The second Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) for August began with the three elder members of Sexy Zone singing “Sexy Summer ni Yuki ga Furu”. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you already know how I feel about this song. If you haven’t: I hate it. I still consider it a mess of randomly assembled musical phrases and sound effects rather than a proper composition. The dance is weak, too (lots of arm-waving, very little leg work).

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Thankfully, they didn’t spend much time singing it, as A.B.C-Z quickly took the stage for a verse or two of “Walking on Clouds” Not the best A.B.C-Z song by a long shot, but certainly an improvement on “Sexy Summer” – especially thanks to Hashimoto-kun’s singing.

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They’re still missing Totsuka Shota-kun, by the way.

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The pattern for this opening is obvious – each of the debuted groups get to do a teensy bit of a song – so I wasn’t surprised to see Johnny’s West take the stage next for “Banzai Yume Mansai!”

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It’s not my kind of song and for some reason always reminds me of an AKB song, but they had the most sophisticated choreography of the three groups.

I don’t like opening medleys in general, but at least this one eventually got the audience pumped up.

Hosts Kawai Fumito-kun and Kiriyama Akito-kun talked to the members of Johnny’s West, and Daiki Shigeoka-kun got to introduce the theme of the show: Summer. Let’s see how many summer songs they actually do (I’m not going to count “Sexy Summer” since it can’t decide what season it’s in, has Christmas themes throughout it, and they wore Santa costumes when initially promoting it).

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SZ’s Kento, Fuma, and Shori immediately got to take the stage again, and they performed a song I haven’t heard before – “Matta Nante Nash!”. In a nice move, the three of them started out in the midst of the audience behind the stage.

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This song had some nice vocals involved, but the music tapped a lot of familiar themes that are very dated – very Showa, if you will. At least it’s a coherent song, though.

With the performers in the stands like that for most of the song and otherwise barely moving, it was pretty obvious that this song was being rushed out without any choreography. We didn’t even get the standard minimal arm movements.

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Besides the total lack of dancing, this was obviously a song that would have benefited from the two younger members – Matsushima Sou-kun and Marius-kun – and their absence was too noticeable.

Altogether, that was tremendously disappointing stage. The song was dated and didn’t have a hook, there wasn’t even the barest semblance of choreography, and the vocals weren’t strong enough to make up for all the things the performance lacked.

The episode continued to go wrong for me as we got the backstage segment Tsukada-kun and Hamada-kun now handle together. I’ve made it a policy that I want to see them spend this time with the elder juniors rather than debuted members, so even though Kikuchi Fuma-kun is an interesting character, I have to give this a thumbs-down.

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First, Fuma-kun was prompted to consult Tsukada-kun about a problem he has, and he said he wants to find interesting things to say – he has trouble with that. I suppose it’s sort of true that Fuma-kun is more comfortable reacting to what other people say than bringing up subjects himself. Unfortunately, Tsukada-kun replies that he’s probably the wrong person to talk to about that problem.

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Tsukada-kun recommends that Fuma-kun should consult Kawai-kun or Kiriyama-kun instead.

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It got worse – the next prompt told Fuma-kun to do a gourmet report. This is one thing I thought I could escape from by watching SC – I thought this was a safe haven from all the food segments – but so much for that idea. They’ve never had someone do a gourmet report on SC before, have they?

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Tsukada-kun completed with Fuma-kun in doing the report.

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Amusing though the three characters were . . .

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. . . this segment remains way too slow for SC, it isn’t focused on the legions of juniors who are robbed of precious camera time, and now they’re adding food into the mix. Very bad.

Finally, the next performance offered something worth watching – the Fab Five (I still haven’t come up with a good name for Jinguji, Iwahashi, Kishi, Miyachika, and Abe) performing KAT-TUN’s “BIRTH”.

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Now, I’d much rather see them get their own song to do, of course, but there’s a long line of juniors waiting for one of those. For now, I was at least happy to see them get a cool song, sharp costumes without feathers, and the first full choreography of the evening.

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And the singing! Kishi Yuta-kun can really sing! (and he sort of strikes me as an Ohno-like figure for this group in terms of his sharp dancing, improving vocals, and quirky behavior) Jinguji-kun is improving, though he has the most work to do as his voice is the thinnest. Genki-kun was solid. Abe-kun and Miyachika-kun sang together, so I didn’t get much read on Miyachika’s voice. Altogether, though, this is quality.

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That was the first highlight of the episode, and really the only thing so far that’s worth watching more than once.

Next up was the Shokura News segment. Tanaka Juri-kun and Morohoshi Shoki-kun interviewed Kawai Fumito-kun (wait . . . couldn’t they have just done this in NHK Hall? He’s right there!) about playing Faust on stage.

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It’s not quite the Faust that I know, but I suppose it has some of the key elements. Well, at least it has Mephistopheles (written in katakana Ophistopheles for some reason) and can you believe Goseki-kun is playing him? Not only is Goseki-kun playing the devil, but in full make-up and long hair he sort of resembles Takizawa-kun.

At the same time, Kawai-kun was sort of reminiscent of the Takarazuka Revue performers when the devil turns him into a handsome man:

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Other than having Mephistopheles and Faust, though, I saw nothing that I recognized from the traditional story. I don’t remember Faust being a prisoner of any sort – he was a successful scholar who was dissatisfied and so sold his soul for unlimited knowledge and pleasure. Beyond that, this is supposed to be a musical, but we saw none of that, and the subtitle on Kawai-kun’s shirt is “swordsmen of love”, and I have no idea where that comes in.

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This doesn’t seem like love to me, though it was apparently the kiss scene:

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Tanaka-kun and Morohoshi-kun are both good talkers, so this went completely smoothly. Did they have to bring more food out, though? Even if it’s just shaved ice, this is the second time in this episode we’ve seen people eating. This is supposed to be exclusively a calorie-burning show, people! Stop it!

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Well, Hashimoto-kun from A.B.C-Z is going to get a workout, at least – his performance of “DANCE!” is next.

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Looks like we’re quickly getting to peak choreography here after a slow start to the show.

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The song is an electronic dance song. Not my style, but I could appreciate the difficulty of the performance itself.

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Hashimoto-kun is always good highlight material, let’s face it, and this stage was no exception.

The Shokura Blog segment featured Matsukura Kaito-kun, who decided to talk about a photo taken on one of his days off.

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Turns out it was a photo of him and Matsuda Genta-kun watching a baseball game. Good choice. On top of that, they were apparently sitting close to SMAP’s Nakai-san, and that fact distracted them from the game.

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The small stage performance this time was “Brother” as performed by Nagase Ren-kun and Hirano Sho-kun.

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It wasn’t the best stage I’ve seen from these two, but not bad, either. Average. The choreography felt a bit sloppy, especially so soon after Hashimoto-kun’s song. There was better than average camera work this time, perhaps because the focus was so firmly on the two main performers.

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I’d like to see more Kin Kan and Naniwa Oji on SC. We’ve been getting a lot of Nagase-kun and Hirano-kun and not enough of the rest. These two have talent, but aren’t sufficient on their own – they both occupy the same role.

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Shokura You Bin is another segment that I want to see juniors involved in . . .

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. . . and this time we did indeed get juniors to answer the fan’s question. Jesse-kun, Kyomoto Taiga-kun, and Yasui Kentaro-kun offered their services to Kento-kun and Fuma-kun.

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I don’t think I’ve seen Taiga-kun in one of these, or else it’s been a very long time. The topic was how to invite a girl on a date to the sea, and Taiga-kun played the girl receiving Yasui-kun’s offer.

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In round two, Jesse-kun played the girl as Taiga-kun made the invitation. The first thing Taiga-kun did was note how big Jesse-kun was, and Jesse took that to refer to . . . well, you’re just going to have to watch it.

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That one seemed very rehearsed, but it was also funnier than round one.

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Jesse-kun decided to take his own turn, nominating Yasui-kun for the role of the girl. After the humorous option, will Jesse-kun go with a doki doki option, or will he play it for laughs?

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That was a very good talk segment – an increasingly rare occurrence these days.

The same juniors were involved in the next song – Kis-My-Ft2’s “She! Her! Her!”.

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The three of them were joined by Masuda Ryo, Okamoto Kauan, Iwamoto Hikaru, Hanzawa Akatsuki, Morita Myuto, Sanada Yuma, Tanaka Juri, Morimoto Shintaro, Nozawa Yuki, Kouchi Yugo, Fukusawa Tatsuya, Matsumura Hokuto, Morohoshi Shoki and . . . and . . . and what the heck do they need so many people with microphones!?

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I mean, this is more than double the number of members of Kis-My-Ft2, and some of these juniors have voices that actually clash. Masuda-kun and Okamoto-kun don’t sound good together at all. In general, the sound was muddy and the stage was too crowded. Not only were there sixteen people singing, but also backdancers.

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This is ridiculous for a song like “She! Her! Her!”.

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Again, it’s a symptom of the fact that Johnny’s doesn’t know what to do with all these elder juniors. Or, more precisely, they’re deliberately not grouping them properly for some strange and unspecified reason.

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That was horrible. It was a great display of what is wrong with the junior ranks right now, especially in this age group.

It wasn’t this way when Tackey-san was running Shounen Club – back then, there were groups and a huge proportion of juniors ended up debuting because they developed fanbases and were able to grow them over a long period of time.

That’s not what Tackey-san and Tsubasa-san talked about, but since they were asked to make a poem out of syllables of the title of their song, I don’t think they’d mind me focusing on the plight of the juniors.

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This segment somehow managed to elicit the same face from Kawai-kun . . .

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. . . and Tsubasa-san. Only very briefly, though, when they were both handling the “tsu” line.

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Anyway, they proceeded to sing “Dakinatsu” – the same song they did in last week’s episode, except in flowery costumes.

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They still put full effort into it, but I would have liked to see them do another song – any other song. It’s not like they’re on SC that often, and getting the same song twice seems like a wasted opportunity. At the very least, isn’t there a B-side to this single?

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Oh, well. I can’t really call that one a highlight this time – the flower costumes were an eyesore and last week’s rendition was fresher.

Junior ni Q once again asked the juniors for fun summer vacation ideas. Morimoto Shintaro-kun started things off with . . . shaved ice. Haven’t we already covered it in this episode?

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Masuda-kun told a story, but I couldn’t follow it.

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Takahashi Kaito-kun talked about surviving on an uninhabited island. Now, this might not sound like an enticing vacation plan, but this is a very common challenge on Japanese TV especially around this time of year. Perhaps Kaito-kun got inspired by a show.

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That was a good one, but Jinguji-kun has something better – he wants to launch fireworks. And I mean launch – becoming a craftsman and handling the big festival shows. I’m sure it’s satisfying work if you can get it.

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Matsumura-kun said something about a pool live – some sort of pool performance?

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Anyway, points to Takahashi Kaito-kun and Jinguji-kun for the relatively original (and easily understood) ideas.

Johnny’s West had their stage next, and they did “Break Out!”. This song started with Shigeoka Daiki-kun and Kotaki Nozomu-kun on stage, but not just their voices. The voices were also highly processed.

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Musically, this song was over-produced and I can’t imagine listening to it for enjoyment. I didn’t hear much coherence in it, and nor was there any in the dance.

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It’s possible that the song was simply not my style, though, and someone out there actually likes this sort of thing.

The ending song this time was KinKi Kids’ “Natsu no Ousama”. Except for this, only Tackey & Tsubasa bothered to do a summer-related song. That’s sort of sad, isn’t it?

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Well, at least “Natsu no Ousama” is an excellent ensemble song to end on. The debuted members and elder juniors all shouted it out at the tops of their lungs.

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After the show, we got an omake segment, and Shori-kun’s guest was Shigeoka-kun, and Shori wanted them to work together to create a poem out of the syllables of “Dakinatsu” just as Tackey & Tsubasa had done earlier. There was so much laughing during this, I wish I knew why (except that they’re both prone to laughter and good at it).

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This was not an episode I would watch all the way through again. There were some very isolated highlights I would watch again, but otherwise the rest was forgettable.

The Fab Five performing “BIRTH” tops my list of things that should go into the archive for future viewing, especially since we’re going to continue to see these guys develop. Hashimoto-kun’s solo was impressive. As far as performances, that’s pretty much it.

The Shokura You Bin segment was great this time, Junior ni Q was okay, Shokura News was good, and the Omake was worth a laugh. The only talk segment that dragged was the Tsukada-Hamada thing.

Aside from the two noted, the performances were generally lackluster. Johnny’s West was tolerable, as was Hirano-Nagase. Tackey & Tsubasa’s “Dakinatsu” got dinged for being a repeat.

There were two dismal performances – SZ’s static stage and the elder juniors’ crowded stage. I don’t think I need to say anything more about either one.

All in all, this was a very weak Shounen Club from start to . . . well, I actually like the ending, so I won’t say from start to finish. There was very little that was truly impressive or noteworthy and plenty that seemed wrong, so I’m going to rate this one a 6 out of 10. They should have put more summer songs in.