Wake Up, Girls! First Impressions: Hey Kid, Wanna be an Idol?

LET’S GET WUGGED UP.

The parasitic relationship between idols and their devotees that comes with ~aidoru~ culture proves to be a well of morbid fascination that many find themselves eagerly slurping from. No matter what Sankaku-esque story we may hear of handshakes sealed by suspect bodily fluids or extreme measures taken as a result of photographs depicting morning departures, we can’t help but find ourselves coming back to it. We might not know what group this one girl is the star of or the exact details of some allegedly disgraceful thing that other girl did but at the end of the day we know that it’s all a bit weird. Pop culture in general is, yet the notion of what these girls (and guys) are subjected to isn’t culturally exclusive. Western teen idols are constantly told to stop whatever they’re doing or at least keep it under wraps lest details of what they do outside studio hours make a noticeable dent on sales. Anime based around this oh so exploitable trend featuring underage girls cheerily selling dreams to the grubby masses have always been a thing, but lately it seems as if they’ve been springing up like mushrooms with at least one per season. Mobage and tie-in gigs can prove to be tremendously profitable given the right franchise. So maybe, it was really just a matter of time before one came along which looked at all of that stuff in a more critical light. Yamamoto Yutaka’s (aka our lord and savior Yamakan) latest magnum opus Wake Up, Girls! is not and will not be that series.

When it comes to the damaging sphere of things and its representation within the medium I don’t think any of us will be soon to forget Perfect Blue’s meaningfully named Me Mania. Gazing upon his idol with reverence, the moment his features twist into something resembling a smile the viewer can’t help but feel a shiver run through them. Wake Up, Girls! (or WUG; just rolls off your tongue doesn’t it) fails to capture any of that uncomfortable closeness that comes with implicating the audience in his feverish obsession. The series may smugly be promoted as having a satirical bite but it’s one done with milk teeth.

It’s no secret that our savior’s stance on otaku in general (wota or otherwise) is less than favourable. Trolls often giddily take to twitter with the purpose of riling him up, and he will fall into their clumsily laid trap each and every time. He wanted WUG to have an element of realism and not fall back on gross otaku escapism, yet the prequel movie feels like a very by-the-book ‘let’s make our dreams come true no matter what, guys!’ approach to the matter. Anyone familiar with the director’s work will be well aware of the contradictory nature that lies within what he says never quite lining up to what he does. His behaviour at the time of the by now infamous Fractale suggested something revolutionary was on its way to us mere mortals yet all I can remember is one of the most infuriating Hanakana characters to ever have been created full of uguuisms such as NESSA LOVES LOVE!!!!!! NESSA HATES HATE!!!!! etc. With this in mind anyone seeing WUG as a glitzy warts and all exposé based off a few barbed comments will sooner or later find themselves disappointed. Touching on the concept of purity does not mean rebelling against the trend, as such. The girls speaking about panty shots in a brusque manner isn’t really something to be applauded. A yakuza member emanating sleaziness from every pore by slapping a skimpy bikini on the table for the underage girls to wear while revolting is not some kind of masterful subversion. It’s muddled and doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing resulting in the viewer being left with a sense of confusion.

Who are the WUGs, anyway? They weren’t quite plucked from obscurity by a heavily breathing middle aged man in a rumpled suit after school. Each of the seven lucky(?) candidates were chosen from a total of 2,000 during an audition process which took place towards the end of 2012 although given their performances the former scenario is clearly more likely. There weren’t any rules for entry as such, but face and body shots were a must as well as applicants not being over the unmarketable age of 22. “But wait!”, you may find yourself crying out “If he hates idols so much and made such a 10/10 ~~~deconstruction~~~ (b-b-b-b-because that’s totally what this is right I learned it from my madokes) why would he form this group in the first place?”. The thing is, Yamakan doesn’t hate idols. If anything he adores them just as much as the fans you may happen to think he’s condemning do.

He’s especially fond of juggernauts I-1 AKB48. Now, even through contentious remarks about washed-up idols whoring themselves out and the screen lingering on Genki Spice’s breasts as she chirps on about how much she always like totally wanted to be an idol – this, more than anything else, is what makes WUG feel disingenuous. The team went to the trouble of painstakingly choosing girls specifically for the series and they don’t want you to forget that for a single moment. All of the characters’ names are derived from their 3D counterparts, and the first episode’s end featured footage of Genki Spice and Sullen Spice in the recording studio being their cute 3D ~aidoru~ selves. The first BD will also come with a ticket to see the merry band perform so you’ll be able to get to know your new idol waifu a little bit better. If you’re lucky, you might even get a quick flash of her panties, just like your cartoons~! Kyaahhh~~~~!!!!!!!!

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