Saturday, 20 June 2015

My Favourite Vs Arashi episodes

I've done a number of posts about my favourite Running Man episodes, so I thought I'd have a go at putting together a top ten of Vs Arashi episodes. Now, I have to admit, I don't keep every episode of Vs Arashi that I watch, so I have to assume that the ones I've kept are the best ones.

As you might expect, since the videos are from the last five years and come from a variety of sources, the resolution of the screen grabs can be a bit poor. I've included the date (yyyymmdd) in case any of you feel like trying to track them down.

The episodes are ordered from least best to most best.

20100624 You vs Yoshimoto Japan

You (the actress, not the second-person pronoun) is one of my favourite actresses. She isn't the kind of celebrity you'd expect to find on a variety show like this, but it works very well. The subtitles help a lot, and it has Giant Crash, which is a great game.

20101021 Freeter team

It's always fun when a member of Arashi has a drama or film to promote, and ends up on the opposing team. This is what happens this week, when Ninomiya is on the team promoting his drama Freeter. There's a lot of teasing between the two teams, and a good choice of games, too.

20120103 New Year Special

This was a New Year special, with plenty of guests to fill up the extended running time and, thankfully, it works. Matsumoto Jun joins the Lucky Seven team, alongside Eita and Naka Riisa, and that by itself would usually be enough.

But there's a third team in this episode: the Japanese Women's Football Team and then Gackt arrives halfway through! That's a lot, even for three hours.

20140313 Aoi Miyazaki

A team of comedians from Aichi make up Arashi's opponents, and the special guest on Arashi's side is the actress Aoi Miyazaki. It's quite odd seeing the waif-like, somewhat refined sensibility of Miyazaki on a variety show, but she clearly knows Arashi and is comfortable with them.

20120531 Momoiro Clover Z

This was their first appearance on Vs Arashi and the boundless energy of Momoiro Clover Z adds a lot to the show.

They really get into it and although they're not as invested in the game as when they first appeared on Nep League (on that show when they finally got a question right, they were so happy they started to cry) they clearly want to do their best.

20131017 Umi no Ue no Shinryojo

In this episode, Matsuda Shota continues to show the sense of humour he displayed in the drama. The whole cast seem to get on really well, and that helps with the games.

And it's quite rare to see Arakawa Yoshiyoshi on a variety show. He doesn't really join in with the banter, and he seems quite awkward, but it's nice to see him get out for a bit of fun.

20111027 Japanese Women’s Volleyball Team

Since the members of Arashi play these games every week, sometimes it seems like the only time they have decent opposition is against some real athletes. In this episode, the Japanese Women's Volleyball Team push Arashi all the way.

20130606 Beautiful news readers

When there's no drama being promoted, I do like seeing what kind of teams are put together for Arashi to battle against. I've seen teams of celebrities from different prefectures, and teams of celebrities that all wear spectacles.

This one is one of the strangest groupings (as another guest Mitsuura Yasuko says “Beautiful news readers... there's not much competition, is there?”), but it turns out to be one that works really well. The program also features the female stand up double act Oashizu, who add to the fun.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Shenmue III

So Shenmue III, a game that has been one of my life’s great “if only”s, is now a reality. $2m funded in less time that it takes to play both Shenmue I and II back to back. That’s impressive.

I last wrote about this two and a half years ago, all dewy-eyed because it was that time of year when the date in the game was the same as the date in real life. Every year, I get a hankering to play the game, and I usually play a few days or so. Just to relive that first moment I left the house and walked down towards Yamanose, and I thought to myself (back in 2000) “Shit, I’m in a real Japanese town.”

Whatever happens next is almost irrelevant. The game can never be as good as my expectations. In fact, my expectations were that Shenmue III would include an HD remake of I and II where you could properly play pool or mah jong.

But that’s not going to happen. What’s also not going to happen is the shock of the new. After everything that’s happened in fifteen years, there’s no way it can have the same effect that it once did. That’s not important.

It feels like an ex-girlfriend suddenly got in touch and suggested meeting up. Now I feel nervous. Will there still be magic? Is it doomed to failure and a sudden jolting realisation about how old you’ve both become? Either way, only an idiot would turn down the opportunity (assuming you happen to be single at the time).

So far, it’s all hope and no substance. The concept artwork and videos are pretty uninspiring. But there is time. People have written about a Winter 2017 release date, but I think 2018 is more realistic. There’ll be no lack of goodwill in the videogame industry to get this done.

I think the reason why Shenmue and the Dreamcast are held in such affection is because, back then, Sega had this crazy idea that all they had to do was make great games, and people would buy it. Cruelly, this didn’t turn out to be the case. No DVD compatibility and no EA Sports hurt the Dreamcast bad. Plus, of course, the PS2 was a great machine. I should be angry at it for ruining the Dreamcast, but it gave us Ico and Final Fantasy XII, so I’ll let it slide.

But now the waiting is over. Apart from the waiting before the release, that is. I want to go back, and finish what I started. I want to beat Lan Di. I want to marry Shenhua. But only after I’ve had a crazy passionate fling with Joy (see second screenshot). And I want to tell Nozomi to take a hike after she cruelly told me to “Cheer up will ya?” only a few days after my dad died.

Screw her.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Looking forward to: The Genius season 4

And so series four of The Genius begins on June 27th and judging by its subtitle “The Grand Final” it could be the last we see of The Genius. At least for a while.

The contestants for this series are notable players from the previous three seasons. I decided to put on my best sports journalist hat and give a list of who’s competing, along with how well I think they’ll do.

From season one:

Hong Jinho

The winner of season one, he found himself unable to get going in season two as he was excluded from most of the negotiating: people were just too wary of him.

This might be a problem again, but since season one his career as a TV presenter has improved and he’s worked with two opponents: Choi Jungmoon and Jang Dongmin so I imagine it’ll be easier to form alliances this time.

Chances: Very good. One of the favourites.

Lee Sangmin

Third in season one and winner of season two, this is the man to beat. His form in season two was exceptional: he went through the entire season without having to compete in a single death match.

Chances: Excellent. The favourite to win if past performance is anything to go by.

Kim Kyungran

Second placed in season one, Kyungran matched a keen intellect with an ability to build alliances. Not easily swayed by others and very quick to spot weaknesses. She beat Lee Sangmin in a head to head death match, so is clearly a threat to anyone.

Chances: Good. But she may be an early target as someone who easily builds teams, especially if she sticks to those players she knows best (ie, those from season one) at the expense of others.

Lee Junseok

He was eliminated in the first episode of season one and, as such, is a bit of an unknown quantity. As a Harvard graduate, he’s clearly no idiot, but his lack of experience may be decisive.

Chances: Poor. I think he’ll go out in the first or second episode.

Choi Jungmoon

Despite having an IQ of 150, she’s seen as a weaker player because she lost in season one by a simple trick. It was people vs zombies (selected randomly by drawing cards), and another player casually asked her if she was a person or a human. Since she was a zombie, she didn’t know the wording on the card for people, so she couldn’t answer. This sealed her fate.

Chances: Poor. Will probably be an early target for death matches.

From Season 2:

Lim Yohwan

Second place in season two, and what an odd player he was. Hopeless at team games, but very strong in the one vs one death matches. He was unable to build alliances, and when he did he usually annoyed them.

I think he only got through to the final by being so bad at the games that he never won any garnets and so was never a potential choice for a death match.

Chances: Middling. He’ll need to find a way to beat each game alone, or start trusting people.

Yoo Junghyun

Talk about underestimating someone. This politician jovially stumbled through the first half of season two without anyone taking him seriously. He was excluded from alliances, but also he was never targeted as an enemy.

That changed in episode seven. After a strong showing, followed by a series of victories in death matches, he revealed himself as a strong player before finally going out in episode 11.

Chances: Middling. He went a long way in season two because no one saw him as a threat. He can’t do that now.

Lim Yoosun

Lost in a death match to Lim Yohwan in episode five, so is one of the least experienced players. Nevertheless she had a strong presence and an ability to quickly build alliances.

Chances: Middling. In her last appearance, she was undone by a spy in her team. That shows a bit of a blind spot when it comes to building alliances.

From Season 3:

Jang Dongmin

Winner of season three, and must be one of the favourites. He’s also shown in the TV show Crime Scene that he has a keen eye and a quick mind. He and Oh Hyunmin formed an early alliance to get both of them to the finals, and they complemented each other excellently.

Chances: Good. I expect him to go a long way.

Oh Hyunmin

Second place in season three, he was the brains of the Oh Hyunmin/Jang Dongmin alliance while Dongmin supplied the brawn, rounding up people to join their team. I don’t expect them to team up together again, but the experience he gained in season three will make Oh Hyunmin a very strong opponent.

Chances: Very good. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a finalist.

Kim Yoohyun

A poker player who reached episode nine of season three. However, despite doing so well, he was kind of anonymous and he lost the death match quite easily.

Chances: Middling. Typical poker player: hard to tell.

Choi Yeonseung

This doctor demonstrated a mean streak in season three. In episode three he was betrayed by a team of people and sent to the death match. He survived to fight another day, and in the following episodes, each member of that team were eliminated one by one. Some fell by chance, but some of them were targetted by him.

Chances: Good. He lasted until episode eleven in season three, and I expect him to do well again.

Kim Kyunghoon

This player was sure of victory at the start but, like so many others who were over-confident, he fell early. Clumsily, he betrayed his team mates in episode one, which made it hard to get people to trust him again and he went out in episode two.

Chances: Middling to poor. Another player with little experience, even if he did show some potential with his betrayal skills.

I am quietly excited by this series. I’m surprised that it came around so soon, though. I hope they’re not rushing into things. Season three was the weakest one so far, so I don’t want to see the decline continue due to lack of preparation.

Still, it should be essential viewing.