This was the second Gamushara J’s Party!! (ガムシャラ J’s Party!!) for August, and it had the same cast as the first – Jesse, Masuda Ryo, Hanzawa Akatsuki, Kyomoto Taiga, Takahashi Fuu, Tajima Shogo, Morohoshi Shoki, Anderson Casey, Morimoto Shintaro, Tanaka Juri, and Matsumura Hokuto.

They started with a . . . a rendition of “Let It Be” from Masuda-kun with assistance from Jesse-kun. This was certainly high on the freshness scale, but as a longtime Beatles fan, this sure lacked any of the impact or depth of the song. Done properly (and a variety of good renditions have been done over the years) this is a very moving song, and while I think Masuda Ryo-kun is capable of singing it closer to that style, this was the polar opposite – it was too light.

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It was also an odd way to start the episode, so once again the producers/director don’t seem to plan two episodes when getting the juniors to perform a J’s Party – the juniors just do their songs and the director chops the concert in half, adding filler where necessary.

Masuda Ryo-kun had the stage alone for “Triangle”. Nice to see him getting some solo time, and I had no trouble appreciating this song. I do wish they had turned the volume on the microphones up a bit more – the background music was too loud by comparison.

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Jesse-kun got his turn with “Niji no Uta”. I don’t remember hearing this song before, but unsurprisingly it’s a song from Domoto Tsuyoshi-san. It’s tough to judge, but I thought Jesse-kun’s version here was thin – needed more dynamics.

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Interesting that they decided to go from that rather slow, soft song (practically a lullaby) directly into “Shake It Up”. Jarring.

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In the previous episode, I complained about Kouchi Yugo-kun being the only member of Bakaleya not included in this month’s J’s Party, and here the absence was particularly obvious, as the other five members performed the title song of the drama.

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So you’ll have to forgive me for being blatant about this, but I felt this performance was missing something.

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In another odd transition, they went from that to “Swan Song” with Takahashi Fuu-kun and Tajima Shogo-kun. As much as I hate people going on and off stage every minute, this should have probably come before “Shake It Up” to build up the energy. Instead, it ended up dropping the energy level down here.

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Thankfully, they brought it back up again with a little dance showcase.

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Fuu-kun and Tajima-kun did a good job with their duet, and while “Swan Song” was nothing spectacular, the dance section was excellent. Fuu-kun’s rapping is of the sort I don’t mind (non-hostile), so that’s good. It’s pretty rare that juniors who aren’t headliners get the stage to themselves like this, though, so it was noteworthy just on that score.

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Matsumura Hokuto-kun delivered a passionate rendition of “MARIA”, and while he might not be a better singer than Masuda-kun or Jesse-kun, this was a much better and more entertaining performance than the earlier two. A live band would have made it much better, though. Where are the junior instrumentalists when you need them?

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Hokuto-kun doesn’t get solo or even duet performances on Shounen Club anymore, and that’s a shame. He’s a good contrast to Jesse-kun, Masuda-kun, or our next performer – Kyomoto Taiga-kun.

Taiga-kun chose to do “PINKY” for his solo, and I was happy to hear that he was singing more in the heart of his range instead of staying at the high end. The vocals also had a nice edge to them.

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This was the best performance I’ve seen from him . . . possibly ever. It was an overtly sexy dance, but this isn’t Shounen Club and he’s clearly old enough to handle this choreography with poise . In other words, I didn’t feel awkward watching it.

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Besides, it’s nice to see Kyomoto-kun growing up, and this was definitely one of those stages that takes him a step further.

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With that being an obvious highlight, it’s a good thing no one else had to follow it with a solo. Instead, the nine main participants (except for Fuu-kun and Tajima-kun) did “Luv Sick”, which is solid ground and stuff we’ve seen from them before.

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There was an interesting point in the song where Taiga-kun didn’t deliver the first of his solo lines with enough volume (or his mike volume was initially too low), and he looked visibly upset about that. I don’t know if I’m reading too much into it, but Taiga-kun is one of the juniors who have that kind of intensity and spirit.

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Next was “Dancing Star”, another familiar stage from this group. Morohoshi-kun was trying his best to spice things up here, but otherwise it was pretty bland.

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After that, we got “Za ABC”. It’s sort of odd to hear the juniors sing this song, since it’s so specific to A.B.C-Z in its references – almost like them singing “Sexy Zone”, which would be weird, too. Fuu-kun and Tajima-kun joined the rest on stage, and I got a kick out of Tajima-kun’s dancing. He tends to embellish on the moves freely, much like Morohoshi-kun does, making the others seem relatively stiff.

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The juniors went on to sing some other Johnny’s best hits – Kanjani8’s “Zukkoke Otokomichi” (which I was surprised to hear – not very often Kanto juniors sing a Kanjani8 song), V6’s “Wa ni Natte Odorou”, and KinKi Kids’ “Zenbu Dakishimete”.

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The dancing was haphazard during those, with only vague references to the original choreography and much shuffling about. They got a bit more organized for Arashi’s “Troublemaker”, though, which can’t be reduced to arm-waving.

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The senpai medley continued with Tackey & Tsubasa’s “Venus” and then V6 got a second entry with “Can do! Can go!” No complaints – V6 doesn’t get enough love, and the guys were especially relaxed and funny during this one.

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“Can do! Can go!” was the finale song, and they did solid choreography for it. So, they neglected TOKIO and SMAP, but otherwise it was a pretty traditional senpai medley.

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I enjoyed the senpai medley, but the main takeaway from the performance section was Taiga-kun’s solo, and possibly Hokuto-kun’s as well.

Next up, Jesse-kun had his talk segment, and the topic was how much he admires KinKi Kids’ Domoto Tsuyoshi-san.

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I can’t say any of these Jesse Talks interests me. What interests me is that the director and the agency clearly believe that he enough fans who want to see this to make the time worthwhile. So . . . why not capitalize on that popularity properly and put him in a group? I’m not saying debut – I’m just saying give the fans something to buzz about and see how it works. They’ve been pushing him forward for two years now, and I’d like to get some indication that he’s going somewhere – plot development, if you will.

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The backstage stuff was next, and this started out with on-stage rehearsal footage (and some related side-antics) first.

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After only two minutes of that, though, we go backstage to hear the thoughts of Hokuto-kun and then watch as Morohoshi-kun cools off.

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Anderson Casey, Takahashi Fuu, Kyomoto Taiga, and Tajima Shogo surround a laptop, but I couldn’t tell what they were doing.

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The next scene was with the costumes. While the randomness of the footage was sometimes disorienting, I appreciated the unfiltered sense that we got, not having an announcer trying to explain everything to us.

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Most of the cast got some time in the course of this footage, though I don’t think we got to everyone. I didn’t see much from Tajima-kun, for instance.

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Even though they weren’t part of the show, Nakamura Reia-kun and Matsuda Genta-kun were on hand. While I’m sure whatever they were saying was very interesting, I was more interested in the unexplained boisterousness in the background. I’m sure they edit out all the really interesting backstage footage, especially if all that shouting was any indication.

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The talk from Reia-kun and Genta-kun led into a VTR about the Summer Gamushara Fest, and also J’s Party’s sister program Gamushara. I’m not sure they gave a proper impression of Gamushara, though, as they only showed bits from the omake segments at the end of the show.

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While Tajima-kun didn’t get much attention during the backstage footage, he did get a featured role in the end-of-episode interview alongside Takahashi Fuu-kun thanks to Morohoshi-kun.

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Fuu-kun begins by asking Morohoshi-kun for advice.

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If you want further details, though, I can only hope a subber will take interest in all these interview segments. I only got enough of it to provide vague impressions.

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As usual in these interviews, there are numerous cameos:

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Tajima-kun had a Kyomoto-related anecdote.

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Eventually, Anderson-kun got their impressions of him, and then they extended the discussion to Hokuto-kun.

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Fuu-kun had some surprising revelations about Tajima-kun’s true nature.

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And there you have it. Now that the pattern of this show is well-established, I can say that this was an above-average installment of it. We had surprises right from the start, and some new (or at least fresh-seeming) material. I’ve already made pretty clear which performances I liked, so I won’t go through that again – it’s sufficient to say that there were highlights, and nothing unwatchable.

The latter half had very little of the filler stuff despite having the challenge in the first episode instead of this one. The backstage footage was all right but nothing memorable. The Morohoshi interview of Fuu-kun and Tajima-kun was very good, both because we haven’t heard much from Tajima-kun and also because they pulled in some of the other juniors along the way.

I’m curious to see what we’ll get in the September episodes. Will it be a totally new group of juniors (except Jesse-kun) or is this going to be a platform for juniors we’ve seen in the past two months? I’m hoping for a rotation, but focusing on the elder juniors could also be good if it leads to the agency finally having to confidence to form some groups.