I have a growing list of Shounen Club (ザ少年倶楽部) pet-peeves, and at the top of that list is the way all the elder juniors – the reasonably popular juniors who are above eighteen years of age – are often lumped together into one big mega-group for performances even though this doesn’t do justice to their talents. And at the start of the first Shounen Club of September, here’s the same sort of thing:

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 000

It’s not quite all of them singing “Anniversary” by KinKi Kids, but it’s enough that it’s a jumble – especially since they’re all wearing white. Aside from Jesse, Nozawa Yuki, Sanada Yuma, Masuda Ryo, and Hanzawa Akatsuki, I did notice that we got a sudden influx of SnowMen. The members of that group don’t get much SC attention – not in a featured role like this – so that was a positive.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 001 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 002 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 003

Pretty soon, A.B.C-Z, Johnny’s West, Nakajima Kento, Kikuchi Fuma, and Sato Shori took the stage, and things got really cluttered, but I like the whole-cast opening in general.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 004 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 005

That’s in general, though. In this case, “Anniversary” is not a good opening song – it’s too slow and lacking in energy. Having the whole cast just standing around swaying is not the same as having them do a proper dance to an up-tempo song. So, things started out badly in my eyes.

We got the theme of this week’s show next, courtesy of hosts Kawai Fumito-kun and Kiriyama Akito-kun, and that theme was . . . 15th Anniversary Year. Huh? I’m sorry, but there are many, many problems with that. First of all, SC themes are generally one word or, if they’re pushing it, two. What kind of theme is this? More importantly, though, what is it the 15th Anniversary of? They claim it’s of Shounen Club, but I have the first episode of SC, and it’s dated April 9th, 2000, so . . . what the heck? Even if they wanted to hit the middle of the 15th year (which no one does), that would be in October.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 007

Most of the members of A.B.C-Z were there at the beginning and I can’t resist making the point – shouldn’t they graduate from SC? I mean . . . okay, I’ll quit there in deference to A.B.C-Z fans.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 008 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 009 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 010 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 011

After that, we got the first medley, which was a . . . a Shori Selection Medley. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though, because it was a senpai medley (representative of 15 years of senpai medleys, if you will) and aside from Shori-kun, the stage was full of juniors (even chibis for once) – too many of them backdancing to list here.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 012

I wondered whether this was something from Shori-kun’s solo concert, but he was flanked by Hirano Sho-kun and Nagase Ren-kun, and I honestly don’t know if they were part of it – were they?

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 013

The first three songs were SMAP’s “SHAKE”, KinKi Kids’ “Natsu no Ousama”, and TOKIO’s “Minna de Wahahaha!” (of all the TOKIO songs it had to be this one).

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 014 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 015 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 016

Then Takahashi Kaito-kun joined Shori-kun for V6’s “Take Me Higher”. Apparently, Kaito-kun has it in his contract that he will be surrounded by skaters whenever he takes the stage, because even though Reia-kun wasn’t present, he had a bunch of younger skaters encircling him.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 017

SMAP’s “Aoi Inazuma” was next. I have to note that we didn’t get much of Shori-kun’s voice here, but don’t worry – we’ll get to hear how his vocals are shaping up more clearly later in the show. Altogether, the song choice up to here was very good . . .

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 018

. . . but they ended with KinKi Kids’ “Suki ni Natteku Aishiteku”, which didn’t fit in with the others at all, and wasn’t really a song that has featured in senpai medleys before (unlike the others).

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 019 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 020

It was also not a particularly good song to end with. But hey, we got a proper senpai medley with lots of juniors and Shori-kun was the only debuted member on the stage during it, so altogether it was pretty good – very Shounen Club.

Next, Kento, Fuma, and Shori showed off some photos of themselves from fifteen years ago to Kawai and Kiriyama. This is what most of the talk segments in this episode are going to be about, and if you like looking at old photos like this, you’re in for a treat.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 021 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 022

I . . . don’t particularly. Couldn’t care less, honestly.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 023

Kento-kun’s was good, though. He looks uber-confident in it, and he’s standing in front an image of three astronauts. I don’t know why they blurred the faces of the astronauts (since they’re public figures). Since there were three of them and there seems to be a capsule on the right side, I suppose they must have been Apollo astronauts, but I have no idea which ones.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 024 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 025 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 026

Kento-kun, Fuma-kun and Shori-kun performed “Keep the Challenge” next. This is a new song to SC, I believe, and there’s choreography! If you recall, I blasted them for not having proper choreography for the previous song they brought to SC, so it was since to see them do it right this time.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 027 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 028

Also, the singing was remarkable. Kento-kun and Fuma-kun were good as always, but Shori-kun has built up his volume enough to be heard alongside the other two, which is a step in the right direction.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 029 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 030

The song itself was pretty solid Johnny’s stuff in both music and lyrics – a tad on the repetitive side, but otherwise acceptable. Certainly, this would have made a better A-side to their new single, but there are plenty of songs from them that are better and less monotonous.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 031 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 032

So, score that one an okay performance.

Shokura Blog was next and Hirano Sho-kun got to show his baby picture.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 033 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 034

It was a cute pic of him in a washing machine, but he rambled on a bit too long and even seemed to lose his thread for a moment near the end. They should have a timer in front of them like in the Academy Awards so that they rush towards the end.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 035

Sho-kun did a solo stage next, and he chose Yamashita Tomohisa-kun’s “Loveless”.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 036 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 037

This was an excellent performance for Hirano-kun. I think he’s actually a better vocalist than Yamapi already – certainly smoother and in more control of his dynamics, though perhaps unable to put as much of an edge to his notes.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 038

Nice junior participation in this one, too. Hayashi Ren-kun has been getting some good staging so far – or is it just that I recognize him better after seeing him for a month and a half on Gamushara?

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 039

For A.B.C-Z, only Hashimoto-kun and Goseki-kun showed their photos. Kawai-kun will get to show his later.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 040 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 041

For Goseki-kun they could have just used a screenshot from early Shounen Club, couldn’t they have? I guess the picture quality might not be very good. The photo he picked didn’t capture it well, but he really looks very much the same except for his hair color.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 042 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 043 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 044

A.B.C-Z performed “Finally Over”, which is another new song for SC as far as I know. Hashimoto-kun did a great vocal opening to the song, which was in rock-style with the band in the back.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 045 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 046

The rock feel was decent and it was musically well-written. More importantly, they did plenty of dancing and acrobatics during the course of it instead of just standing around looking cool (which too often happens when Johnny’s sing in front of the band).

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 047 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 048

I think that was the first unmistakable highlight of the episode, though Hirano-kun’s might end up being one as well.

Shokura NEWS was next, and before anything else, I would like to recommend that they cut out Kawai-kun and Kiriyama-kun introducing the Shokura NEWS segment – it’s totally unnecessary and a waste of precious airtime. Just let the juniors doing the segment introduce it.

In this case, the juniors in question were Morimoto Shintaro-kun and Kyomoto Taiga-kun . . .

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 049

. . . and they were at the venue for Katori Shingo-san’s stage show . . .

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 050 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 051

. . . in order to talk to still more juniors – Yasui Kentaro-kun, Hagiya Keigo-kun, and Sanada Yuma-kun – who are involved in the show.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 052 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 053 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 054

I’m not sure what they said – couldn’t quite follow it – but this is more of what I’d like to see from this segment. I wouldn’t mind it if they had interviewed Katori-san either, incidentally. Let’s just say that I’d like to see either juniors or dai-senpai as the interview targets.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 055 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 056 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 057 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 058

One other thing we could have skipped, though, was the second VTR. They should have just let the juniors sign off properly instead of sticking this in here. Only one VTR per Shokura NEWS.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 059

Next up was special guest Nakayama Yuma-kun, here to promote his new single.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 060

But before being allowed to take the stage, he has to pay the price – show an ancient photo of himself:

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 061

I hope no one was shocked by the kawaii-ness.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 062 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 063 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 064

Yuma-kun did “Ai made ga Knife”, which has an epic beginning which reminded me somewhat of “Missing Piece”, but it found its own identity after that.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 065 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 066

It’s not the most spectacular stage I’ve ever seen from Yuma-kun, nor the best vocals, but it’s still superb. The song itself is not catchy, but it’s very atmospheric and well-suited to be the title song to a drama. Has it been used for that yet, by the way? Sounds like it should be.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 067

The backdancers were some variant of Travis Japan, and they did a phenomenal job as usual.

So yeah, Yuma-kun was his usual impressive self. Usually the criteria for a highlight is that a performer has to be at their best or pushing their own limits, so I don’t know if this is quite there. If this is a highlight, then so was Hirano-kun’s performance.

Kawai-kun showed not just one, but two photos. The first one was a baby pic . . .

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 068

. . . but the second was one from when he entered the ranks of the juniors.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 069

Kiriyama-kun had a photo, too, and . . .

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 070

. . . and predictably he looked identifiably Kiriyama, complete with smile.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 071

Kikuchi Fuma-kun snuck in here because he’s going to perform next with Kawai-kun and Kiriyama-kun in a unique collaboration. Before that, Fuma-kun got to set up the situation.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 072 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 073

And we had a very unusual lead-in to the stage. I couldn’t help but despairing at the time being wasted, but this all ended up having a good casual feel to it. It was very different from the excessively polished presentation that SC episodes of the past few years have had.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 074 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 075

They did Kimura Takuya-san’s “Yowai Boku Dakara” – another rock song with the band backing them up.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 076

Among the younger Johnny’s, Fuma-kun probably has the best rock voice because he can put so much edge to his singing. This song didn’t really test that too much, but it was possible to catch hints of it.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 077 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 078

This was a very interesting collaboration, and certainly a pleasant surprise, but the song was repetitive and a bit awkward in tone (especially the lines ending in “no sa”).

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 079 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 080

Altogether, though, I think it was highlight worthy. One-off collaborations are difficult to assess, but it was unique and it had a good feel to it, so that’s enough.

Junior ni Q was next, and the juniors were prompted to talk about their junior debut – basically the first single they got to backdance to or their audition songs, from what I gather. Takahashi Kaito-kun was up first with “Bye Bye Dubai”.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 081 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 082

Nagase Ren-kun had Yamapi’s “Love Song”. They tried to get him to do the moves, but he embarrassingly couldn’t remember.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 083 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 084

Watanabe Shota-kun (a rare sight in this segment) didn’t have as much trouble remembering the moves to “Seishun Amigo”, but still didn’t quite nail it. That’s a surprise, because even I know this one.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 085

Wait . . . why is Goseki-kun answering the question!? Foul! Penalty! They didn’t even make a point that he wasn’t a junior – he totally just invaded Junior ni Q and took the place of a junior without justification. These A.B.C-Z guys are totally out of hand. Don’t tell me they didn’t have enough juniors available!

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 086

I’m going to call that a disappointing Junior ni Q as a result, since we didn’t get a full slate of juniors.

Johnny’s West didn’t sit down and show off photos this time, but they might get to do so in the next episode. Instead, they just got to do their stage – “Ole Ole Carnival”.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 087

Kiriyama-kun delivered an excellent start to the song, and then they went into a solid summer tune with a very catchy and unified sound.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 088 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 089

The dancing was lackluster compared to what they’ve been doing recently, but the song itself made it enjoyable.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 090 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 091

Shigeoka Daiki-kun was absent again, which probably meant Kotaki-kun got his lines. Since Kotaki-kun’s voice is more pleasant to my ears, I didn’t mind.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 092

The ending song to this episode was “Boku wa Kimi no Subete ni Naritai” as performed by Kento-kun, Fuma-kun, and Shori-kun.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 093 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 094

Between the opening, Shori’s Selection Medley, “Keep the Challenge”, Fuma-kun’s collaboration, and this, these three have been involved in five of the nine performance segments in this show. That’s . . . remarkable.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 095

I can’t really complain this time, though. Shori’s medley had the broadest junior involvement we’ve seen in NHK Hall in a while, “Keep the Challenge” was fresh and okay, Fuma-kun’s collaboration with Kawai-kun and Kiriyama-kun was great and a highlight, and this song was exceptional – an absolutely great song to end the show with.

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 096 2014.09.03 Shounen Club 097

In other words, I wouldn’t really toss out any of their parts, and in no case were they repeating a song they had already sung three or four times (like with so many of their singles).

Just in case you hadn’t gotten enough, though, there was still Shori’s Omake segment:

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 098

Kamiyama-kun was his guest, and Shori-kun had the same challenge set up for Kamiyama-kun that he had successfully used on Hamada-kun, except this time there were plastic rhinoceros beetles. Will Kamiyama-kun, unlike Hamada-kun, be able to stick his hand in without panicking?

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 099

The omake segment was a whole two minutes long, by the way – is this the longest one we’ve seen so far, or has this been normal?

2014.09.03 Shounen Club 100

After the opening, this was a very entertaining Shounen Club in terms of the performances, but a very slow one when it came to the talk segments. I don’t think I would have missed anything interesting if all the talk segments had been cut out.

This show was definitely focused on three individuals, but the highlights were a bit more diverse. A.B.C-Z’s “Finally Over” tops the list, followed by Johnny’s West’s “Ole Ole Carnival”, and then the finale from Kento-kun, Fuma-kun, and Shori-kun. Then there was Yuma-kun’s solo, Hirano Sho-kun’s solo, and the senpai medley led by Shori-kun. The collaboration between Fuma, Kawai, and Kiriyama on Kimura Takuya-san’s “Yowai Boku Dakara” was also in don’t-miss territory even though I wasn’t thrilled with the song.

So most of the performances were above average or highlights. The only major stage that was simply okay was “Keep the Challenge”. The opening was the only disappointment.

We also got to see some juniors we don’t normally see. Mind you, this is nothing compared to what we should be seeing, but it’s already better than August.

So yeah, dump the talk segments and it was a 10 out of 10 – lots of fresh material and very engaging. Put the talk back in, and I’ll call it a 9 out of 10. That’s one stumbling block J’s Party has overcome – the talk on that show is still very dynamic and never gets as slow as what we regularly see on SC.