“Lighten up, just enjoy life, smile more, laugh more, and don’t get so worked up about things.” —Kenneth Branagh
Mayu and Shiho initially find it difficult to act in their assigned characters for the television drama “The Dreaming Duo”, where Mitsuki and Yoko are share dreams and come to realise their love for the same guy. However, with inspiration, Mayu begins to act more fluidly for Yoko’s role, inspiring Shiho to do the same as Mitsuki. While the two agree on their relationship being a strictly professional one, the distance between the two lessens as the two work on their drama, which finishes shooting on a high note. Later, Junko arranges for a Sendai tour with WUG to inspire local fans. A scheduling conflict prevents Minami from attending, and during a performance that evening, Nanami steps in to substitute for Minami. While she falls on stage, her actions earn her endearment from the audience. After WUG announces their plans to release a new album, Ayumi gets lost at the inn and comes across WUG’s zoo costumes. Mayu accidentally spills tomato juice on one and assumes it’s Yoshino inside, deciding that it’s best to visit the hot springs and wash it off before staining occurs. Ayumi manages to escape, but is inspired by Mayu’s words about idols and their duty to bring smiles to their audiences. The next morning, she tells Mayu of her intentions to become an idol and Mayu wishes her luck. This is where things stand at the halfway point in New Chapter!, a series that has managed to retain its charm owing to its sincere narrative and honest characters.
The past three episodes predominantly deal with Mayu; she’s the most experienced of WUG members and, despite being one of the more soft-spoken members, has numerous insights into what expectations are in entertainment. This sort of maturity and professionalism initially caused her to butt heads with the other WUG members during the first season of Wake Up, Girls!, but time has allowed even the taciturn Mayu to open up. By New Chapter!, Mayu is sharing how she feels about her schedule and is expressive about concerns she may have with her duties, in turn allowing the others to support her in their own way. Similarly, having recovered her sense of purpose as an idol, Mayu sees their duty as putting smiles on the faces of their audiences, and that the WUG’s presence can be projected by each and every member. Capable of reassuring others in WUG, Mayu’s definitely been a source of inspiration to those around her, and also outside of the group; Ayumi is star-struck whenever she meets Mayu in person, and a part of this is that Mayu is remarkably kind, humble and approachable. Having found her joy in being an idol once again because of her time in WUG, Mayu is able to put her heartfelt feelings into her performances that, together with the others in WUG, have allowed the group to retain a loyal following, and from an external perspective, these same aspects within the anime have allowed Wake Up, Girls! to similarly retain a loyal following in reality.
Screenshots and Commentary
- For the record, if The Dreaming Duo were real, I would likely watch it. In this drama, the normally-quiet Mayu plays the spirited, energetic Yoko, who is on the basketball team, and Shiho, who usually is more forward with her opinions, is Mitsuki, a reserved student fond of the arts. The roles are opposite of their characters, and while they initially have difficulty adjusting, the directors notice the improvement once both begin empathising with their respective characters.
- The dynamic between Mayu and Shiho is similar to that of Mythbusters‘ Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman: Shiho outright tells Mayu that their working together will not be a sign that their relationship has mended, to which Mayu accepts. I was reading an article about how Savage and Hyneman do not get along with one another outside of work hours, but nonetheless are successful in working together as professionals. Like Savage and Hyneman, Shiho and Mayu respect one another’s work ethic, follow similar processes in getting things done, and value getting the job done well over their own egos.
- Mayu’s busy schedule means that she misses preparing for breakfast on at least one occasion, but here, her teammates step up to the plate and help her out. The dynamics amongst WUG are give-and-take, and in between her work on the set, Mayu also participates in the other activities that WUG typically engage in.
- I’m not sure what I’m looking at here; one of the stills shows WUG recoiling from shock and horror after touching something unknown for a television programme. This sort of show is a bit less common on this side of the planet: when I was in Japan, a great number of their channels were running game and talk shows. Japanese shows tend to be a bit flashier and text heavy, giving a much more excited sense compared to similar shows in North America, which by comparison feel a bit more austere.
- Shiho is momentarily recalled to I-1 Club when Moka sustains an injury, but as it turns out, the injury was relatively minor, allowing her to return to her usual duties. As the two embrace their roles further, they begin gaining a feel for the characters and occasionally offer suggestions to the directors to create a more natural scene. While the directors are initially appalled, the scriptwriter approves of the changes.
- When the principal photography is complete for The Dreaming Duo, Mayu has a chance to speak with one of the project’s managers, who admits that the decision to cast Mayu and Shiho were originally motivated by a want to draw in more viewers using well-known names, but they ended up getting more than expected through both girls’ dedication towards their roles.
- Ayumi, Itsuka and Otome find themselves tiring out on a walk for their physical education class and begin losing resolve upon hearing the distance remaining in the walk, but when Ayumi learns of WUG’s plans to do a bus tour of Sendai, Ayumi immediately gains a second wind. Of the three, it seems that Ayumi is the most interested in WUG, and she runs into Mayu herself while playing an extra in The Dreaming Duo.
- Minami is tied up with a food show and is absent from the proceedings for most of the WUG Sendai tour. Kouhei does his best to keep the show running, and the day begins smoothly. On board the bus, Ayumi and her friends encounter some high school students from Tokyo who’ve become fans of Minami, and they quickly hit it off with one another. The remainder of the folks on this tour are male fans of WUG, and I will note here that, while their antics are a riot, I usually do not feature the vociferous WUG fans from the family restaurant because there’s not much I have to comment about them.
- The first event on the WUG Sendai tour is a SCAVENGER HUNT type event, where participants must find each of the girls, dressed up as an animal, and collect a stamp from them. Each of the girls end up encountering difficulties in striking a balance between being out in the open and being well-hidden enough so the event is fun for the participants. As an aside, Wake Up, Girls! Zoo! was a spin-off that I ended up watching a ways back. Light-hearted and fun, each episode was a riot, and I also greatly enjoyed the theme song, as well.
- Ayumi grows weak-kneed when coming face-to-face with Mayu herself. Her tendency to be star-struck has hilarious consequences within New Chapter!. Today’s post marks a three-streak, one of the longest I’ve had this year; in spite of a weekend packed with activities, I somehow managed to get a post out each day. Of course, this pattern won’t be the norm: posts take at least two to three hours to write, and this is why I won’t be writing about Far Cry 4 as of yet, even though I finished the game just yesterday.
- Today’s events included going out for dim sum and then taking a short walk under the warmer weather: things have warmed up a little over the past week. The last time I had dim sum at this particular restaurant was back in February, and while dim sum appears unassuming, it is quite substantial – we ordered the usual suspects today (炸蝦角, 蝦餃, 燒賣, 鳳爪, 叉燒包 and 腸粉), plus a sticky fried rice. I’m especially fond of 炸蝦角 (jyutping “zaa3 haa1 gok3”), a deep-fried shrimp that goes great with mayonnaise. Dim sum is, in the words of Adam Richman, a Hong Kong institution, and that one can get Dim Sum in Calgary rivalling the quality of Hong Kong Dim Sum is downright amazing.
- I’ve seen this technique used before in the Hai-Furi OVAs, and of late, constraints in New Chapter!‘s animation budget have become quite apparent. There are photograph-like scenes such as this, re-use of footage seen earlier and numerous stills while the characters are engaged in conversation. In spite of obvious shortfalls in animation, New Chapter! more than delivers the spirit and fun; from a certain point of view, the choppy animation can be seen as a bit of a visual metaphor for the rough-around-the-edges-but-sincere nature of WUG.
- WUG performs First Rate Smile, a song that Tasuka wrote for them as their debut piece. Upbeat and energetic, the song is later given to I-1 Club to perform, as WUG is tasked with an even tougher song (Seven Girls’ War, the opening song). For the longest time, First Rate Smile could only be heard in the I-1 Club incarnation, although with the Wake Up, Best! album that released in March 2015, a full year after the first season aired, audiences finally had a chance to listen to the WUG version of First Rate Smile.
- Upon seeing the disappointment in the audience at Minami’s absence, WUG decide to ask Nanami to perform in lieu of Minami on account of her sharing a similar stature, but Nanami stumbles and reveals to the audience that she’s not Minami. Far from drawing the audience’s ire, this action results in the audience cheering for Nanami, as well. Soon after, the real McCoy arrives, with Junko having exhorted transportation crew to get them to the hotel ASAP.
- At the time of writing, WUG’s real-world equivalent have released numerous albums for the music of Wake Up, Girls!, and performed at several venues where they became a sleeper hit: their real world performers seem to embrace adversity, and as one article on ANN succintly puts it, the group turns disaster into dreams. Born of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, the project was initially to help with rebuilding Sendai. It was on the verge of failure and turned to recruiting voice talent in the Sendai area. The experiences and tribulations that the production team saw fed into Wake Up, Girls!, and in retrospective, it would seem that the reason why Wake Up, Girls! is so authentic and genuine is because it is inspired by real events.
- New Chapter! is no Murder on the Orient Express, a recent film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic – Miyu finds Mayu after she accidentally spills tomato juice on Yoshino’s polar bear costume, a consequence of Ayumi hiding inside it after getting lost, and the girls must promptly remove it before the stain becomes a permanent feature. The reason why tomato juice is so difficult to remove is because of the pigment lycopene, a long-chain non-polar hydrocarbon. These molecules are hydrophobic and will cling to other similar non-polar molecules, such as those making up plastic containers or the fibres in clothing.
- The guide to removing tomato juice stains are numerous, and the precise method will depend on how old the stain is. In the case of a fresh stain, the combination of water and detergent will be sufficient. After Mayu takes Ayumi to the baths, her fear of getting discovered leads her to hide. By a stroke of luck, the other WUG members arrive, and in the chaos, Ayumi manages to escape, leaving Mayu to wonder what really happened, but before she gets clear, Ayumi overhears Mayu speaking to the others about what being an idol means.
- Future assignments will leave the girls with less time spent performing together, leading Miyu to feel depressed, but when Mayu reminds everyone that they’re WUG regardless of where they are, spirits lift considerably. One of the things about being an idol, then is also being able to help one’s teammates and oneself smile: if the point of the business is to give a bit of happiness to viewers, then those doing so must first learn to find their own happiness. Mayu is able to appreciate this, and her presence in WUG is a reassuring one.
- The next morning, WUG participate in signing autographs for their fans. The tour ends up being a successful one, and it seems that Mayu is quite unaware that Ayumi was responsible for the previous evening’s escapade. Seizing the moment, Ayumi declares that she wishes to be an idol – from our perspective, we roughly know what idols in Wake Up, Girls! must experience. I’ve heard that Ayumi and her friends will form their own group, “Run, Girls, Run!”: their presence in New Chapter! seem to be about the positive impacts that idols can have as role models.
- I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this before, but ever since Wake Up, Girls! first season, Mayu’s been my favourite character. While still relatively off the beaten path, discussions about Wake Up, Girls! that I’ve seen have been quite positive. Time is moving at breakneck speed: we’re very nearly halfway through November now, and we’re rolling into December very soon. This anime season has passed by quickly, and I’ve found the other shows I’m watching to be enjoyable. With this post out the gates, I will be turning my attention towards Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter now – I’m curious to see both whether or not I can make an episodic review work, as well as what Hero Chapter entails.
With the next major goal being the production of a full WUG album, I’m looking forwards to seeing what directions New Chapter! will be taking. By this point in time, WUG has become accustomed to truths within the industry, but their cumulative experiences allow them to appropriately address whatever challenges come their way. The togetherness that is central to WUG’s strengths during performances have become somewhat of a crutch for WUG, and having foreseen this, Junko and Youhei have arranged for the girls to perform and work independently to increase their self-reliance. At the halfway point, this appears to be effective: the girls have definitely become much more resilient and adaptive. Mayu similarly reminds everyone that WUG will be WUG as long as everyone believes in one another, regardless of whether their working alone or performing together. While where all of these lessons and learnings will end up remains open for speculation, one thing is likely to be true: WUG will definitely find a way to overcome adversity that will invariably come their way as the series moves into its final episodes, and it will be enjoyable to watch how WUG goes about solving problems in with their own unique approaches.