Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) is a music variety show hosted Kawai Fumito of A.B.C-Z and Kiriyama Akito of Johnny’s West that showcases the song-and-dance skills of the Johnny’s Entertainment agency’s most recently debuted groups – A.B.C-Z, Sexy Zone, and Johnny’s West – as well as the agency’s trainees (known as juniors).

This time, the two hosts started things off, singing Tackey & Tsubasa’s “Sora no Screen -rainbow in my soul-“. I don’t think I’ve heard the two of them sing together before, and it wasn’t bad for a rare collaboration. Very good, actually.

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The juniors soon joined in in large clumps. Since I don’t know what to call most of these agglomerations, and some of them are totally mixed up compared to the groupings I’m used to (though doubtless there’s some concert-related reason for these combos), I’m just going to pass on naming them until we get performances with fewer people involved. I mean, by my count there were more than twenty juniors with microphones in this performance!

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It’s nice to see everyone out front at the start, though, and I hope it means we’ll get more junior involvement in this episode than the last one, especially since the J’s Party episodes for this month were unsatisfactory.

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Kawai-kun and Kiriyama-kun introduced the theme of the show: “My Favorite”. Well, that explains the Junior ni Q for the month. But can they really find many songs to fit this theme? Or did they just have the juniors vote for their favorite songs and have them perform those?

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In the middle of their talk, Hashimoto-kun walked up and joined in, ultimately introducing the “My Favorite” medley. The first song was the dance version of Kis-My-Ft2’s “Ai no Beat”. Takahashi Kaito-kun was on stage alone first, and then he was joined by Nakamura Reia, Matsuda Genta, Matsukura Kaito, Haniuda Amu, Takahashi Fuu, and . . . it’s that one kid from the April J’s Party . . . Tajima Shogo-kun!

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It was sort of weird having Reia-kun doing his skateboarding without being balanced with someone else on skates – he looked very alone like that. I think they should just skip that in the future – it wouldn’t hurt him to learn some alternate choreography.

Here’s a weird thing: the song was continued by Yasui Kentaro, Hagiya Keigo, Morimoto Shintaro, Morohoshi Shoki, and Tanaka Juri. Normally they would start a new song with the personnel change, but I guess it’s a favorite song for these guys, too.

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Now, I want to see Yasui Kentaro-kun debut, and here’s the question: would this group of five work as a group he could debut with? I’ll leave that open for comment.

Sanada Yuma-kun had his solo – Kis-My-Ft2’s “Dancing Star” – next. This brought to mind the fact that juniors of a certain stature used to get their own songs – not just senpai songs. Kis-My-Ft2, A.B.C-Z, and KAT-TUN all had substantial repertoires before they debuted. When was the last time we saw a song written for a junior group on SC?

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I bring it up because I really think Sanada-kun could do with a song that actually suits his voice. He’s basically just shouting this song out – even more forcefully than he did in the recent J’s Party episode.

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Speaking of which, this was largely a repeat of some of that, including Nozawa-kun’s solo – KAT-TUN’s “Hanasanaide Ai” (written by Domoto Tsuyoshi-kun, though, I noticed) – until we got to Hashimoto Ryosuke-kun leading Masuda Ryo, Hanzawa Akatsuki, Anderson Casey, and Morita Myuto in singing “Suna no Glass”.

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Well, this is different. Interesting to see Myuto-kun get a slightly higher profile by being teamed with the vocalists.

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That was the medley. Musically, it was quite smooth, but the performances were all old material. It didn’t have anything fresh, and a junior medley should have something that feels new. While the shuffling and recombination of juniors is interesting, it’s not a way to generate freshness, especially since it seems to be the norm these days.

Next was the Shokura NEWS segment, and this time the VTR featured Jinguji Yuta-kun reporting on Sexy Zone’s new single “King & Queen & Joker”. My policy on this segment is that as long as there’s a junior acting as reporter, I’m in favor of it.

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Jinguji-kun is a particularly funny fellow, though – he strikes me was a good choice as reporter. In some ways, these two are kindred spirits:

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Parts of the VTR were backstage scenes, and you know those are always good.

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Matsushima Sou-kun decided to host his own corner within the VTR (this is getting very fractal) in which he got Miyachika Kaito-kun to do a one-shot gag  – you know, the type I never understand.

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Sou-kun let the other juniors off easy – just interviewing Abe Aran-kun and Iwahashi Genki-kun without requiring them to do a gag.

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Anyway, it was really, really nice to see Sou-kun get to do this.

Marius-kun got interviewed by Jinguji-kun for a few seconds, then Shori-kun got the camera to himself. Honestly, I would rather have seen Jinguji-kun interview him . . .

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. . . but we ultimately jumped back to Jinguji talking to Kento-kun, who explained the roles of the group members in the song, and they concluded the VTR with some of the PV.

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Which was redundant, because SZ then performed the song on stage. This is pretty standard – they’re going to do this song on SC every episode until I’m sick of it (or is it until they get the dance down to the choreographer’s satisfaction). I think they did “Bye Bye Dubai” five times straight at least, so if you miss it this time, don’t worry. No juniors were involved this time, though, so maybe it’s unique in that respect.

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My assessment of the song hasn’t changed – it’s still one of their catchier singles. The dancing was clean to the best of my estimation. I wish the camera had been less prone to blur past their faces – those parts were annoying.

Sort of strange to see Fuma-kun in a different outfit immediately after that – I think that’s a bit of an editing faux pas.

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If you’re wondering why Kawai-kun is doing the Shokura You Bin segment with Fuma-kun . . .

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. . . it’s probably because they wanted to have Kento-kun as one of the guests, along with Kotaki-kun of Johnny’s WEST.

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The prompt for this segment was a standard kyun prompt – first a love confession . . .

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(Kotaki-kun decided to confess to Fuma-kun – or at least it seemed that way)

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(the audience voted for who won by clapping)

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. . . and then a first kiss.

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It’s worth saying that Fuma-kun has been in good form this episode, and he added some extra humor to this segment.

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The A.B.C-Z performance was next, and they did “Kodoku no RUNAWAY” with the SC band – currently composed of Hagiya Keigo-kun on drums, Kobayashi Mizuki-kun on bass, Ogawa Yuu-kun on guitar, Goto Hiromi-kun on violin, and Ishigaki Daisuke-kun on keyboard. Seeing the instrumentalists always makes me happy, but there’s a different feel between the younger three and the elder two, so I’m not sure this group of five is really gelling together.

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This was neither a vocally impressive song (and A.B.C-Z is good at vocals) nor a dancing showcase (they excel at those), and the music itself was very generic. So, for them it wasn’t much of a stage – the only interesting feature was the band, and I’m not convinced that it’s a real unit.

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After that, we got the second iteration of the Shokura blog segment, and this time the featured individual was Shigeoka Daiki-kun. Hmm . . . I thought this would feature juniors, but apparently debuted members are fair game.

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With everything he says written out on the side, it’s pretty easy to translate this, so that’s a plus. The minus is that it didn’t seem to interesting, and that voice he did was annoying. Nice photo, though.

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It was a segue into Nagase Ren-kun’s performance of Yamashita Tomohisa-kun’s “Aoi”.

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So, if the fans were perturbed by the Hirano Sho-Nagase Ren-Takahashi Kaito performance last time, are they now going to panic that Ren-kun is going to go solo like Yamapi? He has stage presence, and he had Kanto juniors backdancing for him . . . .

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His voice is still not fully developed, so it’s tough to say how that’ll shape out.

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The performance was great in terms of the dancing and charisma, and representative of his continued development vocally (that is to say, his singing is not quite there yet).

The two hosts talked to Nakajima Kento-kun next. Is it just me, or have we seen a lot of Kento-kun in particular in this episode? And worse, he seems more serious and subdued than usual. Does this mean he’s going to do a solo next?

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Yes, yes it does. He sang SMAP’s “Orange”. I guess it’s one of his favorites.

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The volume on his mike was a tad too low compared to the playing of the backing band, but in any case this song didn’t really feature the vocal fireworks he’s normally known for. It was just a song he wanted to do, I guess, rather than a showcase of his skill.

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I can’t resist:

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So this was sort of a show-and-tell segment featuring Shori-kun, Fuma-kun and the two hosts. My only thought at this point, though, was that I had seen enough of SZ. I love them to bits and everything, but this is getting ridiculous. And if they really want to feature some SZ members, perhaps Marius-kun and Sou-kun?

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I was impressed by the watch Sakurai Sho-kun gave Fuma-kun for his birthday, though.

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Johnny’s WEST got a chance to perform “Banzai Yume Mansai!”.

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The music was too loud and busy for my taste, and the vocals over-processed.

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Still, they made it fun as usual, and it was nice to see them doing a new song.

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Junior ni Q continued the topic of favorite things, though the juniors seem to have a very liberal view of the prompt. First up was Okamoto Kauan-kun, who talked about a dream collaboration with a Brazilian dancer. This gave him a chance to show off some of his own formidable dance skills.

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Takahashi Kaito-kun went with something more basic – cheese kamaboko (I use kamaboko in stuff, but I’ve never encountered one involving cheese).

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Matsumura Hokuto-kun’s answer was “shelf”. Don’t ask me what that was about.

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The last respondent was Matsuda Genta-kun, and he picked a classroom veranda. Kawai-kun and Totsuka-kun seemed surprised that any classrooms even had verandas so . . . I guess Matsuda-kun goes to a good school?

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The next stage was the Shounen Club version of something I just watched in J’s Party – the same juniors performing “Jounetsu” except Kyomoto Taiga-kun and Kouchi Yugo-kun were thrown in for good measure.

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As I said in that review, the versions in the May 10th J’s Party were inferior to the typical Shounen Club versions, and you can see a direct example of that here.

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So, it’s better than what we saw in that J’s Party, but it still suffers from one shared fault – there are too many juniors involved. Now, while they’re going to have a crowded stage anyway, I’m glad they managed to get Taiga-kun and Kouchi-kun in there, but I’d rather see a smaller group of vocally competent juniors do this song than a large group of indistinct voices, especially since the dance isn’t taxing.

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The last performance of the show was yet another KinKi Kids song – “Aoi no Jidai”. The stage was lit in the blue suggested by the song’s title.

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The assembled members of the three debuted groups gave a heartfelt rendition of the song.

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It’s a beautiful farewell song, but I wish juniors were singing it.

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And while I also wish Shori-kun’s guest in the omake segment had been a junior . . .

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. . . Tsukada-kun could be fun, too. Shori-kun wants to prank him with a whoopee cushion.

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Okay, so maybe I’m just caffeine-deprived compared to when I reviewed the previous episode, but this one felt like the complete opposite in terms of energy. Among the performances, there were a lot of good ones, but no outstanding highlights. I guess I enjoyed “King & Queen & Joker” in this iteration, the opening was good, some better mixing would make “Banzai Yume Mansai!” palatable, and Nagase Ren-kun’s solo showed promise. None of them left the impressions that the May 7th highlights did.

Actually, the best part of the show was probably the Shokura NEWS segment. I’m a sucker for backstage stuff.

Most of the show was very mundane – even the omake segment, which is usually a slam dunk, was just a fizzle. The talk segments were minimal entertainment – the best part was Kauan-kun’s dancing.

Just a very, very average episode, except that there was a lack of juniors and a strong imbalance in the time allotment – especially after SZ had a substantial part in the last episode. If Kento-kun’s performance had been especially noteworthy or there had been more of the younger members, that would have been a different story. I’ll give this episode an 8 out of 10, but I strongly considered a 7. Except for Shokura NEWS, it was entirely forgettable.