First Look: Wake Up, Girls!

"WUG" is an awful acronym

Alternate Titles: Not The iDOLM@STER, Not Love Live! Either, Yamakan Saves Anime 2.0: Fail Harder
Anime original by Ordet
Simulcast on Crunchyroll

Premise

A down on its luck talent agency recruits seven girls to form an idol group, including a former idol with a mysterious past that outshines them all. After their first performance, the girls must decide their future.

Good morning?

Jel’s Verdict: Still Asleep

Before getting into my thoughts on Wake Up, Girls! it needs to be pointed out that in addition to the first episode that aired on television there was also a one hour movie that streamed online on the same day. Having watched both for this post I shouldn’t even say “addition” as the movie is essentially the first two episodes of the series. It handles all the character introductions and sets up the premise so if you are plan on attempting to enjoy this, it’s mandatory viewing (otherwise see Aqua’s thoughts below).

The big question of course is whether Wake Up, Girls! is worth investing an hour and a half of your life into, and while I’m inclined to say “no” it’s not because I don’t think there’s something worthwhile buried in this shoddy production. Personally I could care less about idols or idol culture but if I HAD to watch an anime about it I think I this is the way I’d like to see it done. Wake Up, Girls! is essentially an underdog story, the muted visuals and occasionally salty personalities of its cast far removed from the bright lights and colors of the Idom@sters and Love Lives of the world. While similar stories might tell you about girls wanting to escape their dreary small town prospects, in this case I actually believe them, not because they have some contrived tragic backstory (at least not yet) but because LIFE SUCKS and that’s just the way things are unless you do something about it.

Save us, Emo Idol Jesus!

So if Wake Up, Girls! does deliver the idol show I’ve been looking for, then why I am not recommending it? It’s mostly a matter of execution. I might be willing to look past the awful animation, which ranges from mediocre in the movie to downright ugly in the first episode, but the fact that everything I just told you gets stretched to the length of three anime episodes when it probably could have been two makes the whole affair feel a bit bloated and self indulgent. Thanks, Yamakan! I spent a good portion of the movie yelling at my screen for the main girl (whom I’ve been referring to as “Emo Idol Jesus”) to just hurry up and join the group already.

I’m also concerned about the direction of the series going forward, as most of the aspects of the story I enjoyed were wrapped up by the end of the first episode. I almost wish this had simply been a two hour movie, in which the girls give it their best shot and then decide to move on with their lives. That certainly would have sent an interesting message. Instead, looking forward, it’s very likely Wake Up, Girls! will become just like any other idol show. I’m sure the girls will always be underdogs, but I suspect we will see a lot more singing and dancing and power of friendship story lines in the future. Assuming you’re cool with that and some awful production values, this might be worth checking out. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.

Aqua, look what you missed

Aqua’s Verdict: Go Back To Sleep, Girls

I am a romantic. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I hire a violinist and light copious amounts of candles for dinner dates, no, I am talking about romanticism in the classic sense. My life seems to consist of nothing but impossible, mystical expectations and ideals destined to never come true in this harsh, cruel world. When I read up on Wake Up, Girls!, my stupid head somehow conjured up the idea that this could just be the anime I had been waiting for: A cynical idol anime that would expose the dark side of the industry, and document the rise and fall of seven dubiously talented girls working their butts off to escape a city torn apart by natural disaster and becoming the darlings of sweaty masses nationwide at the price of betraying everything they ever stood for. Too bad Wake Up, Girls! is not that show.

First things first, I must admit that I made the mistake of watching the first episode of the televised anime without knowing there came a movie before it, Lifesong told me at least some of this cynicism is in some degree present in said movie, but the actual show shows so few signs of that, it doesn’t do anything to make me want to go back and watch the film… Yet of course I’m still going to complain about it, duh! Aside from just being an unprofessional, lazy bum, I simply cannot believe the same people who produced this wet blanket could actually make something worthwhile — especially not with these same cardboard cutout characters. While Wake Up, Girls!, the series, might at times flirt with the cleverness I hoped for against my better judgement, in the end it will be remembered only for being one of the most half-assed productions I have ever seen.

So moe!

It is hard to believe that Yamakan and his crew still get work after the disaster that was Fractale, and Wake Up, Girls! seems to be following in that show’s notorious footsteps. The titular idols all look and sound identical, and are more off-model than they are on, even in still scenes. The animation is limited and jittery, especially during performances, and the whole thing is paced about as well as a turtle can run. While the dreary suburban setting gains Wake Up, Girls! a few points in my book, it does little to fool me into thinking this show is more than just a cynical cash grab; one that’s hardly as clever as it thinks it is to boot. Moe tropes still run rampant, the music isn’t any less synthetic as the girls’ forced smiles and even in its so-called ‘realistic’ approach, Wake Up Girls! falls flat on its ugly, disheveled face.

When the episode ends with the group’s new producer — a tanned caricature clad in a cheap suit and gold chains — commanding the girls to try on a bikini, I almost hoped next episode would see the idols sending him on his way. Yet this ‘cliffhanger’ occurs less then five minutes after a performance scene that repeatedly flashed panties more detailed and distinct than the characters’ actual faces! It’s this massive shark jump — the climactic first performance after bitter work and hardship, ruined by objectification of the most insensitive kind — where Wake Up, Girls! reveals its true colours and buries any and all expectations I had for it along with its integrity. It might continue to insist it’s oh so clever for the rest of its run, but I won’t be there to be fooled anymore.

3 thoughts on “First Look: Wake Up, Girls!

  1. I’ll most likely give Wake Up, Girls! one more go before I drop it, since mostly I spent this first episode trying my darndest not to fall asleep. And while I’m aware that the movie is intended to be seen before the series for everything to properly make sense, I just can’t be bothered with spending that much time on the anime. I really only watched the first episode at all because although I’m not a fan of idol shows, I was hoping that this series would contribute some kind of genuine insight into Japan’s idol industry. Which of course it still might – it certainly feels a lot more realistic than most other idol-centric anime I’ve seen – but I doubt I’ll have the motivation to stick around long enough to find out whether or not that’s the case.
    On a slightly different note, that concert scene confused the hell out of me. All earlier scenes during this episode seemed blessedly free of fanservice, and then suddenly I’m practically blinded by panty shots for about a full minute there, and for no apparent reason that I can currently discern. And then it was back to being fanservice-free again for the rest of the episode. That whole sequence felt strangely abrupt to me.

    • I hate to sound dismissive but honestly I wouldn’t bother with it unless you watch the movie. It’s essentially the first two episodes and if you’re looking for all the behind the scenes action, that’s where it’s at. The concert scene is actually a good example in that immediately before the performance the manager realizes he didn’t have time to get the appropriate “show panties” beforehand and the girls decide to go for it anyway. It’s still creepy and weird for sure, but that’s idol performances for you. Personally I’ve seen enough to decide to bow out and there are plenty of better shows to watch, but I’ll be keeping an ear out for what other people think moving forward.

    • The panty shots made sense in the context of the movie. You really do need to watch the movie to get a feel for what this is trying to do though, the entire mood and only theme of the story(so far) is established in the movie. The “first” episode is a weird bridge that probably only exists to transition from movie to TV series. It’s a hard movie to recommend though… The basic gist is that everyone is miserable and looking for happiness. The first 45 minutes are not fun, they do bring it all together in the end though.

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