The second Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) of June started with a lot of guitarists on stage – the SC band plus a few. Usually when they decide to have the instrumentalists on Shounen Club, we see a lot of them, and I hope that will be the case here.

The three elder members of Sexy Zone – Nakajima Kento, Kikuchi Fuma, and Sato Shori – greeted the audience and then started singing “Thank You” with a whole host of juniors also singing.

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Tough to name all of them. Let’s see . . . there was Yasui Kentaro, Ishigaki Daisuke, Goto Hiromi, Ogawa Yuu, Jinguji Yuta, Kobayashi Mizuki, Sanada Yuma, Jesse, and Hagiya Keigo. Oh, and also two other non-juniors – Johnny’s WEST’s Hamada Takahiro-kun and Kamiyama Tomohiro-kun showing that they really could be part of a SHARK-like group. The screencaps came out pretty fuzzy, so I suggest just watching this opening – it’s going to be one of the highlights. Oh, and grab a good quality version of it – too many people on stage for anything less.

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Except for the band, the juniors cleared the stage as hosts Kawai Fumito-kun and Kiriyama Akito-kun joined the other debuted members present to introduce the theme of the show – Rock. Well, assuming we’re talking about the form of music rather than stones (of the non-rolling variety), I think my hope that we’ll see more of the band will be fulfilled.

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Can I say that, if they’d only remove those blasted feathers, Sexy Zone would actually look quite cool in these costumes? Just a thought.

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After a non-rock-related World Cup mention from Shori-kun and some rock enthusiasm from Hamada-kun, we got the rock medley. It started with Totsuka Shota-kun of A.B.C-Z performing Tackey & Tsubasa’s “SAMURAI” alongside Okamoto Kauan, Anderson Casey, Jesse, and Sanada Yuma.

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It wasn’t a particularly difficult stage for the five singers, though it was nice to see Anderson-kun up front and, of course, the band.

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Shigeoka Daiki-kun led Masuda Ryo, Hanzawa Akatsuki, Morohoshi Shoki, and Kyomoto Taiga in Kanjani8’s “LIFE ~ Me no Mae no Mukou e~”. It occurred to me at this point that, when the band is on stage, there is for some reason resistance to having the singers dance. I don’t know why that is, and it made the singers seem superfluous. After all, I think the band members themselves could probably sing the songs.

Hashimoto Ryosuke-kun and Kotaki Nozomu-kun performed KAT-TUN’s “Butterfly” as the third song. At the least the music is definitely rock.

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Fab Five (Iwahashi Genki, Jinguji Yuta, Miyachika Kaito, Abe Aran, and Kishi Yuta) did KAT-TUN’s “Yorokobi no Uta”, looking snappy in those black-and-gold outfits (thankfully devoid of feathers, by the way – maybe you only get the feathers when you debut?).

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The medley is already getting a bit long, but there are so many people to give stage room to, that they have to keep it going. Kondo Masahiko-san’s “Midnight Shuffle” is next. I just saw the song in my review of J’s Party yesterday, but this time it was performed by Hashimoto, Totsuka, Kotaki, Shigeoka, and Shori.

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Shori-kun’s attempts to rock out were amusing – you can tell he’s been working on it.

Musically, it was good medley because the music had a fairly consistent energy and feel. There weren’t any surprises personnel-wise except for Anderson Casey-kun and the band. Nothing we saw really tested the abilities of the performers, but it was still worth watching for the fun of it.

Next, Tsukada-kun and Goseki-kun did their backstage segment. It’s a bit strange to have this so early in the show, but I guess it means we have a lot of non-music segments to get through.

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It was a completely A.B.C-Z affair, as their guest for the segment was Kawai-kun. Honestly, I think it’s essential for these talk segments to involve people from different groups talking to each other. We really don’t need to watch Shounen Club to see these three goofing off with each other – only the cross-group interactions are really specific to this show.

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The first topic involved Kawai-kun asking Tsukada-kun advice on a concern he has, and it seemed to be about muscle training. Tsukada-kun advised swimming, walking, and marathon (long-distance running). Fair enough.

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After that, Kawai-kun competed with Tsukada-kun in drawing Goseki-kun’s portrait.

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They ended with doing some monomane. Tsukada-kun imitated Nikaido-kun from Kis-My-Ft2, and Goseki-kun attempted both Shori-kun and Fuma-kun.

Unfortunately, the members of SZ apparently didn’t know what VTR would precede their interview – it would have been nice to get some reaction from them.

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I think the topic was the wild side (of rock, if you will), but it was tough for me to understand much more than the word “wild” when Fuma-kun talked. Shori-kun went with shopping as his wild point, which totally threw me off, but Kawai-kun and Akito-kun declared him wilder than Fuma-kun, which probably just means Fuma-kun didn’t pick a sufficiently juicy topic.

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Kento-kun was perfectly silent while the other two chatted away, waiting for his turn, and then offered the idea of suddenly breaking a silence in class in university. Hmm . . . interesting concept of wild we have here.

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Of course, asking Japanese idols about wildness is a lot like . . . well, a lot like asking them about rock ‘n’ roll, to be honest.

After a talk like that, with the theme of the show “rock” and the band still on stage, it was no surprise to see the three elder members of Sexy Zone perform “Bad Boys”.

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And it was probably the best performance of the song they’ve done. Fuma-kun’s vocals were especially good, and he was so pleased with them himself that he flashed a quick smile right after a particularly sweet line – that was a great moment.

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Shori-kun has did a lot to break the problem he had in previous performances where he didn’t look like he knew what he should be doing. Here he was the most mobile and dynamic member, though there’s always room for more refinement.

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I think that’s another highlight. Actually, “Bad Boys” will be an interesting gauge on how these guys grow up – I’m sure they’ll continue to sing it for years (unlike some of their more cutesy songs), and hope that eventually Marius-kun and Sou-kun get to join in.

One question: why did they bother to have the juniors suddenly appear halfway into the song? Felt like the stage got a bit crowded.

Next up, it was time for Shokura NEWS, which was focused on A.B.C-Z’s 2014 version of Johnny’s Densetsu.

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We got to see all sorts of intriguing highlights. Tsukada-kun’s solo bit was as expected. I was surprised by Kawai-kun’s, though – a tad cringeworthy.

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Goseki-kun had the sharp dance moves in his solo performance, and Totsuka-kun was entirely imposing with his katana.

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Hashimoto-kun’s solo corner combined drama, high energy pop dance, and his vocals.

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Always appreciate the update on their activities. After the VTR, they performed “Legend Story”, which I don’t believe I’ve heard before, so this is probably the first new-for-SC song we’ve seen in this episode. It’s also the first non-rock song, not to mention the first one without the backing band.

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It was a good song – very Johnny’s and somewhat Disney, featuring the kind of energy we like to see from this group, but only a touch of the acrobatics.

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Not bad, though not extraordinary. It’s tough, because when I say something is a highlight, it means it’s relatively better than what we’ve seen before – either from the performers or from the usual way Shounen Club works. With A.B.C-Z, their standards are so high, a performance that would be a highlight if juniors did it is a disappointment from them. Not that this one was a disappointment, but it also wasn’t a highlight.

With a really quick transition (probably because there was editing involved, since we cut to a camera pan of the crowd that seemed unusual), it was time for a junior performance of KinKi Kids’ “Secret Code”.

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This seemed new. On stage were Masuda Ryo, Anderson Casey, Jesse, Morita Myuto, Okamoto Kauan, Yamakura Shalf, Hanzawa Akatsuki, and Sanada Yuma. Interesting combination. Lots of vocal and dancing talent here, and overall a very good feel to the group.

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The song was a nice jazz number with some spiffy dancing, and the eight members seemed to get reasonable shares of the camera attention. I like this team, but I’m not holding my breath thinking that it’ll last more than a month or two.

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No question about it: this was another highlight. The particular combination of vocals (a bit muddy at some points with so many people singing, but acceptable because of the song) and especially the stylish dance sold it.

The new edition of the Shokura Blog corner had Takahashi Kaito-kun talking about drawing on eggs. I guess this is supposed to be the new Ki ni Naru J-type segment, and it has the potential as long as they keep rotating which junior gets featured and don’t let any double-dip.

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After that, Takahashi-kun joined Hirano Sho-kun, Nagase Ren-kun, and a whole host of other juniors to perform “Happy Happy Lucky You!!” – a good junior song if ever I heard one. Hirano-kun and Nagase-kun did the main singing duties, and did a top-notch job of the performance, as you’d expect.

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This one probably merits the highlight designation as well. First of all, it’s a huge improvement in terms of the usual SC situation in that there were a lot of chibi juniors involved and up front. Nagase-kun did a nice job on his solo lines, continuing to put new effort into his vocals.

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So yeah, lots of really good stuff in this episode. Or maybe I’m just in a good mood. Or, perhaps they’re putting me in a good mood. Tough to say.

We got a Nekketsu Battle in this episode – a gesture game – and they opted to have two debuted members and two juniors in each team. The hosts were Hashimoto-kun and Nakama Junta-kun. The red team had Nakajima Kento, Kotaki Nozomu, Tanaka Juri, and Jinguji Yuta. The blue team had Kikuchi Fuma, Hamada Takahiro, Jesse, and Abe Aran.

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Nice to see Aran-kun involved – is it his first time in one of these game?

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The rules of the game were simple – team members will try to convey by gesture the words that their group members will have to guess. Each team will get sixty seconds to guess as many as possible, and limited passing is allowed.

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Most of the words were pretty simple – like monkey and golf – but some were trickier.

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There was then a second round, with the words being Johnny’s songs and the gesture hints being the choreography for the songs. I always like this game because it’s an interesting test of cross-Johnny-group awareness.

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That very entertaining game segment was followed by the Johnny’s WEST stage, which had instrumentation despite the absence of the SC band. That’s because Hamada-kun and Kamiyama-kun both had their guitars again, while the other members handled various percussion duties. Most of the music was left to the backing track, though.

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Finally, we got a song that wasn’t the normal Kansai style – a ballad titled “Only Lonely”.

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It was a beautiful song, fresh to SC as far as I can remember, and something I’ve been waiting to see from them for a while.

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Highlight? Sure! You know what, unless there’s a colossal fail in the last ten minutes of the show, I think I’m just going to recommend watching this whole episode.

Can’t go wrong with Junior ni Q. They continue the topic of what juniors would like to become if they were reborn. Kishi Yuta-kun was up first, and answered with clione – a sea angel. No surprise that Kishi-kun would have an interesting answer.

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Iwahashi Genki-kun answered with astronaut. Glad to see he’s sticking with that – it’s what got him on my favorites list in the first place. I’m not sure about the UFO reasoning, but any excuse to want to go to space is acceptable, and wanting to judge the situation for oneself shows a healthy curiosity.

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He mentioned plans for Mars, and the possibility of sending people to live on Mars (if I understood right), which is something I have more than a passing interest in. As he has before, he noted that he probably wouldn’t be able to take the trip himself – space sickness is a serious thing.

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Tajima Shogo-kun was even more direct – he would like to be an alien. That’s the spirit!

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Why they seem so prone to UFO speculation is beyond me (and always annoying to me for reasons that would require a rant that would be inappropriate in the context of this article). But whatever, keep those imaginations alive, whatever it takes!

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In a rare case of appropriate background music, they played the X-Files theme.

Masuda Ryo-kun would want to be a stoat/ermine.

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To summarize, the previous episode was dominated by people who wanted to fly. This time, we got juniors who looked to space, and others that picked amusing creatures. I think all the important bases have been covered.

Hosts Kawai-kun and Kiriyama-kun closed the episode out . . .

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. . . and the ending song was Sexy Zone’s “Kanzen My Way”. I like the song, but would have preferred a proper rock song to seal the deal on this show. At least the band was on stage, and the SZ members were quickly joined by juniors running around . . . who may or may not have known the lyrics.

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Shori-kun had center stage but also continued to be very mobile – definitely burning a lot of calories in this one.

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And so it concluded. There were some soft spots, but the hour on the whole was very entertaining and satisfying.

I pointed out numerous highlights along the way, but they can be neatly summarized: any time instrumentalists were on stage. Oh, and “Happy Happy Lucky You!!” with Hirano-kun, Nagase-kun, and all those juniors was in the mix as well, especially since it was the most quintessentially Shounen Club thing in the entire episode.

The game was entertaining but not exceptional. Same for the A.B.C-Z performance – thoroughly enjoyable, but expected.

The weakest point in the episode was obviously the Tsukada-Goseki-Kawai segment early on. I’m glad they had that earlier rather than later.

Well, after watching it, I decided to find myself a higher quality version of the episode, so I must have enjoyed it a lot. Ten out of ten this time.