Sunday, July 20, 2014

Wake, Up Girls! sheds some light on Japan's idol industry

It is advisable to watch the prequel movie, 「Wake Up, Girls! Shichinin no Idol」 first before watching the actual anime series. As with all great works, there is a method to best appreciate it.

Wake Up, Girls! is a great idol anime with catchy songs and nice characters but above all, it has a moving and realistic story.

Having finally watched Love Live!, I must say it was an anime that I enjoyed incredibly. It is entertaining, funny and the characters’ lifelike interactions are delightful to watch, which comes as no surprise, from an anime which has broken so many records. The songs are of high quality both melodically and vocally, and there is ample character development as we watch the girls struggle to save their school and train to become school idols.

Story-wise, I find it to be lacking in this department compared to WUG. There is a lot of sugar-coating, which makes it difficult to appreciate as a realistic idol anime. Pretty and talented girls dancing and singing cheerfully in flamboyant costumes is something which the idol industry wants us to see. How the industry really is is hidden from us and we are all aware of that fact. Why are we still watching idol animes and concerts when we know what’s happening?

It’s because deep down, we have a selfishness that is nurtured and fostered by a capitalistic and individualistic society. We tend to care for ourselves primarily and nothing is further from the truth. Do we attend concerts to gratify ourselves or to truly appreciate the artistes and their talents? What comes first? Is it myself or others? No doubt, many will not admit to this and this is why the idol industry is still booming as we bask in the melodies of their bubblegum pop.

When I watched the first episode of WUG, I initially thought that what it was doing was tantamount to suicide, killing off its own self and deterring its potential fans. After all, which idol fan wants to see him or her as a contributing factor to an industry where there is cut-throat competition and girls are subjected to constant and arduous training to perform well for their fans? No one does. What we want to see are stories of girls following their dreams and singing upbeat songs to get us on our feet.

This very aspect which brings WUG down, exposing the harsh realities of the idol industry and life, how idols become idols is also responsible for garnering its following. WUG is not afraid to shame and humble itself by delivering hard hitting-truths despite being an idol anime at its core. This very delicate balance of trying to present itself as an idol anime yet in a way, reflecting on real-world problems and discouraging the viewer from supporting it is what really makes it stand out.

The standard of animation and some say, music in WUG may not be as high as that of Love Live’s but the lessons it holds are priceless and invaluable. Should you follow your dreams? Should you continue supporting these girls because they are following their dreams or should you not? The many thought-provoking and often conflicting questions which WUG poses to its viewers are what make it a modern and highly relevant 21st-century animation masterpiece.

Watching this anime has transformed my life incredibly. Episode after episode, I have found myself with tears streaming. If you are someone who watches anime for entertainment and fun, then this anime may not be for you. Sure, the songs are catchy and the characters are appealing but you better be prepared to face an inner conflict within yourself. Even if it isn’t your cup of tea, maybe you should watch it to knock some sense into you and come to terms with reality. The decision of changing yourself lies in your hands ultimately. As its apt title says, it may be time for you to WAKE UP.

Wake Up, Girls
Directed by Yutaka Yamamoto (Haruhi, Lucky Star, Fractale)
Produced by Ordet & Tasunoko Production

It's about time to re-watch this series after corrupting my mind and soul with the many depthless animes of the past half-year.

Thanks to Kuro for watching WUG and inspiring me to write this review.