This episode of Arashi ni Shiyagare (嵐にしやがれ) took place in a Westin Hotel suite.

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Ahem, my thoughts exactly. Why? I’m all for the Arashis getting out of the studio, but only if they place they’re going to is larger and allows them more space to be active (i.e., not a restaurant). This clearly goes in the opposite direction, and I’m already dreading an hour where they’re just sitting on couches talking to their guest, Matsuda Seiko-san. Matsuda-san is most famously known as a pop singer in the Eighties – she has 25 number one singles to her name – and the last time I saw her in a drama was the 2007 Hanazakari no Kimitachi e – one of the first dramas I watched – in which she played the school principal.

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Apparently they’re supposed to have a party, but the look of the place doesn’t really shout “party”. There’s the distinct lack of things that could cause fun to happen. Well, except for the Arashis and their guest, of course.

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Aiba-kun is prepared – he’s got a new monomane (imitation) of Suzuki Nana-san to show off while they’re waiting for Matsuda-san. Well, if anyone is going to be the life of a party it’s Aiba-kun, but he’s never been particularly good with monomane . . . .

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These long-distance camera views are totally useless:

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I think the hotel asked the network to show off how roomy the suites are. This feels a lot like an hour-long promotion for the hotel.

Without any studio audience, Matsuda-san’s entrance is very subdued compared with the reception she might have otherwise received.

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When they start asking her questions, they do so in quiet indoor voices instead of their usual projected stage voices. I almost felt like I was intruding on a private meeting.

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Worse, the questions were entirely mundane. She talked about going to convenience stores and having no problem being recognized because she wears a hat and glasses, and they spent some time on the topic of traveling incognito.

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They try to make things seem interesting with tabloid-style graphics . . .

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. . . but that just seemed like form over substance. They had a range of drinks available, and Seiko-san chose water with ice in. I’m not sure that’s important, but they decided not to edit that out of the episode, and even gave it its own special graphic, so I guess the inquiring public wants to know. I’m sure consumption of water will go straight up after this.

With proceedings in need of some spicing up, it was up to Aiba-kun to perpetrate a monomane quiz on Seiko-san. Can she guess who he’s impersonating?

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The problem here is not only that Aiba-kun is bad at monomane, but Seiko-san is not very likely to recognize a Suzuki Nana impression, anyway.

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Ohno-san piped in with some words about Seiko-san’s daughter Sayaka-san, and I think he mentioned a love scene. Sayaka-san worked with Aiba-kun and Sakurai-san in Yankee Bokou ni Kaeru, but I didn’t see Ohno-san in the cast list there, so I don’t think he worked with Sayaka-san – he was just bringing up the fact that she did a love scene ten years ago out of nowhere. Sort of strange to segue from monomane to this.

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It’s so boring that they end up talking about the suite – the room itself. It would be like them spending time to talk with a guest about their set. I swear, this totally smacks of an ad for the hotel.

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I heard absolutely nothing interesting in the conversation that stretched for the first thirteen minutes or so, and items highlighted by those special tabloid graphics were especially worth ignoring.

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They decided to move on to party games, and at this point I was just thankful for anything that would end the talk.

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Really, though, these games where they stick things in or take things out and wait for the toy to pop . . . I hate them. They’re pure chance and take no skill. Jenga would have been better and much more intense, it they were going to aim for something similar.

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Then . . . they went back to talking. There wasn’t really much excitement during the game (though they tried their best to hype it up), and it all melted away in seconds as they got into talking about Matsuda-san’s debut.

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Ah, how the entertainment industry was like in the Eighties – one of the best covered topics on Japanese TV.

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They decide to do janken to decide who will go out to get some sweet stuff. This follows the pattern of a previous special where they had a party in a suite and then send members out to buy dessert.

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So far, this janken has been the most exciting thing in the entire episode. That’s . . . incredible.

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By some machinations, they managed to force MatsuJun do monomane in addition to going with Ohno-san to get the sweets.

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Back in the hotel, Ninomiya-kun decided to teach Seiko-san a magic trick. He’s brought out his magic a lot more often recently – it used to practically be a once-a-year thing.

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After learning the trick, Seiko-san tried it out on Sakurai-san and Aiba-kun. As with all of Nino-kun’s tricks, it was impressive, and even though Seiko-san was unsure about it at one point, all Nino-kun had to do was reassure her that it would work.

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Sakurai-san and Aiba-kun were suitably impressed. I wonder sometimes if they’re legitimately surprised or feigning it. Who does Ninomiya-kun try his tricks out on before going on air with them?

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Ohno-san and MatsuJun return bearing calories, albeit not many. They played baba-nuki in order to decide who got first pick of desert.

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I will reveal that Matsumoto-kun is the first one who clears his cards, so it’s all between the other five.

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They didn’t even finish dessert before Seiko-san had to leave . . . and then return with gifts for them.

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Okay, I think you can tell how I felt about this episode. In fact, it took me a while to work up the energy to write this review because it just sapped it out of me. The problem was clearly the format – I don’t want to ever see them do a show in a hotel room again.

The next episode looks like a similar format, though not quite the same. Again, no studio, but perhaps a bit more going on outdoors. I’ll withhold judgment before watching, but I’m not going in with much hope. I’m looking forward to the July 5th episode with Yamada Ryosuke-kun and Arioka Daiki-kun making an appearance, and that’s probably going to have a similar feel as the Yowakutemo Katemasu cast visiting, but first I have to get through the June 14th episode.