One of Japan’s pop princes has started his own channel, but he’s heavily implying that he’ll borrow a little help from some of his famous friends.

Arashi, one of Japan’s most popular and beloved boybands, announced that they would be retiring—or rather, going on “an indefinite hiatus”—in 2019. Though 2020 was planned to be the year they sent themselves off with aplomb, performing across and beyond Japan to say goodbye to their devoted fans, circumstances instead lead to canceled tours and a final live show performed before an empty-seated venue.

Still, each of their five members made their best of a terrible situation. After their hiatus commenced at the end of 2020, fans have been watching eagerly to see what moves Kazunari Ninomiya, Sho Sakurai, Satoshi Ohno, Masaki Aiba, and Jun Matsumoto are making individually.

The first in that list is clearly breaking out online, a relatively new frontier for Johnny’s Entertainment acts. Ninomiya started the YouTube Channel JaNi no Channel (Johnny’s Channel, but written to highlight the “ni” in his own name) and released his first video, A Message from Kazunari Ninomiya (Official), on April 22.

The video gives a tantalizing teaser:

“You can witness a broader horizon when everyone gathers together. The final person…
When all the players combine, the story can really begin.”

Of the four silhouettes shown, one is clearly Kazunari Ninomiya himself. The description is written from his perspective, imploring fans to subscribe to the channel. The next teaser video confirms as much.

But who else is going to come on board? In a video titled #1 Opening Act, Ninomiya discussed, in broad strokes, his plans for the channel and his hopes for the people who would help him present it. “It seems like a waste to host it alone when I’m doing such fun things,” he explains in the video. “So I decided to form a team, and spent a while thinking about who would be on it.”

▼ The video has Ninomiya describe the first of the other three people in the group.

He gave his viewers some hints as to who one of the other three hosts would be.

  • “He should be 100-percent on board to help me.”
  • “He’s really busy due to the anniversary.”
  • “He’s my underclassman [in Johnny’s], but we’re actually of a similar age, so people tend to group us together.”
  • “He’s my friend and an all-round helpful guy!”

Ninomiya says that despite the various engagements his friend has, he’s pretty confident that he can snag him to help out with the YouTube channel. So he goes off to do just that—but the mysterious person is obscured in the video, so we can only hear his voice as Ninomiya greets him at the end.

The video blew up online, with JaNi no Channel earning a million subscribers in no time at all and the previous video currently standing at 4.4 million views at the time of writing. The comments were rife with wild speculation about all three members, particularly the enigmatic character who appeared at the end of this video.

Most fans seemed convinced that this mystery man is Yuichi Nakamaru from another Johnny’s group, KAT-TUN, who meets all the criteria, especially since KAT-TUN debuted in 2006, making this year a busy one, full of 15-year anniversary activities.

Other commenters guessed that the remaining two mystery hosts are likely to be fellow Johnny’s associates Fuma Kikuchi of Sexy Zone and Ryosuke Yamada of Hey! Say! JUMP, which would result in a star-studded lineup from some of the most popular acts in the Johnny’s Entertainment stable.

As it turns out, viewers didn’t have to wait too long to find out about some of the mystery members. The next video published, #2 No. 1 (written N-Maru-Ichi, to invoke the “maru” in Yuichi Nakamaru), revealed the identity of the man in the first video.

▼ Ninomaru asks Nakamaru then and there to join him on YouTube, and Nakamaru happily accepts.

After welcoming Nakamaru to his new job, Ninomiya is off in search of his next teammate… And this time he lays in wait for his target, lurking in the shadows of his car to surprise him after inviting him out.

▼ The video is titled #3 Springing a Big Demand on this Guy

Surprise! It’s Fuma Kikuchi of Sexy Zone! Turns out the fans really have their fingers on the pulse for this kind of thing. Though initially surprised by being lured out to this car by Ninomiya, and responding with so many “huh?”s that the on-screen subtitles run a counter each time, Kikuchi asserts that he’s “always wanted to do stuff on YouTube” and eagerly agrees to take part, despite having his own busy schedule. Sexy Zone has an anniversary of its own this year—10 years since its debut in 2011.

The cute, candid style taken by Ninomiya in these impromptu interviews is implied to continue throughout his YouTube activities, with him promising Kikuchi in particular that they can “have short little chats, just like this” during the channel’s run and that if one member is busy then another can fill in. So subscribe to his channel to discover if the final host really will be Ryosuke Yamada, and stick around to see if Ninomiya’s smiling face can assuage the Arashi-shaped hole in your heart.

Source, images: YouTube/ジャにのちゃんねる
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