Having spent the July episodes completing an epic athletic event, the members of Sexy Zone reflect with the staff of Sexy Zone Channel on their physical progress. In particular, it was pointed out that the three elder members had scored some success in one episode or another, but the two younger members – Matsushima Sou-kun and Marius Yo-kun – haven’t. This seems pretty obvious to me, since if they set up tasks meant to be challenging to the more physically developed older members, the younger members will inevitably struggle to keep up, but it’s always worth prodding people to shape up, I guess.

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The staff asks them to come up with activities where they might be the best in the group. Sou-kun proposes archery but accidentally pronounces it “archury”. Everyone seems to want to do bowling and Marius-kun says he’s the best in his family, but when Fuma-kun asks what score he gets, he seems to have some trouble.

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Either he says he gets above 100 points in two games, but he seems to think that the top score in one game is 100 points (the others know it’s more than that, but I don’t think any of them actually says it’s 300 points). In the old days, when we all kept score on sheets, it would be conceivable that his family simply kept the score wrong. In the age of automatic scoring systems, though, that’s not quite as likely, and this is probably a case of Marius-kun just being a bit young.

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Marius-kun next proposed an English contest, but Fuma-kun razzed him for this, too. After all, they were supposed to be thinking of physical contests. Fuma-kun and Marius-kun played an ideal comedy team here.

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What they’re actually doing today is . . .

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. . . cutting hair.

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And not their own hair (they certainly do their own trimming occasionally) or each other’s. No – it’ll be someone else’s, so this is going to be very, very interesting.

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The pre-challenge segment was much shorter than it has been in recent episodes, indicating that there was an overabundance of usable video. Only six minutes in, we met the stylist sensei for the episode:

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And he got them started on the first step – shampooing (which, now that I type it, looks like a very odd word. I think I prefer just saying they’re going to learn how to properly wash someone else’s hair).

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Here, their victims . . . I mean, test subjects . . . I mean, their customers are the other members. First, the sensei showed them how to do it and Fuma-kun immediately volunteered for the task.

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Lots of “shitsurei shimasu!” in this procedure:

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The boys also repeat the instruction “amass and scrub”. Everything went well during the sensei’s demonstration (of course) . . .

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. . . but then we got to the first part of the challenge, with Kento-kun starting things off by washing Shori-kun’s hair. Shori-kun starts out giggly, then reminds Kento-kun of the initial steps, and then gets progressively more nervous and afraid of what’s going to happen.

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While Kento-kun hid it well, he was probably nervous throughout, too.

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In the end, there weren’t any huge incidents, and they both recognized that this was difficult.

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But what’s going to happen when Marius-kun has to shampoo Kento-kun’s hair? Kento-kun doesn’t seem as panicked as Shori-kun, of course, but you’ve got to figure that he wonders if he’s really safe in the youngest member’s hands.

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As it turned out, he wasn’t the one in the most danger from Marius-kun – it was actually the sound person that he ended up spraying with water. The staff called a stop to Marius-kun’s attempt after that.

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So far, this episode has been full of big laughs.

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Fuma-kun tries to wash Kento-kun’s hair properly as Marius-kun left it in disarray.

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Now this is interesting – even though Fuma-kun didn’t have a good view of how to do all this (because he was the sensei’s demo subject), he handled it all professionally.

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The last pairing was Sou-kun washing the hair of Marius-kun, which meant that Shori-kun was the only member who didn’t get to wash another member’s hair (the logical target for him would have been Sou-kun, but either it didn’t happen or it was edited out for time).

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Well, Sou-kun can hardly do worse than Marius-kun, so Marius can’t complain. In fact, Marius-kun was perfectly calm even when the others were shouting stuff, Sou-kun made some minor mistakes (spilling water), and Sou-kun messed around a bit.

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The next step is the learn how to cut someone else’s hair, and thankfully the boys don’t have to try this on each other – there are dummies for this purpose:

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That’s handy – I wonder how much one of those mannequin heads costs and if there’s some way to replace the hair on one or if the whole head is disposed of after use (recycled, presumably).

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There were lots of great scenes as the guys attacked the hair . . .

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. . . and a detailed assessment of how each one did with their mannequins.

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Now that they’ve had that practice . . .

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. . . it’s time for them to get serious and dress for the part . . .

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. . . and then greet their very first customer!

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The way they all crowded around her randomly was adorable, as was the fact that Marius-kun seemed like the most organized in terms of greeting her, getting her name, and for some reason he was still writing while they got her seated.

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Now, the rest of the challenge was basically all about this most nerve-wracking of tasks (because they’re actually doing something to someone else for the first time), and how they do is the biggest of all possible spoilers, so I’m going to say no more about it.

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If you want to find out what happened, you’re going to have to watch.

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I can tell you that there were plenty of laughs, and the customer gave a very complete assessment of the experience.

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But the show wasn’t over with that challenge – SZ got an extra surprise from the staff (though what I was most struck by was how they’re constantly messing with each other).

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For practically the entire time the staff guy was talking, Fuma-kun was messing up Marius-kun’s hair, and I was too distracted by that to pay attention to what the staff guy was saying.

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And then Fuma-kun started to go for the cheeks, too:

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I thought so during the shampooing but it was definitely clear here: Marius-kun is a very good sport about all sorts of weirdness. That said, after a few minutes of this, even he had to draw the line.

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Didn’t stop Fuma-kun from going right back to it, though. Every time the camera turned away and then back to them, I laughed again.

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Anyway, what was all this supposed to be about? Oh, yes – they were going to make some sort of special goods for the program. They assembled on a different day, and were surprised to see not only their manager but also the Sexy Zone Channel staff. Apparently they didn’t expect to be recording Sexy Zone Channel at that meeting. (To paraphrase the Monty Python gag about the Spanish Inquisition – Nobody Expects the SZ Channel Staff!)

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They didn’t even know what they were going to be doing at the meeting, and with so many people present, Fuma-kun asked if they were debuting (the graphics people threw up a note to clarify that they debuted three years ago, but Fuma-kun’s point was that it was that kind of assembly).

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They also wondered if this was going to be a foreign location shoot – like the semi-promised trip to Hawaii. But no, it was about making the program goods.

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Once they were all seated, they were told that they would be making gum in collaboration with candy-maker Lotte (well, I say candy-maker, but it’s actually a huge conglomerate that owns stores, cinemas, insurance companies, amusement parks, and hotels as well).

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Lotte has already agreed to the arrangement, but now the members have to create a proposal for the design and concept. That’s . . . a lot harder than it sounds, and a significant amount of money is probably riding on this since it seems the agency is also behind it.

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They break out some samples (lots of xylitol stuff for some reason), and Marius-kun takes to the white board. Nice penmanship on the English, but the katakana was a tad sloppy (they picked on him for making ン “n” look like ソ “so”, so he eventually used the hiragana version of the syllable “n” – ん).

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Peach, soda, and banana were thrown up as possible flavorings, and they quickly expanded on this list and combined a few tastes.

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Then they turned to deciding on possible containers and designs.

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Marius-kun and Sou-kun drawing on the board . . . we need more of this. The next battle segment on Shounen Club should be some form of Pictionary.

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Anyway, I’m sure we’ll see a lot more about this Lotte collaboration – probably more than I’d like.

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But while I have mixed feelings about the Lotte collaboration at the end (which, if not for some valiant efforts from the members to keep things interesting, was almost an extended commercial for Lotte), the main challenge was excellent and every different from anything else we’ve seen in this series so far.

The guys were all great as usual, but there were two clear MVPs for this episode – Fuma-kun and Marius-kun. At times they worked together on the silliness, but at other times they also did their own thing. Fuma-kun won accolades for his hair styling acumen, while Marius-kun had an interesting propensity to take charge of situations.

One member who was surprisingly disengaged was Shori-kun, who didn’t do much during the hair styling challenge. Not sure what to think about that, since the agency so often has him take the lead that maybe it’s better to give him a break here.

No worries, though. This is still the most consistently entertaining show I follow and, having taken a peek at the next two episodes, I know that the activities will continue to be as unpredictable as they have been. I’m not too sure how they’re going to make the next episode work out though, since it seems ridiculous to spend an hour on it. More on that later.