Before the Wake Up, Girls! rhythm game – Wake Up Girls!, Shinsei no Tenshi – takes over the world this Summer, it would be timely to let everyone know why they deserve such an achievement and even more. If you believe they are just another idol group that sell moe-ness and catchy songs, you are dead wrong.
Wake Up, Girls! (WUG) is created by Yutaka Yamamoto and inspired to make a difference after the devastation and loss of life from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. What came as a result from a disaster blossomed into a dream. Three WUG anime series and three films were released as well as a short-lived mobile phone game. An actual idol group was also produced due to the anime series, in which the idols are also voice actors to their respective characters within the show.
Set in Sendai, the largest city in Japan’s Tohoku region, the plot of the original anime focuses on a tiny production company called Green Leaves Entertainment. The agency once managed idols, fortune-tellers, and all sorts of entertainer, but its last remaining client finally quit and eventually, it is close to being shut down. In order to save the company, president Tange comes up with the idea of producing an idol group. The poor manager Matsuda is ordered by Tange to scout new, raw talents. A girl group is then formed by quite literally anyone who audition, which consisted of music prodigies and singing cafe maids. Once auditions ends the company creates a group that consists of seven girls – Wake Up, Girls!.
■ Mayu Shimada
Mayu seems to be the pessimist within the group as she seems troubled and distressed when any sort of trouble in her life arises – whether it be within WUG or in her own home. However, she will always stand her ground for what is right and will not hesitate to show her distaste towards something that is not justified. Mayu is a child of divorced parents, and she experiences conflicts with her mother due to her leaving a previous idol group. In the beginning, Mayu declined and rejected any offer towards being in WUG because of her feelings and past experience in I-1 club, her previous idol group.
■ Airi Hayashida
Airi is a simple, plain girl. Despite having no special abilities, she is hardworking and always does her best. She worries about not being as good as her friends, but as she has more experiences and receives support from her fellow idols, she eventually becomes much more confident. Being the mother figure of the group, she gives her friends a lot of support and always keeps a lookout for them. Within the show Airi faces the risk of being kicked out of the group when Tasuku sees she is not improving, however with the help of Mayu and Yoshino, Airi no longers risks losing her position in the group and moves on forward with practicing and finally becoming as skilled as her peers in the WUG.
■ Minami Katayama
Minami is one of the more vivacious and energetic girl within the group. Her bubbly and cheery mood is what usually sets the tone for the rest of the group. One would even say her happy-go-lucky attitude is infectious. However even with her sunshine attitude on her side, she still suffers from stage fright in the beginning. With the support of her friends and a good luck charm, she is able to overcome her stage fright and even look forward to future events with excitement and a beaming smile. Minami is considered the little sister of the group despite not being the youngest of the bunch. Also, punctuality is the name of the game for this girl. No matter what the event is, you can always count on Minami to be there early or on time.
■ Yoshino Nanase
Yoshino is the designated leader within the group due to her experience in the entertainment industry – she was a popular model as well as a famous child actor before being an idol. One would call her cool and collected, Yoshino is also the one to keep the entire group in check, and make sure everyone is on task and doing what they need to be doing. Yet, being the leader of the group forces her to maintain a strong image. She keeps that image up even after she suffers an injury of a sprained ankle and continues on with her practicing, showing that she will work through any pain to achieve what she wants most.
■ Nanami Hisami
A very confident girl who is prideful of herself and easy to talk to with, Nanami is the youngest member of the group. She constantly practices singing, acting, and playing the piano in hopes of becoming a successful idol, and with knowing Mayu’s history it only motivates her to further her experience in the idol world. Her dream is to one day perform at a hikarizaka theater, a type of takarazuka play. She is yet another character within the anime that will push herself to her limits if she is passionate and believes in something enough. Her strong-willed spirit seems to light a fire within her.
■ Kaya Kikuma
Kaya is right out straight forward and blunt. She could also be considered the second leader of the group since she doesn’t fall short when it comes to supporting her friends. Her parents died when she was young, forcing her to live with her aunt most of her life until she left for Sendai and worked various part time jobs. She joined WUG on a whim and originally planned to leave if she got bored, but has since dedicated herself to be with the group.
■ Miyu Okamoto
Miyu is the cheerful cry baby of the lot. Her personality is one of a ray of sunshine and happiness, but she is very prone to crying. She is willing to participate in almost anything and enjoys being the center of attention whilst respecting others in the group. She was the only one who successfully recruited by Kouhei into the group. She and Minami are the typical mood makers, always keeping that peppy mood together as a team.
▍A Story That Stays Real
WUG is not like any other idol anime for the simple fact that it’s storyline makes a point to keep it real. Yes, the girls are idols and they face the many similar trials that one would see in a typical idol anime, but WUG succeeds in showing a side of idols that everyone forgets exists both in the show and in real life within the entertainment industry. WUG presents a far less cheery vision of the world than is typically offered by idol singers in sparkly costumes. The idol scene itself is cast in a harsh light. The anime sheds light on the negatives that are usually forgotten in the idol world such as: Internet trolls writing horrible posts about the girls they don’t like, being forced to live by a routine that doesn’t allow individuality, another group within the show sadly follows the motto of “Don’t Rest! Don’t Complain! Don’t Think!”. Also, the Green Leaves president disappears with funds that were meant for CD’s, though he eventually returns and is forgiven in the end.
Even though the show is not about exposing the darker sides of the idol industry, it still commits and stays true to what it can be really about. It doesn’t try to uphold that perfect pristine image like most idol anime do. Its very roots came from a disaster. And it’s safe to say that in order for this anime to reach home and help as it was intended to, it was important that the show be real in order to achieve that. The setting could not be a perfect world where everything we dream of goes right because in the end that is not the reality in life.
Wake Up, Girls! is truly a hero in the anime and idol industry.
Adorkable gamer, aspiring writer, anime convention addict, and rhythm game specialist ^~^