Sunday, April 17, 2016

Arashi Fandom is in a Happy Place

I have been neglecting this blog. For that, I apologize. I guess the deeper I sink into this fandom, the less inclined I am to editorialize the actions and performances of our beloved five Arashi members. I've found that there are both good and bad things about fandom, and one of the bad things is that it's very easy to start getting swayed by the (often strong) opinions and conjectures of other fans, and the next thing you know, you're spending hours trying to refute something that probably didn't matter much to begin with while you could have been basking in the raucous laughter of a good old episode of Shiyagare instead.

So you know, I've just been trying to spend more time with the raw sources of my happiness, not on some carefully curated tumblr or twitter feed. And as a result, I've just felt like I'm in such a supremely happy place whenever I step into the online world these days.

On TV, we have MatsuJun's new legal drama 99.9 owning it over all other spring dramas so far with opening ratings of 15.5%. Congratulations, Matsumoto-sensei! We all know how hard this guy works, how deeply he cares about making people not just like him, but also respect him. Well, if you're going to look at hard numbers, then that rating score is certainly worthy of some solid respect! (I have not yet watched the first episode so I can't comment on the content; but I will watch it within 24 hours!)

We also have Leader's new rom-com drama Sekai Ichi Muzukashii Koi, in which he plays a hard-to-please hotel chain president who tries to court one of his new employees so he can have a date to shut his teasing rival CEO up at the next mixer. Samejima Reiji is a lovable caricature of the powerful, rich and heartless man who is at his core, lonely, naive and deeply hurt by rejection. It's really funny to see Leader in a role like this. In some ways, it reminds me of his Kaibutsu-kun, because Samejima has these moments of similar petulance and selfishness (and indeed, Ohno can still pull off a childish pout when the occasion calls for it!). I think the acting is definitely more on the exaggerated comedic side than the stuff akin to what broke all our hearts in Maou or Kyou no Hi wa Sayounara or even in more everyday fare like Uta no Oniisan. But it's what makes the caricature so obvious, and sometimes, I like feeling like I'm watching a manga instead of watching real life. I look forward to the next episodes. The first episode garnered a 12.8% in ratings, which is certainly quite solid! Congratulations, Leader!

In terms of variety shows, we've had a healthy dose of combi action as well as Johnny's guests! On Shiyagare, we just had a glorious episode of Daiko Chosa where Aiba helps a 6-year-old girl overcome her phobia of Sakurai Sho. Yeah, you read that right. Someone actually had a phobia of Sakurai Sho! And there was all this cute action where Aiba lists Sho-kun's good points and even leads the girl into a room covered with photos of Sho to help her overcome that fear. And all this happened while the rest of Arashi (along with Oizumi Yo) were chuckling along in the little inset frames of the screen. Beautiful episode, Sakuraiba fans! As an affectionate Sakuraiba lover myself, I must say I took great pleasure in scrutinizing every expression on Aiba's face as he talked to the poor girl and her mother about this very specific problem.

On Nino-san, we had Ohno as a guest MC, and yes, Ohmiya fans, there was a point where Ohno and Nino were prompted to do an NHK skit (NHK stands for "kissing someone while holding both their wrists tightly"; I guess it's the next level of swoonworthy shoujo manga moves after the kabe-don; I mean, come on guys, kabe-don was so last year). Nino did a fine job pretending to be the huffy girlfriend, while Ohno chased him gamely, took control of both his wrists and....... then chickened out after bringing their faces within a nose-breadth of each other. Ahahaha... gone are the days when Ohmiya would kiss, huh.... well, I hope not!

On THE Yakai, we have Jun and the cast of 99.9 guesting, and that sharp-tongued Ariyoshi tease Jun with a comment that every Sakumoto fan is undoubtedly reveling in now: "You two [MatsuJun and Sakurai] don't get along very well, now do you?" Now of course, the basis of what draws a lot of people into ShoJun is their supposed "awkwardness" with each other, which is (to the rest of the world) not really anything more than a regular physical distance between two normal male coworkers. Fans delight in exploiting that "awkwardness," and even I'll admit that the ShoJun lack of skinship is kind of cute in and of itself. So when Ariyoshi asked such an astute question, I smirked in front of my screen, and man, watching Sakumoto come up with "good points" about each other was like watching a colleague from work give another some yawn-yawn cookie-cutter form of feedback: "Oh well, MatsuJun works really hard at concert planning." "And you know, Sakurai-kun writes raps for Arashi..." There's a reason these two were not assigned the skinship roles in Arashi, and it becomes adorably obvious here. As Jun said, they like each other as fellow members, but it's not like they're in love, please!

And then, there are all these inter-Johnny's interactions! Tegoshi was on This is MJ for a showdown with Jun, Masuda came to guest on VS Arashi. Yamada Ryosuke led the Ansatsu Kyoushitsu team (including Nino) on VS Arashi as well (he also guested on THE Yakai). Inoo-kun has been hanging out with Aiba in TSD, and Kazama Shunsuke is supposed to appear as a guest character in the next episode of 99.9! But of course, the biggest inter-Johnny's interaction this year has to be Ikuta Toma's appearance in Arashi's first single of 2016, Fukkatsu LOVE! Now that's a first for Arashi, and naturally, who better to be included than Toma? I love Toma. I love him with any and all of the Arashi members.

So yes, in terms of Arashi, I am currently a supremely satisfied fangirl. ^.^

Lastly, I would like to send good thoughts to all those out in Kyushu as well as in Ecuador, who have been affected by the earthquakes this week. My heart and hopes go out to all of you. May you find something, even if it is just a little thing, to smile at in these times of hardship.

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