“Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.” —Dale Carnegie
From humble origins to their participation in the Idol Festival at Tokyo, Wake Up, Girls! is the classic “underdog” story, following seven girls as they venture out into the entertainment industry in the hopes of making the big time. Originally, the anime was intended to elevate interest in the Sendai region and promote tourism. Indeed, the fact that the seven girls in WUG were chosen from auditions serves to reinforce this idea, that Wake Up, Girls! is about both a group of idols and about encourgaging people to visit Sendai to boost tourism and economic activity following the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. From the story side, Wake Up, Girls! delivers a reasonably solid performance, combining a combination of trials and music to give each girl a reason for being, turning what was initially a curiosity or stepping stone into a passion. This isn’t immediately obvious from the first two episodes, which had enough anatomy lessons to led me to wonder whether or not the show was worth my time. However, the music was interesting, and as the series progressed, I began seeing more positives in the show.
- I just want to make sure I have this right: the characters are, from left to right, Miyu Okamoto, Minami Katayama, Airi Hayashida, Mayu Shimada, Yoshino Nanase, Nanami Hisami and Kaya Kikuma. I know I have a lot of links to the Bane Auralnauts Outtakes video, but there are so many amusing moments that uniquely fit with my anime review style.
- This end-of-season talk is unusual in that there are thirty images as opposed to the usual twenty: I do have quite a few thoughts surrounding the specifics in Wake Up, Girls!, and although the general details are covered by the paragraphs, the image figures will deal with more specific details or various thoughts.
- I think Minami’s appetite might be compatible with Adam Richman’s Man v. Food Nation and would make her a strong performer in that sense. Early on in the series, I had trouble differentiating between most of the characters. Minami, Nanami, Mayu and Miyu are difficult to tell apart, either sharing phonetically similar names or having similar physical appearances. However, as time wears on, the distinctions between all of the characters becomes apparent, and after twelve, I can finally tell everyone apart.
- I’ve opted to only include this scene concerning the sleaze in the entertainment industry. In episode two, a sketchy manager named Sudo decides to hire the girls. The girls take the offer but are forced to work in derogatory conditions at some inn, being subject to sexual harassment from the customers. President Tenge eventually steps in to rectify things, although the incident leaves the girls wondering if they would wish to continue in the idol business.
- Miyu is the earliest to demonstrate commitment to being an idol; she realises that she enjoys entertaining audiences and as such, even in spite of the events happening at the inn, resolves to carry on. Later on, the girls are signed by local TV and radio stations to put on local shows and boost interest in the region.
- Nanami, Mayu and Minami are assigned to the cuisines program, where they sample various foods and provide feedback to improve a restaurant’s number of visitors. This program is quite successful, bringing to mind the segments of Man v. Food where Adam samples food before taking on major challenges. There are some cases where the restaurants he visits serves big food, but aren’t part of the actual challenge.
- Miyu, Airi, Yoshino and Kaya do the weather segments: of all the girls, Miyu puts forth the most enthusiasm, showing that the others are less excited about their current roles. However, as I understand, all work is like this: one must start from the beginning at some entry-level position and work upwards.
- This is one of the WUG’s earlier concerts. I have limited recollections of the earlier parts of the series, as the slower pacing and events following episode ten overshadow much of what happens early on. Nonetheless, the stuff that does happen early on sets the stage of what is seen in the series, and there is no denying the importance of these first steps.
- Mayu’s past involvement with I-1 is shrouded in mystery despite being shown briefly throughout the series and in the movie. Even Miyu is unable to talk Mayu into coming forward with what happened, and eventually creates a rift between the group me
- Before Tasuku Hayasaka decides to become involved in WUG, the girls make very little progress and remain quite disorganised. In shows like K-On!, disorganisation and a lack of serious drive acted as the main source of contention for some, who felt that the musicians were putting on far better performances than they had any right to given their limited commitment.
- WUG faces its first real challenge when Tasuku considers dismissing Airi for not pulling her weight. Despite the rift that develops, WUG is able to pull together and show their commitment to their cause, as well as to one another. After this incident, the girls are far more dedicated and being applying themselves more seriously towards being an idol group, caring for everyone in the team as well as their own contributions.
- Despite having overcome one hurdle, Mayu’s past involvement with I-1 remains a volatile subject. To this end, Kaya suggests that everyone take some time off to regroup and rest before preparing in earnest for their next task.
- WUG gets to enjoy a local fish unique to the region, and even Yoshino finds that the fish is highly delicious. The whole notion of downtime becomes vital: burnout, characterised by a diminished interest in one’s occupation and near-constant exhaustion, resulting in reduced efficiency and commitment. There are numerous causes and an equal number of countermeasures, although there are some times where a full on break is necessitated.
- For me, having put my nose to the grindstone for the past five years, I’m planning on something big come summer 2015 as a sort of reward for having survived thus far. I realise that once I finish the next stage of my career, I won’t be able to travel as easily, and so, before that opportunity closes, I will travel to Japan with the aim of visiting Kyoto and Nara, where the nation’s history has its roots. The numbers have all been crunched for time and finance, so now, it’s a matter of planning where to go, when and how to fit this into my schedule.
- Tohru Shiraki is the general manager for I-1, aiming to push them to the top and frequently pruning the ranks of I-1 to ensure maximum performance. His strict, no-nonsense approach produces results but makes I-1 resemble the elite special forces (e,g, the Navy SEALS, GRU and SAS). It is understandable that the armed forces maintain the level of discipline that they do for national security, although whether or not such discipline is necessary in a civilian occupation is a matter open to discussion.
At its core, Wake Up, Girls! illustrates how each of the members eventually mesh together and strive towards a common cause with unity and coordination, despite lacking these elements early on. Through their experiences, each of the girls in WUG mature and become a part of a unit, gaining a sense of purpose as they progress further into the entertainment industry. Of course, Wake Up, Girls! does not (and is not expected to) really capture the true horrors surrounding the world of show business, but the fact that these aspects (whether it be competition, sleazy producers, financial difficulties or the malice from other fans) are acknowledged into the show illustrates that being an idol isn’t all glitz and glamour. This aspect contributes to the realism factor in Wake Up, Girls!. There is one other factor that also lends a hand to giving Wake Up, Girls! a more plausible feel to it. In most anime driven by competition, the protagonists are able to come out victorious regardless of how skilled the other opponents are, and in some cases, the opponents’ skills are conveniently forgotten. This is not the case in Wake Up, Girls!: after putting on a stunning performance at the local idol competition and going to Tokyo, WUG puts on an excellent show but nonetheless loses to a team the viewers had never heard about before. This is the reality: as one advances further and further into a field, the competitors are all competent. It’s rather like the job search, where one applicant is striving to differentiate themselves from a pool of incredibly talented and capable applicants: in some cases, the difference between victory and defeat can be very minor. In Wake Up, Girls!, despite WUG ‘s solid performance in the finale, Yoshino’s injury catches up with her, and her performance takes a visible hit. It’s not significant enough to ruin their performance per se, but it is sufficient to set WUG as falling short of the “masterful” category.
- A disproportionate number of images in the final three episodes are present because this is when Wake Up, Girls! truly starts to kick off. After Mayu gives the details concerning how she fell out with I-1, the other girls see her as finally opening up to them. After Kaya shares her story with Mayu, the latter reciprocates, and the full story is finally known to both the viewers and WUG.
- Yoshino finally understands Mayu, and as such, WUG crosses the most significant of its internal hurdles. From here on out, WUG is unified in spirit and its challenges come from the outside.
- Only Matsuda knows that Nanami was intending to drop from WUG to follow her dreams, but seeing Mayu’s honesty leads her to realise that WUG is what she wants to be doing, too, and she dramatically shreds a poster to the school she was hoping to apply to.
- I think a span of a few months elapses here after the girls’ trip: one of the shortcomings in this series might be said to be the limited portrayal of the girls’ journey as a team now that they’ve finally ironed out all of their internal struggles. However, this style of execution could very well be illustrating that character-vs-self conflicts were the biggest impediment for WUG, and after settling that, the group has sufficient unity to really begin making its way onto a stage.
- WUG wins at the prefectural/regional competition, putting on an impressive show that captures the hearts of both the in-show audience and viewers like me. Among the attendees are seniors from the home that Minami performs at, and the idol otaku mentioned in my last post. Despite never speaking directly with WUG’s members, their presence elevates the spirits, showing that quality is a quantity all its own.
- After their success at their first competition, Tasuku gives WUG an even more challenging song to perform after their previous song is passed on to I-1: this is the series’ opening song and the song WUG will perform in Tokyo. Despite his harsh methods and blunt tongue, he genuinely cares for WUG and offers them sound advice whenever they need it, telling the girls that his approval means nothing compared to how their audience receives them.
- It is particularly uplifting to see WUG perform as they do: at the eleventh episode mark, WUG has transformed from a rag-tag group of girls into a capable idol group, taking the initiative to train and practise where they can with the aim of performing well for their fans’ sake.
- Effort and determination slowly begin to yield results as the girls gain larger audiences to perform for: compare and contrast this to the girl’s debut performance in the movie, which was held in a park by night with only a few audience members. I reached episode eleven on a snowy Thursday afternoon and enjoyed Waffles and Chix’s fried chicken poutine. The rich flavours of the gravy, cheese and fries is complemented by the fried chicken, and there is a hint of maple syrup that, taken together, constitutes the ideal dish for a cold, grey day in a winter that has far overstayed its welcome.
- Viewers might be wondering why so many of the screenshots here depict all of the girls all at once. It was mentioned in one of the episodes that WUG is only WUG with all seven members present, and as such, I found that images felt largely empty without everyone being present (with the exception of a few of the turning points).
- Animation faults were quite jarring in this series in some places, especially with regard to facial expressions. How disruptive is this, one asks? Some individuals may compare this to seeing a seemingly alive enemy player, then emptying a magazine into them or knifing them, only to find out that they were already dead in Battlefield 3. However, I don’t find the animation to be so disruptive as to detract from the entire show: by the Battlefield 3 analogy, I would compare the animation to how awkward it is when things clip through other things on a given map (producing things like a floating gun or a body stuck in a container).
- Despite putting on a substandard dress rehearsal following Yoshino’s injury, thanks to Shiho’s intervention, Yoshino is able to perform again. Despite appearing cold-hearted, Shiho bears resemblance to Gundam 00‘s Graham Aker and Gundam‘s Char Aznable, who never would fight opponents unless they were on even footing. These tendencies originate from the honourable one-on-one duels that samurai fought, and indeed, fair fights mean that individuals are entering with the intent of putting nothing but their best forward.
- The final idol competition is held on I-1’s home turf; WUG performs the series’ opening song, which sounds identical to that of the opening sequence with a new dance choreographed to the music. While I’m not particularly a fan of idol music, preferring things like DragonForce, Rammstein and Night Wish, the opening song has grown on me and so, I’ll give the soundtrack a try.
- Some anime have what is commonly referred to as a “magic moment”: these are the moments that capture the viewer’s attention and convince them unequivocally that the show is was worth watching. Most of the anime I watch were chosen because I liked the premise and don’t have a magic moment because they’re consistently good throughout. On the other hand, the shows I watch out of vain curiosity may present magic moments that lead me to suddenly change my mind about the show. In Wake Up, Girls!, the magic moment was seeing the entire audience switch to green glowsticks and applauding WUG warmly for their performance after the quality became apparent to the audience: Wake Up, Girls! may be an average anime on its own, but sometimes, such a rewarding moment makes the anime meaningful to watch.
- The girls share a tearful moment together after their performance is over. Owing to her injury, Yoshino trips and stumbles several times during the performance, but the results were reasonably solid. Before the winners were announced, a part of me realised that WUG probably wouldn’t win. Of course, outcome notwithstanding, I felt that they are winners nonetheless, having made it to this stage through perseverance and cooperation.
- Despite losing the idol competition, WUG gets signed by a major recording company to release a CD, acting as a satisfying and well-deserved conclusion to Wake Up, Girls!. Having put in so much effort, it is welcoming to see WUG being presented with another unique opportunity, and indeed, despite my usual cynicism about life, sometimes, new opportunities are born when one falls a little short of their dreams. At the time of writing, I can say that I understand and appreciate things happening in this manner, having lived through something similar in the past few months. That is a story for another time, though: up next will be a talk on the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 multiplayer, followed by a full review on Gundam Build Fighters and The Pilot’s Love Song over the next two or so weeks.
It is quite refreshing to see things turn out in such a manner: although I personally was rooting for WUG all the way, my experience mean that I understand that life hardly ever gives out the Cinderella story. Recall the Calgary Flames during the 2003-2004 season, who had risen from the darkness, surprising everyone and defeated the Vancouver Canucks, Detriot Red Wings and San Jose Sharks en route to the Stanley Cup Final, only to fall short against Tampa Bay in game six and seven. Thus, where I hear people expressing disappointment that WUG was not able to win the Idol Competition in Tokyo, I believe that WUG never really lost. They had gained so much from being able to sing and dance together in front of thousands of people, and even capturing the hearts of skeptics. When the performance venue began lighting up with green glowsticks, I knew that, winning the competition or not, WUG had definitely come a long way from being a raggedy-ass team, and have become true winners. When the girls are signed by a major record company at the end, I could not help but smile: the girls may have not won first place at the competition, but another exciting opportunity has arisen for them. From an execution perspective, Wake Up, Girls! succeeds in delivering this message, but was constrained by its twelve-episode length: the series starts out very slowly, but after Mayu opens up to everyone, viewers never get to see the girls really mature as idols in much detail. Coupled with animation faults every now and then, Wake Up, Girls! has a similar feel to the idol group in-show: there are definitely rough edges, but nonetheless, the show’s spirit is able to reach the audience (at least for me, anyways) to deliver one of the more interesting dramas I’ve seen in a while.