The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! Review and Reflection at the ¾ Mark

“When you are doing something neat, and you’re doing it with neat people, and there is that convergence, something amazing will happen.” —Rony Abovitz

Ayumi, Itsuka and Otome manage to persuade Junko and Kouhei to take them on as idols-in-training. They are initially assigned to menial tasks, such as handing out fliers for WUG. They find the work to be exhausting and consider throwing in the towel, but when Junko reminds them that an idol’s duty is to smile, Ayumi recalls Mayu’s comments about idols working to ensure that others smile, as well. Encouraged, Ayumi and her friends step it up, handing out more fliers and generating interest amongst some of the people they speak with. They later meet up with WUG proper and formally introduce themselves to the group. When Kouhei and Junko learn that their performance was accidentally scheduled for the same date as I-1’s performance, WUG strives to nonetheless put in their strongest to ensure a successful concert. In one of their performances, Yoshino notices some members of the audience distracted by his phone and feels disheartened, wondering if they can truly capture everyone’s spirits, but Mayu believes that they should work on encouraging more viewers to enjoy their performances. Later, Tasuku gets in touch with WUG and announces that he’s giving them a song for free provided that they can come up with the lyrics. While the girls struggle to come up with the lyrics, pressures from their duties cause them to clash with one another. In spite of this, they manage to make up, and Mayu realises that their experiences form the core of WUG, which they can draw upon to convey within their song.

New Chapter! has certainly managed to keep things moving with its concurrent narratives between WUG and the middle school students; by the three quarters mark, the narratives have finally merged as Ayumi and her friends begin supporting WUG in their own manner, learning more about their role models as they embrace the idea of working their hardest to bring smiles to others. As we progress into the final episodes of New Chapter!, it’s clear that WUG is very much capable of taking things in stride – old conflicts that appeared were promptly sorted out, and the girls come to realise that this is the magic within their group. With their national tour coming up, and the groundwork for their new song taking shape, New Chapter! is shifting into high gear as its final quarter appears. Compared to its predecessors, New Chapter! comes across as being a bit busier with its narrative. There’s definitely a great deal going on, and the story flows quite quickly, covering many elements with each episode. New Chapter! feels quite rushed, and it is the case that things might have been better spaced out over twenty four episodes. With this being said, New Chapter! is paced such that audiences might also appreciate the sort of chaos and busy nature associated with being an idol; in this department, the anime is quite successful at conveying this to viewers.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post was originally intended to come out last week, where the ninth episode was set to release. However, with episode seven being a live-action special in place of the episode, the tenth episode ended up being at New Chapter!‘s three-quarters mark. Offering a commentary on New Chapter! insofar and providing a short quiz show with the voice actors, the seventh episode is counted as such in documentation, suggesting that the series will only have eleven episodes proper if it is following a twelve episode release.

  • Ayumi and her friends’ persistence eventually forces Junko to relent, and she reluctantly allows Kouhei to assign the girls with handing out fliers to promote WUG events. By this point in the series, I’ve come to accept that anything resembling industry-standard animation quality from Millepensee is quite unlikely considering their existing work: New Chapter!‘s strengths come instead from the sincerity in the characters, who alone make this sequel worth watching.

  • Smiling in the face of adversity is what being an idol means, and Ayumi comes to learn this after managing to bring smiles to some children and their parents, who take an interest in WUG’s performances. There’s definitely more to being an idol than a good smile, but at the end of the day, regardless of what occupation one is in, it boils down to one’s resolve, determination to put forth their best and persistence against the odds. Mayu and the others have climbed this path during Wake Up, Girls! original run, and this aspect was the main factor in why the first season was so enjoyable.

  • It suddenly strikes me that I’ve not introduced any of the juniors formally: from left to right, we have Itsuka Atsugi, Otome Morishima and Ayumi Hayashi. Itsuka is a capable dancer and is a fan of I-1, being the most taciturn of the three, while Otome is most at home with singing and is generally fond of idols. I know Ayumi best for being starstruck whenever Mayu is involved: unlike the others, she’s quite shy, although she has a modicum of skill in both singing and dancing. Each of the girls take their surnames from that of their respective voice actor’s.

  • Compared to its predecessor, New Chapter! places a reduced emphasis on interpersonal challenges and instead, focuses on the new difficulties that WUG face even after they’ve made a small splash in the idol industry. Instead of the group working out their internal differences, the goal now is to figure out how to make their presence known and survive in a field that is particularly harsh. Even with their unified wishes to succeed, it takes WUG’s collective know-how and effort to devise means of surviving – this is what New Chapter! places its focus on.

  • I remark that a mark of a capable individual is one who does not see a task as being below them. Instead, people earn respect by doing the simple, often menial jobs well, which shows that they are committed to what they do and thus, are capable of handling the responsibility of larger tasks. At my workplace, while I’m largely a Swift developer, I am also ready to wash the dishes or sweep up as required at my workplace. That Ayumi and the others are willing to take on these jobs similarly show their commitment towards starting out as idols, even if Junko really is just taking advantage of their naïveté.

  • WUG perform a short and sweet song for a local supermarket that I found to be quite engaging and adorable, and I hope this song makes it onto any future WUG albums. The style brings to mind the commercials I saw on television while in Japan – compared to the advertisements back home, Japanese commercials are more friendly and inviting, focusing on the products themselves, while North American advertisements seem to be intended for projecting a certain image associated with a product. It’s why I’m not particularly fond of advertisements, unless they’re movie trailers or for food products: these are the only advertisements that I watch through to completion on YouTube channels.

  • When WUG discover that their ticket sales are lagging, they become discouraged, only for Junko to remind them to focus on their practises and putting on a top-class performance. While the smaller size of Green Leaves Entertainment means that the hierarchy is a bit flatter, similar to that of a start-up. Nonetheless, having a chain of command is important so people can focus on their tasks: management can worry about sales and marketing, while WUG should remain dedicated towards their own assignments. Not shown in this post is Junko kicking Kouhei’s face in.

  • From a distance, the CG is less noticeable, although it still stands out from the traditional animation of the other scenes, having a slightly different frame-rate and texture that is apparent even at lower resolutions. At full 1080p, it feels like I’m playing Enter The Matrix again, a game who similarly was stymied by its weak visuals despite a strong narrative. While it’s difficult for me to say that I prefer New Chapter!‘s animation style over that of the original Wake Up, Girls!, I can say that the animation isn’t so poor that I’ll drop New Chapter! solely because of some uncanny valley moments.

  • While their performance proceeds quite smoothly, Yoshino notices at least one individual who’s on his cell phone during their show, but Mayu reassures her that because their duty is to bring smiles to as many people as they can, rather than everyone in attendance, they’ve done what they set out to accomplish in this concert. Throughout New Chapter!, I-1’s sales are shown to be dropping, and virtual idols are becoming popular with the advances in mobile hardware making it possible to carry digital idols in their own pockets.

  • When Tasuku sends WUG a new song, he sets them the condition that they can freely use the song however they please provided that they can write the lyrics for it. This comes after Kouhei’s persistent attempts to get in touch with Tasuku, who is having difficulty finding the motivation to write songs for his current clients. He flashes back to a time when he left another group, claiming that he didn’t feel like continuing, after fielding the same justification to those he’s currently working with. Perhaps exhausted by the industry, he leaves for America, but his decision to help WUG suggests that he views them as a beacon of hope in a stagnant industry.

  • Writing the lyrics for the new song that Tasuku has sent them proves to be quite a formidable challenge; the girls are struggling to write the lyrics, striving to find time between all of their practices, everyday duties and independent work. Mayu herself falls asleep shortly after arriving home, and the others decide to let her rest, appreciating the effort and committment she’s shown towards all of her responsibilities.

  • I don’t think I’ve introduced them until now; the group Twinkle (Anna and Karina, named after a Danish-French actress), seen in the foreground, are friends of Junko and have been helping WUG with writing some of their songs. When WUG comes to them for advice, they remark that there’s really nothing to teach them and offer that songs written from the bottom of one’s heart have the most impact.

  • My own preferences in music are characterised by a profound enjoyment in music that can tell a story and/or evoke a powerful image in my mind. I’m drawn to a good soundtrack because the music makes me feel a certain way about things, while good vocal songs can paint in my head a vivid picture. In general, I am not fond of pop music from the 90s and later, primarily because these songs use a simple beat and melody that creates repetition, in turn detracting from any messages or imagery the song attempts to convey. Catchy is not what I look for in good music, and hooks are less important to a meaningful song compared to the sound in the entire track, although not everyone will share this particular view of music.

  • Episode ten opens with Nanami announcing that she’s got a new job to work with children, while Minami is assigned to speak with a rather well-known individual. Both face unique challenges in their positions, and a combination of stress, plus miscommunications, lead the two into a disagreement with one another.

  • Having worked with children at a Chinese-language school, I can say that I’m generally a fan of children, provided that they’re well-behaved. Well-behaved children are magic, and it’s always a blast to work with them and watch them engage in their activities, while ill-behaved children are a bloody nightmare to deal with. Nanami is forced to deal with the latter, and I’ve heard that good behaviour in children comes from parents leading by example, providing positive reinforcement and disciplining them when required. When I was much younger, I definitely was a bloody nightmare, but once my parents worked out with my primary school instructors what was happening, they encouraged me to put my energy into reading and learning.

  • So, that’s another tidbit about myself that readers will learn from reading these figure captions. Returning to New Chapter!, the girls begin their practise but find that Mayu is still absent; she’s completed an interview in Tokyo and is listening to Shiho voice her concerns about her group’s proposed disbandment after Tohru Shiraki, I-1’s General Manager and Company President, prepares to shuffle the board around in an attempt to boost sales following several declines. The militaristic, organised approach of I-1 is quite unlike that of WUG: in I-1 Club, their mantra is “Don’t rest, don’t complain, don’t think!”, which speaks to their rigid structuring for success. By comparison, WUG is about supporting one another. The small group dynamic in WUG is one of its greatest strengths.

  • Mayu and Yoshino initially did not get along with one another, and while the two have come a long way since Wake Up, Girls!‘ early days, there are occasions where the two will clash. Fortunately, Yoshino cools off, and Mayu is given a chance to explain herself, rectifying the conflict. Meanwhile, Nanami and Minami reconcile after they manage to help one another off-screen, allowing both to succeed in their work. In the chaos, Mayu has also uncharacteristically misplaced her scrunchy, a testament to just how busy she is.

  • Ayumi and her friends aid in the search, after having spent some time cleaning up the WUG dormitory. Ayumi takes one for the team and endures a cat’s claws, managing to find Mayu’s scrunchy. Taking one for the team, it is here that her spirit and determination is apparent; the girls quickly learn that while their drafted lyrics were accidentally erased earlier during cleaning, togetherness and unity is what defines WUG.

  • As such, the inspiration for the lyrics to the song that Tasuku gave them begins materialising, and the result of this will very likely be “7 Senses”. The song is upbeat, cheerful and befitting of WUG – the album itself came out on November 29, and the next album will release on February 28 in the upcoming year. With this post in the books, I will be returning after the finale to provide thoughts on New Chapter!‘s contributions to Wake Up, Girls! as a whole, and in the meantime, it’s time to get back to sinking ships in Battlefield 1‘s Turning Tides DLC.

I’m not sure if it was by choice or the consequence of production issues, but New Chapter! is missing a seventh episode; in its place is a live action segment featuring WUG’s voice actors, and so, this post actually comes out where the tenth episode has released. With only a quarter of New Chapter! left, I am inclined to say that New Chapter! has managed to capture the nuances and feel surrounding WUG, even introducing a group of new characters in Ayumi and her friends to take the series in a different direction. Limitations in the animation budget are felt quite strongly, but after nine episodes (discounting the live action segment), it’s also apparent that New Chapter! has the same authenticity as the original series and their movies did. Looking into the future, WUG will face the challenge of completing their song and beginning their national tour: I am quite excited to see where this goes, and given that Mayu was already considering naming their song “7 Senses”, it’s likely that the final song will be New Chapter!‘s opening theme, much like how “7 Girls’ War” was both the opening and finale song that WUG performed in the first season.

2 responses to “Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! Review and Reflection at the ¾ Mark

  1. DerekL December 14, 2017 at 22:02

    “togetherness and unity is what defines WUG”

    Indeed – and unusually, they’re self aware of it (as is President Tange) and work to maintain it. That’s why Yoppi was so bent out of shape about the scrunchy (a tangible reminder of that bond), and Mayu so mortified over it. Though it’s smoothed over some, I think Yoppi is still at least a little mistrustful of Mayu.

    I think my biggest grip about the season is how it appears they’ve spent the last couple of years spinning their wheels and are now trying to make up for it in a rush.

    Like

    • infinitezenith December 15, 2017 at 23:16

      Nothing like a good bit of conflict to get things rolling; even among the best of teams, conflicts can sometimes occur, and it’s up to the individuals to work out a solution or compromise. As long as this is the case for WUG, Yoshino’s doubts about Mayu aren’t a particular cause for concern.

      It goes without saying that pacing isn’t New Chapter!‘s strong suit, although in general, I think that with Beyond The Bottom, Wake Up, Girls! had wrapped up the original story quite nicely. Granted, the sequel is fun in being able to show how the group is working with juniors, although it doesn’t have the same spirit as the originals, and likely would have benefitted from a longer run time.

      Liked by 1 person

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