We saw a lot of familiar performances in the first July episode of Gamushara J’s Party!! (ガムシャラ J’s Party!!), but perhaps that means we’ll get more new stuff in this edition. Let’s find out.

Once again, the participants were Jesse, Morita Myuto, Nozawa Yuki, Morohoshi Shoki, Kyomoto Taiga, Kouchi Yugo, Tanaka Juri, Morimoto Shintaro, Haniuda Amu, Nagata Jiei, and Matsumura Hokuto, and we got the same Shiritsu Bakaleya Koukou-inspired opening as last time.

The first song was “Darkness” with Morohoshi, Juri, Myuto, Kouchi, Taiga, and Shintaro on stage. Well, I sure haven’t seem them do this one before, and while it’s not a traditional opening song, it was a very good choice to get viewers interested.

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I’m thrown off by the random combinations of juniors, as the agency insists on not even hinting at stable groupings. While I liked the fact that this was something new, I didn’t sense the group cohesion here that we saw with the former Bakaleya members in the previous episode. That’s probably because they haven’t performed this song together as much, and so are more focused on the moves than the mood.

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The next performance was something totally new – “Love yourself” with Haniuda Amu-kun and Nagata Jiei-kun. I thought these two would only get to backdance, but here they are with their own stage.

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But again, while I appreciate the freshness, which is what I entered this episode looking for, I didn’t like the fact that the backing track totally drowned out their voices. If they can’t sing, they can’t be the only ones on stage – find a junior who can sing to put them together with. “Love yourself” is not a difficult song.

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“Genkai Meter” was performed by Nozawa Yuki-kun, Kouchi Yugo-kun, and Morohoshi Shoki-kun after that. Nozawa-kun’s voice was very much front and center here, but I got a special kick out of the dancing from Morohoshi-kun and Kouchi-kun. Again, any time Kouchi-kun shows off his dancing chops, I can only think back to the days where he got grief for his lack of skill in this department.

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We got the Jesse-kun solo next, and it was “Giniro Angou”. This is a KinKi Kids song and I think we’ve seen him do it before on Shounen Club.

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Excellent vocals from Jesse-kun on this one, and some sharp dancing as well.

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The next song was “Le ciel ~Kimi ni Shiawase Inoru Kotoba~”. Jesse-kun kicked if off, but Kyomoto Taiga-kun quickly joined them.

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Now, while these two are among the best singers in the junior ranks, they both sing in the higher registers, so it’s not really a good idea to combine them. They both need someone with a lower voice to complement them – like Hokuto-kun or Masuda-kun.

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What they don’t need is Tanaka Juri-kun doing a rap (or anyone doing a rap) in the middle of this otherwise sweet song. While I wish Juri-kun all the best, I really hate the rapping. I would like the rap-free version of all these songs, and this episode. As far as I can tell, Johnny’s actually gives the juniors broad leeway about the specialties they want to pursue, and I think Juri-kun has decided to fill the rap niche in the footsteps of his brother – I don’t think this was forced on him – so . . . yeah. Wish he’d reconsider that.

On the bright side, that was the segue to bring the rest of the Bakaleya crew back out . . .

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. . . so we got Bakaleya reunion part two.

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I know it’s probably futile to root for this particular team of six. I mean, it used to be that Johnny’s took perverse pleasure in breaking up the groups I thought would debut. Now, they don’t even bother to pretend that there’s any hope.

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After concluding that song, they went on to perform “Six Senses”. Another KAT-TUN song, and a song that Bakaleya has some experience doing from their original heyday, when they were somewhat typecast as a KAT-TUN cover group.

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I like the song, though, and the members performed it with the Bakaleya looseness that makes me continue to favor them. In fact, I’d say that this performance reinforced my sentiment that these six juniors should continue to work together, and other mix-and-match attempts are counterproductive. I would like to see them tackle a wider range of songs instead of just stuff from groups starting with K (Kis-My-Ft2, KAT-TUN, and KinKi Kids being the kulprits).

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After “Six Senses”, the Bakaleya boys cleared the stage so that Morohoshi-kun, Myuto-kun, Nozawa-kun, and . . . and Jesse-kun . . . could perform “Secret Code”.

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This was a nice number – a very typical Johnny’s Broadway-style offering.

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We are going to see a lot of Jesse-kun in this episode. Not complaining – just pointing it out.

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Everyone took the stage for the next song – KAT-TUN’s “No Matter Matter”. Very good finale song, but it’s a bit too early for that . . . except we’ve got the Gamushara pole dancing challenge . . . so maybe this is it?

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Nope. They went on to “REAL DX”, which is at least also high energy. It would have been bad for them to follow “No Matter Matter” with something softer, so I approve.

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This, finally, was the song they decided to end with . . .

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. . . and after they took leave of the audience . . .

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. . . we got another Jesse Talk segment. Wait . . . didn’t we have one of these just last week!? Listen – I can deal with giving him a segment of his own every month, but not two of them. Let someone else have a go at it – there are numerous juniors who are more talkative than Jesse-kun is. I bet Morohoshi-kun would be hilarious here. If they really wanted someone to talk about the Gamushara summer festival, they could have gotten Yasui-kun to record this segment.

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Speaking of repeats, we got yet another segment devoted to the festival, but it was only a three minute filler/ad this time.

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Nothing much to say about this video except that they concluded by singing “Don’t Stop Sexy Boyz”.

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In a weird editing fail, there was no proper transition between that scene, and the J’s Party backstage segment that came next.

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Now this is what I’ve been wanting to see more of. While we’ve gotten some backstage stuff in previous episodes, we didn’t really get much on stage practice footage.

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They also got to mess around a bit while on stage with the mikes.

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We only got a bit of that before they turned backstage. Interestingly, the leading characters through all of this are Morita Myuto-kun and Kyomoto Taiga-kun.

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So, Myuto and Taiga fans rejoice! They get some much-needed attention here.

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Nagata Jiei-kun also got to talk a bit during that seven minute segment, as sort of a lead-in to the next thing: the pole dancing challenge.

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Now, we already saw this in Gamushara, but that was with the announcer talking over it. I thought this was a more focused version . . .

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. . . and it was better to hear the full reaction and debriefing afterward.

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Kouchi-kun suggested that Morohoshi-kun could do the windmill, but he ended up trying to imitate Shintaro-kun’s move instead.

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They somehow segued into a general MC talk, but the transition was so smooth I totally missed it.

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They seemed to be talking about everything and anything.

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For the omake segment at the end, Masuda-kun had the camera, and chose Jesse-kun and Taiga-kun as his targets. I think he was mainly drawn to Taiga-kun’s tee-shirt.

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These two already got a pretty huge chunk of the show, but it was still interesting to watch them interact.

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Masuda-kun proposed the combined name “KyoJesse” for then, but “Jekyo” and “Taishi” were also floated by Jesse-kun.

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Masuda-kun noted that the two of them were both good at singing, which was an interesting comment coming from him, since he’s a stronger vocalist than either one of them.

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In the end, I enjoyed this episode. Unlike in Shounen Club, where I can identify certain performances as highlights, it’s very difficult to do that with J’s Party because the performance section is sort of a continuous medley, and it either all works together or it doesn’t. This time, I think it was a solid extended medley that began with some newer touches before turning back to old familiar material.

While the episode gave some juniors more time than others, I think the members all got a decent share. Even Haniuda-kun and Jiei-kun got the stage to themselves for a bit.

I’m really irritated by all the interruptions in the flow of the show that involve Gamushara. It’s enough that they put those at the beginning and end, but we really don’t need the reminders in the middle. I believe that the Natsu Matsuri is more closely tied to Gamushara than J’s Party, so I count that in as well. Basically, if it doesn’t happen in preparation for the J’s Party concerts or in the concerts themselves, I don’t think it should be part of this show.

I’ve taken a peek at the first August episode, and was disappointed to see basically the same group of juniors in that one. I thought they were alternating one month for the elder juniors and then one month for the younger cohort. This show is getting narrower and narrower in its selection of juniors, and is a long way off from what it seemed to be at its debut in April. Back then, I thought it could be a huge improvement on Shounen Club. Now, it’s more of a vehicle for particular juniors.

Oh, well. I guess that can’t be helped. But if they’re going to give these ten or so juniors this kind of platform, I hope something more stable comes out of it than we’ve seen in the past two or three years. You know, a group with a name that doesn’t make me cringe.