I finally managed to get the most recent episode of VS Arashi (VS 嵐), so expect a bunch of these reviews this week as I catch up. The Arashi guys begin this episode by reflecting on their record this season – five wins and one loss. Hmm, I think it’s time to introduce a new game that the Arashis are less familiar with to level the playing field a bit, don’t you?

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I’m not sure, but it seemed like they were blaming the staff for the lack of balance? Not really clear about what they were saying here, and I got even more confused when MatsuJun started talking about pancakes, muffins, and scones – I totally missed the transition there.

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The guest team was the bijin caster team, made up of women who are newscasters or announcers. More so than practically any other team, it’s hard to get all their names right (because I can’t just look up a cast listing or team roster and have to figure out how to type their names into the Japanese Wikipedia. Thankfully, five of the six have pages on it). The team was led by Mochizuki Rie-san (often called Mochii-san), and included Itou Ayako-san, Kaito Aiko-san, Itou Yuri-san (that’s right – including the announcer for the show, there are three Itou-sans involved), and Arai Erina-san. Which brought me to the last member of the team, who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page yet. Her surname is Ono, but her given name can be read as Aika, Ayaka (most likely), Iroka, Saika, Sayaka (also common), or Tsuyaka. Sometimes, it’s a minor miracle I can get Japanese names right at all.

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By the way, even though they work for different networks, all six team members are part of the same agency, and they picked the most athletic members from their number.

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The plus one guests were the comedy duo Woman Rush Hour (ウーマンラッシュアワー), who I have never heard of before. They won The Manzai 2013, which is definitely something, but have only been active for five years or so. Manzai is completely reliant on set pieces and I since I haven’t come across these guys much, I’m going to blatantly assume that their TV experience is limited (at least, compared to people who do more than 100 appearances a year). So . . . how are they going to do.

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This is the first time Arashi is meeting them, too (makes sense – if Arashi had worked with them, I would have probably seen them before). The guy in the suit is Muramoto Daisuke-san, and he immediately asks everyone’s age to determine who is elder and who is younger. He already knows the answer, of course – since he’s born on November 25th, 1980, and Ohno-san was born the next day, Muramoto-san is the eldest member of the team (his partner, Nakagawa-san, is five months younger).

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I don’t know if it is his general mode of comedy, but Muramoto-san will focus on social ranking humor (age and senpai-kouhai) in this episode.

The first game was Pinball Runner, and I was happy that we at least dodged Rolling Coin Tower thanks to the fact that the caster team was athletically-inclined. Itou Ayako-san was their runner. She used to play basketball in grade school and her current interest is flamenco dancing, so she should be pretty light on her feet.

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Her teammates who are supposed to call out the numbers seem to be in disarray, though.

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Matsumoto-kun was the runner for the Arashi team, while Ninomiya-kun joined the plus one guests in calling out numbers. Muramoto-san went back to the age thing, but Nino-kun decided to turn it to senpai-kouhai, in which case his own seventeen years in show business outweighs Muramoto-san’s claim of fourteen years (I wonder what he was doing before he partnered up with Nakagawa-san).

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If I have trouble understanding Muramoto-san’s humor, it’s worse with Nakagawa-san. I’m sure subtitles would help, but I doubt their comedic style would appeal to me even then.

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In the end, Ninomiya-kun called out the numbers for the yellow balls, and the plus one guests didn’t really contribute.

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The next game was Kicking Sniper, and the Caster team was once again up first. Its representatives were Arai-san, Itou Yuri-san, and Mochizuki-san. Itou Yuri-san also did some anime voices.

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The kickers for Arashi were Ohno-san, Ninomiya-kun, and Muramoto-san. Can Muramoto-san make up for how little help he was in the first game? He claims to have been in a soccer club, and he specifically chose to be in the third spot.

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The jokes still revolved around the same sort of thing – Ohno-san asked exactly what time Muramoto-san was born to compare that. Really, it feels like since Arashi hasn’t worked with this duo before, they really don’t know what to say to each other.

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The third game was Bank Bowling, and it was Kaito-san and Itou Yuri-san up for the guest team. Itou-san confessed to being a big fan of Kaito-san, and got all excited about working next to her for the first time.

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Will they turn out to have good chemistry?

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The clean-up for the Caster team was handled by Ono-san and Itou Ayako-san.

Then it was Arashi’s turn, and they sent up the plus one guests first – both Nakagawa-san and Muramoto-san – and at this point I was entirely unenthusiastic about this. I don’t have a very high estimation of the plus one guests, and unless you watch them at work, you’ll just have to trust me that they’ve been horrible.

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After they took their throws, though, it was Sakurai-san and Aiba-kun, and this is not a combination we see very often. It’s amazing how puzzled Aiba-kun can still make his group mate.

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The penultimate game was Dual Curling. Now, I think this should be exclusively a final game because of the potential for a high score, but apparently thy have other ideas.

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As usual, they played two rounds so that everyone could participate.

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After what was otherwise a sporty sequence of games, it was sort of sad to see them lapse into the usual pattern with Korokoro Viking. Will the Arashi team get their second loss of the season or will they make the lack of balance even more apparent?

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This was a fairly weak episode of VS Arashi. The mix of games was very typical, the guests were unfamiliar (at least to a foreign observer like myself), and the Arashis didn’t really add much to the entertainment value of the hour.

The guest team certainly tried their best, and there’s room for a game-focused guest team, which this one certainly was. The problem is that if the guest team is game-focused, the plus one guests need to be entertaining and the Arashis need to step it up a notch, and neither of those things happened. The plus one guests were not really funny and not at all helpful in the games and the Arashis, not really knowing how to interact with their guests to manufacture entertainment, couldn’t find a way to keep things interesting.

Mostly, though, I blame the games, which are just too darn old and overused. It’s strange that they have way more variation in segments in Arashi ni Shiyagare than here, yet this is the series in prime time. There doesn’t seem to be even a tiny bit of budget in this series beyond paying the Arashi members and the staff.

As for the Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi, that’s a tough one. Since they had the most memorable Arashi moment in the entire show, though, I think I’ll give it to Sakurai-san and Aiba-kun for their Bank Bowling performance.