This weekend saw the big pseudo-debut of Atarashii Chizu, a new collective featuring Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Shingo Katori, formerly of J-pop group SMAP. And they re-emerged in attention-grabbing fashion; the three starred in a 72-hour-long livestream on online television channel AbemaTV. That’s a lot to take in, but that’s why we are here (and luckily had a pretty empty schedule the last three days, to show you some highlights from the event.
First, a general overview of the whole spectacle. Compared to the album-promo-meets-woke-demolition-derby that was Katy Perry’s Witness live stream from the start of the year, this 72-hour affair felt like a success. That’s because the three weren’t really promoting anything (well, besides themselves). They weren't wrestling with any past transgressions either. Rather, the trio’s Abema marathon served as a way to introduce the Japanese viewing public to their new endeavors, and to allow them to have a lot of fun. And that’s the feeling that permeated most from this experiment, after, like, three decades of control from their previous talent agency, the three appear to be having a blast.
This comes across most clearly in Kusanagi’s above YouTube video (he’s becoming a “YouTuber,” and he’s got all of the mannerisms down), wherein he plays a game of “bowling” which actually involves vehicular and structural destruction. This is how it aired during the stream, and it captures what this was all about; all over the place, but weirdly enjoyable. And that’s before they watched cars being driven through flames.
Other hard-to-place highlights include the J-poppers playing elementary-school games, singing karaoke with professional fighters, and working at McDonald’s. Along the way, plenty of Japanese celebrities swung by to join in the festivities. Among them were individuals best known for their social media presence, who appeared in order to teach the members about how to use platforms such as Instagram and YouTube, which are a major part of what the former SMAP members are doing now. Among them were Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, who stopped by to show them how to excel at Twitter. And, at one point, join in on a semi-cover of Utada Hikaru’s “Automatic.”
It was a wonderfully irreverent weekend, but the most interesting moments were when the trio’s past as part of SMAP popped up. The three met up with Katsuyuki Mori, one of SMAP’s original members who departed in the mid ‘90s to become a motorcycle racer. He hung out with the trio for an extended period of time.
Even better were the moments of perceived shade aimed at their previous rules. Late in the stream, member Goro Inagaki held a fake marriage with a “regular person” (read: AbemaTV worker), complete with fake ceremony and reception. Even if this was a pretend event featuring a giant pear giving a speech, it felt like a nice poke at their previous life (and generated a fair amount of angry SMAP fans on Twitter, not happy with even the idea of Goro putting a ring on it as a goof).
It was an entertaining return to entertainment for the three, and allowed them a chance to announce what’s next for them. The biggest news was that Atarashii Chizu isn’t a group per se, but rather just their collective. They’ll actually go out and have their own careers, but sometimes collaborate within this space. Based off the zaniness of this 72-hour event, this won’t be the last time you’ll be hearing from them.
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