Arashi’s junior kouhai are suddenly taking up a lot of my viewing time these days. Let’s see if I can make this a catch-up weekend, starting with this Arashi ni Shiyagare (嵐にしやがれ) with Ueto Aya-san as the guest. The teaser at the start of the show makes it look interesting and hectic, and Ueto-san seems dressed for action, but will they strike a good balance between the biography segment and the rest of the show this time?

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They first investigate Ueto-san’s past interactions with the Arashi members, and the fact that she’s known MatsuJun from their high school days. They were in Horikoshi’s special program, so different years were mixed together in the homeroom, meaning that they were in the same class even though there was a two-year gap between them. Even though there were some surprised sounds from the crowd, those had to have been completely contrived – if even I know about this, every fan probably does.

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Ninomiya-kun went with a different sort of biography segment this time, and Ueto-san expressed regret at this because she really likes the Ninomi-ya format. Well, I like innovation, and hopefully this new format will keep things a bit tighter instead of taking up the entire show.

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It is a before-and-after comparison of Ueto Aya-san – comparing her hobbies, specialties, and stuff like that from five or so years back to her preferences now.

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Her hobby used to be economizing (that’s a hobby? I thought it was just something you did. I guess if you’re rich enough, it becomes a hobby instead), but what is her hobby now?

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Honestly, I’m not that interested. That’s why I wanted the biography corner shortened in the first place, and since we’re not going to get old photos or impressive VTRs here . . .

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. . . the only interesting thing is to see Ueto-san write the answer on the white board.

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Her new hobby is refrigerating everything and . . . I think this is a very broad interpretation of the word shumi (趣味) that we’re working with here – it can mean preferences, though it usually means hobby.

The next topic was Ueto-san’s specialty, and here the first one – swimming – made sense, but the second one seemed to befuddle even the Arashi guys.

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There’s no way I can keep it as a spoiler because of what comes next, so I’ll say that her new specialties are cleaning and massages . . .

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. . . which led to Ohno-san to ask for a foot massage . . .

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. . . and this scene:

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Hey! Those feet are gold – watch it!

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Watching Ohno-san squirm was brilliant fun, though. It was really the best scene from Ohno-san in ages.

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After that, I think we all wanted to see Ninomiya-kun get the Ueto treatment. Ohno-san volunteered him, and Ueto-san decided to massage Nino-kun’s face:

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Hmm . . . I don’t think this is an improvement . . .

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. . . but eventually he managed to deal with it without having the others hold him down.

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Everyone else got a huge laugh out of it, but I don’t know if Nino-kun was particularly amused.

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After that, I really couldn’t sit still for the rest of the talk segment – it felt like I had already watched the best part of the episode.

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I suppose the part where they looked into her purse was somewhat interesting (especially the ‘no special reason for this card’ card), but it’s almost like something she does just so that she can talk about it. You’ll note that they carefully took out a particular pouch from her purse with the letter set, and didn’t empty the purse itself.

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The last topic of the before-and-after segment was just thinks she liked, and while the before was Japanese formal coats (yawn), the after was hide-and-seek (kakurenbo). The instant he saw this, MatsuJun started saying “kowai!” because he knew what was coming next – they were going to play hide-and-seek around the studio! First, they did janken to figure out who would do the seeking (the oni – demon), and as it turned out, it was Matsumoto Jun.

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Ah, how I wish they did this more often. Actually, I’d prefer onigokko, where the people hiding can run away to avoid getting captured and actually have to be tagged out, and there’s a whole team of oni.

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As it was, this was way too short and they cut out lots of it (a shame, since the search portion was only five minutes), which killed some of the tension.

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There was another game, but it reminded me of something they did a long time ago – in D no Arashi or G no Arashi. They ordered ramen from different shops close to NTV and made a grand prix out of it – even introducing the delivery people as if they were race car drivers.

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Well, they could have hardly made a food segment seem more exciting, so I guess they get points for that even though it’s still a food segment.

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Each of the Arashis called in their own order.

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And then as the meals came in, Ueto-san had to decided who made the best choice of ramen.

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Oh, the guys got fed, too.

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Often, the food ends the show, but this time we got a strange performance of “GUTS!” – the new Arashi single – from the middle of Tokyo Dome. Now, I know the guys are right at home in Tokyo Dome, but there was something missing about the ambiance here:

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I’m not too sure about this particular dance move, either:

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I get that this was baseball-themed (and therefore plays into Yowakutemo Katemasu – the drama “GUTS!” is the theme song for), but it needed much better filming techniques. It’s possible to pull something like this off with some better (much better) cinematics.

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The real problem might have been the way we went from a very strong racing theme (the ramen grand prix) into the extreme baseball theme, and the fact that the performance wasn’t well-integrated into the episode. They should have ended the episode with it instead of then going back to the studio for the result of the ramen competition and the Thermae Romae II plug.

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The pacing of the episode was very good – lots of stuff happened and it felt very busy. The talk segment was around twenty minutes – less than half of the show. It was definitely an excellent episode despite its soft spots.

There was a problem with the tension arc, though. The best highlight was the massage bit early on, the second best thing was the hide-and-seek, and after that the ramen grand prix was amusing. The “GUTS!” performance . . . was not the best performance of this song I’ve seen. So the bright side is that there were interesting moments all the way through, but the downside is that there was diminishing returns for continuing to watch.

Ueto-san was a wonderful guest – comfortable around the Arashis as always, as they are around her. They clearly went the extra mile (or four kilometers) on preparation this time.

The Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi has to be Ohno-san for his reaction to the massage. That’s going to be a classic clip. Ninomiya-kun also made the highlight reel in that segment as well as in the capacity of host, everyone played a part in the hide-and-seek but Matsumoto-kun and Aiba-kun were the main fun in that part, and Sakurai-san seemed to play a big role in the ramen grand prix. So, everyone got some participation in this time.