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Wake Up Girls TV [Blu-ray]
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Totaling twelve episodes, the series can be split up into a couple of arcs.
Episode 1 and 2 pick up from where the movie left off as Matsuda and the girls work on finding a new producer after the president ran out on them in the movie. Episode 1 mostly serves as a recap of the movie as they contemplate what to do next while episode 2 deals with their new producer, a scummy man by the name of Sudo who forces the girls into doing a gig entertaining perverted men at a health spa while dressed in bikinis. This ultimately results in President Tange returning as producer of WUG and driving Sudo away. Miyu gets some spotlight in episode 2 when she returns to her old maid cafe job after getting fed up with Sudo's direction.
Episodes 3-5 deals with WUG working on publicity, from doing variety shows on local TV to doing small local gigs. Minami gets the spotlight in episode 3 as she deals with the gourmet show she's on and when one of the ladies from the senior citizen home she visits falls ill before a performance.
Episodes 6 and 7 ups the drama as famous music producer Tasuku Hayasaka is brought in to aid the group after a disastrous gig at the end of episode 5. These two episodes serve as a spotlight on Airi as Hayasaka threatens to fire her from the group if she doesn't improve.
In Episodes 8 and 9, Hayasaka signs the group up in an idol festival. In preparation for the preliminaries, things come to a head between Mayu and Yoppi as the latter confronts the former about her reasons for retiring from I-1 Club and the idol scene. Episode 9 serves as a spotlight on Kaya's background while also revealing why Mayu retired. It also serves as the completion of Nanami subplot of disciding between continuing with Wake Up, Girls! and following her dream of doing Hikarizuka.
Now having come fully together, episode 10 deals with the idol festival preliminaries as WUG compete with regional rivals.
Finally, episodes 11 and 12 involves the finals of the idol festival. Yoppi gets some spotlight in the final episode after injuring her ankle at the end of the previous episode.
My biggest gripe with the series is the uneven focus on the characters. As a group, the focus is good. However, as individuals, the majority of the girls get a spotlight episode of varying importance. Airi's focus episode is the one to have the most lasting importance while Nanami doesn't even get a spotlight episode. Instead, her development is lightly spread throughout the series, coming to an anticlimactic end in episode 9. Out of all the girls, the one to get the most development is Mayu (even though she didn't get a spotlight episode, Mayu does get a ton of focus in both the series and the prequel movie, showing how to better spread out development than what they did with Nanami).
Other than the uneven development, I also was disappointed how some of the early conflicts are easily dropped. President Tange is easily left off the hook from when she returns in episode 2 (though apparently it is revealed why Tange did it in one of the sequel movies). Then there is Tange punching a scummy reporter who was using WUG to grill Mayu about her past. He threatens to sue, but nothing comes of it. I wished this and the Sudo incident was used to create problems for WUG's fledgling career instead of easily being forgotten. The only thing the reporter incident did was act as a catalyst for Yoppi's confrontation of Mayu in episode 8.
Overall, I quite liked the series. The story is a more realistic look at idols and how hard it is for smaller idol groups to break big. The animation isn't the most fluid or detailed; I would say it is average. However, the story more than makes up for it. I also like that the next episode previews are live-action vignettes with the voice actresses in the booth, instead of the standard trailer footage of the next episode. I say give it a chance.
P.S. This is a sub-only release.
Surprisingly, especially for this genre of anime, there is nothing to worry about. The "worst" of it is in the episode where a con-man producer wants the girls to perform in bikinis. This is a plot relevant inclusion and is not treated "sensually" at all...you feel the uncomfortableness that the girls experience. There are no notorious "hot spring" scenes and other such things. It's a drama straight up.
+PLEASE NOTE: There is a Wake Up Girls Movie as well (sold separately)...and you really need to watch that first before watching the tv series since the show picks up right after the movie+
One of my favorite "idol" animes is an old one called "Chance Pop Session" released back in 2001. What I loved about it was that it wasn't so much focused on the music and performances as it was focused on the individual struggles of the member as they handle the industry and try to come to a definition of what it means to perform and be an entertainer. Since them, many similar shows have come and gone that only touch the themes, but never really dig into it...mainly using the show to showcase music and animation. This is not to say that the shows are not without a (good) story. But it is to say many of the shows wind up being very optimistic (not a bad thing necessarily).
"Wake Up Girls" breaks the mold in it's movie and following 12 episodes by showing you the darker aspects of the industry...how not everyone is sincere and wanting to help you succeed for your own sake. It shows how people can grow and change. BUT, even then it still shows you the essence and ideal of what the industry ought to be...In fact, I daresay that is the main over arching theme: We often start our passions with innocences and resilience only to be broken down by ever-piling success. Sometimes it takes someone else to remind us why were became entertainers in the first place.
The only thing I would say is that, again, this show is a drama. There are songs and music all around, but most of the time you won't hear them completely or even in the forefront like in Love Live! You'd actually have to buy the soundtrack (which is on iTunes among many other places) if you'd like to enjoy the songs in their completeness.
It is sub only. To me, it's entertaining to hear the original Japanese cast. They do their job so well!
I got the movie first. Which worked really well, since this continues where the movie left off.
The only thing that would make this better is another season!