This VS Arashi (VS 嵐) was the first World Cup soccer support episode, and was followed by another one on June 12th. Obviously, Japan did not fair well this time in the quadrennial event, but fortunately that fate doesn’t have any impact on the enjoyment of this show.

The Arashi guys started the show talking about the World Cup and how Aiba-kun, Sakurai-san, and Ohno-san went to see it in 2002.

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Even though Ohno-san doesn’t come across as a sports fan, he does enjoy watching the World Cup. Just don’t ask him to name his favorite player.

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The guest team was made up of former players for Japan led by Matsuki Yasutaro-san. Alongside him were Fukuda Masahiro, Takeda Nobuhiro, Kitazawa Tsuyoshi, Narahashi Akira, and Morishima Hiroaki. I wasn’t able to get a good shot of them in a row (still working with slightly glitchy files here).

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Now, while they’re all former athletes, they’re also all getting on in years, and Arashi was only semi-sporty in their outfits. Will this prove to be a good fight?

Maybe Arashi will be sufficiently distracted by their plus one guest so that the guest team will have a chance. Matsushima Nahomi-san is probably best known for her work on Sekai no Hatemade Itte Q, but she spent a long time working alongside Arashi in Himitsu no Arashi-chan and is definitely 100% familiar with all of them. She’s never been on VS Arashi, but there’s no questioning her energy.

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So here are the two teams:

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At first glance, I don’t give the former soccer players much of a chance without an Arashi fail.

The first game was Bound Hockey with the guest team taking the initial crack at it.

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It sure didn’t take them long to resort to the highlight reel, and to talk about how long it has been since they played. Narahashi-san is relatively recent – he was part of the 1998 national team – and Morishima-san was actually there in 2002 when the three members of Arashi watched. The rest are . . . older.

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Bound Hockey is the sort of game that might suit former soccer players, but the Arashis have had plenty of practice at it. Matsushima-san, though, has had absolutely none, because the plus one guest doesn’t get to participate in the pre-recording practices.

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Matsushima-san wrote some impressions of the Arashi members and announcer Itou-san presented those here. Nothing too surprising – at least, from what I understood.

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Sakurai-san was the goal scorer for the team, but he’s got to rely on everyone else to get the pucks to him. I remember the days when this game was first introduced and the Arashis had a definite problem with that part, but now lapses are pretty rare.

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Speaking of possible lapses, Aiba-kun was the runner for the Arashi team in Pinball Runner next. He had better do well, since Matsushima-san will be shouting the numbers at him with all her might. By the end we’ll find out that, after many years playing this game, there’s something about the set that Aiba-kun still hasn’t noticed – possibly because of his height.

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For the soccer players, the runner was Takeda-san. He expresses confidence, showing off a sideways shuffle, but when Itou-san mentions that the game is one minute long, he asks if he can just do it for 45 seconds. Ah, Takeda-san, always such a joker.

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The next game was Dual Curling, and I really think this is way too early for this. On the other hand, they’ve got to end with Kicking Sniper, right?

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Ohno, Ninomiya, and Sakurai faced Matsuki, Kitazawa, and Takeda in the first round. Naturally, there was more World Cup talk, and they stepped up the jokes here.

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Again, this is the only game where the two teams face each other directly. As far as I’m concerned, that makes this currently the most compelling game except for Cliff Climb. Which team will come out ahead through this match?

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The remaining members for each team got to play in the second round, and we found out that Narahashi-san is very good at deadpan comedy. We also found out that even though the Arashis have played this game for ages, they can still find a way to do something we haven’t seen before – at least, with Matsushima-san present.

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I was happy to see that the next game was Cliff Climb, and even more so that the climbers for Arashi were Ohno-san and Ninomiya-kun. Nino-kun was tackling the overhang for the first time in ages.

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In a reversal of the normal order, Nino-kun aimed to take care of the tough part first. Will Ohno-san even get a chance to climb? This seems like a bad idea in terms of gaining points.

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Kitazawa-san and Morishima-san tackled the wall for the guest team, with Kitazawa handling the difficult part. Once again, we saw some great deadpan humor from Narahashi-san, who is unexpectedly turning out to be the most entertaining member of his team.

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As expected, the final game was Kicking Sniper, which means this is a rare episode where Korokoro Viking was not played. It should be considered a great episode just for that.

The Arashi team was up first, which means that they have to put enough points on the board to prevent the soccer team (which should be good at this particular game) from coming back to win in the final round. They sent Matsushima-san, MatsuJun, and Ohno-san up to kick.

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In spite of how critical this moment was, someone decided to roll out a comedian who wasn’t that funny. Totally skippable.

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Lots of pressure on these three . . .

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. . . as the guys who are up next are dressed for this sort of game.

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This was a very good episode – falling a bit short of excellent because I don’t think the Arashi guys put their best effort into some of the games (especially Cliff Climb, where there was no good reason for them to go in that order).

Given that we’re still waiting for new games in this series, this selection of games was at least among the best possible. No Korokoro Viking or Rolling Coin Tower.

The guest team was entertaining – usually the case for athlete teams, but not always. Certainly, they showed their best stuff in the games, but Takeda-san is always a fun character to have in a variety show (and a frequent guest on Arashi shows as a result) and Narahashi-san has a great sense of humor – wish we saw more of him.

Matsushima-san did what she could, injecting the kind of energy we would expect from her. While she’s a talent known for humor, she’s not really a comedienne as such, so we thankfully didn’t get any gags or formulaic humor that some of the plus one guests bring with them.

While I said the Arashis didn’t quite show their best work in some games, there was good effort in other parts of the episode. For instance, Ohno-san had a strong effort in Kicking Sniper. Mostly, though, they contributed humor in this one – particularly with that interesting play in Dual Curling perpetrated by Aiba-kun and Matsumoto-kun was well as the choice by Nino-kun to go first in Cliff Climb. Oh, and then there was Aiba-kun in both Bound Hockey and Pinball Runner. Really, it’s tough to nail the Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi down in this one. Ohno-san participated in the two best games (Cliff Climb and Kicking Sniper), but only had a spectacular result in the latter. Cliff Climb is usually the key to the M.O.A., and in that case it should go to Ninomiya-kun. But, I think it has to go to Aiba-kun this time, because he was certainly the most interesting member through the first half of the show, and that was critical since by the time we got around to Cliff Climb and Kicking Sniper, the games themselves were good enough to hold my interest.

I have to say, though, that my patience for new games is wearing thin. With every episode, it increasingly feels like I’ve seen everything before, and as much as I like Arashi, I have my limits.