Three-and-a-half to four years since their pact to guest on each other’s Shiyagare corner, it finally happened: Sho on This is MJ!
It was fulfilled much later than expected, ‘cuz by then*, Sho’s corner has undergone multiple name and format changes while Jun’s has steadily moved onto MJ Club. But to be fair, i didn’t think this cross-guesting would actually happen; i thought members’ contention for 24-hour TV or collaboration for The Music Day would be as far as we could get, so the fact that this one-on-one showdown actually did take place is something we — ShoJun shippers in particular — should be grateful for or shall treasure for life(?).
(*this episode aired on September 28th, 2019, so yes, i’m four months late to blog about it.)
I too was thrilled when i first saw the teaser yet didn’t get my hopes up too high upon recalling Sho’s past performances on 24-hour TV (where he barely even tried to attempt the stunts) then seeing the matches preview that seemed to favor Jun. What i rubbed my hands for was their interaction. Playing against someone familiar, This is MJ can ultimately be THE battle of pettiness, which both of them are, but these two are also notoriously the awkwardest and most ‘distant’ pair in Arashi (despite their inseparable beginning)… that it could go either way: epic or boring.
Of course i expected it to be epic; that playing against a member would spike their fighting spirit. We all know how competitive Purple can be, but Red could channel his dumb fail side and turn the supposedly cool stunts into a comedy like he did twice before. Which obviously isn’t the point of this segment.
If the opening introductory/interview session provides any indication, the 3-match showdown would be filled with MJ shading SS (that it’d be an easy win for him; after all, Sho didn’t fail previous stunts for comedy but to cover up his incapacity) and SS coming up with long-winded complicated reasonings (it was all a calculated move; he’s like, those going after me would be at a loss if i killed it, hence me playing a clown).
And despite being good with words, Sho blanks out when it comes to taunting Jun in the face-off. He barely keeps a straight face while saying: “I’m Sakurai Sho.” Jun: “Well, i know that.” Pfftt. (Sho in the small screen: “I don’t know what to say since it’s my first time! I wonder how the others did it.”) Oh, so that part isn’t scripted?
Sho swears he’s gonna give his all that day, which i very much doubted given the number of times he said so prior to scaling Cliff Climb only to give same old shows… until the punishment game is revealed: the loser to compliment the winner. LMAO. The staff seems to know Sakumoto’s dynamics so well to figure out that giving compliments may be the worst punishment for them, especially if they have to say it to the other’s face. They even realize there’s a catch to that and add a specific condition to it — for it to be something they haven’t said in the past 20 years — to prevent either to say generic things like Sakurai-san’s awesome rapping/newscasting or Matsujun’s reliable concert-producing side. Now we’re talking. At which Sho responds, “It’s fine with me. Or rather, i won’t be thinking about it since i’ll win.” Well, i hoped so too.
So, let’s get down to business.
First up: Quick Costume Change. This challenge is pretty much self-explanatory, especially if we’ve seen that episode with Sexy Zone. The rules are the same: they are to change from one outfit to another within 30 seconds, and we are granted to witness every single movement.
This time, the staff prepares a concert-like setup, where they will disappear into the stage at the end of A.Ra.Shi and emerges at the end of Troublemaker’s intro. Certainly there are tricks and helpers to expedite the process, a patented trade secret according to Sakumoto, though they end up sharing tidbits like how Jun has his outfits arranged in a certain way so that they can be worn in one go. But they’ll do it the no-frills way here, despite of which MJ is confident to nail it, even if they only have 5 seconds. Sho: *snort*
Well, they surely can in the usual setting, but recalling Jun’s performance against SZ then, he most likely will. Up first, he rocks his hip to the beat with smug confidence then ducks to the changing room. MJ just reaches for the white button-up shirt when Nino in the studio comments, “isn’t it impossible?” and only starts unbuckling his belt as the timer dips below 10 seconds. Sho: “Watching him is making me nervous. Hurry, hurry, hurry.” He slides up into view with a defeated stance. Jacket in his hand, his flies fully open.
Going next, Sho claims to learn and prep countermeasures from watching MJ’s turn, then breaks into an overexcited dance with a huge stiff grin on his face. Nino: “It’s worrying.” But everyone is actually rooting for him as he changes, with Nino and Yoshimura cheering for him to get the belt fastened to win and Ohno noticing how he hasn’t buttoned up the shirt yet. He seems to put on everything faster than MJ and he slides up in style. Despite the unzipped pants, exposed chest, and socked feet. (O.O)
The flies confused me though. He definitely zipped it up on the 9th second… That said, i actually approve this sexy look. Though logically, he should’ve used the last seconds to button the blazer to fix his pants and wear the shoes instead. Still, hot Sho is hot. Even more than the inserted Yamapi’s picture. Heh.
Verdict: Neither look is complete, so a draw it is.
Next up: Cake Decorating. Which is covering the dome-shaped cake with endless u-shaped whipped cream till it forms the bridal skirt. It is a tall order for Sho who can’t cook, but he points out how unexpectedly clumsy Jun actually is. While i don’t think that levels the playing field, who knows a miracle will occur again here like when MJ entertained Toma the second time?
They get to practice once, and Sho’s… needs a lot of work… that even he himself is creeped out by it. Haha. He still struggles to cover the bottom part in the real take but MJ is being encouraging, saying it could end up being a mini skirt instead. The top part looks way neater and he beams at the outcome, calling it surprisingly good. On the other hand, MJ makes a boke face at the outset but manages to cover the base nicely. Sho is impressed by it and MJ proudly calls it “J-ko”. LOL
The end products turn out to be pretty good, given it was only their second tries at it. Jun’s is neater and closer to the prototype but Sho’s isn’t bad at all. He creates a flare-up skirt, and i actually preferred it (if he closed the more obvious cream gaps).
Verdict: This round goes to MJ, objectively speaking.
Last match: Rugby-Ball Catch. The kicker is Hirose Toshiaki, former captain of Japan’s national team who was batchmates with SakuSho. Jun frets that he’s disadvantaged by it, but the staff allays it by saying they’ll be doing some action prior to catching the rugby ball (Sho: “Why?”), which certainly gives him the edge.
Again, we’re shown a short “cool hacks” intermezzo footage as the contenders practice the action sequence for 15 minutes:
- How to squeeze a slice of lemon without getting your fingers all wet and sticky? Stick each half of chopsticks into it in opposite direction, twist it around until the juice is out. Sho: *laughs* “Who comes up with this thing?”
- How to slice tomatoes evenly? Stab a fork into one edge then run the knife through the gaps. It still looks kinda difficult for Sho who demonstrates it, so he tries the conventional way… and concludes that the latter is easier. LOL
- How to lift a person who’s sitting down? This brings to mind the similar situation with Shun, but this hack includes less ridiculous maneuver and less skinship (boo!): rotate your arm over your head then bend down to grab the other person’s hand. This way, you are using your whole body’s strength to lift them up (more easily). That looks suspicious, though Jun remarks how amusing it is; he gives it a go and both admit that this method is indeed lighter. Hmm…
Back to business: MJ goes first to weed the lawn when Machiko shouts for help from across the field, all tied up. MJ: “Machiko, you’re captured again? Well, at this rate, that may have become your strength, huh?” Ambushed by three thugs, he dodges the first two’s punches and jumps over the third’s dive-catch. He hits 1 with the pail, covers his head with it, and hurricane-kicks him down; catches 2’s leg with a towel then dragon-screws him; and then kachiage-tackles 3. Lastly, Hirose pops up behind him to high-kick the rugby-ball-shaped bomb (MJ: don’t act stupid!) which sends MJ running after it. The ball bounces off his chest but he throws his body down sideways to re-catch it.
The feat certainly puts pressure on Sho. He’s doing last-minute stretches when Jun reminds him to do it seriously. (The staff asked him to stop fooling around pre-practice, which he claimed he didn’t do, though Jun countered that he’s anything but thus far.) Sho okays it but flashes a smirk that’s seriously enigmatic…
That said, he visibly puts more force into each point move and executes every maneuver nicely except the dragon screw one, which is too obvious a miss to escape Nino’s eyes. But the clincher is the ball-catching one. He runs after the flying ball with all of his might, but the ball goes straight to the ground through the gaps of his arms. (Nino: “Yappari! Yappari da.” Aww…) Speechless, he requests for another chance, which the upper-hand rival readily greenlights. The ball does land into his arms at the second attempt yet bounces off sideways, which he fails to re-catch. Which frustrates him to no end.
Jun’s 2-0 victory means Sho is the one giving out compliments. Amusingly, they stand like 10 meters apart so the praiser has to half-shout the anecdote: about J cleaning his plastic bottles trash when he came to his house the other day. Purple’s mortified face throughout the story is killing me. “Thank you for cleaning up my place,” closes Red while passing the ball to the praisee, who realizes it’s more like a batsu game for him. Hahaha.
Final verdict: It didn’t disappoint. Sho arguably didn’t give his all, but he wasn’t completely fooling around either. It was a great face-off, and the punishment was giving me life, though i wish there were more banters between them. They spent way more time responding to the staff than shading each other. But well, this is ShoJun, the levelheaded pair in the group. They’re somewhat aloof yet have gotten more relaxed around each other on-camera that Gap-san has naturally decreased quite a lot in the past few years. And we gotta appreciate Sakurai for spilling the beans on the fact that Matsumoto came to his house, recently at that
(although it was most likely to discuss the hiatus). It may or may not qualify as Sakumoto’s peak moments, but it surely isn’t the end of their push-pull dynamics. Which never fails to blow our mind and turn fandom’s social media upside down. Recent cases in point: their snap of each other for 5×20’s shop photos, their respective shot in Germany, the belated birthday selfie, their ‘cryptic’ Instagram stories. 😏😏
p.s. this type of posts is surely taking me forever to finish, maybe that’s why i was putting this off for so long in the first place. However, these one-on-one guestings are ofttimes too good not to recap… I even already have the next one on the list: Aiba on Ohnomaru.