This VS Arashi (VS 嵐) began with congratulations to Ninomiya-kun on his thirty-first birthday. Thankfully, he celebrated by wearing something normal for once.

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On this sort of occasion, it is normal for leader Ohno-san to say a few words, and he gave the young birthday boy some sage advice (I believe it was “chew well when you eat”).

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With that, the guest team emerged. It was the cast of the movie “Choukousoku! Sankinkoutai” (超高速!参勤交代). Not just the top of the cast list, though – this seemed to be a group specially selected to represent the movie well on VS Arashi.

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It was led by Sasaki Kuranosuke-san, who also appeared in the June 12th Arashi ni Shiyagare, and the team also included Hey! Say! Jump member Chinen Yuri-kun. The next three members – Oshinari Shugo-san, Wada Soko-san, and Tomiura Satoshi-san – are completely unknown to me. The last member, though, was Maeda Oshiro-kun, who I last saw in PRICELESS and before that in Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan, so it’s nice to see how he’s grown (he’s still only thirteen, though – lots of acting experience already!).

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I was most interested in seeing whether Chinen-kun could bounce back from a lackluster performance when he appeared on this show as a plus one guest. That said, I also wondered what kind of leader Sasaki-san would be, and also how Maeda-kun would do. So, a pretty engaging guest team already.

They demonstrated what “Choukousoku! Sankinkoutai” (ultra high speed official attendance service) means by showing how a bit of speed can help create the illusion of a vast retinue.

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It didn’t really come through in his Arashi ni Shiyagare appearance, but Sasaki-san is great at deadpan humor. There was something very Monty Python about this scene.

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The plus one guests were the comedy duo Harisenbon. Old favorites and always worth a few solid laughs, the only thing I hope is that Haruna-san doesn’t do too many of her set gags. They last appeared on this show seven months ago.

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The first game was Dual Curling. Now, I’ve argued that this should be the last game because there’s a potential for high scores that could make other games (like Pinball Runner and especially Bank Bowling) irrelevant. Maybe this means we’ll be getting a more innovative slate of games (I hope?).

Up for the guest team were Sasaki-san, Maeda-kun, and Oshinari-san. Now that I get a better look at him, I think I’ve seen Oshinari-san before . . . and yes, he had minor roles in a number of dramas I’ve watched, including Kazoku Game and even an episode of CHANGE, but perhaps most strikingly he had a significant role in Maou alonside Ohno-san, and then also appeared in Kagi no Kakatta Heya for an episode.

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On the Arashi side, it was Matsumoto-kun, Aiba-kun, and Kondo Haruna-san. With this combination, it was no surprise that they tried to set her up for her most favorite set gag, and she valiantly avoided it, getting humor out of defying the expectation.

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Sasaki-san reflected on his previous experiences eating out with Arashi members during drama/movie shoots. It was Matsumoto-kun and Ninomiya-kun in the spotlight here, and I think you can guess the contrast between the experiences.

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The remaining members of each team participated in the second round, except that Ninomiya-kun was forced to sit out because there’s an extra member on the Arashi team.

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This was the first opportunity for them to bring up how much of an Ohno fan Chinen-kun is. They also got to marvel at the fact that he’s twenty years old.

Ohno-san had a big fail here – when asked Haruka-san’s name, he answered Haruna! Easy to get that wrong unless you’ve been in countless variety shows with Harisenbon over the course of the past decade.

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I have to admit it – Tomiura-san has me totally confused about which pronoun to use. I assume male, but is that Tomiura-san’s preference at this point, or not?

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Tomiura-san was also the guest team’s runner in Pinball Runner, and they mentioned that Tomiura-san worked with MatsuJun in Hana Yori Dango all the way back in 2005.

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Wisely, the guest team had Maeda Oshiro-kun calling out the numbers, since he has a very loud and distinct voice. The pink balls were called out by Wada-san, though, and he’s nearly silent.

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Ninomiya-kun was the runner for the Arashi team, and Ohno-san was with Harisenbon up in the command post.

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Does Nino-kun look worried? Not really. They played this one fairly straight, but Ninomiya-kun had a mishap of his own. Turning 31 . . . it’s a painful thing, I can tell you.

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The third game was Cliff Climb, and this was Chinen-kun’s chance to make up for his fail in his previous appearance. He was paired with Oshinari-san, but the tough part – the overhang – was all up to him. Oshinari-san aimed to take care of the other two-thirds of the wall.

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Rather than having Haruna-san do her famous gag, she conspired with Nino-kun to get Oshinari-san to do it.

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They talked about Chinen-kun’s aerobatics in concerts, but not his previous appearance on this show.

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Chinen-kun seems a lot looser this time than last time, and that’s almost certainly for the best.

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Can Aiba-kun and Sakurai-san match the guest team’s climb? No offense, but Aiba-kun had better be taking the overhang part. And he is, so . . . good.

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They keep getting Oshinari-san to do the “ja ne~ yo” gag.

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Can Sakurai-san take care of two-thirds of the cliff quickly enough to give Aiba-kun a chance? He did manage to have a little incident that even had a staff member saying “uso darou” (roughly, “you’ve got to be kidding”), as was noted afterward.

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Kicking Sniper was the penultimate game, and the guest team sent up Sasaki-san, Wada-san, and Maeda-kun. Sasaki-san and Maeda-kun have plenty of energy, but that only drew more attention to Wada-san’s complete lack of vigor.

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Honestly, I don’t see any of these guys being strong at this game, but maybe I’ll be surprised.

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Ohno-san and Matsumoto-kun joined Haruka-san for the Arashi turn in this game. Haruka-san was in the “Ladies Zone”, though I seem to recall her being rather good at this game.

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Announcer Itou-san got Chinen-kun to lay some pressure on Ohno-san, but Ohno-san is sort of impervious to pressure, isn’t he?

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It looks like we’re back to getting Korokoro Viking as the concluding game. So much for an innovative mix of games, but maybe  they’ll at least alternate Korokoro Viking with Dual Curling now. Still, I wonder if the only reason they don’t play Jungle Bingo more often is how difficult it is to put up the set, since I think it would have been perfect for this episode.

The guest team had the first crack at the game with Kuranosuke-san and Chinen-kun taking charge of the scoring . . .

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. . . and then Arashi had the final chance to clinch the day or fail. Ninomiya-kun and Haruka-san controlled the critical orange zone.

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This episode was a lot of fun to watch, but there was nothing obviously striking about it. It just went by very smoothly with a generally good mood all the way through. Lots of people contributed to the entertainment value, including every member of the guest team.

Kuranosuke-san was charming, amusing and acted more like the team leader than many others I’ve seen in that role. I’m still curious about Tomiura-san, who showed off some serious biceps during Dual Curling and had the biggest role early in the show. Oshinari-san got roped into doing Haruna-san’s gag (Haruna-san herself didn’t really do it). Wada-san added entertainment just by being such a low tension, quiet guy in the midst of so much energy. Chinen-kun had his Cliff Climb moment as well as the usual Ohno-san interactions. Maeda-kun had the spotlight shouting out numbers for Tomiura-san during Pinball Runner and also because of his performance in Kicking Sniper. So yeah, contributions all around.

Harisenbon added exactly the right amount of humor. They didn’t take away from anyone else, but just filled in some gaps here and there.

For Arashi, the candidates for Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi were Ohno-san, Aiba-kun, and Sakurai-san. The latter two were mostly up for consideration because of Cliff Climb, so I’m going to give it to Ohno-san. Ohno-san was a key part of the show right from the start (with his birthday advice to Nino-kun), and was involved pretty much all the way through (thanks in part to Chinen-kun), until the very end where Chinen-kun continued to express his admiration for the Arashi leader.