So, Wake Up Girls…

Posted by DiGiKerot in Wake Up Girls! at January 10, 2014 on 10:53 pm

Yamakan sure did go and make the Fractale of idol cartoons.

Which isn’t to say that Wake Up, Girls is a bad show – it’s actually pretty entertaining and has a traditional 2D animated dance sequence, and at least one of those things is more than you can say about most idol anime these days, but watching the movie which begins the franchise is an experience not-unlike watching the first episode of the directors most infamous of prior works.

That is, it’s all cynical as hell, and it sure enjoys pointing it out on a regular basis.

Wake Up, Girls centres around Green Leaf Production, a small entertainment management group working out of Sendai, whose boss is rendered a whole ball of frustration when yet another one of their acts decides to leave them and head off to Tokyo in order to make their fortune. She then, however, sees super-popular Tokyo based idol group I-1 Club (which you may as well read AKB48) on the television, and decides to lumber her sole underling with the task of assembling a new idol unit in order to launch Green Leaf to fame and fortune.

Idol career status: Ruined

Then, after forty minutes of girl-herding effort, having assembled a unit including a ribbon-less Amami Haruka, a chripy moe-moe-kyun maid-cafe worker, a former I-1 Club member and the token 13 year-old, and three others of presently-less consequence, the boss leaves them in the lurch just before their debut performance by disappearing with all the companies money, leaving them with bills poor mister Producer has no way to pay, a stack of CDs and nowhere to perform. Oh noes!

One does have to wonder if Mr Producer (actually called Matsuda Kohei) is something of a self-insert for Yamakan (as in, director Yamamoto Yukata, to use his actual name) himself, lumbered with having to meet the expectations of his production partners in less than ideal circumstances. He’s earnest but realistic about the whole affair, but his boss takes an incredibly traditional approach to the whole idol group production thing. Part of the audition process even has her asking the girls if they are virgins, as you do, but she is forming the group purely to try and jump on the popularity bandwagon of what others are doing, and is looking for very specific in the groups members. She calls the group “Wake Up, Girls” because truncating it to “WUG” makes it sound like the British pop group “Wham”, though, realistically, it’s probably because it’s rather reminicent of Morning Musume when it comes to real-world marketing. It’s an idol group forged from elements of other popular idol groups.

Which kind of makes the production feel really rather disingenuous. Social commentary is fine and all, and disregarding any possible reading of the show as a commentary on it’s own actual production, there’s a lot in there which is specifically nailing the anime and idol fandoms. Yeah, I think the fandoms supposed obsession with their idols virginity is pretty dumb, as is the kind of talk that they sometimes get into on internet forums. There’s a stage performance which is reused between the movie and the TV show and is full of panty shots, which seems to be in there entirely as a gotcha for the audience who pervs over them having seen the TV version before the movie, which reveals them to be an entirely cynical and pandering part of the stage performance.

This would be fine if the whole production was set up as being a biting piece of satire, but at the same time, they are shilling merchandise of these characters. They want you to buy tie-in CDs. They want you to buy pin badges featuring your favourite girl and/or their associated animal. They want you (well, those of you in Japan) to go to concerts. It’s like they’re simultaneously telling you that you are kind of disgusting for being an obsessive idol and/or cartoon nerd at the same time as really, really hoping you become an obsessive idol and/or cartoon nerd over the characters in this particular show. The fact that they keep telling you and pointing out how they’re trying to make you that obsessive nerd doesn’t really excuse it from the fact that it’s doing these things.

All of which could be a gross misjudgment of the intention, I guess. It’s honestly hard to read whether they’re deliberately playing on the audience, or simply throwing in things that they’d assume would make a popular idol show. It was the same with Fractale – as easy as it was to point and laugh at all the things in that shows first episode which looked like they were lifted straight from Nausicaa or Laputa or Nadia, it was difficult to tell if that came from Yamakan’s rhetoric about making something that’d be really, genuinely popular and industry saving, or if it was a deliberate commentary on the perceived database animal nature of the audience and/or their unhealthy obsession with purity. The show didn’t really help with the way it fumbled it’s own messaging, either, or that it failed to deliver on any other the more interesting elements it established.

The main problem is, honestly, that the cynicism is pretty much the main source of character the show currently has. It’s the only significantly noticeable flavour. I mean, Love Live is perhaps even more cynical in construction than WUG is, calculated for broad nerd-pandering appeal with just a pinch of audience participation, but it also literally vomits personality, making it real easy to overlook.

WUG isn’t like that. WUG is rather more grounded, it’s humour is dry, and, maid aside, whilst the characters are still mostly genre stereotypes, they aren’t really exaggerated in any specific way, yet they fail to do anything particularly interesting or gripping with them in eighty-odd minutes of content. It’s actually kind of nice that when a character pratfalls onto the Producer, they apologise for landing on top of him rather than going into a forced comedy routine about how much of a pervert he is. The girls even flash their knickers without the usual screams of embarrassment in accompaniment. I generally think that Yamakan’s sense of humour is pretty good, but without the idiosyncrasies of the original work or Kurata’s writing as in Kannagi, it’s actually pretty spread sparse here, mostly leaving ineffective drama and talking heads to build interest in characters. It kind of makes you appreciate how effective the use of humour in other idol shows like iM@S, Love Live and Aikatsu was in establishing character.

That all kind of leaves most of the show feeling a little bland and empty – a pastiche of other popular works like Fractales opening – aside from the aforementioned cynicism in regards to the anime audience and the idol industry in general. Which might be fine if I had any real confidence in the show to actually follow through on any of these themes in any significant fashion. I mean, the first TV episode ends with what looks like, for all intents and purposes, it leading into a skeezy Yakuza-affliated producer type trying to squeeze in and lure the girls into equally skeezy Junior Idol Bikini videos. That could go into really dark, gross but kind of interesting places, but more likely it’ll actually be nothing of the sort. There’s hints of nefarious idol industry activities in the backstory of the one character who has been given one, but it’s yet to be seen if they’re as interesting as they could be.

Honestly, though, I’m sure I’m coming across way too harsh, and way more negative on the show than I actually am, but, hey, a guy has to vent sometimes. Yamakan is going to Yamakan is all. As I said right up back at the start, Wake Up, Girls is actually pretty entertaining. The animation seriously needs a bit of work – the movie is mostly fine, if increasingly janky as it progresses into it’s final third, but the TV episode is really rough in places – but I don’t think it’s quite as bad as some of the pictures you’ve probably seen elsewhere on the internet, aside from a few cuts of really awful background composition.

Also, not really directly related to quality or anything, but it’s real nice that Crunchyroll managed to swing getting the movie, which only just opened in Japanese theaters, to coincide with the broadcast of the first episode (and, honestly, it’s kind of essential to follow it).

(Also, Tiger is best girl)

Two consecutive cuts which beg the question – Where did the pancakes go, Tiger? Where did the pancakes go?

(Also, Also, yes, I realised I used the word “cynical” way too often. Kind of unavoidable, alas)


I can agree with your comments. But my take is both more cynical and less in that I’m glad they took a grounded approach to this because I’m tired of cynicism in my idols? I guess I am target audience? It’s not going to convince anyone, but Yamakan’s saving idol anime provides a growing genre a new flavor. It’s got its pros and cons but I’m glad it walks a very different path than the big names before it.


Nah, I’m cool with that line of thought – honestly, it kind of great exactly how little tonal and conceptual overlap there’s been across the major idol anime in recent times – iM@S, Love Live, Aikatsu, 0048… All very different shows from each other.

All cynicism aside, though, thinking on it, my main problem with WUG right now is how little grasp of the actual characters I feel I have right now after what equates to about three episodes worth of content – the most effective characterisation they’ve done thus far is for the producer and the character they’ve written out (for the time being). Whilst I appreciate that they’ve got plenty time remaining to fill in the actual idols, it feels like they’ve barely even started laying foundations for 4-5 of them.


At 3 episodes, I think Love Live has gotten about as far as WUG. Granted my opinion of Love Live is not very high but I think it’s about on par for the course.

Par for the course is better than, say, 0048 and anim@s, in my opinion.


To be fair, I honestly can’t really judge anim@s fairly in that kind of regard, because I was already deep into the fandom years before the TV show rolled around.

Also, any comparison to 0048 is almost invalidated by the fact that, by the end of the third episode, we’d seen idol guerilla warfare from the trenches, man. That was crazy/bonkers/awesome/Kawamori enough to extinguish other mere concerns.

But, meh, I’ll see if I can kind some time later in the week to rewatch WUG before the next episode lands in order to see if any more of it sticks.

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