Final Impressions: Wake Up, Girls!


The meaning of idols, the meaning for me

The journey for Wake Up, Girls! ends with episode 12, but the real challenge WUG faces only begins as the anime ends. It's high time to remember that the anime of WUG is just that; some stuff we watch on TV or via the internet. In the end there are real people who stand behind what we call WUG, and the Sendai-based idol group furthermore stands for even more people, perhaps the people of Sendai and its surrounding areas. Perhaps Japan as a whole, as examples we see from overseas. Their works mean something.

It's in that context now we see what it means to be an idol, at least for WUG. But what does that mean to you and I who just finished watching this show (and the movie before)? Why, and more importantly, how would anyone cry in a situation like the one portrayed in episode 12? Have you seen this happen before?

3 2 1 GO

Just to recap the last two weeks: the Wake Up, Girls! manage to master Hayasaka's new song, "7 Girls War." The prep is intense and well; the girls frantically prepare and confront their I-1 rivals at the Tokyo venue the afternoon before the show. Their fans, friends and family gather and prepare likewise. The drama happens right before the rehearsal, as Yoppi sprains her ankle when fatigue got the best of her attention span. Being the irreplaceable center, WUG and company do their best and put on a passionate passionate performance with all they have on the line. Even I-1 Club's Shiho pitches in by getting Yoppi the medical attention she needs.


The final episode of Wake Up, Girls! explains itself to us. The speech about the New York theater group after 9/11 was a little bit of a misdirection for an American viewer, but it's clearly drawing the parallel with 3/11, or a big reason why the WUG project exists to begin with. The goal of WUG is to create something entertaining, a way to help the people of Japan after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. 

Like its idols, WUG serves as a semi-transparent vehicle to develop not only the characters and tell their stories (aptly, we have another monologue this episode that tells us that idols are stories), but its reason for existence. For fans of more normal commercial ventures that passes as idol anime, that is usually something we never get to see. In this somewhat more of a charitable enterprise, it seems shrewd to explain to us that helping Tohoku's recovery is a reason behind WUG's purpose.


That uneasy balancing act of the real and the fantasy perhaps is truly what being an idol means. Throughout the series, WUG's dose of cynicism and a semi-realistic view of the business can keep people off their guards, but at the same time WUG comes across as too smart or generally difficult at being charming. It's hard to buy into the girls' plight if I have to keep doing reality checks, wondering if they are actually trying to lampoon something.

This was me a month ago

What sells me on WUG, though, is its portrayal of fans. Just like how the placid-faced I-1 club manager can say something pretty good in public, Hayasaka's speech in episode 11 also puts things into perspective--ultimately the acknowledgement of fans is the only things that counts. The way how the idol otaku are in this show basically offers the same two-sided view; it's not at all flattering, but it is earnest and charming. Much like Wake Up, Girls themselves, our appreciation or approval of these characters may not really matter as long as these idols can be acknowledged by their fans, by people watching their performances.

To that end, it didn't matter if WUG-chan didn't win the contest, because their performance reached all the people in the audience. They performed to their satisfaction. The fans came to love them, not because of Mayushi's prior fame, but because everyone came together and do their best to reach that goal of making everyone around them happy. The rest is just history.

The magic of anime and the magic of idols, combined, is Japan's newest otaku entertainment trick. It's about generating a context in which a bunch of next-door-type girls on stage can bring rational, grown men and women into tears. It's a story, it's the context in which we find entertainment beyond just escapism. It's the business of making WUG meaningful to its fans. And despite the occasionally sketchy animation, WUG has been a smartly-written nod that, at least on some level, also help out the people of Tohoku. But make no mistake; this anime project lays the foundation of making WUG just that much more to people who love them.

To wrap up, take a look at the real-life version of WUG in the video below. Does it feel like you have known them for three months? How about the I-1 Club voice actresses? Because unless you end up liking these fine people behind the screen, the anime may be besides the point.

[Wake Up, Girls!! on Crunchyroll!]


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Jeff Chuang
Jeff ChuangAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Yet to be the oldest kid on the block, this East Coast implant writes cryptic things about JP folklore, the industry or dirty moe. Attend cons and lives the "I can buy Aniplex releases" life. ... more + disclosures


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