he thought certain DVDs were good – from “Stand By Me” to the anime “Summer Wars” to the zombie movie “Warm Bodies”. Quite a range of viewing he’s got there. I laughed out loud when he briefly went into full English mode spontaneously when talking about “Star Trek: Into the Darkness”. He sometimes reads English titles as the katakana would be pronounced, but randomly says the titles in proper English – it’s really interesting.

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He seems to be a science-fiction fan, so as a sci-fi writer, I was satisfied.

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Eventually, time ran out, and the five members sat down together to present their findings. This time, they really did do janken to determine the order . . .

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. . . and Shori-kun had to go up first. I’m not going to go through all their choices – you’ll be able to see all those quite clearly if you watch – but I do have some thoughts.

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First of all Shori-kun’s DVD choices were all English-language blockbusters. I was very surprised by Back to the Future Part 3 and delighted by the choice of Equilibrium (which is titled “Rebellion” for the Japanese market for some reason). Again, I’m a sci-fi guy.

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Believe it or not, I have still not watched a full episode of One Piece, nor read the manga – it started bit late for me to get into it (past my main manga-reading anime-watching years).

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Shori-kun was the only members whose choices were entirely familiar to me.

Marius-kun worried me a bit with the Adam Sandler movie . . .

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. . . and Forrest Gump (not a bad movie since he liked it for the historical background, but he had made note of so many other good movies that this came as a surprise) . . .

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. . . and he continues to befuddle me.

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Sou-kun was quite understandable by comparison, and impressed me with his choice of Usavich – about two rabbits in a Soviet prison. Sou-kun compares himself to the rabbit named Putin (who bears absolutely no resemblance to the Russian President, by the way).

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He had to rush through his conclusion . . .

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. . . and then it was all down to the two elder members, who were busy trying to figure out what they were going to say:

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Fuma-kun was up before Kento-kun, and he decided to sneak a Donkey Kong game in even though that was not a category they were supposed to be looking for.

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He also chose a Doraemon movie where the characters play out Saiyuki (one of the four great Chinese novels – Journey to the West).

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It’s a good thing that Kento-kun went last, because he handled it like a pro (as should be expected). He even snuck two CD plugs in – Kis-My-Ft2’s “Hikari no Signal” as well as Sexy Zone’s own “Sexy Second”.

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I have to say, though, that I wouldn’t be enthusiastic to watch any of Kento-kun’s movie choices, nor to read any of the manga he picked out. We definitely have different tastes.

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The members got to discuss all of their choices with each other for the remainder of the show – about five more minutes . . .

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. . . right up to the time that the store had to open (the discussion was stopped short by the staff at that point). Very appropriate ending song choice by the way – “We Gotta Go”. Indeed.

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So yes, the members of SZ can make the simple selection and recommendation of DVDs and manga interesting. Heck, considering how enthusiastic most of them are about movies, they could probably do a half-hour movie review show if they wanted to, though it’d take a lot of preparation time just to watch the movies.

There was a lot of comedy in the episode, and while I have some angst on behalf of Marius-kun when he ‘s the target of that comedy, he appears to be entirely resilient when it comes to stuff like that, so maybe I’m overreacting. He sure did a good job with his part – he and Kento-kun were the most engaging members as they roamed around the store. Fuma-kun . . . maybe he just wasn’t entirely awake.

The key point of this episode was that they tried out some new territory and it worked. That will probably encourage the staff to go for more unpredictable concepts, so that’s good. I don’t have even the vaguest idea of what they’ll do in the May 21st episode, and that’s exactly the uncertainty that attracted me to certain variety shows (especially the old Arashi shows like D no Arashi) in the first place.