So we got shows starring idols about a look at the idol industry, schoolgirls forming an idol group to save a school, idols in space, idols piloting mechs, idols as social workers, idol academies and zombie idols. What did this latest idol anime bring to the table to set it apart from the others? Let us take a look at Wake-Up Girls!, WUG for short.
Genres: Idols, drama, music, comedy, slice of life.
Number of episodes: 13. One 50 minute episode (Episode 0 ) “Wake-Up Girls – 7 Idols”, 12 TV episodes and 2 sequel movies.
Plot Summary: Green Leaves Entertainment is a tiny production company on the verge of going out of business in Sendai, the biggest city in Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region. The agency once managed the careers of magicians, photo idols, fortune-tellers, and other entertainers, but its last remaining client finally quit. In danger of having zero talent (literally), the president Tange hatches an idea of producing an idol group. On the brash president’s orders, the dissatisfied manager Matsuda heads out to scout raw talent.
Before getting to the “nitty gritty” of the show WUG’s basic concept is a “started from the bottom now we’re here” formula who join forces and slowly work out their issues to become a well-oiled idol unit. Similar to another idol show whose group name was based off of Greek origins but less fortunate. The formula itself is nothing new but what matters is how it is implemented and WUG does a pretty good job telling a familiar yet enjoyable tale while adding special tweaks throughout.
To start off the origin of the Wake-Up Girls! name itself should tell viewers that this will be an idol anime with a more serious tone than most. Most idol shows have their drama used sparingly and get called out if they overexert said drama. This show revels from the more than usual drama not only from the girls’ personal lives but the hardships they must endure on their road to becoming popular idols.
In The Idolm@ster Movie I compared the rookie group that teamed up with the heroine group as complete rookies. WUG’s group are also rookies but compared to the Million Live newbies these girls all have experience and loyal fanbases. In wrestling terms ML are NXT before it got popular and WUG is the modern NXT that is seen as an acceptable alternative to WWE, or in this show’s case, the I-1 idol company. I also mentioned in The Idolm@ster: Cinderella Girls that 465 Pro had an underdog aura surrounding them. To be specific I was comparing them to the more popular 765 Pro. Compared to them 456 could be seen as the underdogs that stand little chance of winning against the more popular group. WUG on the other hand are underdogs in every sense of the word. It can be said the endgame plot is “WWE vs Modern NXT, I-1 vs WUG.”. I say endgame but that is not what sets WUG apart from other idol shows.
See, WUG stands out from many other idol shows in that while others bring these topics up they do not go that deep into. What I am referring to is the dark side of the idol industry. Just like pro-wrestling, dirt sheets, diehard online and offline fans, backstage politics and the questionable treatment of performers are given the spotlight here showing viewers that the life of a professional idol is not all hard work, respect and admiration. It is all about the game and how you play it. Do you obey the boss’ rules no matter how inane or inhumane they may sound or face the consequences of corporate backlash and how it can damage an idol’s personal life. WUG gives viewers an idea of both the harshness, inter and intrapersonal damage “going against the system” can have on idols through the eyes of one Mayu. Perhaps some parts are exaggerated, such as the I-1 bigwig but based on what was reported about “idol scandals” over the years the events that transpire in Mayu’s character arc and I-1 industries may not be far from the truth. Engaging stuff I would say. Some would bring up that it did not delve deep enough into these subjects but for a (technically) 13 episode anime it covered more than enough to get the message across. Oh we also get a moral on how some jobs are not worth accepting and it is a great idea to double check before accepting.
Besides Mayu the other WUG members obviously have their own characters arcs, some more engaging than others but all empathetic in a sense, even Nanami’s. A frequenter to the blog mentioned that a certain girl’s character arc in WUG was handled better than the Million Live rookies plot in The Idolm@ster Movie and having seen this show after said movie I agree but that does not make the former less engaging, just that it was handled better here. As for the Green Leaves big shots, Junko is not as mean as she is initially made out to be, just refuses to accept when she is wrong unless there is no way to brugh off her mistake. Kouhei is Producer-san if her had zero experience working with idols. He is still a likable guy who means well and can be sympathetic for people who are kind of “Yes Men/Women”. The endgame is standard idol fare along with the more humorous moments but for viewers who enjoy these kinds of shows it is par for the course. Not so sure about newcomers.
The animation quality ranges from above average to good. It is not mind-blowing but far from subpar. The soundtrack does a good job setting the mood most of the time but to me it is worth highlighting because I FINALLY found a second idol anime song I really enjoy alongside the first season of Aikatsu’s “Signalize”. That would be WUG’s “Tachiagare!”. “7 Girls War” is good too.
Overall Wake-Up Girls is something of an underrated idol anime that deserves more attention (unless it did get a lot of it). The girls and their struggles are entertaining and interesting, the dark side of the industry is an eye opener for viewers who are unaware of how corrupt it can get depending on the company and popularity and it has a more underdog feel than many other idol shows. While it could have delved a bit more on the subject what we did get was enough to paint a picture for the viewer. Recommended to Idol anime fans who have yet to pick it up and animeniacs who are open to something familiar yet different from idol shows.
PS: Yes, WUG includes a couple of sexy scenes.