The members of Arashi decided to promote their new DVD at the beginning of this VS Arashi (VS 嵐), but they surprised Ohno-san by asking him to take the lead on it.

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He tried to play it straight, but briefly seemed to forget the name of it. MatsuJun asked if Ohno-san had yesterday off – referring to a joke from the July 10th episode.

The guests were the cast of the movie Rurouni Kenshin (they’re promoting both Kyoto Inferno and The Legend Ends – I’m not sure what the logic of releasing two movies in the space of two months is, but I’m sure fans are happy). The members were Sato Takeru, Takei Emi, Kamiki Ryunosuke, Tsuchiya Tao, Miura Ryosuke, and Takahashi Maryjun. Of them, I think Takahashi-san is the only one I haven’t seen in a drama or movie before.

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This is a younger-than-Arashi team, so that’s very good. On the other hand, it’s a movie team, which usually means that they’ll stick to playing the lighter games. We’re definitely going to get the new game this time, but I’m wondering if we’ll see Cliff Climb or not.

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My sense that we’re not going to see particularly taxing games was not only reinforced by the outfits of the Arashis themselves, but also by the plus one guests . . .

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. . . who did not look dressed for the sportier side of life. Watanabe Youichi-san and Kojima Kazuya-san are not high in my estimation among TV talents. Kojima-san is the comedic partner of Watabe Ken-san in the comedy duo UNJASH (アンジャッシュ), and I frankly revile Watabe-san, who has been painfully boring in all his appearances alongside Arashi – especially in his uninspired hosting of the Tokyo Mise segment on Arashi ni Shiyagare.

Will these two manage to improve my view of them? Probably not if they stay dressed like that, which I think they will since the outfit is essential to Watanabe-san’s character.

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Watanabe-san tries to explain why he has been paired with Kojima-san, explaining that his name is written the same as Watabe-san’s even though it’s read differently, so . . . he’s taking the place of Watabe-san? Fair enough.

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So here are the two teams:

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And the first game is . . . Rolling Coin Tower. Figures.

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Not any huge laughs in the pregame talk. They mentioned Sakurai-san working with Kamiki-kun in Kazoku Game among other things, but the way that was brushed off, I get the feeling we’re not going to hear any details about the experience. (After watching further, it turned out I was completely wrong about this – they were just saving further stuff for later. Kazoku Game got brought up a lot, actually.)

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Watanabe-san talked before the game, but I didn’t really understand what was going on there.

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He did, however, take the opportunity to photograph the Arashis during the game, and that produced an extra bit of fun during the game.

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There’s a lot that could be done to Rolling Coin Tower to make it worth the time. Speaking of which, why is the bonus for not toppling the tower only 50 points? It’s hardly worth playing if the bonus isn’t 100 points, since the score ends up too close.

Next was the new game – GoGo Sweeper. The guest team went first this time, and given the pre-episode practice there shouldn’t be much gap between the Arashis and the Kenshin team. Sato-kun said this was his specialty, though (jokingly, of course), so we’ll see how it goes as he and Kamiki-kun try to give their team a boost.

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I’m still not sold on this game – I prefer the more athletic games, so having them sit and control machines doesn’t really interest me.

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I was wrong about Kamiki-Sakurai, by the way. During this pregame, they talked a bit more to each other, and Sakurai-san said that Kamiki-kun was able to mimic the choreography for “Endless Game”. Ninomiya-kun said that the cast of Yowakutemo Katemasu also danced to the theme song of that drama “GUTS!”. Seems like a good way for the cast of a drama to bond.

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Kamiki-kun was clearly in a good mood ahead of the game.

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The Arashi team sent Matsumoto-kun . . .

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. . . and this guy:

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Kojima-san alone would give me pause, but what’s this about a ball worth -50 points as the handicap for the Arashi team? Isn’t having a non-regular player like Kojima-san (who didn’t even take part in the practice before the episode because he’s the surprise guest) enough?

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Clearly they don’t think it is, and Arashi feels like they’ve already mastered this game well enough to make it harder for themselves. That’s not a good sign, since the whole point of a new game was to find something that Arashi would have to figure out during the course of many episodes – the same process of discovery that made the early episodes of VS Arashi so interesting. Here, it’s not enough of a challenge, and while they’re still a bit excited to play it . . .

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. . . that’s likely to wear off quicker this way than if they were not as polished about it. I know it’s prime time and everything has to be perfect, but I still miss the old days.

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The next game was Pinball Runner with Tsuchiya-san representing the Kenshin team. She seems excited and has a strong sports history to cite, including basketball, track and field, and multiple forms of dance. In track during middle school, she was the champion of her district for two years in a row. Perhaps a more direct sign of her confidence is the fact that she’s decided to compete in this game barefoot.

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But she still has to rely on the members of her team calling out the numbers, and Takei-san’s initial suggestion that all three of them should call out the same numbers at the same time confused and worried Tsuchiya-san. I think I would have much the same reaction. I mean, how are they supposed to agree on which number to call?

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For Sakurai-san, he hasn’t been the runner in this game for a whole year – since August 8th of 2013. Can he really be considered a regular?

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Watanabe-san advises that Sakurai-san should aim for 200 points.

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But Sakurai-san has decided to go barefoot in imitation of Tsuchiya-san – will he really be able to get such a high score like that.

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This is certainly the most interesting thing an Arashi has done in the episode so far, especially when combined by the fact that Ohno-san spent the whole time taking photos and Watanabe-san was calling out numbers in his characteristic super-slow speech pattern.

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The penultimate game was Bank Bowling and the guest team sent up its first challengers: Takei-san and Kamiki-kun. They talked about working together in the Taiga drama Taira no Kiyomori in 2012 where Takei-san played Kamiki-kun’s mother even though they’re the same age. Incidentally, seven years before that Kamiki was in another Taiga drama – Yoshitsune – in which he played the younger version of Takizawa Hideaki-san’s character.

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Trying to knock down the pins they left behind were Miura-kun and Takahashi-san. Somehow, we haven’t seen much of these two in this episode, but they got a brief spotlight here. They’ve been friends for around ten years – a fact that was brought up because Kojima-san felt they were standing too close to each other – so will we see some strong teamwork here?

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Ninomiya-kun and Aiba-kun bowled for Arashi, and you know what that means . . .

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. . . yes, they were tied together three-legged race style, as they’ve either done or threatened to do so many times. Will it be a miracle or will both their balls miss the pins entirely?

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The two plus one guests went up to take care of the remaining pins.

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To my dismay, the last game was Korokoro Viking. I say dismay because we didn’t even get Kicking Sniper or Dual Curling, which are both preferable to this and often used as the concluding game.

The guest team was up first, with Takei-san and Sato-san in control of the critical orange zone.

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For Arashi, Aiba-kun was opposite the two plus one guests in the orange zone. If Kojima-san thought Miura-kun and Takahashi-san were too close during Bank Bowling, how did he feel about himself and Watanabe-san here?

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So, the first thing is the game selection, which was horrible. Just going by the fact that I prefer athletic games, there was only one – Pinball Runner – and that one only involved a single member of each team sweating it out. I felt this would be the case, but it’s still a shame that the young guest team wasn’t tested a bit more. Not even Kicking Sniper. And when was the last time we saw Jungle Bingo?

If you can’t tell, I’m not really interested in the new game. The best thing about it is the expression on the faces of those playing it, and it’s clear they enjoy it, but watching the game play out isn’t engaging. There’s not a sufficient sense that skill is involved.

The guest team really sort of coasted along on this one – they talked when prompted and focused on the games, but didn’t attempt any additional entertainments. Still, fans of Sato-kun, Takei-san and Kamiki-kun in particular will want to tune in.

On the plus one guests, Watanabe-san was pretty good in terms of adding entertainment, but I could have done without Kojima-san. Neither of them had contributed much to the games (Kojima-san got balls in during GoGo Sweeper, of course, but that hardly takes skill and his driving was subpar).

Among the Arashis, Sakurai-san clearly had the lead this time. Not only did he have the interactions with Kamiki-kun – really the only substantial interactions between the Arashis and the guest team – but he also had the Pinball Runner moment with his barefoot running. Besides, Pinball Runner was the most taxing game in the episode and it had been a year since he was the runner. The others contributed, too. Aiba-kun and Ninomiya-kun did their thing in Bank Bowling, Ohno-san had comments throughout but was most brilliant taking pictures during Pinball Runner, and MatsuJun’s best was probably in GoGo Sweeper. Taking all these into account, I still think Sakurai-san deserves the Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi for this episode.