Have you watched last week’s VS Arashi when ジャニーズWEST guested the show? That was the most entertaining episode of the game show in recent months. There’s even Nadegata Taiketsu! (lol)
[Members lined up according to age in descending order: Nakama Junta, Hamada Takahiro, Kiriyama Akito, Shigeoka Daiki, Kamiyama Tomohiro, Fujii Ryusei, Kotaki Nozomu]
VS Arashi is a variety show that’s relatively easy to follow and ‘understand’ with my limited Japanese proficiency. Of course comprehending every sentence they say makes for a better watching experience (it’s been subbed btw), but catching it RAW didn’t lessen the fun. Couldn’t recall the last episode i replay as many times as this one. The show becomes extra fun to watch whenever another Johnny’s appears either as guest or plus one (those with Kazama Shunsuke or Miyake Ken, for instance, were a keeper), but i didn’t saw it coming from this rookie group. I didn’t expect them to be that unreserved and talky.
The seven-member unit debuted last year and came to promote their third single Zundoko paradise. Their average debut age was 22 with 9-year gap between the oldest and youngest. It’s slightly lower than Kisumai’s although i was as surprised that the oldest member is turning 28 this year. Interestingly, while it was supposed to be a quartet, the selected four members allegedly proposed? asked? negotiated with? Johnny-san to debut as a septet instead. That he seemed to readily give the green light is even more interesting. Is it that easy to reason with him and decide for yourself? Hmm…
That’s a brief background on Johnny’s WEST i’ve dug thus far. This is the first time i saw them (Arashi is the only JE group i like and follow religiously, i am thus quite reliant on their shows to introduce/expose me to other figures, artists, etc…) though i was somewhat familiar with Kiriyama’s face. Where did i see him before? By the end of the hour, i memorized Kiriyama (because he’s the only one Ohno knew), Shigeoka (because he was the first in line during the opening; plus, he looks eerily similar to Lee Seung-gi — does he not?), and Kotaki (because he stood last as well as the youngest). I think that’s quite impressive given that i have zero knowledge of them beforehand.
However, what stood out to me the most is how they held their ground against Arashi who’s 15 years their senior. Being the away team, there’s no holding back or this overly-polite newbie attitude, which is refreshing to see. They’re effervescent and competitive too. I enjoy their banter and witty comeback. They even dared not to name Arashi as each person’s admired senpai* (not that they have to, but yunno, it’s their show and it’s probably tactful to at least include one of ’em in the list xp) that the eldest did damage control and save face by acknowledging Sho and Jun. Haha. He isn’t named “Nakama” for nothing, eh?
*Half of them mentioned Kanjani8, which bewildered me a bit until i learned that they too are all from Kansai. Do they use as much Kansai-ben as Eito members do? My ears couldn’t pick that up…
All in all, they put up a good fight (their score during Kicking Sniper was pretty impressive) and displayed fluid camaraderie. Go watch it if you haven’t already!
Another point that stuck out besides their blithe exuberance is that hook of the first and third single that sounds identical. Both repeat the four-syllable phrase twice (“ee janai ka, ee janai ka” vs “zunzundoko, zunzundoko”) using the exact same melody. They, however, insisted that the two are completely different, so i gave them the benefit of the doubt (with a grain of salt nonetheless) and checked the full songs out before making the call. Result: hilarity ensued.
The PVs alone are a blast to watch and the songs are damn boisterous and catchy to boot. The refrains get you hook, line, and sinker; go ahead and try getting them out of your head afterwards. Both songs have noticeable enka elements, the kind of sound Eito employ(ed?) as well. They not only DO sound acutely similar (Zundoko paradise is a peg slower and less pumped) but also pay homage to Naniwa as if the composer came up with two versions of a tune. The verses are speak-sung cheekily, and singing along to the lyrics is cho tanoshii! Should you ever need an instant sure-fire pick-me-up, watch or spin either song — you’ll end up grinning like a fool XD.
“hitotsu hitomazu “nande yanen!”
futatsu futari de “donai yanen!”
mittsu minna de “honma yanen!”
ai no hana ga saku
naniwa umare no naniwa sodachi ya
ima sekaijuu saa hibike na-ni-wa-bu-shi!
yottsu yobarete “dousunnen”
itsutsu ikinari “nani sunnen”
muttsu muriyari “yattarunen”
kita de nana samurai!
nani wa nakute mo naniwa tamashii
kono chikyuujou saikyou no na-ni-wa-bu-shi!”*
The members are mostly freestyling and rollicking in each video, although Ee janai ka features parts of the dance routine (lo~ve the moves during “dokkoidokkoi dokkoisho, dokkoidokkoi dokkoisho / honma ni honma ni honma ni honma ni kanawanwa~”). BUT what got me head over heels whilst in stitches are the skits and cosplay. Each role is well executed as none is afraid to make face or act silly. They can do variety very very well.
“Zunzundoko zunzundoko Namida fuitatte
Zunzundoko zunzundoko Egao mishitatte
Zukkokete mo eenen, hai agareba eenen
Utattare, sakendare, pikkapika no piisu”
(translation: we dried tears and showed a smile / it’s fine to act silly and get excited / sing and scream, pikkapika peace)^
If Ee janai ka has a highly addictive single material (what a debut song!), Zundoko paradise has it in the PV. Particularly the latter’s dance lesson and punishment scenes. I still LOL at ’em every time and guess what, there are even funnier cuts behind the scenes! And oh, the making… after watching Arashi’s narration-based Sakura’s, Johnny’s WEST’s is like a breath of fresh air. Seriously, the narrator repeatedly questions “what they’re talking about?” without giving us any answer, or describes a scene as if we couldn’t figure it out ourselves. Arashi didn’t talk much there, about anything; when they do, their voices are drowned by that damn voice-over. Sigh.
With the septet, there’s barely any lull moment. Their unabated zest and ribbing are always a joy to watch. Even when filming lasts past 2 AM — do entertainers normally work at such unearthly hours? o.O Ee janai ka‘s predictably is an introduction to the members (personal info like birth-date and -place, hobbies, special skills, etc; their thoughts on debuting and goals for the group) while Zundoko paradise‘s escorts us through the different scenes/settings/scenarios of the PV.
Long story short: these boys are growing on me, fast.
*) lyrics from colorcodedlyrics
^) translation from jounetsu-8