31 May 2012

SUMMARY for a new generation.

The name of the summer concerts that Sexy Zone and A.B.C-Z will be doing has changed their name to Johnny's Dome Theater ~SUMMARY~. With the main venue of the concert being Tokyo City Dome Hall, where Hey! Say! JUMP have been holding their more recent SUMMARY concerts, I think it is safe to say that these will be this year's SUMMARY concerts.

The first SUMMARY concerts are best connected with NEWS, as they are the one headlining group that did the first two. Of course Hey! Say! JUMP in 2008 picked up the SUMMARY name for their summer concerts and have been the ones most recently connected to the name. Though seeing as they inherited it from another FIVB debut group I think it is only fitting that SUMMARY gets passed down to Sexy Zone now.

And I say it is SZ inheriting SUMMARY over A.B.C-Z if just because of their connection to NEWS and HSJ and the fact SUMMARY has traditionally been used for the youngest debuted group from Johnny's, which are almost always the FIVB debut groups, to team up with typically Juniors to put on the show, which can be seen mainly with NEWS' versions and the first SUMMARY HSJ did. The SZ/A.B.C-Z collaboration does not go far from that as I am sure both will be using plenty of Juniors in their shows and since they are both on the same record label and debuted just months apart it makes sense that they would be pushed together. Though I see the chances of SZ doing SUMMARY in the future are higher than A.B.C-Z for reasons already stated, but we shall see.

Of course now that HSJ will most likely not being doing SUMMARY anymore I think it is another sign of the group's growth. I see them as sorta being in the same place as NEWS was when I came into Johnny's in making that transition from being the young group to something a bit more mature. SZ should be doing the same thing in 2015/2016 when the next FIVB debut happens and I guess they would be the next group to inherit SUMMARY.

Happy 50th Johnny's & Associates!

Fate works in strange ways some times. I had nothing special planned for my 1000th post yet it looks like it will go to something special after all. Even though I know technically it is still May where I am, but it is already June in Japan I can still claim this for June.

June 1962 was when Johnny's & Associates was formed by Johnny Kitagawa to promote his first boy group Johnny's (I guess with a name like that we should not be surprised at everything that has come after them).

While the agency and its members have had plenty of highs and lows one thing seems certain, J&A is around to stay. Which is amazing with how short the span of idol-dom can be for some. But J&A broke that trend from acts that debuted about two decades ago that are still going strong today. They have managed to break world records not to mention plenty of national ones and are the agency one thinks of when the topic of Japanese male idols come up.

So congratulations Johnny's & Associates for reaching 50 years, and as a fan I hope I can see you hit 100 as well.

30 May 2012

The Shounen Club 02 August 2002 review

Taking another jump between episodes here but on the plus side it will be the last time months are skipped. From now on I have at least an episode per month and a few months I actually have all the episodes. In fact I have no missing episodes from March 2003 to the present so this will no longer be in issue in a few weeks. Until then here is the one August 2002 episode I have.

At first I was surprised to see Kamenashi Kazuya and Akanishi Jin with Jimmy Mackey introducing the episode until I finished watching it all and it made sense as this is a rather KAT-TUN heavy episode. I think it is becoming pretty clear that the group by this time has picked up quite a bit of popularity.

Probably the biggest thing to take notice of with the introductions is that A.B.C. has had a line-up change. They are now a a five member group, with the usual four still there but they have lost the other two Juniors and have had Toshin Yoshikazu, who was in ING Shinkoukei, join. This should be the one of the last major changes with the group until Toshin leaves and then of course Hashimoto Ryosuke joining to form A.B.C-Z years later.

The show begins with a rock medley and KAT-TUN beginning to look and sound like the KAT-TUN people know them as. Though having them sing a rock song like Smoke On The Water seems strange, but this was back when Johnny's did not have the massive song catalog they do later.

Everyone on the left is safe, everyone else is late.
The most interesting thing for me with these shots is the name board. The boys have to take their name off a board and stick it to a cubicle wall when they come in, one section for if you are on time, then other sections are started for those who are late depending on how late they are.

I don't think you have fully thought out your genius plan here.
Jin lives up to his Bakanishi nickname when he puts his name with those who were on time while on camera.

We then launch into rehearsal footage that takes the place of the usual non-performance segments on the show. Which tends to be a lot of the boys playing around and sometimes being serious.

We get another KAT-TUN performance, which is a V6 song medley, and the group is not looking much like the KAT-TUN most are familiar with anymore. In fact the happy and goofiness in this song really does not fit the image they later carry, though of course it still works for Taguchi Junnosuke.

In fact whoever came up with the idea for KAT-TUN to do the medley must have noticed this as well as Junno gets a solo in the medley as well as the chance to show off his acrobatic skills.

We then get more rehearsal footage which includes the boys goofing off in the hallway between performances.

We get a reminder that Ueda Tatsuya at this time was considered the leader of KAT-TUN. Which seems strange as KAT-TUN is one of those groups that never really felt they had a leader, aces perhaps with Kame and Jin but no real leader.

Akanishi Jin gets to sing a solo, Kimi wo Omou Toki, or a mostly solo as Nakamaru Yuichi and Tanaka Koki come in as back up vocals near the end of the song. But I will say at this point even though you can tell that Jin has a good voice he still needs to work on it. Thankfully he does get better at singing but he sounds pretty rough here.

KAT-TUN then shows up to perform a group song, LOVE or LIKE, and again are looking KAT-TUN-ish.

As Ikuta Toma, Kazama Shunsuke and Hasegawa Jun discuss something we can see exactly how much Hasegawa has grown. It is amazing to think that about a year ago he was the shortest of hosts.

As the boys come in from the rehearsal Nakamaru and Koki do some stand-up comedy for the camera.

We get to see the boys watching the rehearsal footage and making comments about it. Then we get to see some performance footage, but not the performance itself just yet.

We get more footage of the guys in the hall from going off stage, which I like with the mixing of the groups that you do not see too much of with these early episodes.

Things are finished up with an ending song medley that ends up looking like what most ending songs on SC nowadays do, a mix of the Juniors all singing a song together.

Like with the other season three episode we get words from Yamashita Tomohisa. Still do not really know what he is saying minus the food talk. I think it is safe to say he probably really enjoyed this one as he got to eat during it.

I rather like this episode because of the rehearsal footage. I have always been fascinated with what happens off stage or behind the camera so this is the perfect episode to see that with this show. Also just seeing the boys being boys is always fun, especially with interactions between the groups. This season so far has come off as the season to try new things, but we shall see how it goes from now on with the fact I have most of the remaining episodes for it.

29 May 2012

SMAP X SMAP Johnny's Jr 100nin SMAP Ranking 28MAY2012 review

This seems to be becoming a yearly thing with SMAP to bring on a huge lot of Juniors on to SMAP X SMAP. Not that I will complain as it gives Juniors that are not normally seen much a chance to shine and SMAP are really good in bringing the most out these segments.

Our hosts.
SMAP do well with the Juniors and not because they have no trouble with interacting with them. SMAP X SMAP is one of the most popular variety programs on air so it is easy to see why Johnny's would want to have the Juniors on the program. Also SMAP are true pros when it comes to variety programs so it is probably an invaluable experience for them to learn from them.

Noon boyz get to introduce themselves, though it is mainly Sanada Yuma doing the introduction for the both of them.

Kyomoto Taiga gets a call out in connection to his father Kyomoto Masaki. He does not do a lot of talking himself though.

Not surprisingly Morimoto Shintaro also gets an introduction. The members of SMAP though are surprised by how much he has grown since he was on the program last, which was about a year ago. Then even more so when he tells them he is still in middle school and only 14 years old. I do not blame them as he looks so different than he did about a year ago.

Nor is it any surprise that all six members of the Bakaleya6 were placed in the front row. Though the cameras tended to give us shots of Shintaro and Kyomoto more than most. But even though other Juniors are given the chance to give their answers it is pretty clear that these Juniors are the ones Johnny's want the promotion for.

We get few questions where the Juniors vote for a member for each question, one asks something about kissing and I do not think I have to say anymore for people to know which SMAP member came out as number one with that one. It was pretty funny then to see the Juniors have to try to explain why they think Kimura Takuya's kisses are the best. Especially to see Kimutaku's reactions to the various things they say trying to explain it.

While I am not sure what the question was, I think it was about who they would want to go out with for a meal but do not quote me on that, and Katori Shingo got a surprising answer for the answer of Junior Matsumoto Akio

From what I could gather they tried to get Akio to say why he loved Shingo face to face, but in the end he was too embarrassed/shy to get any words out.

It ends with a surprise that I will not spoil though. Overall it is an enjoyable segment. It is only about twelve minutes long so it goes by fast and I wish I understood more Japanese to follow along better as I am sure it would be more entertaining that way. But even with limited Japanese I found it a fun watch.

Otsuka Yuya is the one in light blue.
Sadly from what I have heard this is most likely the last we will see of Otsuka Yuya, from the disbanded Snow Prince Gasshoudan group. He apparently left the agency after Takizawa Hideaki's latest musical ended. I liked him though since he more or less disappeared once Shintaro stopped being placed with the other SPG members I worried something like this would happen. I wish him luck in whatever he decides to do from now on.

28 May 2012

Kagi no Kakatta Heya mid-season impressions

Well I just finished up to episode six already with this drama, so I am now stuck having to wait every week for a new episode.

While the mysteries continue to be intriguing it is really the characters that shine in this drama. For a series like this if you do not have that connection to the characters to care about what happens to them then it looses a lot of appeal. But you do want Team Enomoto to succeed as it is easy to like them as they play off each other so well and are a joy to watch.

I would say there have been a couple of episodes where things seemed a bit off, like the answer to the mystery being something there was no way the audience could guess at or the motive not really feeling like it was all that sound. But thankfully with the character dynamics those can be overlooked.

It has also been nice that the episodes have broken off some of the more formulaic parts of the episodes from time to time so you cannot start counting on certain things always happening, or at least happening in a way you expect them to. Honestly whether or not this would be done was one of the make or break things for this drama as being too formulaic takes away a good deal of the suspense, and a mystery series with suspense just does not work very well.

With how stoic Enomoto is it is hard to say if Ohno Satoshi is doing a good job or not. I would say he is though with how he still manages to play off Toda Erika and Sato Koichi to great effect. And those two have done well to be the point of view characters for the drama as both seem to be on the same plan as the audience when it comes to solving the mysteries.

There seems to be two subplots that are tying the episodes together. Not only is there the main subplot of figuring out Enomoto's past but there seems to be a bit of a romance subplot between Junko and Enomoto. Thankfully though the romance subplot is very subdued and can be just seen as friendship at this point and does not seem to be the kind that will overtake other aspects of the series because of that. In fact I would not be surprised if it is just left as subtext, but we shall see.

Episode six gives us two Johnny's as guest stars with V6's Sakamoto Masayuki and Kansai Junior Kiriyama Akito. I will confess it was hearing that Akito would be in this episode was what made me decide to watch this drama first before any of the other dramas for this season. I think I made a good choice because of this as I have been loving the series. But I was quite happy to see Akito getting a role on a nationwide drama, even if it was only for an episode.

I think overall the series is still rather strong with a good idea of where it is going and how to keep a theme like a locked room interesting for the viewer. I really cannot wait to watch the rest, even though now I must since I have managed to catch up with it.

Bakaleya lives on!

Thanks to some detective work over at the Kyomoto Taiga LJ community it has been discovered that Shiritsu Bakaleya Koukou will have additional episodes past the original eight it was scheduled for. This was found out via casting calls for extras for the drama scheduled to be filmed from May 24th to June 8th.

I am really glad to hear this as really the most recent episode does not really set things up for an end in the next well at all. I also hope that with this extension it means we will get to know some of the characters more, and not just the main ones. Although I do think they need to do something to actually develop Saya as a character if they are going to make her a romantic interest. I honestly have a difficult time trying to describe her character as there is so little to it as of now.

I think this is overall a good thing for the boys and girls in the drama. While it is not uncommon for dramas to get extended it does only happen to those considered to be strong successes so it is good to see that Bakaleya falls into that category. Overall it has been a good drama and I think it really deserves to have these episodes added to it. The rumor is that it will end up with twelve episodes, but no one knows that for certain. I would be happy with just a couple more episodes but I hope the rumors are true as it would greater the chances of the other characters getting more screen time and development outside of the main characters.

Sweetz Sexy Zone

Sexy Zone will be getting their first official photo book to be released in August of this year. It will be published by Myojo and is titled Sweetz.

So far there is really only an Amazon.co.jp entree about the photo book out so far to the best of my knowledge and the listing is rather sparse. So there is no mention if it comes with anything special. I will update this post though if any new information comes out.

Honestly I do not know if this is something I would want even though I am finding myself liking the group more than I thought I would. I mean the Hey! Say! JUMP photo book at least had a special DVD with it which made it feel worth getting. But then again I did find TOKIO's first photo book when I was in Japan and love it as a kind of time capsule for the group to look at to see how young they looked back then. And I think for a group like SZ that would be an interesting thing to have when they are older to see how young they were at the start. It would just seem weird to get it now when these photos would still be recent. But I guess it is some time between now and August for me to decide to get this or not.

EDIT: Alright, CDJapan has the listing up for the photo book with more information.

It does not come with anything special but the photos for it will come from photo shoots in Hawaii, their first concert, private shoots and more.

I feel tempted to get this, but it will very much depend on if I have enough money to do so before the pre-order for CDJapan closes in about a week. I do think this will be one of those photo books that will be nice to have years down the road when the boys are older just to look back at how young they were when they started.

Shiritsu Bakaleya Koukou ep. 7 review

It is hard to believe this drama is coming to an end soon, and this episode does not help as it does not really feel like the kind of episode one would expect to be the second to last episode in a drama.

The episode starts with Fumie and one of the other girls escorting Saya from the school. A complete creeper, that I shall be calling scum of the earth in this review, shows up and says some things to Saya. Saya definitely wants nothing to do with him and it is clear he is the one responsible for making her feel unsafe to even walk to and from school. The girls are able to leave and the scum of the earth is a complete creeper about it.

The next day Tetsuya, Shohei and Satoshi are walking to school and run into a gang. The gang calls the guys girls (and honestly as a woman I am annoyed that my gender is an insult, seriously I know plenty of women that could kick these guys' asses) but a fight is avoided with the homeroom teacher showing up and telling them to stop.

Tatsuya of course would rather just throw down with them but Shohei reminds him about the trouble Tetsuya got into so he lets it go for now.

The teacher tries to lecture them a bit but Satoshi gets him to be quiet as he passes by. I am kinda surprised their teacher decided to do anything but I guess he must feel a bit more confident now that he has at least half a class that pays attention to him as well as being concerned about losing his students as he almost did with Tetsuya.

In class the girls talk about Saya's situation. I am pretty surprised to see Sayuri there as she tends to be absent in these scenes for most of the episodes. But I guess being one of the later episodes Mitsumune Kaoru was probably actually around to film all of it even as a late addition to the cast.

Later Tetsuya talks to Fumie about what has her worried and Fumie tells him about the situation a bit.

After Tetsuya leaves two of the girls confront Fumie about her and Tetsuya's relationship. Fumie denies them being together though the two girls think they would be good together.

The guys are later walking together and Tetsuya and Tatsuya have a talk. While I could not follow much of it I think it was pretty clear that Tetsuya is beginning to drift a bit from the rest of the group.

The gang run into the gang from before as they are beating up a student from Bakada. They stop them and the two gangs decide to settle things later.

Tatsuya spends time thinking about Bakada and his brother. He seems conflicted with wanting to uphold Bakada's name but trying to figure out how to do so despite the changes with the school.

Saya is out on her own when a van comes up and the scum of the earth has his scumbags jump out and kidnap Saya.

Fumie gets a text from Saya's phone that does not seem like Saya at all. She shows it to Tetsuya and he tells her that they need to go and they both run off to find and save Saya.

Tatsuya sees the two run off together. He looks conflicted for a moment before steeling his resolve. He then leaves with the rest of the gang joining him.

The scum of the earth has brought Saya to an abandoned building and has tied her up to a chair. While I do not know what exactly he plans to do with her I think it is easy to see that it will not be good.

The guys show up on a soccer field to meet with the gang for earlier and the two groups shoot insults back and forth.

Yuuki is used to great effect by giving us this, and I quote, "Hey, hey, hey, c'mon assholes. Let's have some fun." Even though part of the reason I am watching this drama is to improve on my Japanese these English phrases here and there from him are fun and surprisingly all correct English.

Back with Saya scum of the earth calls his scumbags out. But luckily for her Tetsuya busts into the place to save her.

Saya is surprised to see that Tetsuya has come to save her. And it is pretty apparent that she has feelings for him. Whether or not they come about at that moment or could be from before of course is unknown as this so far has been the depth of her character development. It is kinda sad that her episode does so little with her as a character compared to episode 5 where Sayuri got a ton of character development, and she shared that episode's focus with Maya.

Tetsuya does well with holding his own until the scum of the earth threatens to taser Saya if he continues to fight. He then has his scumbags beat up on Tetsuya.

This fight scene is a nice break from the other as this continues the trend of fun fights. Probably one of the more fun moments is Satoshi coming to Shohei's aid and ending up with a baseball bat. He has a flashback to the first episode when he beaned himself in the head with one and makes sure to be much more careful with this one.

Before the scum of the earth can start beating Tetsuya with the taser Tatsuya makes his entrance. He is followed by the rest of the usual gang and they all beat up the scumbags.

Shohei gets to do something else than runaway from the fighting by helping Fumie untie Saya. The fight ends shortly after and the guys celebrate. Tetsuya falls to the ground and Saya rushes to his side and offers him her handkerchief to clean himself up with.

Saya's crush is easily picked up on by the rest of the group. Except for maybe Tatsuya as he seems pretty slow when it comes to these things. In fact even though Saya's crush on Tetsuya is established as well as Tetsuya's crush on Fumie and Fumie's crush on Tatsuya, Tatsuya does not seem to really notice it and if he has feelings for Fumie he probably does not realize it himself.

It is pretty clear that Tetsuya has figured out that Fumie likes Tatsuya at the end. I think it will be interesting to see where they will go with it. If they will go with the typical main boy and girl get together and so do their best friends or try something a bit different. Being a Japanese drama I have faith that they may try something a bit different but we will have to wait and see. Though I am sure the issue of Fumie coming from a well to do family is going to get thrown into it all as I cannot see her family being okay with her wanting to date a delinquent. Though I guess that would also be an issue if she liked Tetsuya back as well.

I think I found this episode the most uncomfortable to watch, because crimes against women is just too frequent in about any culture. And while Saya is lucky enough to have people come to her aid there are so many girls and women who are not that lucky. So I am rather disappointed that this kind of situation was just used to make Saya be the damsel in distress that falls in love with her savior. Especially since they had such a solid episode about suicide only two episodes ago. But one not so good episode after five good ones and one excellent one is not a bad track record for a drama to have.

I really wonder if this series is just going to be eight episodes after all. I know they are done filming the drama as the girls have made blog posts about it so they cannot be adding anymore to it anymore. Though I guess they could have seen how well the first few episodes did and maybe expanded it to be nine episodes at best. I just cannot see the series ending in a satisfying way with a half hour episode. Unless that episode is longer than the rest or something. So I hope next week will not be the end of this series yet, and I still lament that this was not a drama with hour episodes instead.