Posted in Commentary, TV Program

VS Arashi: The Special Games

There are two weekly programs that Arashi have been hosting as a group in the past decade, and VS Arashi is one of them. Started in April 2008 before moving to its ‘Golden Time’ slot in October 2009, it’s a game show wherein Arashi as the home team, aided by Plus One guest(s), takes on the away team (mainly celebrities) in a number of games — three when it was still a half-hour program and around five for its hour-long golden episodes.

For a TV show that has aired more than 400 episodes in 9 years, naturally there are games that stood the test of time and those that were shelved and never returned. Out of 20+ names i could list off, over half of them are still in rotation: some are fun, some are interesting only when there’s some kind of happening, and some are flat notwithstanding. Even then, it’s easy for them to get stale (VSA is somewhat reliant on the interaction between the teams and how fun the talks are) so besides introducing new games and revamping the current ones every once in a while, they’ll come up with special ones.

Initially, i think this practice is done whenever a group of athletes are coming to the show. A ‘special’ game tailored to their line of sports will be created — e.g. pitching match for baseballers, footxing for boxers, rally battle for table tennis players, penalty shootouts for footballers, hand push face-off for judoists, etc. You get the idea. Such treatment, however, has been extended to drama/movie team as well, even if the whipped up match has nothing to do with the drama/movie’s theme. Case in point: the speed domino when Toma and his costars came to promote Mogura no Uta 2.

These are usually one-time instance only, though a couple of them have become (semi-)regular feature, such as Balloon Shooting which was originally for Assassination Classroom: Graduation and Who is the Liar? which was for Your Lie in April. My top favorite is probably Teamwork Match, which was first appeared on Korekatsu Arashi, but they stopped playing it. So my next picks, in no particular order, are as follows:

1. Spot the Difference
A special for Isshuukan Friends (2017.02.16) aka the ninth time Yamazaki Kento — or rather Zakiyama as called by Arashi — appeared on the show, this game is as straightforward as the title says. There are two versions of a scene with five differences. But instead of looking of 2D images, the teammates serve as the live objects. Each round consists of 30 seconds of memorization, 60 seconds of changes, and 60 seconds of answering time.

The one-minute downtown may make it difficult to recall the details, and the level of difficulties vary according to the team’s creativity and sneakiness. Case in point: the way Nino was blocked by Aiba and Plus One guest suggested that they’re up to something. And because real people are the models, reenacting the exact pose and position may be hard, which could end up being red herrings. I personally thought Arashi Team provided the harder challenge.

Trivialities aside, Spot the Difference is an interesting game which requires smart strategy and participation from all teammates. I’d love to see its return in the future.

2. Who is the Liar?
Aforementioned, this was first introduced when Your Lie in April cast (another romance movie led by Zakiyama) guested on 2016.09.15. The rules are simple: the participants will be subjected to a certain condition/scenario and the other team is to single the odd one out.

In that episode, they played two rounds: eating a super sour bun and walking on a reflexology stone mat. People will normally show some kind of reaction, but the challengers are to put on poker face, so the task is to pinpoint who actually ate the bun and who did not walk on the mat. Despite putting their best efforts, sometimes our body betrays us. When it’s Arashi Team’s turn for the latter, however, Sho claimed that those in their 30s cannot endure the foot mat, so they opted for a painful expression instead. Heh.

Sour manjuu probably elicits a great feedback because it’s been dished out two more times after that. This game has also made it to semi-regular status, popping up from time to time under slightly modified names. Don’t rely on the English title though, they can be hilariously incorrect. (Remember “Who are you enduring?”?) The basis remains the same — guessing who gets it or who doesn’t but pretends to — though in subsequent appearances, the conditions given to the opposing teams are mostly dissimilar. E.g. one team would pet a puppy and the other a snake.

My favorite challenge is when one of them has to fake doing something (being on vibration platform, horse riding machine, treadmill) although sometimes the activity is rather impossible to act out (going up and down a block as if it’s steps, or air sitting). The fun part is scrutinizing their faces to figure out the liar, because their micro-expressions or even the other members could give it away. (Like how Aiba kept looking away from the sight of Sho shaking his body manually before him) The side comments can be epic too.

Anyways, doesn’t this game remind you of Doubt Action segment on Himitsu no Arashi-chan?

3. Ara-1 Grand Prix
Ara-1GP started as a special segment like BET de Arashi or Baba Arashi when it first aired on 2016.07.14. The format is similar to BET de too: there’s a panel of guests betting on a certain player. But Unlike BET de where Arashi are pitted against one another, here, other guests are competing in the race as well, from which the winner AND the loser will be decided.

On BET de episodes, the bettors will choose the winner based on their image of Arashi members, but having other personalities in the pool certainly adds an unexpected variable to the table. Getting the right names for first and/or last place is thus a lot trickier.

Given the nature of the competition, i was surprised to see it brought over to the regular episodes. The setup is tweaked a little: selected players are escorted to the studio next door blindfolded and unaware of what the race is all about until the cue.

I wonder what the secrecy is for, is it to prevent the players from disclosing crucial info like whether they’re good or bad at it? ‘Cause Otasuke Japan Team (2017.06.08) placed their bets on their representatives (NEWS’ Koyama and KAT-TUN’s Nakamaru) for the 11-m rope-ladder climb, not knowing that both are acrophobic.

The races themselves range from physical like the ladder climb or spin ride to everyday things like threading a needle or comparing the steps count.

The only issue i have with Ara-1GP being a VSA game is the long preparation and explanation leading up to the start of the race, which can take several minutes while the race itself lasts for a mere minute or less. As a result, only two challenges are played in each occurrence. Less talk and more action would be better, methinks.

4. Tongue Twisters
Another self-explanatory game. Another one that involves every member of the teams.

During Peach Girl episode (2017.05.18), they played three rounds with six options in total. The sequences have varying length and intricacy level, too. So while one team may get the easier line, whether or not it’s an advantage depends on everybody’s tongue agility.

I love tongue twisters and i love watching people challenge it, hence my fondness of this game. It’s impressive when they get to say it smoothly, it’s hilarious when they mess up. Either way, it’s fun to watch.

5. Sports-related games
I’ll keep it to five since this post is getting long. And since i cannot choose one, i’ll just group it into the special games Arashi play against the athletes, as mentioned above. Hee.

The most strenuous games in VSA are probably Cliff Climb and Jumping Shooter whereas the rest are pretty laidback. That’s why many guests wish to — or NOT to — challenge the former.

For some reason, i don’t see Arashi as a sporty or athletic group despite the members’ (past) involvement in sports club and whatnot (hence my amazement upon watching the epic Ultra Strong Game in Australia early this year, even if it was filmed back in 2005), so it’s nice to see them engage in sport activities albeit for several minutes only, even if they’re bound to lose to the pros. Also because these instances showcase their group dynamics, great teamwork, and clever strategies.

Or maybe the matches they have against their kouhais. These dorks always up their competitiveness, as if to put ’em in place. (As shown from their record versus fellow Johnny’s thus far, they only lose to their senpais.) Like the TrapezeTarzan Jump Battle they had against Hey! Say! JUMP last week. Again, the execution itself took mere seconds, but the Q&As and pre-jump convos were engaging (especially Ohno-Chinen’s banter), so i didn’t mind the buffer time.

Aside from number 5, there’s a common thread among my picks: they all allow indirect participation for us viewers. In other games, we’re watching the proceedings passively, but the above four have us involved.

And i would totally play with them — memorizing and spotting the differences; guessing who’s the liar although the narrator tends to reveal it to us mid-act; selecting which Arashi member is more likely to win the race; and trying the tongue twisters myself.

Doing so certainly makes for a better watching experience.

Don’t you think so?

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I blog sometimes, gush ofttimes, snark all the time.

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