|Overall||Art||Animation||Character Design||Music||Series Story||Episode Story||Reviewer|
Wake Up, Girls!
Wake Up Girls explores the rising fame and struggles surrounding the titular pop idol band as they learn to get along with one another and improve on their vocal and dancing skills to become successful performers. The series tries to go for a more realistic focus on the rising fame of WUG as they deal with sleazy managers, reporters, the top pop idol group in the country, and their own personal issues to try becoming successful. This exploration is a bit of a mixed bag as it does have its believable elements it delves into like the manufacturing of idols by media executives and delving into the personal struggles facing some of the girls in WUG, though some characters are left underdeveloped and it is hard to identify with them due to how limited they are in depth compared to others. The attempts at depicting elements of the idol industry can also come off as a bit over-the-top at points, particularly with the mentioned sleazy manager that the girls encounter during an early episode in the series. Also compared to the movie, it looked like the series ran into some animation budget issues as there were a noticeable number of animation shortcuts I took notice of and many of the facial designs for characters looked the same to a great extent, especially with female characters.
Overall, I suppose I am rather ho-hum about Wake Up Girls. It offers some solid storytelling elements with exploring some elements of the pop idol industry and offers development on some characters with their struggles making it in the industry. However, a number of characters are underdeveloped compared to others and focus on pop idols is not new territory for anime with how Japan glorifies the industry in various mediums. I doubt I'll be revisiting the series anytime soon with my underwhelming reception to it.
Last updated Sunday, January 21 2018. Created Sunday, January 21 2018.
Wake Up, Girls!
(All episodes watched):|
Wake Up Girls was a series which made use of the unusual tactic of starting off with a sort of TV movie then the TV series taking off from there. WUG became my favorite new series of the Winter 2014 season; but I couldn't help feeling that the series wasn't quite as good as the movie had been. It seemed to have everything it needed to take off, such as likeable characters and an intriguing and humorous storyline to boot. But somehow the show seemed unwilling to take the necessary risks in order to become a truly exceptional show. It tended to use tried-and-true techniques when I was hoping for novel ones.
Still, it was fun. The girls have spunk and personality; you can feel their humiliation when called upon to perform in skimpy bikinis in episode two. Rather than leering at the fanservice you are sympathizing with them--that doesn't happen often. A basic secret of anime, and storytelling in general, is that if you give characters likeable personalities the audience will forgive all sorts of errors in other aspects. We pretty much know how the story will end, but don't know how it will get there, and the twists and turns the plot takes are fun. The journey is more fun than reaching the destination. I looked forward to each new episode and giggled with anticipation when it became available. Though WUG didn't attain it's full potential, this is a show which took the trouble to get things right rather than being slapped together as yet another forgettable anime.
But it gradually became clear that this TV series wasn't going to be as good as the lead-in movie had been. I sometimes felt that time was being wasted on mundane topics when what I really wanted was to learn more about the main plot, namely, how will the WUGs manage to become a success and realize their dreams? Another central question of the series is why Mayu left the famous I-1 group under mysterious circumstances. The plot had several clever twists to it, like in episode six: an expert Idol producer, with a proven record of success, offers to train the WUGs. But his approach is a harsh one, much like that of I-1 (which he also works for). The question becomes, which has higher priority: success and money, or friendship and loyalty? We know which way the girls and Green Leaves will go, but seeing how they work their way out of this trap that they have fallen into, and how they find a way to succeed without being heartlessly efficient, tells us a lot about them. I felt that the way the problem of him wanting to sack one of the girls was resolved was a little too rushed and shallow; but on the other hand, it turns out that the new director isn't a total asshole after all. In other words, he has a dynamic, changeable personality--many shows have yet to grasp the concept that the personalities of characters can ever be anything different than what they were when they were first introduced. The characters were definitely this shows strongest point, IMO.
I thought the way a comment from a former I-1 member caused Mayu to change (consciously or unconsciously) her own approach to training and improvement was kind of simplistic and rushed. It seems that each WUG member develops some sort of conflict which is quickly resolved with the help of her comrades--like the girl who was going to be fired by the new producer, the one who felt she wasn't good enough, the one who is tempted to leave the group for another line of work, etc, etc. Doing this once or twice was OK, but it gets kind of tiresome when it is repeated repeatedly. I wish instead of a number of quick and relatively shallow problems, one or two of them had become more complicated and lengthy. Mayu's change of mind didn't have to be shoved into our attention so quickly; it would have been more interesting and plausible if it had taken more than half an episode to develop. A few hints of what was going on might have been dropped before it was made clear.
In episode nine we finally learn the story behind Mayu's unhappy exit from I-1. The obvious question is, can any idol group attain success without the merciless but effective training regimen that I-1 uses? I-1 is clearly a sham, as it gives the people what they want but the lives it's members live are in fact nothing like what they imagine. I was a little surprised how easily the first round of the Idol competition went in episode ten. The bizarre Oga Demons group didn't turn out to be nearly as serious as rivals as I had expected.
For much of the series I was certain that WUG would have to be a two-season series, since going from a little known local group to national stars (and being given a TV movie opener) would surely be indicative of a lengthy story. But no, the story races forward, and, while the voice actresses joke about a possible second season coming about some day, for now the story ends with just twelve episodes. I almost expected a crushing setback for the girls in the first major competition, since their fortunes seemed to be going a little too well to be believed. The final episode seemed yet another example of this show being satisfactory but refusing to stretch the envelope enough to be truly outstanding. I guess I assumed that the quality of the TV series would be identical to that of the movie, and set my expectations so high that I could only be disappointed when it turned out that it wasn't. But rather than being angry at WUG, I feel sorry for it because it clearly could have been better, and nobody would have been happier if that had happened than me.
Last updated Tuesday, November 01 2016. Created Monday, January 20 2014.
|Official Japanese Series Web Site||http://wakeupgirls.jp/|