Right away in this Sexy Zone Channel episode, we notice that they’re wearing their warm-ups instead of the recently introduced overalls . . .

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. . . and that means exactly what you think it means: they’re going to get some exercise this time after a food episode, fishing episode, and safari episode. It had been two months since we saw these guys getting a proper workout, and that time it was squash.

But before we get to what exactly they’re going to be doing, we have the usual start-of-episode silliness with the staff. Fuma-kun was not present for the opening because of drama-related commitments, but will be in the rest of the episode. As usual, the SZ members lament the sloppiness of the opening.

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Marius-kun shared some thoughts from his mother about their performance (especially in the squash episode), telling them to step up their seriousness (especially critiquing Marius-kun himself, of course).

Shori-kun verifies that they are going to be doing sports this time, and the staff guy brings up the World Cup. Kento-kun starts talking about Germany doing well in the game against Ghana and Marius-kun gets antsy.

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As Marius-kun explains, he really doesn’t like anyone else talking about Germany. Germany is sort of his thing.

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Kento-kun compares Sou-kun to Brazilian player Neymar, who he doesn’t bear any resemblance to.

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On the turn of a dime, the staff guy asks if Sou-kun got a haircut, which he did, and this leads to a funny exchange between Sou-kun and Kento-kun.

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They all started paying attention to Shori-kun’s hair, and I started getting a bit impatient for them to start the promised activities.

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Finally, the challenge for the day was revealed: a measurement of physical aptitude. That is, the sort of thing they do in P.E. classes (except the actual components seem to vary widely from place to place).

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In particular, the SZ members, who have an average age of 17, are going to be tested against the standard for 17 year-olds (actually, the average). To put it another way, we are going to see if the average for the SZ members will beat the average for Japanese 17 year-old boys (I assume it’s not the average for both genders, since physical statistics are always separated by gender). Apparently, the staff decided they needed to bet a physical check-up after that squash episode.

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Marius-kun immediately points out that he’s fourteen . . .

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. . . and he says he’ll win against Sou-kun even though technically they’re all working together to beat the average.

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We discover that Sou-kun is actually the slowest runner in SZ, which I would not have guessed. Shori-kun is probably the fastest given his marathoning proclivity and light frame. I would imagine that Sou-kun is the most flexible, while Fuma-kun and Kento-kun will have the advantage in strength. Marius-kun . . . is sort of a wild-card, as always.

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Fortunately, they get to pick which tests they undergo, selecting six from twelve possibilities.

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Shori-kun asks if there’s a 3000 meter run, and the answer is no. Does that mean there’s no 1500 meter, either? I would have thought that a mile run would at least be a consistent standard.

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They spend some time waiting for Fuma-kun, and Marius-kun noted the rather dated environment. I did so, too – the curtains in the back, the stage, and the abundance of wood made is seem like an aging event hall rather than a gym.

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Finally, Fuma-kun appeared, and since they all did a slightly formal greeting, he went with a fully formal one, pretending he barely knew them and shaking their hands. Well, except that he didn’t shake Sou-kun’s because of humorous necessity.

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So here are the members . . .

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. . . and here are the possible events.

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A fifty-meter run!? Really? What’s that supposed to prove, exactly? I would like to make an official recommendation to the Japanese education board that runs should be a minimum of a hundred meters for high schoolers.

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On the bright side, I’m fairly certain that the SZ members will not choose to do such a short run. It’s too short for a program like this, they probably won’t be able to record their time properly (beating the average would definitely be down to hundredths of a second), and it would be a total toss-up whether they would be able to succeed.

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The numbers are barely visible, but you can see what the averages are on the board. For instance, the standing long jump is 2.2 meters, while the running long jump is 5.5 meters. Actually, one thing I noticed from the board is that there’s a lot of jumping, which I don’t remember coming into play in the California P.E. standards. We had a lot of sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups and miles.

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In fact, the first thing they chose to do was something I never did in any P.E. class – a test of grip strength using a little meter. I think we tested that with the pull-ups.

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I’m not going to give away anything about the results, so that will limit what I can say from here on out (as well as the screenshots), but thankfully these guys often create a lot of extracurricular fun off to the side.

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For instance, they push the staff for a Hawaii location shoot if they succeed in the six parts of this challenge, and the staff guy indicated that it wasn’t out of the question.

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Also, even without knowing the result, we can appreciate the expression on Fuma-kun’s face as he tries to set the grip record for the group, as well as Sou-kun’s impressed/curious look:

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There’s also a bit of curiosity about who will have the weakest result for the team. Will it be Marius-kun simply because he’s the youngest?

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Kento-kun also gave a comical yell of Herculean effort when he was up.

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Completely separate from the main challenge, they decide to have a penalty kick event in honor of the World Cup with Kento-kun acting as the goalie (the position he had in his soccer club) and the three younger members of the group taking kicks.

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I’ve been totally expecting a challenge like this from SZ Channel, and was very happy to see it. They made it a lot of fun to watch, too.

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There were two rounds, with each of the three getting a single kick in each round.

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Will Marius-kun’s mother get on his case for his soccer skills, or will his performance be acceptable? Since Germany won the World Cup, Marius-kun should represent his country, right?

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So, what’s up next?

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The standing long jump.

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For television, this is better than the running long jump since there isn’t the huge likelihood of a foul and it’s easier to do it inside a gym.

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Do Shori-kun’s running legs also make him a good jumper? Or perhaps his basketball experience during 49? He’s the seventeen year-old around here, so he’d better beat that average!

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Even though it should be impossible to score a foul in this, Fuma-kun somehow managed it. Don’t worry, though – he got a redo so that he could show his real strength.

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Considering they’re dancers and they get that extra legwork, I would hope that their results were way over the average on this one.

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The next one, though, was another thing I don’t remember ever doing in my high school days – what I’d describe as the cobra pose:

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I think this is one where Matsushima-kun should shine, since he strikes me as the most flexible member. But who’s the stiffest member – Marius-kun, Shori-kun, or Fuma-kun? Fuma-kun says at one point that this is impossible for him, but I think he’s just downplaying his ability. I was also amused to see Kento-kun practicing off to the side.

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Shori-kun always seems a tad stiff, but is that just nervousness on stage? We’re about to find out.

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I think I know why we didn’t do this in my high school – it seems to leave everyone with back sprains.

With that, the SZ guys completed three of the six tasks, and they’ll leave the remaining three for the next episode. That meant there was about eight minutes left in this hour, and they did their usual closing talk . . .

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. . . and then plugged their Stand & Run documentary, which I will enjoy watching because I love backstage stuff (possibly more than the actual concerts sometimes), but won’t review.

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Anyway, this was obviously a great episode as far as I’m concerned because it was exactly what I’ve been looking for over the past two months. The addition of the penalty kick part was especially satisfying.

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The entertainment comes entirely from the way these guys spontaneously create humor and how relaxed they seem around each other and the staff, which is true regardless of the activity. However, the fact that they had a range of different things to do and a quantitative challenge helped to heighten the tension and the suspense in a way that fishing or a trip through a safari park really don’t.

And in the midst of some consternation that only three members are represented on the group’s newest single, I think it’s worth pointing out how well this show demonstrates why they need to be a five person group. The mix of personalities is what produces the constant flow and keeps this show from being boring, and the comfort level when they are together is what will gradually attract more fans to the group. I don’t think the agency will jeopardize that, but I do think they’ll take every opportunity to regain the attention of young fans in an attention deficit world.

Of course, if I’m wrong about that, I will have to abandon my policy of not posting rants on this blog.

Enough of that, though. The next episode will definitely be a good one, and I’m looking forward to all the SZ Channel amusement to come. This series continues to be the best thing since the early episodes of HamaKisu, which in turn reminded me of the old Arashi variety shows.

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