It’s unlikely that I will be bored during this episode of VS Arashi (VS 嵐). It’s a two-hour special pitting the Arashi members against agency rivals Kanjani8, and in case that’s not enough, there’s some baba-nuki at the end to cap things off (not with Kanjani8, though, unfortunately). Somewhere between Arashi and Kanjani8, there will be sufficient fun to keep things entertaining.

At the beginning of the show, the Arashis note that while they’re roughly the same age as Kanjani8 and entered the agency at generally the same time, they debuted five years earlier. According to Ohno-san, this makes them Kanjani8’s dai-senpai. I wonder how the Kanjani8 members will react to that.

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This is the first time the entire roster of Kanjani8 is present to challenge Arashi on this show, and if they win, they want to turn the show into VS Kanjani. Or, Yokoyama-san concedes, they’ll be willing to settle for Kanjani Manabu (taking over Aiba Manabu) at worst.

Just to give it a try, the guests decide to simulate becoming the hosts, and ask Arashi to head backstage so they can do a Kanjani8 opening to the show. They even got their own VS Kanjani opening sequence.

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They mostly commented on how big the set was, then called the guest team out, so Arashi could retake the stage. This is the first time on this show that Arashi has been introduced as the guest.

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With the Kanjani vs Arashi logo prominent and each team getting custom benches . . .

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. . . the first game was Dual Curling. Yokoyama, Shibutani, and Murakami faced off against Matsumoto, Aiba, and Ohno in the first round. To avoid the really high scores that are normally possible in this game, the points for each of the rings was reduced.

As you might expect, Yokoyama-san took the lead in trading some friendly jabs with the Arashis, though he and Aiba-kun also shared a moment to talk about the hospitality of the Aiba household. Apparently, Aiba-kun mother likes Yokoyama because it’s fun when he comes over and he’s very conversational.

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There was plenty of other talk before the game, including a note about Yokoyama-san’s recent hair color change:

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But eventually it was time for the game, and the results were . . . surprising.

In round two, the four remaining members of Kanjani8 went up against Sakurai-san and Ninomiya-kun, but this noticeably left the Arashi team shorthanded.

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Wily viewers of VS Arashi will already know what’s coming. The plus one guest was not introduced at the start of the show and, as usually happens in specials, the introduction was made only when the extra member was needed. In this case, the plus one guest was someone very familiar to both Arashi and Kanjani8 – Hiromi-san, who had been MC for a 1998-99 show that featured both groups. He was an ideal choice and clearly both groups still look up to him. He noted that Murakami-san, Yokoyama-san, and Shibutani-san still haven’t changed one bit in all these years.

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There was also a bit about Maruyama-kun’s apparent nervousness.

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Now, with two Johnny’s groups involved, I totally expected a more athletic sequence of games. You know, Jumping Shooter and even Popcorn Hitter thrown in. And with everyone knowing each other so well, I would have thought bringing out the infamous Falling Pipe should be obvious. My dismay, then, at seeing Rolling Coin Tower next was profound.

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But Rolling Coin Tower allows for a lot of antics beforehand, and in this case Hiromi-san made full use of that. He was having trouble remembering where everyone in Kanjani8 and Arashi fit in, so he had them go backstage and get into age order. It took them a while to figure that out, and then they emerged in that order when Hiromi-san introduced them as “Johnny’s Junior”, as he did back in the day. They imitated the opening of their old show from sixteen years ago, and then separated out according to year (probably school year – not birth year, since Sakurai-san was grouped under 1981).

Aiba-kun was sort of the middle child, standing alone in the 1982 slot, so Hiromi-san gave him a hug. They remember Aiba-kun aiming to be a super idol.

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There were other memories, but then Hiromi-san hit the point where the guys were really young on 8-ki da J. Nishikido-kun had only been thirteen years old, and there’s a super-cute pic of him next to 33 year-old Hiromi-san that I didn’t get a screenshot of. Hiromi-san still remembered that Nishikido-kun was really good at singing.

For Okura-kun, though, this is his first time meeting Hiromi-san, so he was sort of left out from the general reminiscing.

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So, after all of that, they decided it was time to get on with the game. Frankly, they could have kept talking about those times and showing old photos for the whole time and just skipped the game as far as I’m concerned.

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The third game was Bank Bowling with Hiromi-san and Aiba-kun taking the first shot for the Arashi team. On the one hand, Hiromi-san was sort of an aniki (older brother) to the Johnny’s guys, but Aiba-kun also notes that he was like a teacher, too. Clearly, there’s a good rhythm between these two . . .

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. . . so will that translate into good results in the game? Will they be able to set up the first spare?

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Incidentally, Hiromi-san pointed out that since any of the sixty juniors he worked with could become stars, and in fact an amazing number of them did, he made a point of treating all of them with polite care.

After Hiromi-san and Aiba-kun had their chance and took their seats . . .

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. . . it was up to Sakurai-san and Ninomiya-kun to clear the rest of the pins. Unfortunately, Ohno-san rated the possibility of a spare as nil.

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The Kanjani8 members shared memories about eating out with Sakurai-san and Ninomiya-kun. Actually, in Nino-kun’s case, it seemed to be more about how he ignores invitations to eat out, but that’s the usual thing with Nino-kun, isn’t it?

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The first bowlers for the Kanjani8 team were Yasuda-kun and Shibutani-san. I’m always fascinated by Shibutani-san’s personality.

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Yokoyama-san and Okura-kun handled the clean-up, but that scene was fairly tame compared to everything else that’s happened in this episode so far.

Thankfully, the next game was Cliff Climb. At least we’re going to get some physical exertion – I mean, we haven’t even seen Pinball Runner. MatsuJun and Ohno-san were the Arashi climbers – probably the best pair to handle it. Even announcer Itou-san noted that this was the strongest line-up and Sakurai-san agreed, so no excuses for failure.

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Ohno-san will be taking the right two-thirds, trying to get up as quickly as possible to give Matsumoto-kun a maximum amount of time. MatsuJun points out that Ohno-san had a day off yesterday (perhaps suggesting that he’s well rested?), but Ohno-san angrily asks if that has anything to do with this.

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That leads to concern that the two of them might not work well together, but they reassure everyone that it’s all right.

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Matsumoto-kun decides that they should aim to beat the record – completing the climb with 31 seconds left. Can they do it? Will it turn out that Ohno-san’s day off helped?

Kanjani8 sent up Maruyama-kun and Nishikido-kun. Nishikido-kun was speaking very seriously about the Arashi performance and the challenge he and his teammate faced, but Maruyama-kun was making his usual array of funny faces.

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At Itou-san’s prompting, he went into his Inoue-san impression, which won great applause from the crowd.

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The supporters noted that Maruyama-kun is in charge of muscle while Nishikido-kun provides the star power. But it’s Maruyama-kun who will be climbing first and Nishikido-kun who has to tackle the perilous overhang. Sakurai-san asked whether Maruyama-kun had a day off yesterday, and yes, yes he did. So, it’s a fair fight between him and Ohno-san.

The next game was Korokoro Viking with the Arashi team taking it on first. Hiromi-san asked if the five members of Arashi went out to eat together, and they answered they generally did so after concerts, frequenting establishments in the country rather than in the city. The Arashis turned the question over to the Kanjani8 members, and Yokoyama-san talked about a specific recent gathering – sounded like it was New Year’s meeting (in which case it’s been a while), but I’m not too sure.

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We also found out that MatsuJun is drinking buddies with Hiromi-san (as he seems to be with so many people in the business).

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Hiromi-san was paired with gamemaster Ninomiya-kun in the orange scoring zone for Arashi, but for Kanjani8 the situation was more complicated. They had both Yokoyama and Murakami on one side of the orange zone and Yasuda-kun on the other side. It’s unusual to see a doubling-up in the orange zone like this.

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They also had the two eccentric characters – Shibutani-san and Maruyama-kun – in the first zone. Will that lead to some unanticipated happenings?

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With the longer episode, there was time for one more game, and they decided to go with Kicking Sniper. How . . . typical. All of the members of Kanjani8 took part, so they rotated in each of the three slots. The usual conversation about their soccer histories ensued, and it doesn’t sound like they have much.

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Arashi had the last crack at it, and Hiromi-san didn’t seem too certain about his soccer history. They get to decide which team wins the day based on their performance. Will we be getting VS Kanjani instead of VS Arashi next week? Or will it just be Kanjani Manabu?

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Best laugh was when Itou-san was dragging out the revelation of who won (though if you just did some math you could have figured it out) and Yokoyama-san said “absolutely go to commercial!” and they did.

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So that was it for the confrontation between Arashi and Kanjani8, and I’ll save my thoughts for the conclusion of the review. One question that lingered, though: why was Bronx in quotes on Sakurai-san’s tee shirt? I mean, it’s a proper place name, and Bronx Gym is Bronx Gym, so I have no idea why it should be in quotes.

For now, we turn to baba-nuki, which occupied the final third of the special (about forty minutes air time, half an hour program time). The A-Block featured Ninomiya, Moriyama Naotaro, Matsumoto, and Kataoka Ainosuke. Obviously, I was especially interested to see what intimidating faces Kataoka-san could muster, but Naotaro-san is also interestingly unpredicatable – sometimes impassive, but other times very expressive.

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Unfortunately, each round of these games is just one big spoiler, so I have to refrain from saying anything further. Other guests including Yama-chan and Rola-san opined on who would win.

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This is still great humor, though, as we know who has the joker, and every time a person is close to taking it is a moment of high tension with hilarious struggles to bluff involved.

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In the B-block, Rola herself was involved, facing off against Ohno, Sakurai, and Kishimoto Kayoko.

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The loser from A-block and from B-block will join Aiba-kun and one of the other participants who didn’t lose for the final deciding round. Of course, I can’t include any screenshots of that round, or it would reveal who won or lost.

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So, I’ll move on to my final thoughts. The special was entertaining, but disappointing. Kanjani8 were great guests, as was obvious going in, and the choice of Hiromi-san as the plus one guest was inspired, since he sort of acted as a bridge between the two groups. In fact, I would even say that Hiromi-san proved crucial.

The disappointing aspect was, of course, the games. Not only did we now get anything new at all – and this would have been an excellent episode in which to introduce a new game – but we only got the most commonly played games. Among the games that could have been used but weren’t: Jungle Bingo, Jumping Shooter, Popcorn Hitter, and Falling Pipe. If ever there was an episode where they should have had Falling Pipe, it was this one. Even Giant Crash would have been a welcome break from the usual pattern, but no luck there.

In short, this was barely a special in terms of the format – just slightly extended with baba-nuki tacked on at the end.

Baba-nuki is still consistently fun to watch, but they were unfortunately short one guest, and I hope someone shouted at the relevant department for that.

Arashi, for the most part, went along with the flow in terms of the entertainment in the show, often taking the lead from the guests. A good early example of this was the alternate VS Kanjani opening to the show. To figure out their relative contributions, then, it was mainly their game performances that stood out. Cliff Climb is always the key, so obviously Matsumoto-kun and Ohno-san won points there. Ohno-san was also a major focus in the B-block during baba-nuki, though Sakurai-san also had some interesting interactions with Rola-san there. Aiba-kun was at his best in Kicking Sniper and while interacting with Hiromi-san. Ninomiya-kun also had his best contribution opposite Hiromi-san in Korokoro Viking. Altogether, I think the most memorable bits of the show came from Ohno-san and Aiba-kun, so they’re my Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashis for this special.

I have to say, though, that this is an inauspicious special with which to start the summer season in terms of the structure of the show.