To the best of my knowledge, there wasn’t a July 20th episode of Gamushara (ガムシャラ), and so in this episode we get to see the fourth group – the percussion team – taking on the special challenge at the start of the show. What will they end up doing?

They do a solid variety show cheer about being on location in Kusatsu – a small town in Gunma prefecture. As Jinguji Yuta-kun notes, Kusatsu is known for one thing primarily – onsen. There are around a hundred hot springs there with a total output of 34,000 liters per minute (according to Wikipedia).

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But surely Jinguji-kun can’t expect that the challenge is for them to enjoy an onsen – there’s definitely going to be some kind of nasty catch to this.

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But for now he, Matsukura Kaito, Nakamura Reia, Inoue Mizuki, and Tajima Shogo set out . . .

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. . . and we get a glimpse of the day before, when the staff first brought up the trip.

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Amusingly, as soon as the staff guy said there would be a special plan, Reia-kun shouted out “it’s a barbeque!” Kaito-kun wondered where the heck that came from, and so did I. I guess Reia-kun just likes barbeques. But I took this as was a sign that the five of them were way too optimistic about what they might expect.

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But Kaito-kun brought up the things that the other teams had to do during these side missions, so this team had that information going in. The staff guy refused to tell them ahead of time what it was going to be.

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So, does Jinguji-kun really think that they’re going to get to relax in an onsen?

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The staff person tells them that the task will help them get a feel for rhythm and to develop arm strength.

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Just the way this bunch walked down the street reinforced my opinion that they’re one of the more cohesive and likeable groups.

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I loved the way the others pushed Jinguji-kun forward when they wanted to make a detour to a target practice (射的 – shateki) place and needed him to ask the staff. And none of the other groups has had as solid and as clear a leader as Jinguji-kun has been for these guys.

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Jinguji-kun tries to come up with an excuse – tying the target practice to their percussion challenge somehow to get the staff’s permission.

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The staff guy asks whether they just want to have fun, and they all reassure him that that has nothing to do with it. It was just brilliant. Kaito-kun tries to reinforce Jinguji-kun’s point . . .

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. . . and then they begged until they were allowed to do it (as kids will).

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And so there they were, taking shots for prizes.

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And they even got a snack. The other teams must be jealous if they’re watching this. Then again, the percussion group has had to deal with the toughest instructor out of all of them, so maybe they’re due for a bit of levity.

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And with the way these guys can keep the audience entertained, I think the staff was thrilled to let them take the initiative.

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But eventually it came time to get to business, and the establishment where the task would take place was, in fact, and onsen.

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They are told to go barefoot, and they can hear a lady singing.

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Inside, they see the singing woman stirring the onsen. I have no idea why this needs to be done, but I do know that singing while doing it probably helps. The pool is at fifty degrees celsius, by the way – 122 fahrenheit. So, the room is quite hot, humid, and no doubt a difficult working environment.

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So this is what they have to do to develop their rhythm and arm strength – stir the onsen. I hope they’ll sing, too, but doubt it.

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They have to get suited up . . . again, don’t ask me why except possibly because it’s so hot. Anyway, it’s basically the traditional equivalent of wearing swimming trunks (which I would probably do if I was messing with a hot swimming pool myself), so they really don’t need to be embarrassed.

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They are visibly hesitant, though, and they especially try to get Mizuki-kun (the youngest one) embarrassed.

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Settling down pretty quickly, they get to test how heavy the boards are as well as how hot the water is. They’re definitely going to be splashed with the water, so might as well get prepared.

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I really wish I knew why this had to be done, but their exclamations and attempts to develop a rhythm was still reasonably entertaining to watch even if I didn’t know the motive.

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Those boards probably aren’t too heavy, but the resistance when they plunge them into the water will certainly be enough to make their arms sore.

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They were pretty sloppy about their rhythm, and I almost wish their percussion sensei would have suddenly shown up to shout at them to do it properly. It would have probably scared the heck out of them. As it was, it was up to the onsen lady, who started clapping and singing to help them out.

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When Kaito-kun and Tajima-kun goofed around, it was up to Jinguji-kun to tell them off and get them back in order.

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I wish they had told us how long this lasted. I mean, the previous two challenges involved many hours being condensed into a few minutes. I don’t think this one was quite as long, but I’m sure it was still longer than it looked.

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Jinguji-kun decided that they should sing (yay!), and Kaito-kun proposed doing “Yuuki 100%” (even better!). So, they proceeded to do the onsen version of the famous Johnny’s song . . .

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. . . but the damned announcer decided to talk over parts of it. We still got plenty of it, though, and this was easily the most entertaining special mission for any of the four groups, mainly because the members of the team found ways to add some fun into the mix beyond what the staff had planned.

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The pacing of that segment was also better than the previous two special assignments, which had been extremely condensed and felt rushed.

Next, we turned to the double dutch team with two weeks left until they have to perform. What we’re seeing here is some amazing timing and footwork, even though Tanaka Juri-kun is getting a bit frustrated with the speed-step. This is a much more advanced version of the same skill that gave Kikuchi Fuma-kun so much trouble in Sexy Zone Channel (of course, Fuma-kun only had a day to master his version).

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Lots of good practice footage this time instead of the excessive drama that we saw in the July 13th episode, though the director continued the pattern of identifying one struggling member in particular to focus on. I don’t like the pattern, but I suppose it has the merit of giving the member good camera time and, as long as they keep rotating it, better coverage of each member in the group.

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With the basketball team, I’m still not impressed by the skills they’re performing here. Not when compared to the clips we see from the other three groups, at least.

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The trampoline thing looked interesting, though, but only if the final member – Jesse-kun – manages to get the basketball in the net with high probability. That was not happening here.

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Last time, the breakdancing team seemed to be coming together and Iwahashi Genki-kun’s long belabored struggles seemed to have disappeared thanks to a haircut.

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It’s all looking good here again . . .

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. . . and the sensei is helping Iwahashi-kun practice a backflip, which he says he can’t do yet, but he will be able to do.

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Of course, there are two kinds of Johnny’s – those who can do a backflip and those who can’t. Can Genki-kun successfully change with category he’s in?

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Once again, the focus was very much on Genki-kun at the expense of the rest of the group. Because his attempts to master the backflip was fully engaging, I didn’t mind as much as in the previous episodes, but that just means I wish we had gotten more of the other members in those episodes. This was one where the Genki focus was finally justified.

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What’s up with Hayashi Ren-kun crying? The evil director left it as a teaser for the next episode! You can’t make a thirteen year-old kid crying your teaser!

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Anyway, this was an excellent episode. The special challenge was more focused than the previous two, though not as much as the haunted house. The percussion team won me over in the very first episode with these four groups, and they continue to keep things fun and compelling by constantly interacting with each other. If the other groups were as chatty as this one, that must have largely been cut out for reasons I can’t fathom.

On the three teams squeezed into the end, I felt that the way each of the stories were told was less heavy-handed than in the previous episode. Sure, Juri-kun might have been struggling a bit, but this time it felt like the director wasn’t making a huge drama out of it, but simply trying to show how difficult the challenge was. The same was true of the trampoline component to the basketball segment as well as Genki-kun attempting to master the backflip.

Then again, the director decided to milk some drama by ending on Ren-kun crying, which was a bit dodgy.

I’m looking forward to seeing the product of all this practice, and since they had two weeks left this time, I assume we’re going to have the last week of practice on August 3rd, the first teams presenting on August 10th, and the remaining teams on August 17th. If they try to cram all four performances on August 10th . . . no, I don’t think even this director is that crazy.