“I believed there were three ways of making people happy. First, there were people who could make lots of people around the world happy. Then, there are people who could make those around them happy, and finally, people could make themselves happy. But now, I understand: by making others happy, we make ourselves happy.” –Mayu Shimada
With WUG’s National Tour jeopardised by the release of a new V-Idol, which is set to perform at Sendai Stadium and produce a scheduling conflict, WUG nonetheless continue to work hard in their own manner as Junko and Kouhei attempt to sort things out – the girls create mini-concerts in and around Sendai to try and generate interest in their upcoming Sendai performance, all the while continuing to work on lyrics for the song that Tasuku had given them. Miyu decides to feature an idol group she enjoys on her web show, and the girls begin considering a nation-wide Idol performance, leading Mayu to realise that idol groups can inspire one another, much like how each member of WUG had a profound impact on one another. When they present Tasuku with their completed song, “Polaris”, he agrees to give them the music, impressed with their effort and skill. However, problems continue with WUG’s final performance venue, and Mayu also finds herself trying to help Shiho find her feet. Through her advice, things eventually result in Shiho deciding to decline an offer to return to I-1 as its centre and taking up a role with her group, Next Storm. When WUG learn that they are given an open field to perform in, they immediately set about cleaning the site up and setting it up to give their audiences the best possible experience. Meanwhile, Ayumi and her friends, long having watched from the sidelines, are asked to step up and perform alongside WUG at their concert. Taking on the name Run Girls, Run!, they put their best into practise for their segment, which, despite difficulties, goes well on the day of the concert. WUG subsequently takes the stage with their performance, and across the nation, other idol groups similarly enchant their audiences. These concerts across Japan lead Tōru Shiraki to wonder why Tasuku had set in motion all this by encouraging WUG, and he replies that it’s more interesting this way. Following the concert, WUG and Run Girls, Run! continue training to bring happiness to their audiences.
As a proper sequel to Wake Up, Girls!, New Chapter!‘s main challenge was presenting the path that WUG had taken after establishing themselves; Wake Up, Girls!‘ magic lie in showing how Mayu and the others overcame the obstacles on their journey to become idols, and a considerable part of the appeal was how the girls’ persistence and determination led them to make their mark. The second season could no longer wield the same magic, as this story had already been spent in the first. While New Chapter! continues to emphasise that WUG’s strength lay in the group’s unity, the sequel simultaneously took a step in a different direction in Ayumi and Run Girls, Run! – the anime depicts a passing on of the torch from the veterans in WUG to Ayumi and her friends. Having worked hard in their own right, Run Girls Run! was born from the juniors proving their worth to their seniors and managers: they are given a chance to perform. Their journey is not littered with the challenges that Mayu and the others experienced during their start – they start on the shoulders of giants and are working with a group that has paved the way, who have already learned the basics, so they can inherit their lessons. This is not to trivialise the difficulties that Ayumi and her friends experienced – watching them reach a point where they could perform alongside WUG, speaks volumes to just how much they’ve grown over the course of New Chapter!
Beyond Run, Girls, Run!, New Chapter! also deals with the path that WUG take now that they’ve matured as a group: besides looking after juniors and helping them discover the joys that make being an idol worthwhile, they also turn their attention inwards when Tasuku presents them with a song to write. With a blank slate, the girls wonder how their experiences could feed into the song, and the fact that they encountered difficulties in writing illustrate that WUG take their work seriously. While each member of WUG now understand and depend on one another, they occasionally still have their differences, and seeing this is what leads them to realise that this is what best defines their group. With a concrete handle on what makes WUG, WUG, Mayu and the others turn this understanding into a means of promoting idols across Japan even as the V-Idol fad begins taking over. The simultaneous concerts held, in light of the V-Idol reveal, bring people together and hold their attention, as well as rekindling the novelty that human idols can bring into a performance: this is best symbolised during the final performance. When a snowstorm threatens to disrupt the hardware driving the performance, the V-Idol falters where WUG improvise. While it is perhaps a bit optimistic of New Chapter! to suppose that old-fashioned spirit and spunk can hold its own against technology, the message in New Chapter! is a warming one, reminding audiences that in spite of technological innovation, there isn’t quite a suitable substitute for the human touch.
Screenshots and Commentary
- In this finale post, I have the customary thirty screenshots so that a wider range of topics may be covered. As the girls excitedly discuss their performance plans in their tour, I will diverge and address one of the elephants in the room: Tōru Shiraki and I-1 Club are completely absent from my proceedings, as are the antics of Kuniyoshi Ōta. For Kuniyoshi, his vociferous rallies do little in contributing to the themes in Wake Up, Girls!, and while intended to show that WUG has its proponents in cyberspace supporting them, I found Kuniyoshi’s inclusion in New Chapter! to be a vestigial trait remaining from the first season.
- As for Tōru and I-1 Club, their moments in New Chapter! are present for the same reason they figured in the first season: compared to WUG, I-1 Club follows a highly structured, highly disciplined approach towards performances, and as such, lack the same human attributes as WUG. Here, WUG prepare for a photo-shoot with a photographer who had previously worked with Yoshino: the results are quite nice, fuelling WUG’s excitement in their upcoming performances.
- Amidst ongoing concerns about ticket sales, WUG nonetheless work their hardest. Over time, Ayumi, Itsuka and Otome begin receiving rudimentary training as well. Unlike WUG, who started from almost nothing, Ayumi and her friends have a bit of a base to work from; WUG support them, and some of the trainers working with WUG are also willing to provide instruction for them. Their start is a bit smoother than WUG’s, attesting to how much of a difference having something to start from can make. Ayumi, Itsuka and Otome thus became the focus for one of the new messages that were presented in New Chapter!.
- This moment succinctly captures what being in WUG means: a major part of the sincerity that I find in WUG is their resolute determination to see their tasks through. The group is very hands-on with respect to how they solve problems – throughout the first season, WUG persisted through remarkably difficult situations, and by the events of New Chapter!, they take problems in stride, turning negatives around and make the most of things. This theme had already been explored in full earlier, so in the second season, one of the things I was looking for was whether or not New Chapter! could introduce a new message that could only be delivered with a group that has had some experience.
- In order to drive up interest and sales, WUG begin performing in public venues; this particular endeavour comes from the girls’ own initiatives. Through these free performances, their faces and names become a bit more familiar to Sendai’s residents, and slowly, sales begin to turn around.
- One of the main challenges WUG faced internally was coming up with lyrics for the new song that Tasuku had offered them, and while this was not presented until later in New Chapter!, the journey that WUG take towards crafting suitable lyrics formed the basis for the second new theme that New Chapter! introduces. Evidently, song-writing is no easy task, leaving each of Miyu, Mayu, Kaya, Yoshino, Nanami, Airi and Minami stumped as they try to work out lyrics that best capture the spirit of WUG.
- When Miyu meets up with Namahagez, declaring it a “Day of Idols”, it inspires the others to spread the word and put on performances of their own to coincide with the I-1 Club performance. The Namahagez speak volumes to the sort of influence that WUG has in inspiring other units: they remained together to perform after seeing the strength in WUG’s unity. It’s been quite some time since I’ve done any mention of other idol groups, if at all, so to bring readers up to speed, the Namahagez were an amateur group who performed with a unique flair during the first season and originally inspired Miyu to continue with WUG. The group later professed a desire to call it quits, but seeing Miyu and WUG prompted them to carry on.
- Wake Up, Girls! was originally conceived as a part of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake recovery efforts in Sendai, and while the franchise remains in the shadows of giants, its unique origins and set up has certainly made me a supporter of WUG’s efforts in reality. Imagery of the earthquake and tsunami remain unimaginably haunting. In the time since the disaster, the Sendai area is still struggling to rebuild and recover: while reconstruction is occurring, and jobs are on the rise, the region has seen a drop in population. While Wake Up, Girls! never mentions the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake directly, the lead voice actors in Wake Up, Girls! were brought together by the disaster and work hard to generate interest in Sendai with their performances, which is a contributor to the recovery effort.
- WUG travel to Tokyo in preparation for their performances here, and Mayu takes the time to find Shiho such that they might meet properly. While Shiho continues to view Mayu as little more than a professional rival, Mayu regards Shiho in a cordial fashion and so, is willing to step up to help out when the need arises. After meeting up with Shiho to discuss her situation, Mayu manages to convince Junko to arrange a meeting between her and Tōru.
- Mayu’s meeting with Tōru goes sideways: he is unyielding and admits that idols are meant to be perfect entertainers, whereas Mayu considers idols as human beings, first and foremost. This difference in mindset is what allows WUG to separate itself from I-1 Club: while I-1 Club may have branding behind it, WUG’s music is delivered with genuine feelings and sincerity. It is for this reason that each of WUG’s performances are distinct and memorable, and why all of their songs are so enjoyable – in-universe, I-1’s dropping sales are likely the consequence of their content being too manufactured, too derivative and clearly mass-produced.
- While the meeting might have failed, Shiho calls Mayu and reassures Mayu that she’s alright now, having committed to sticking it out with NEXT STORM. The meeting also had unforeseen consequences when a tabloid runs a bit of what is now called “fake news”, speculating that Mayu was trying to re-join I-1 Club. It speaks volumes to just how focussed WUG are when the girls don’t even flinch to this bit of gossip. They turn their attention to their own problems, and here, I’ve got a screenshot of Junko throttling Kouhei for Tōru’s actions: she’s concerned that the news might negatively impact sales to a much greater extent than the girls themselves.
- Kouhei manages to secure a performance venue close to Sendai Airport, and having taken a look around the area, there definitely are several empty fields that could accommodate a large crowd. Back home, the Scotia Bank Saddledome is the go-to venue for the sort of concerts that WUG might perform. I’ve never actually been to live concerts at the Saddledome before on account that my taste in music is quite far removed from the sort of thing that is performed there: the Jack Singer Concert Hall and Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium are host to the kind of music that I enjoy.
- While Junko laments the expense of setting up the location to accommodate an audience, WUG are thrilled at the site’s size, feeling that the empty land will allow them to set up a venue that will best suit their audience. It speaks to WUG’s talents for improvisation and making the most of any moment when this is their immediate impression: adversity has definitely given the girls an adaptive mindset, and when things get tough, they simply respond by getting creative.
- It was therefore very encouraging to see the girls scatter into the fields, plainly pleased with the setting, and as they begin clearing the field of detritus, Ayumi and her friends arrive to assist, suggesting that WUG rehearse with the time that they’ve got. Ayumi, Itsuka and Otome have come a long ways from being mere fans, and the pursuit of their dreams have led them to become closer to WUG than they’d anticipated.
- It is through Miyu’s web show that word of a nation-wide performance from various idol groups begin materialising, and the girls feel that, in response to the V-Idol concert, traditional idol groups should deliberately perform. This initiative is the culmination of the learnings that WUG has experienced both internally and from their performances previously: that they are willing to drive disruption is a strong indicator of how far they’ve come, as well as indicating that they understand their identity by this point in time.
- The amount of sweat and tears Ayumi and her friends have poured into helping WUG, while all the while learning the basics of performance on top of their academics, have not gone unnoticed. While most of this happens off-screen, their inextinguishable zeal to make a difference and do their best is seen in the moments that they are present, and so, wanting to give them a chance, Yoshino and the others decide that Ayumi and her friends have earned a place alongside WUG on stage during their performance.
- Junko initially feels that the difference in experience between WUG and Ayumi’s group is such that she wouldn’t be able to justify charging for the latter’s performance: there’s a certain level of professionalism involved here. However, when the girls reveal their role in starting the Wake Up, Idol! programme, which is meant to include all idols, Junko relents and assigns them to perform as WUG’s opening act. For her objections, Junko had in fact been planning to give Ayumi and her friends their first song to perform with.
- Their surprise in this assignment soon gives way to stress, but with WUG’s help, they begin preparing for their first ever performance. Ayumi, Itsuka and Otome become christened “Run Girls, Run!”, after the fact that they’ve always been running around to their destinations, and after setting up their introductions, their unit name sticks. It’s a nice name, and while I’ve chosen to spell their group name out in full each and every time here, if there is a continuation, I’ll likely stick with RGR.
- On the day of their performance, Run Girls, Run! run into the oft-encountered problem of nerves, and they botch their introduction. However, with some encouragement, they regroup and properly deliver their introduction to the assembled viewers. Prior to their performance, each member of WUG give them the scrunchies they’d made earlier from their old uniforms, symbolic of their act in passing on the torch to the juniors.
- While they’re not the main event, it was nonetheless a joy to watch Run Girls, Run! perform for the first time. Even though there are imperfections in their routine (they bump into one another, become desynchronised and mis-step), they do their best in spite of all this and impress the audience, both in-show and from my end, setting the stage for WUG’s event. It’s a far cry from the unattended first performance that WUG had in the park during winter when they first debuted.
- As WUG take the stage and perform their best songs, from 7 Girls War to Tachiagare and 7 Senses, I’m going to share with viewers a bit of a personal story that takes me back to Wake Up, Girls! original run in 2014. This is quite unlike anything I’ve done before, and I remark that this story is why I consider Wake Up, Girls!, its movies and New Chapter! to be a masterpiece despite the highly visible technical shortcomings within the anime. For readers who take the time to actually read figure captions, there’s a bit of an interesting personal story below.
- While I had been curious about Wake Up, Girls! during the winter 2014 anime season, a glance at my site archives shows that I was following a large number of other series at the time. I was doing open studies at the time, taking a combination of courses in preparation for either a future as a graduate student or for medical school. Mid-semester, I was having what one might consider to be a existential crisis, and amidst decisions of which direction to take, as well as grappling with matters of the heart, things were looking quite miserable at the time: my degree in bioinformatics meant I felt like I had neither enough medical knowledge to meet basic qualifications for medical school, nor did I feel as though I had enough knowledge about computer science to be an acceptable software developer.
- During this time, I was enrolled in my supervisor’s advanced iOS programming class, and one of the highlights about this course is that there are a large number of presentations from guest speakers. The one that most resonated with me was the talk on start-up companies and what it took to make it as a start-up: my perspectives opened up, and I gained a bit of insight into the sort of mindset that entrepreneurs must have. At the time, I did not entertain thoughts of working for a start-up, feeling that it was a bit of a risk to do so (I’ve never been much of a risk-taker).
- There’s no correlation between this particular guest lecturer’s moving presentation and my decision to pick up Wake Up, Girls!, but when I did begin watching it, I saw in WUG the sort of drive and determination, as well as the willingness to put the team ahead of the individual, that folks working at a start-up must have as a part of their character. Watching the girls mature and grow was superbly rewarding, and acted as an inspiration for me to do the same. With encouragement and support from my supervisor, I ended up going to graduate school.
- The Giant Walkthrough Brain project was also announced shortly after Wake Up, Girls! ended, and my supervisor offered me a role in helping with the project. Having been unsuccessful in applying for summer work as a developer elsewhere, I decided to seize the opportunity and be all I could be as a software developer there. Thus, I took up Unity and learned C# on my journey to build the Giant Walkthrough Brain; late in the summer, I began watching Locodol, and in it, I realised that working under my supervisor was very similar to the environment seen in Locodol: Yukari and Nanako both work hard to accomplish their goals, but they work in a controlled environment that allows for failure while simultaneously allowing the two to grow and mature. This connection is why I enjoyed Locodol to the extent that I have.
- If Locodol represents the environment of university, then Wake Up, Girls! is intended to depict what working in the real world is like. The comparison was very humbling, and I understood that after graduate school, I would be dealing very much with the latter. In spite of that, watching the energy and resolve of WUG proved to be a strong source of inspiration, and today, I’m working at a start-up company with the goal of leaving behind a tangible, positive impact on society with the skill set that I’ve developed over the past several years.
- I see a bit of myself in WUG and their experiences, so from a subjective perspective, I count Wake Up, Girls! to be a masterpiece for being a positive catalyst, partially influencing the direction that I chose to take in life. It’s bloody hard work, and I admit it is scary when each and every day, I ask myself as to whether or not I’ll still have a job tomorrow. On the flipside, it’s meaningful and fulfilling work to be writing iOS apps for a purpose that will make things better for others, so as long as I can, I’m going to do just this.
- Hence, while Wake Up, Girls! has shortcomings in each of its seasons, it’s also a bit more of a personal connection on my end, so I’ve been finding ways to enjoy this series in my own manner. For all of the complaints about the animation, there are occasionally some moments where this doesn’t matter, such as during those scenes when the girls perform. In the finale, one subtle detail that stands out in New Chapter!‘s final performance is that, in response to the cold weather, the girls’ fingertips turn a shade of pink during their concert, and their breath is visible.
- A snowstorm begins midway through WUG’s performance, affecting electronics and even threatening the V-Idol concert. Undeterred by the malfunction in their audio equipment, the girls step into the audience area and begin dancing, showing that they’ve mastered the art of taking things in stride and improvising. This is a curious parallel to the thunderstorm that knocked out power to the Banff Center during the first-ever Giant Walkthrough Brain performance: Jay Ingram seamlessly weaved the power outage into his narrative, and audiences enjoyed the improvisation, which transitioned flawlessly back into the script once power was restored.
- Because Wake Up, Girls! has a bit more of a personal connection for me, I offer no verdict or final score in New Chapter! because I’ve got my predispositions and biases: I found New Chapter! to be superbly enjoyable even if it was rushed, and sincere even when the animation is not satisfactory. With this, my discussions on New Chapter! draw to a close, and looking ahead to the future, I feel that Wake Up, Girls! has accomplished its initial goals, in both the anime and for the cast providing the voices. The story’s come to a reasonable stopping point: that the final scene depicts a board with the words that “this story is only the beginning” might hint at a continuation, but it also can be seen as saying that WUG’s actions have set in motion many beginnings for many people, bringing happiness to others as Mayu has described.
No discussion of Wake Up, Girls! can be complete without some mention of the visuals, and while it is quite easy to note that Millepensee’s execution of New Chapter! is amateur compared to even that of their predecessors, New Chapter! nonetheless manages to retain the spirit and messages conveyed as effectively as Wake Up, Girls! did during its first season. A solid performance from each of the cast continues to engage viewers even where the visual elements are sub-optimal, and similarly, the sincerity of the narrative offsets the uneven, rough pacing of the story throughout New Chapter!. In a manner of speaking, the execution of Wake Up, Girls! has always been similar to the experiences WUG encountered: although their performances and approach might lack finesse, each of Mayu, Yoshino, Miyu, Kaya, Airi, Nanami and Minami genuinely put forth their best efforts for their audiences. Likewise, the sincerity is evident in the voice actors’ performances for their characters. Wake Up, Girls! is unlikely to become a powerhouse comparable to juggernauts like Love Live! and IdolM@ster, similar to how WUG and I-1 remain in different leagues, but as far as sincerity and honesty goes, there is a certain joy in Wake Up, Girls! that makes the series enjoyable even in light of all of the technical limitations present within. The sequel, New Chapter!, is no different, inheriting the same characteristics as its predecessor; while it’s got the same faults, New Chapter! also manages to continue doing the things that made the first season enjoyable and provided new aspects to illustrate what ultimately was beyond the bottom for WUG.