This episode of Sexy Zone Channel starts at 8:40 a.m., so the guys look a bit more awake than they did last time, and they’ve apparently been preparing for the start of the show by writing the title of it as well as their names on the whiteboard. It’s a fair point: there’s never been a proper title sequence introducing the show and the members of Sexy Zone, has there? I actually like that aspect of the show, since it feels like the director is in a hurry to get to the action and there’s a lot of video to show viewers (which there always seems to be).

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After the usual funny banter between the members and the staff, they got down to business. They seem to know it’s going to be more physically demanding this time after the DVD/manga hunt last time, though Kento-kun maintains a stubborn hope that there’s yakitori (grilled chicken) involved.

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The challenge for the day was actually the sport squash, which is predictably difficult to render into Japanese (it ends up as sukasshu, which is not even close).

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So, how will they do in this unfamiliar though reasonably popular sport (and nearly Olympic sport in 2020 – it understandably lost to wrestling)? The staff guy tried to make it sound like a momentous undertaking and there were allusions to Prince of Tennis, though they’re about to find out that this is very different from tennis. Matsushima Sou-kun made the mistake of saying that he plays tennis, and Fuma-kun quickly dubbed him the experienced one to put all the pressure on him (as usual).

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I always like the part where we see them approach the facility – there’s something about their mix of confidence and apprehension that’s always fun to watch.

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Shori-kun made out the word “squash”, but wasn’t quite able to break away from the katakana pronunciation of it. He also called the building “S-Cube” and Marius-kun tried to correct him by saying it was “SQ-Cube”. Kento-kun’s little “just kidding” joke for the camera at the end of this scene was hilarious.

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It’s amazing how much fooling around they can squeeze in just while they’re walking along.

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They had a bit of trouble getting the attention of their sensei for the day – Matsui-san.

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She explains to them that while there are similarities to tennis, there are also very obvious differences. No net, for instance.

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The first lesson is how to grip the racquet properly. At this point we find out that Marius-kun didn’t know that Fuma-kun is left-handed. Fuma-kun responded that Marius-kun should read his profile properly.

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They learned a bit about the unique dynamics of the ball. Incidentally, Wikipedia says that there are different balls for different player levels, with colored dots on the ball indicating which level they’re for. The higher level balls have less bounce.

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After that, they practiced their swing.

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They were then put into groups – Fuma-kun, Shori-kun, and Marius-kun in group one, and Kento-kun with Sou-kun in group two. While working on his swing, Marius-kun managed to knock the racquet against the ground. Well, that’s one way to figure out that you’re swinging too low.

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Kento-kun never fails to find the funny in things, and here he and Sou-kun conspired to make their sensei laugh.

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For actual play, they had to wear standard eye-guards.

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Sato Shori-kun was up first, and soon discovered that the low bounce of the squash balls makes this a lot trickier than it looks at first.

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Since Marius-kun repeated this point, Fuma-kun decided that he should go next. He had a good first return, but then missed, prompting Fuma-kun to start calling strikes on him.

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Will Kikuchi-kun do better? He sure has a firm stance.

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Sou-kun’s tennis experience might have actually helped him – he handled this without any problems. Kento-kun, though, was not so fortunate.

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The sensei slowly built up the difficulty level . . .

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. . . and while Sou-kun continued to do well . . .

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. . . Kento-kun was getting worried about his own performance. So far, he’s been fairly good in the challenges, but it looks like this one is giving him more trouble than usual.

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Everyone had their problem spells, though, and Kento-kun eventually bounced back.

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Fuma-kun always looks like he’s trying to knock the ball right through the wall.

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Eventually, they had to learn how to serve, which is always a bit difficult. In my very little experience in racquet sports, I’ve always had trouble it serving.

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After they got through all those preliminaries . . .

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. . . they got themselves seeded . . .

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. . . into the first Sexy Zone Squash Championship (and since there was a lot of talk about a rematch at the end of the show, possibly not the last one).

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The very first match put the youngest member of the group against the eldest. The winner would immediatelygo up against Fuma-kun after that.

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Shori-kun and Sou-kun faced off next. Will Sou-kun show that tennis experience really does help when playing squash?

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That was a very strange match, actually.

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Shori-kun has his game face on.

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Or not.

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Anyway, the full championship was played out, and while it was great fun to watch, I think it could have been better if they had played some more practice games before actually having the championship – maybe a full practice championship before the real one. It was interesting to see that most of them didn’t even take off their hoodies (only Kento-kun and Fuma-kun eventually did), and certainly none of them appeared ready to play in shorts like their sensei was, which suggests that they hadn’t really gotten to the level of serious play. I mainly point this out because the title of this episode suggested that squash would make them sweat (スカッシュで汗をかけ), and it clearly didn’t.

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That was clearly due to a lack of time, and their talk afterward sort of reflected the fact that they knew they hadn’t shown their best efforts, since there was a lot of rematch talk. Hopefully, the show’s staff will arrange for that.

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So, while the challenge felt incomplete, we sure got a lot of great video out of it. While it wasn’t as physically demanding as the double-dutch challenge, it could probably do with a second episode somewhere down the line. Perhaps they should even have a yakitori reward for the victor in that one!

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As always in Sexy Zone Channel, all five members got a fair share of the time, and the consistency of that in the episodes of the series is both thanks to the work of the members to flesh out their own characters and also due to the efforts of the series staff.

I took an unusually long time to get to this episode, but that just means I have a shorter time to wait before the next one, which will be on June 4th and will have the guys do something synchronized – the official schedule has blanks in the title, so I’ll enjoy the suspense until Wednesday.