Wow, I’ve got a lot of stuff to watch this season – not the least of which are the dramas with Ohno-san and Ninomiya-kun. I know that the May 8th episode of VS Arashi (VS 嵐) is a Bet de Arashi special, but before I get to that episode, I have to get through this one. Actually, I shouldn’t put it that way, because I know this will be a brilliant episode, too . . .

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. . . because the guest team is the cast of the movie Thermae Romae 2, with Abe Hiroshi-san and Ueto Aya-san in the lead!

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Now this was a pleasant surprise, because Thermae Romae 2, being the sequel of a wildly successful movie, probably doesn’t need to put its cast through too much trouble to promote it. It’s even more remarkable that Abe-san is actually here on VS Arashi – there are only a few Japanese actors of equal or greater stature, and I wouldn’t expect to see any of them on this show, either. So, I considered this a special treat.

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Alongside Abe-san and Ueto-san were Shishido Kai-san, Katsuya-san, Kotooshu-san, and writer Yamazaki Mari-san. Many of the guests were surprises as well. For instance, there was the towering Kotooshu-san, who was the only person in attendance who could surpass Abe-san’s prodigious height:

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But Yamazaki Mari-san is actually the writer and artist of the original manga, and as the Arashi guys will point out, it’s extremely rare for the writer of a story to join the cast in promoting it.

Besides the guest team, there was also the matter of the plus one guests . . .

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. . . and this time it was the duo Haraichi. Big story here, of course, is Aiba-kun’s every-present buddy from Aiba Manabu, Sawabe-san. Will we see some Aiba-Sawabe silliness?

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So here are the two teams. Certainly, if there was any form of wrestling game, the Thermae Romae team would win easily.

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Instead, we started with Rolling Coin Tower. Typical.

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On the bright side, they decided to take the pregame talk time to bring up V no Arashi – the special drama made by Arashi as Volleyball supporters in 1999. In that drama, Abe-san played Arashi’s volleyball coach.

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They indulged themselves (and us) by showing a lot of clips from that ancient drama with teenaged Arashis.

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Abe-san said he remembered it, and also accused Ninomiya-kun of bullying him during the shoot. I think it had something to do with their lines, but I’m not sure.

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Just the VTR of V no Arashi was worth sitting through this part for.

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We’re off to a slow start in terms of games, though, as the next one was Bank Bowling. Abe-san and Ueto-san took the first throws for the Thermae Romae team. Abe-san is confident – he hasn’t played in a long time, but he’s scored 220 before. That’s good, because Ueto-san wants to win against Arashi (I think she was also slated to guest on Arashi ni Shiyagare, right?).

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The plus one guests had some interesting information on Abe-san, but I didn’t understand what it was all about. Something about a sauna.

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Abe-san seemed surprised they knew about it, and had to do some explaining.

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Next up were Kotooshu-san and Yamazaki-san. Kotooshu-san revealed that not only was this his first film, but he didn’t even get to shoot with the rest of the cast. He filmed in Chiba while everyone was in Bulgaria.

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Speaking of Chiba, it was Aiba-kun and Sawabe-san bowling for the Arashi team. As expected, the combination led to some silliness. Sakurai-san prompted them to talk about their apparent friendship, and Sawabe-san ended up noting that he had wanted to borrow the Hanzawa Naoki DVD (which has Ueto Aya-san in it) from Watabe-san (another Aiba Manabu veteran). But Watabe-san lend it to Aiba-kun first, and subsequently the entire rest of Arashi claimed to have borrowed it in turn, and they concluded the DVD was now with their manager. Sawabe-san never got it.

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It’s funnier listening to them tell it, and the audience reaction. Considering the prices of drama DVDs in Japan, though, they may not have been joking – it’s tough to say.

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Maybe the thought of not getting to watch Hanzawa Naoki got Sawabe-san fired up for the game? Or did all this talk distract Aiba-kun?

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The two elder Arashi members took care of the clean-up duties, trying for the spare. Ueto-san gave Sakurai-san some advice on how to bowl after her own successful round, and Sakurai-san tried to do his best Ueto Aya impression.

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The Thermae Romae team got to do a plug . . .

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. . . and then it was time for Kicking Sniper. The Arashi team sent up Matsumoto-kun, Ninomiya-kun, and Haraichi’s Iwai-san. MatsuJun said he was worried about Iwai-san’s abilities, and Iwai-san somehow segued this into mentioning working with Nino-kun in Platina Data.

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Announcer Itou-san asked Yamazaki-san about which Arashis she’d cast in which roles in Thermae Romae. As it turns out, she had not only thought about it . . .

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. . . but she had actually brought a drawing on MatsuJun in the lead role!

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She didn’t really mention the other Arashis, but this was already quite a great contribution to the show.

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MatsuJun is surely pumped up after that, but what about Ninomiya-kun?

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For the guest team, Ueto-san, Shishido-san, and Katsuya-san were the kickers. Just on the face of it, they strike me as a strong bunch, but then Katsuya-san revealed that he was good enough at soccer that he was invited to take the test for the J-League.

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Itou-san asked Katsuya-san if he knew any of the Arashis, and, as with so many people, he knew MatsuJun.

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Seeing MatsuJun at a drinking establishment, he introduced himself, but then Matsumoto-kun said, “Doumo. Call me Jun.” Hmm, I thought MatsuJun only did that with foreigners.

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So we know a bit about Katsuya-san’s soccer acumen, but how will Shishido-san do?

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The penultimate game was Cliff Climb (now we’re talking!) and the Arashi team was up first.

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Sakurai-san and . . . Sawabe-san . . .  were the climbers. Sakurai-san is going to take on the Odaiba chin – the overhang in the wall – and he hasn’t ever done so successfully. Since it seemed to work well for him during Bank Bowling, he says that once he gets up to the overhang, he’s going to make like Ueto Aya-san again. That’s . . . an interesting strategy.

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Sawabe-san said that he had no idea what Sakurai-san was talking about. After getting pumped up by shouting “Yeah!”, Sawabe-san started his climb.

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Abe-san and Kotooshu-san were the climbers for the Thermae Romae team. I was especially happy to see Abe-san tackling the wall here – and to his credit he tackled the hard part. Will he end up doing better than Sakurai-san?

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The final game was . . . Dual Curling! For the first time in . . . I have no idea how long . . . we didn’t get Korokoro Viking in a regular episode of VS Arashi!

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We got two rounds of Dual Curling, so in the end the only person who was left out was Sakurai-san – everyone else was involved.

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Just like the last time we saw this game, they had the new 50 point slot designed to encourage the players to take shots early. Since they saved this game for last, though, the fact that it is a high-scoring game didn’t have a detrimental impact. I wonder if they’ll decide to keep it as a final game?

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The simple fact that we didn’t get Korokoro Viking already made this a special episode as far as I’m concerned. I also approved of the way they ended it on the two strongest games played – Cliff Climb and Dual Curling.

While the guest team didn’t have a whole lot of antics up their sleeves, they were fun to watch simply because they were such an unusual team – a collection of people we wouldn’t normally see on VS Arashi. Abe-san was more relaxed than I thought he would be. He seemed a bit stiff at first, but loosened up quickly. Ueto-san took the lead in terms of funny remarks. Kotooshu-san’s Cliff Climbing was very interesting to watch considering his sheer size. Yamazaki-san contributed in the best way she could have – with a bit of artwork.

Haraichi did pretty much how I thought they would. The highlights were the Bank Bowling sequence between Aiba-kun and Sawabe-san, and then Sawabe-san’s Cliff Climb.

The Arashis were engaged in this one. I think the Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi was a split between Matsumoto-kun and Sakurai-san. MatsuJun was key during Kicking Sniper, which was right when the episode was finally starting to gain traction. Sakurai-san had his best moments in Cliff Climb and Bank Bowling. Comedy-wise, Aiba-kun also made a contribution in Bank Bowling. Ninomiya-kun had that exchange with Abe-san before Rolling Coin Tower, but that was about it.