01 October 2011

Giving a New Meaning to Playzone, Shounentai

Members: Higashiyama Noriyuki, Uekusa Katsuhide, Nishikiori Kazukiyo 

Shounentai 1985 (from left to right, Uekusa, Nishikiori & Higashiyama)

Most people think of SMAP as the everlasting group of Johnny’s though truthfully that distinction really should go to Shounentai.

As mentioned in a previous entry the group came about as a rival group to the Johnny’s group Shibugakitai, which was also a trio. The original Shounentai group was actually formed back in 1981 but they did not debut until 1985, in keeping with the norm that a group doesn’t debut unless it’s with a CD release. Both groups appeared on the same variety program The Youngest Ten but Shounentai kept going as a group after Shibugakitai broke up in 1988.

From their debut year, 1985, until 2008 every year Shounentai had a musical together as a group. But it wasn’t until 1986 that the musical that their name became synonymous with, PLAYZONE, began. Since PLAYZONE began it has been performed, with each year a new script being made for it, on an annual basis and still is today though Shounentai is no longer a part of the production since the 2009 production. The musical was also known for having Juniors perform in it and some of them even had women playing roles though that was during Shounentai’s run of it.

From what I know most of the PLAYZONEs had both soundtrack CDs and VHS/DVD releases of the show. The only one I know for the fact did not get both was 2007’s which only had a limited CD release and the DVD was cancelled because of a scandal and swift dropping of one of the performers in it because of a drug scandal that I will go into a bit more with Hikaru Genji’s post.

After retiring from PLAYZONE in 2008 they have not done much as a group since. Even in 2010, their 25th anniversary year they stuck to mostly doing their own individual work then doing anything special for it.

While Shounentai were still very musical based that did not stop them from being very successful with their recording careers. One of their most successful hits was their debut song, Kamen Butokai, which is one of those songs that Juniors are still covering to this day as well as their ballad Kimi dake ni. Most of their music releases were in the 80s and 90s but they have released a few CDs post 2000, most of them being tied to PLAYZONE though.

Nishikiori is the leader of the group. He tends to appear in musicals these days and has been a part of the cast of Takizawa Hideaki’s musicals in the most recent years. He’s the member known for his singing though he’s also known for being one of the few Johnny’s that can not only sing but dance and do a backflip. He’s also known for his penchant for comedy.

Higashiyama is not just a talent of the agency but also has a position in management in the agency itself. He’s known as one of the Dancing Kings in Johnny’s, which is more an unofficial title than anything else but it is not uncommon for the members of senpai groups to bring up how good he is at dancing. He’s also the member that acts in dramas and movies still and every once in a while stage work.

Uekusa is the youngest of the group who used to be known as the cute one. Like Nishikiori most of his more recent work is on stages.

They also stand apart from other Johnny’s groups by having more than half of their members married. Though Uekusa has the unfortunate distinction of also being divorced. Higashiyama married his girlfriend, actress Yoshino Kimura, in 2010 and the couple is expecting their first child.
Shounentai 2006 (from left to right Nishikiori, Higashiyama & Uekusa)

TRIVIA: Uekusa’s son, Yuta, was a Junior for a while but withdrew from the agency around the time of his parents’ divorce. Uekusa also had a daughter with his ex-wife.

 Shounentai had their first Asian concert tour about two years after their debut, a record that will be broken in 2012 when Kis-My-Ft2 have their first Asian tour.

Next Entry > Hikaru Genji, Shining the Brightest and Crashing the Hardest

Directory >
Johnny’s Juniors, full of rising stars and heartbreak
The Early and Rocky Path to Fame
Kondo Masahiko: Singer, Dancer, Actor, Professional Race Car Driver
Giving a New Meaning to Playzone, Shounentai
Hikaru Genji, Shining the Brightest and Crashing the Hardest
Otokogumi, Rocking It Old School
The Living Legend of SMAP
TOKIO, From Spaceships to the Over 30s World
Victory, Volleyball, Vegetable, Vicylce? V6
KinKi Kids, It's Not What You Think
Arashi, Storming to the Top
The Inseparable Duo, Tackey & Tsubasa
North, East, West, South ... It's big NEWS
Kansai Underdogs,  Kanjani∞
Cartoon? KAT-TUN!
Jumping to Their Dreams, Hey! Say! JUMP
Johnny's Black Sheep, Akanishi Jin
How to Debut Without Even Trying, Ikuta Toma
Kis-My-Ft2, Everybody Go (Roller Skating)!
Yamashita Tomohisa, Johnny’s Golden Boy
Entering the Sexy Zone
The 5Stars A.B.C-Z
International Ventures
Johnny's and Charity 
Odds & Ends


Jackie said...

Again this post informed me so much, I didn´t know anything about the beginning of Playzone.
Thank you very much!

Ani2 said...

It´s really impressive how Shounentai performed Playzone for so many years !
Now the cast around Tsubasa was the same since two years.. I wonder if this cast will become permanent and continue in the next years as well.

Karina said...

Yuta Uekusa..... yes, I remember him performing "Secret Agent Man" with Shintaro. Long time ago.
Thanks for this entry.

Thennary Nak said...

@ Jackie

You're very welcome and I'm glad to hear that people are learning something new with these entries.

@ Ani2

I've been wondering if Tsubasa hasn't picked up PLAYZONE now too seeing as this will be his second year in a row doing it. I guess time will tell.

@ Karina

I rather miss him as he and Kyomoto Taiga made a good duo. But most of all I hope he's doing well as having parents divorce must be painful.

You're welcome.