Not too sure how I would have lost since I didn’t watch the few movies that released before the second season, Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shou. Heck, I didn’t even see that chibi zoo spin-off series thingy either. Hopefully not much since the title says it is a new chapter, right? Even so, I guess I wouldn’t care since I’m not really a fan of them. Whoops. So what am I doing here watching the sequel anyway? Oh, just sticking around to give them a chance and see if these idols can steal my heart. Just kidding. Didn’t even know the second season was coming out so I got surprised a bit and decided to take a look.

Episode 1
Ayumi Hayashi, Itsuka Atsugi and Otome Morishima uploaded a fan video of a WUG dance. As narrated, WUG won the Idol Festival in 2015 but I-1 snatched it back the following year. This year, with the bad economy looming, idols aren’t spared from the effects. In fact, I-1’s Sendai theatre will soon be closed down. However as Tange puts it, they can’t afford to worry about other idol groups as they are still literally unknowns in the idol industry. Therefore she wants them to go out to do promotion stuffs as their target is releasing an album in 6 months. A next big gig arrives. WUG will be performing on a national programme, Song Stage along with I-1. Before WUG’s turn is up, Airi realizes she forgot her scrunchy. She has to rush back to the dressing room to get it. This causes a bit of a hold up. This scrunchy was made by Yoshino as recycled item from their old idol outfits so it is like their group’s good luck charm. No major delays as WUG goes up on stage to perform. At the end of the programme, WUG apologizes to I-1 for the hold up (their appearance was after WUG). However Moka Suzuki (I-1’s new petite centre) didn’t find it amusing and scoffs off at them they’re not fit to be professionals. While Airi feels a bit down, it was a good thing she had it because without it, she believed she would have messed up. But since everything turned out alright, no need to be so depressed about it. Meanwhile a group of hardcore idol fans converge to discuss the horror of several bands disbanding. They know I-1’s popularity is declining and as fans of WUG, they still aren’t as successful. They vow to do everything they can to help WUG. Matsuda gets a rude awakening from Tange because she has decided to do a national tour and has already got them Sendai stadium.

Episode 2
In addition, Tange wants WUG to live together in a dorm. It saves time for them to be late so often. After all, many of them have already graduated from high school or living by themselves. Better group cohesion, I guess. After WUG move into their new dorm, they meet the nice landlady who hands them the keys to the place. She ‘warns’ them about a ‘freeloader’. Just a fat cat named Zunda. Careful not to get on its bad side. With Tange planning on more solo TV projects for WUG, she wants to promote Minami as a sea squirt lover. Say what? Why does that sound so hentai? Don’t worry. It’s not. Together with Kaya, they appear on a local food show along with other guests like that tweedle dee and tweedle dum pair. Although the girls might be cute but the fatty duo are far more interesting and entertaining to watch. When they are teased they will grow fat with all the food they’re eating, this enrages Kaya so she shows it to them by devouring all that is in front of her! She’ll show them an idol can lose weight as fast! It was impromptu and probably she regretted it but since everyone loved it, everything’s alright. When Ayumi talks to her friends about this show, it seems most of them aren’t that interested. Because the new craze now is V-dols. Virtual idols from an app. With Kaya and Minami taking on more food eating programmes, Kaya is starting to feel a little sick. I’m guessing she has put on weight because she doesn’t want to eat with her other members and she gets mad when Minami continues to snack like there’s no tomorrow. Yeah, this girl probably didn’t even put on a single gram after all that eating. Kaya tries hard to control herself (though, she often sneaks out late at night to eat) and not let others know but eventually they find out and to Minami’s relief, it wasn’t the fact Kaya hated her. So the girls convince her not to skip meals and eat properly since their regular dance practice can burn more calories. So Kaya screws it all and WUG as a whole starts enjoying their snacking. Meanwhile the producer is asking Hayasaka about his composition of I-1’s new song. Don’t feel like writing it.

Episode 3
Miyu and Nanami are assigned to appear on a talk show. They must be feeling weird and lost with the eccentric host ‘talking nonsense’ and is trying to get them to do the same. Though, their I-1 counterpart does it better and more natural. Meanwhile Yoshino heads for a photo shoot. The photographer isn’t too thrilled that she isn’t posing very idol-like (maybe it’s the weird way she smiled?) but the next idols really motivated him and Yoshino is like all forgotten. Airi is doing a local mini segment on TV and again the producers are telling her to be more idol-like. Miyu and Nanami’s appearance is aired on show. However their part is totally cut out like as though they were never there! WUG then discuss among themselves about this obstacle they’re facing since Tange isn’t very clear when she told them about the important working in solo. I bet she wanted them to figure it out themselves. Miyu has this idea to do her own web series once a week after watching Kaya. This is to help her so she can do better on the talk show again. We see other WUG improvising and doing their best like Minami now sings after she tastes her food and Yoshino being naturally clumsy for a swimsuit photo suit. It makes her more interesting and the picture livelier. Above all, she’s having fun. Airi is turning heads because she is wearing a shark headgear for her TV segment. All this makes them stand out a little. Tange wants Nanami to do a musical. She isn’t interested at first as she is done with this kind of thing. She wants to stick being an idol but since there is no law saying idols can be on musicals, I guess she has to. It’s not bad once she tries out the audition. The most shocking job comes to Mayu as she will be co-starring alongside Shiho.

Episode 4
As the drama shoot begins, the duo also answer questions from the press conference. Both maintain their professionalism on questions pertaining to their ex-centre roles in I-1 as well as their current onscreen roles that pretty much differs from their own personality. Mayu’s schedule is now packed as she puts in the effort. During a shoot, Mayu seems to have trouble in focusing her lines. So while they take a break, the drama’s writer comes to talk to them. Mayu gets some clarification on certain aspects of the script before the shoot resumes. Ayumi and co look through an audition for extras for the drama. They get hyped up to apply but first Ayumi needs to convince her mom. You know how kids will say anything (like doing everything) just for this once in a lifetime chance. But a ‘scandal’ breaks out. Moka sprained her ankle after falling through the stage during a performance. Hence Shiraki announces Shiho will be temporarily returning to I-1 to replace her. Hence the drama schedule will be heavily revised. Ayumi and co are on set being filmed as extras. They try hard to not be nervous although they are just background characters in the film. Ayumi got too nervous that she dropped her lip balm but Mayu coolly picks it up and returns it to her. Meanwhile Shiraki and the executives are in one of those high powered meetings. Things aren’t looking good especially sales of I-1 continue to fall (in addition to Moka’s fall – Sorry, bad pun). They will need to relook and overhaul everything. Ayumi is so motivated that she announces she wants to become an idol.

Episode 5
Moka’s feet has recovered so she is able to perform again but Shiho will still continue to perform with the main I-1 group. Ayumi and co are looking through the ads to see if there are any idol recruitment drives. None. When Shiraki walks in while the girls are practising, you know something big is going to happen. In a bid to take I-1 to a new direction, he announces a couple of girls from other units to be transferred to the main unit. Because that unit they are in will either be absorbed into others or shut down. Oh, they have to keep working because their new song is released next week. Don’t rest! Don’t complain! Don’t think! Man, this is starting to sound like a cult. When Shiho learns of this, she couldn’t focus on her acting and makes some obvious mistakes. But after talking with Mayu, she steps up her game and before you know it, it’s a wrap for this drama shoot. At the party, the producer answers Mayu’s question that she asked prior that he purposely casted Mayu and Shiho together to attract attention. But he also did so because he saw potential in them and they surprised him in many ways. Tange now wants WUG to hold a fan club meet. How? That’s for Matsuda to go figure out. Discussing with the girls, they come up with touring Sendai with the fans in a bus. It’s going to be like a school trip. Ayumi and co applied for this and now they are training hard in their walking. Looks like they’re catching their breath a lot more than they’re going to catch WUG. Haha… A couple of producers approach Green Leaves to request WUG to do a song which is going to be part of a full album of a V-dol that will be officially debuting as one of its agency’s entertainers. A Japanese major debut is planned as well. They also heard Hayasaka will be part of it. Speaking of him, he doesn’t seem interested in composing a new song for I-1 because he is occupied with a certain ‘girl’. Shiraki receives report of the sales of I-1’s new song. Didn’t hit the million mark again.

Episode 6
Due to a scheduling delay, Minami might not make it in time to join the rest on the bus tour. Something about a chef needing inspiration and hence a 2 hour meditation? Worst case scenario they might have to perform without her. So the first stop of the tour has the fans needing to find WUG dressed in their animal outfits and once they do, they get a stamp. After lunch, Minami still hasn’t arrived so they bring forward the dance lessons with fans first. With time running out, WUG then performs without Minami. Noticing Minami fans would be disappointed, Nanami has this idea of changing into her animal outfit during the performance. It works because you can’t see one’s face clearly in that gear and it’s not like the fans are very close to the stage. Too bad the secret is out when Nanami trips, revealing her face. She tries to recover, the fans find it funny and some may even convert to be a Nanami fan! Thankfully, Minami has just arrived. Thanks to the super express cab Tange had her ride in. The fare is going to be pretty expensive… Guess who is going to have to pay? WUG performs as a whole and to the delight of their fans, they announce their upcoming album on sale as well as a national tour. In the evening, Airi got separated and lost to her way to the bath. She stumbles into the staffs’ room and like any normal fan who discover their idols’ outfit… And then she hears someone coming… Mayu trips upon entering the room. But she never questions why the outfit was placed in such an odd fashion compared to the rest? Yeah, Airi is wearing-cum-hiding in it. Because Mayu spilled her tomato juice, it looked like she just murdered the animal. Just when Mayu realizes someone is inside, she thinks it is Yoshino and takes her to the bath to wash it off. She’s not even curious why this ‘Yoshino’ was doing here in the first place? With all the steam in the bath, Airi manages to slip out and sneak out. Only after that the real Yoshino pops up and Mayu asks her about it. Not that Yoshino knows what she is talking about anyway. Next day when the fans get their stamp from WUG, Mayu remembers Airi as an extra from the drama shoot. Airi is so touched that she declares aloud she wants to become an idol too. Best of luck. Being too happy-happy is detrimental to our health so now it’s time for something ‘depressing’. Shiraki has summoned his entire squad of idols and he will have them ‘reborn’. Is he going to turn them into mindless killing robots? Haha! Oh no…

Episode 7
A special edition that some call it episode 6.5 because this live action episode and features the casts doing behind the scenes stuffs such as interviews and playing some weird variety game. Not sure if this is lazy (because it’s like they can’t meet this week’s deadline or the overall story this season is too short) or creative (because nobody expected it, at least not me) but it breaks the usual pattern of 2D animation all the way as such specials are only reserved for BDs. Although I didn’t watch the entire episode and just snippets of it, overall it feels like a very big promotion for Ayumi and friends’ characters as they eat up a lot of the screen time… Hmm…

Episode 8
The bus tour is a success and preparations for WUG’s big concert is on schedule. However Matsuda points out a big problem: The seats are not filling up. Tange’s usual answer is to have him to fix it. It’s his job. Who picked the Sendai stadium in the first place? I-1 announces a Christmas performance at Tokyo Dome. We see Shiraki announcing to his ‘army’ about the forming a brand new selection unit in which will have its own centre. Moka is not happy as this means she will be replaced. Was it because of her injury? Partly. Shiraki claims that even though it isn’t her fault, a true centre must have luck. He also switches captaincy between the units. One of them is a shy girl so this makes her even more fearful. More bad news as Hayasaka tells Shiraki straight he isn’t writing I-1’s new song because he doesn’t feel like it. Ayumi and friends enter Green Leaves to request to become idols. However Tange shoos them away as they aren’t recruiting. Sad but Tange believes people who claim to be the biggest fans of something are just naïve. Good thing or not, they won’t give up. Matsuda has just received 4000 printed flyers of WUG’s concert. How to distribute them? Ayumi and co take the liberty to do so but it’s a cold world out there as nobody gives a sh*t about them. Tange is mad at Matsuda for allowing them to do so but he says they whisk the flyers away before he had a chance to do anything. Tange asks them to smile. Creepy… She tells them the importance of an idol’s smile during tough times. Since they cannot do it, they’re not cut out for it. Sorry. Sad ending again. Ayumi practises smiling until she gets her mom’s ‘approval’. This lifts her spirits as they continue distributing flyers. This time with more positive results. At the end of the day, their cheeks are sore with too much smiling? A little boy trips and is on the verge of crying. Ayumi tries to help him but trips. Everyone laughs at her since her face is messed up. Gee, everyone is such a sadist… Hearing positive comments from the boy’s mother, they get motivated to continue distributing with even bigger smiles. Then they go back to Tange and beg again. I guess with all that pestering, she has to give them an audition chance. After having them introduce themselves and show their dancing talent, Mayu’s comments on how she saw them work hard has Tange make them idol trainees. Is it alright to make middle school girls idols? Of course. When there is money to be made! And so WUG now have juniors training under them.

Episode 9
Tange has spent so much on this and it better work. Otherwise she’ll run away! Oh, Tange. You really make the ‘best’ jokes. Soon she hounds Matsuda to get working because they still need a song from Hayasaka. Sure, but what can you do if he isn’t picking up? And it’s Matsuda’s fault?! Meanwhile the juniors’ first task is to clean the office… It builds up stamina. Free labour put to good use. Or maybe she is just abusing her authority and understaffed. Mayu gets a call from I-1’s Megumi. She is crying about being made the new leader and the several changes in I-1 that is scaring the sh*t out of her. There are also rumours the Hakata theatre will also be closed. And when complained, they were told it isn’t their job to think on this. All Mayu can say is that Shiraki will not do something that doesn’t benefit I-1. WUG will be doing a short commercial for departmental store, Nyaon. This will help boost their image and sales for the concert. Miyu then overhears Tange and Matsuda talking about the stagnant ticket sales as well as their concert day clashing with I-1’s tour. Talking to the rest, Yoshino decides to ask them directly but gets scolded by Tange to continue practising if she has time thinking about this. Then Tange scolds Matsuda for making them worry. They should be thinking about performing at the concert and not worry about ticket sales. That’s their job! She’s got a point. WUG does their best to stay positive on the matter. A group of executives just finish watching a commercial about a virtual idol that will be released soon on all media platforms. They hope Hayasaka could write songs for them in the future. Although he agrees, he doesn’t look that all interested. Oh look, it is Matsuda calling and bugging again. I guess it is like saying perseverance pays off because soon out of the blue, Matsuda gets a mysterious email from Hayasaka. He has written a new song for WUG! Only 1 condition: They must write the lyrics. Hayasaka wakes up from some past nightmare about his band breaking up since he didn’t agree with the lyrics and quitted. WUG gets help from some veteran duo who also meet their juniors for the first time. Then a breaking article pops up. Hayasaka is spotted on a trip to America and he might be staying there to work.

Episode 10
WUG is trying to write the lyrics. Not as easy, huh? Not sure what Nanami’s current job is but she has to supervise lots of children. Lots of naughty children. Did she just give up? It hit a nerve when Minami thought it is great to work with children. Because a star of some former would be appearing next week as a guest in Nanami’s show, Minami would like to ask more about her. Nanami thinks she is bragging and this causes a rift between them. With all of them having different work, they have barely any time to practice together and set a date when they are all free to do so. Moka is not happy that Shiraki has dropped her from the new I-1 line-up. Crying won’t get you anywhere… You think Miyu is joking when she asks Tange to hire a housekeeper. It’s not that she’s lazy, most of the house chores are done by Airi who is the least busy. At this rate, she worries she might collapse. Okay. Cue for the trainees to step up and provide more free labour. Mayu notices Shiho depressed lately. She talks to her as she reveals Shiraki wants her to quit her unit, Next Storm. She feels sad about it because she worked so hard to get there. Ironically she now understands how Mayu felt when she quit I-1. Accompanying Shiho means Mayu is late for WUG’s group practice. As promise to Shiho, she can’t tell the reason. Mayu then misplaces her scrunchy at a busy time. The trainees notice this and offer to look for it. But a rift has formed between Yoshino and Mayu. The former accusing the latter of being more dedicated to I-1 than WUG (she continues to be late). She also notices she hasn’t been wearing her scrunchy lately. Luckily the trainees find it (damn Zunda keeping all those junks in his whatever nest). Mayu sheds some tears, Airi suggests writing a shared journal among them. Nanami and Minami are back on good terms and this gives Yoshino a good idea what WUG is about. Individually they are weak and lacking but when united, they become stronger by influencing each other.

Episode 11
The virtual idol named Vdol makes its debut in America. There will be a concert using the world’s first virtual concert system via app that is designed by an American company. Look at the white dude all smiles. And the Vdol’s song is written by none other than Hayasaka. WUG reads this on the news but they have other matters to deal with. Because Hayasaka rejects their lyrics and wants them to come up with something new. Time is short as they have less than a week before their album goes on sale and then kicking off their nationwide tour. Hayasaka and the Americans celebrate their 4th placing debut but why is Hayasaka not happy? He then gets a mysterious call from a strange anonymous person. More woes for WUG because the stage they are supposed to be appearing on is cancelled. Apparently Vdol’s sponsors are sponsoring that stage. Tange believes it will all work out. But does she have to abuse Matsuda? Yoshino then gets an idea they should hold a guerrilla concert at several places like parks and rooftops. Matsuda is against it since they are now somebody but Tange approves of it. The only condition is that they have to do it a limited budget. And guess who has to help them out? Matsuda at your service… In small groups, WUG holds their guerrilla concert much to the surprise and delight of fans. Nothing beats real idols, eh? WUG still has problems trying to come up with the lyrics. Then Miyu sees an ad of Namahagez’s concert nearby. She goes to say hi and they remember the good times they battled during the competition. They have not disbanded despite their agency has closed down. They are now freelancers and work part time to get funds to hold small concerts. Miyu gets this idea to help advertise their concerts. The idea of helping one another has WUG realize what they should write as their lyrics. They finally finish it and what is Hayasaka’s verdict? They pass. They can have the song. Hooray! Think it’s all smooth sailing from now? Think again. Because Vdol buys out the Sendai stadium and converts it into Vdol stadium that is scheduled for a performance on Christmas Eve. Uhm, that’s the day of WUG’s concert, right?

Episode 12
WUG kicks off their nationwide tour. Though, they are still left without a final venue. Shiho confronts Shiraki about the closure of her Hakata side. She is told she has a chance to become the centre again but she is somewhat unhappy. She agrees but hopes to go back to Hakata one last time. She meets her fellow members and tells them the bad news that they are breaking. They don’t want this but what other choice do they have? With no one refunding their tickets for Sendai, WUG is happy to note that their fans still believe in them and will work hard till they get the final venue. Mayu gets a call from Megumi. She tells of Shiho might quit I-1 to keep Next Storm together. Mayu wants to go talk to them and Yoshino agrees on a condition that she also comes. So the girls meet and they ask if this is what Shiho really wants. She should talk to him again if she is really prepared to quit. So Mayu goes to bug Tange to arrange a meeting and with WUG ‘pressuring’ her, she gives in and calls Shiraki. And so that guy could only spare 15 minutes of his time just to talk to Mayu alone. They have very differing views on what it means to be an idol. Shiraki insists I-1 doesn’t need friendship. Hard work and strong mentality are all it takes. If Shiho wants to leave, then leave. You can’t reach the top if you rely on others or swayed by your feelings. Shiraki ends the meeting but little do they know, a paparazzi has taken a photo of them. Soon it hits the magazines about this ‘scandalous’ meeting. Rumours fly that Mayu will quit WUG and return to I-1. Oh well, I’m sure true comrades and friends will believe in them. With Shiho released from her contract, she manages to save Next Storm as Shiraki’s ‘parting gift’ to her. Also, Moka becomes Shiho’s replacement as the candidate for the new centre. Not happy? A chance is still a chance. Shiho calls Hayasaka about her departure from I-1 and also to tell something is happening to WUG. Then Hayasaka calls Shiraki to come up with some ‘mischief’. WUG has some good news. They finally find a venue: The old Sendai airport. The huge land is barren and empty. Looks like more costs to erect a stage. So WUG helps out by picking up trash? This is going to take some time. WUG manages to successfully have many idols perform simultaneously on Christmas Eve. Then they bug and Tange so their apprentices can debut. At first she disagrees but after another round of ‘pressuring’, she gives in. That easy, huh? But the only condition is they will only be WUG’s opening act. Hence she has to bring out a song Twinkle wrote for them. WUG tries to come up with a name for the trainees’ new unit. Noticing how they’re always running around, it is decided to be Run Girls, Run (RGR). I guess it beats having just an alphabet and number.

Episode 13
Tonight is the night where many of the idols will perform simultaneously. A lot of people in Japan must really have no other plans but to attend concerts nationwide, eh? We see I-1 going about with their performance first. RGR is nervous before their debut so WUG helps calm them down by giving them scrunchy. Feeling part of the team now? Naturally they are still nervous and slip up on stage. In their bid to recover, they look so funny that the fans love them. Ah, you can’t go wrong as long as you’re cute girls, right? They manage to recover and do their number. And now it’s time for the main event with WUG performing a montage of their songs for the next 8 minutes of this episode. Then the other idols elsewhere like Next Storm and Namahagez get only a second of clip because we’re not going to show everyone, right? Hayasaka calls Shiraki and it seems he was the one who helped WUG find a concert venue. Even more surprising, it was Shiho who called him to help out with this. Hayasaka then asks him a question the difference between human and virtual idols. To him they are all the same. So I guess to prove what Hayasaka is going to say or why human idols have their own charm, something happens during the concert. WUG’s microphones suddenly get cut off while the Vdol just suddenly vanishes! Yeah, blame the cold snow for messing with the equipment. So the fans for the Vdol will have to wait while the technicians get it to fix back but for WUG, they continue performing and they improvise by getting closer to their fans and performing in their stand. Hayasaka thought letting the perfect idol debut with his songs would be the best way to maximise his music potential but learnt that was wrong. At the end of I-1’s concert, Moka is chosen as the next centre. Apparently she doesn’t look happy. A surprise guest appears on screen then. Rather, guests. Because all the other idol concerts pop up. This is also part of Hayasaka’s doing. Shiraki then answers back by making his announcement. There will be a new idol festival. In the aftermath, Hayasaka returns to Japan (because it’s more fun there). Shocking news as Moka steps down as I-1’s centre because the real battle for it will be postponed until the new idol festival. I-1 has also rescinded their seeding and will participate in the preliminaries alongside other idols. WUG is ecstatic of this news but leaves rookies RGR in a lurch because now they are rivals! No more nice girls?

Virtual Wake Up Call
It would sure be interesting to note about this next new idol festival since the Vdol would also be performing! Well, even if this may seem like one sided because machine is virtually perfect but it all boils down to the number of fans you have. In a way, you can be ordinary idols, famous well known idols, obscure idols, idols from another nation, idols from outer space or spiritual idols for all we care. As long as you can capture the heart of your fans, you’re a true top idol. Well, that’s the only thing interesting for me to watch and see if there should be another sequel. Otherwise, this sequel didn’t really offer much especially for casual viewers seeing the biggest struggle for WUG was trying to maintain their relevance and getting their final concert filled. Yeah, the lyrics writing thingy didn’t really seem that all bad. Personal and individual struggles are not on some epic scale that would shake up anything or cause any concern. Remember that ‘scandalous’ meeting between Mayu and Shiraki? Now that she has put up a great performance I guess all is forgotten and forgiven. If only the real world was this good…

I don’t see this season’s plot as exciting despite the virtual idol being the biggest threat to the dwindling idol industry. For a casual viewer like me, despite WUG being the main stars of the series, I just don’t feel that they are going anywhere. Sure, they are struggling to stay relevant in a time when everything is so online that even idols are now in digital form. They might have made a name for themselves but I am figuring they are not as big as say, AKB48. Because I get this feeling that they are just popular locally at Sendai instead of nationwide. Then there is the struggle to keep the group’s cohesiveness together. Although considered a small group by today’s standards, having 7 members in a group is still a feat to manage as each individual is unique. That problem is partly solved as they are living together in a shared dorm now. But other than that, with a few small arguments here and there that doesn’t matter, ultimately they reconcile in no time and there is no big internal strife that would put the group in danger or risk any of them quitting or falling out. Thank goodness. Thus, nothing pretty much exciting if you want to look in terms of the plot and character development because the past season (and perhaps the movies) have done all that. It’s just more WUG happiness to appease fans.

Aside WUG, it looks like I-1 is going through a major change and shift as well. We don’t see much of it because this isn’t their show so it is understandable. So the problem with super huge groups like I-1 as you can see is the cohesiveness of the overall team. Though not shown, I believe not every single member is close to every other single member. So many members like as though Shiraki who only remembers all the members via a given number (he doesn’t even address them by their name unless specifically forced to), is raising a mini army to take over Japan via singing and dancing through our hearts. This guy really makes his I-1 training camp look more like a boot camp. I suppose when you have so many members, you can’t have everyone voicing their opinions because that would split the group and hence who better to play the ‘dictator’ than the man himself. Sometimes Shiraki’s ways might be too harsh, cold and soulless but if you think deeper into it, there might be some truth in it especially about idols not needing friendship. It is still a cutthroat industry so this one is really 50/50 depending on your ethics and morality. So now I-1 is going through a rough patch and their past glories won’t save them unless they innovate. Good times don’t last forever. But so do bad times.

Which brings us to this new Vdol phenomenon which is sweeping the world at a feverish state. Like a new toilet, it is the talk of town. A different experience that excites everyone. But just like trends of anything and everything, eventually this too would become boring and either slow down or phase out. So our idol girls of the flesh and blood kind will really need to work harder and innovate if they wish to stay relevant in the industry. After all, there are pros and cons of both traditional idols and virtual idols. For the former, you can at least get a physical handshake at special events! You can’t touch your virtual idol’s hands, can you? Not even with the latest high-tech VR equipment. Yeah, those are just so artificial…

With Shiho now on her own and running her own freelance little unit, let’s hope that she would be much happier this way. Looks like history is repeating itself when Mayu first quit I-1 and formed WUG, eh? Will Next Storm cause another blistering storm or just fizzle out? I thought Moka would also quit I-1 in view of all this but I suppose she’s just stepping down as the centre. Sometimes I think it is like a slap in the face, she got what she coveted the most but since she didn’t get it the honourable way she wanted, she doesn’t want it. Uhm what? A win is still a win, it’s not like she cheated or anything. Did she? If not for Shiraki’s greater vision to make I-1 the centre of all idols, her actions could have been shot down and fired for all we know. So count your blessings that at least in this anime, idols get to compete with each other fair and square. And we fans still love you all! True fans or true suckers?

I believe this season tries to introduce a group of young WUG fans that turned into their apprentices. Unfortunately they don’t really make an impact. In the first half of this season, you see them bum around from time to time, admiring and dreaming the great idol life. And then once they join as trainees, they fall further into the side. Maybe that is why in order for them to have more screen time and for us to be more ‘acquainted’ with them, unlike last season whereby the next episode preview is done by WUG’s seiyuus, this time we have the seiyuus of the trio narrating and talking whatever. But I guess perseverance pays off because they finally have their own little unit now. Oh, I almost forget about Zunda. I am guessing this cat is supposed to be the series’ mascot but its appearance is so sparing, it can be done without anyway. I mean, it’s a cat and does what it wants. Screw your deadline, just feed me and give me a place to sleep. I show my face once in a while to remind who your lord is and for all you slaves to fawn over. Right. We need to ramp up more moe cuteness. Cute girls + cute fat cat = Epic cuteness!

Ironically, the more interesting characters are the adults. Like Tange who still is the very sly slave driver with connections. She gets lots of this crazy ideas on a whim for WUG to do like as though she came up with them during one of her drunken sessions. Really. Thank goodness it all pays off somewhat. She talks with stern confidence whether she agrees or not. That’s why she makes a good top level manager. She gets things done. Only problem is that she loves taking out and ‘abusing’ Matsuda and piling up all the work on him. But hey, he too somehow manages to get things done so I guess it isn’t that bad. Too bad Matsuda feels like a wuss pussy like last time for being pushed around a lot by Tange but I suppose somebody has to do the job and it isn’t the girls in the agency. Yeah, who is the only guy in the agency? Despite taking out on Matsuda, she gets easily pressured when WUG demands something. Of course it’s for the better of the group and plot convenience and Tange will be viewed as a b*tch if she doesn’t give in to their demands. After all, don’t want to be blamed if they failed, right? On a side note, there is a bunch of WUG fans who are always plotting their next support for WUG at a diner. They usually get too loud and causing a nuisance around them. Are there better places to meet up?

Last but not least, Hayasaka. This talented guy is still as eccentric and whimsical as ever. Because of his tremendous song writing talents, he gets to do what he wants because apparently nobody in this age writes song anymore except him. So they have to pander and beg him but it all depends on his mood. Feel like it, okay, write it. Don’t feel like it, delete everything, drop it, quit, whatever. Clips on his past insights should be interesting and perhaps would enlighten us on how he came to be this enigmatic and erratic character he is today. So he already had his hands in writing songs for his own group, a famous idol group, a lesser known and upcoming idol group and now the virtual idol. What is next? What is the perfection he seeks that will satisfy his heart and soul? Only Hayasaka will have the answer to that. And looks like he has to return to Japan to find it. Where else in the world has produced more interesting idols than Japan? Oh, right. There is South Korea but that’s on a totally different league.

Not too sure if this season was supposedly the battle of the idols because in that very same season we had the sequel to Love Live! Sunshine aired. So will it be WUG or Aqours? Because I am fan of neither groups and considering I have watched both series including its first season, I can’t tell if there is supposed to be any competition between them. Although in the similar idol industry, the settings are just too different if you want to make them go head to head with each other. It’s like they don’t need to compete with each other in the first place and are sufficiently standing on their own feet without the need of trying to outdo one another. After all, both idol groups have their set of dedicated fan base and unless you want to really delve into the dark and dirty idol world, let’s just assume that everybody is just happy with their own favourite idols without the need to resort to low level mudslinging and name calling.

The opening and ending themes feel like spiritual successors of last season. 7 Senses as the opener is your typical lively idol piece while Shizuku No Kanmuri as the ending theme again feels out of place because of its slow ballad style. Though it isn’t bad and not to say that idol groups don’t sing slow ballads, but I still can’t help feel that it just sounds weird as an ending song. There are a few insert songs too but since I’m still not into them, I guess they didn’t sound that attractive to me.

Overall, looks like idol fans and true blue WUG fans would only appreciate this sequel that would otherwise be just boring and average to other casual viewers. In an age where technology is so rampant and one by one jobs that were once manned by humans are slowly being computerised, nothing is left safe at the hands of so called modernisation and development. Hence the only interesting thought this season provided me is how even idols are in danger of being replaced digitally, which isn’t so far-fetched a reality. Let’s just hope in the event if real traditional idols really die out, they won’t resort to shady stuffs in a desperate bid to stay relevant like releasing sex tapes and making adult videos. You think porn is safe from automation? There are sex dolls now! What a time to wake up and be alive.

Wake Up, Girls!

August 10, 2014

Having troubles waking up early in the morning? Not a morning person or you have just pulled an all-nighter finishing your assignment, watching the finals of a football game or staying up playing a video game marathon. Don’t worry. There is a service that will have cute girls coming over to give you that much needed wakeup call and I am sure after hearing “Onii-chan, okite! Okite!” (Big brother, please wakey-wakey up!), you would feel much better when you wake up… Eh… What is that you say? You mean this is not what Wake Up, Girls! is all about???????!!!!!!!!!! EEEEEEHHHHH???!!! You mean this is an idol theme show???????!!!!!!! Man, I would never have guessed it if I just solely based it on the name of the series and taking it too literally. I mean, what kind of a name is Wake Up Girls for an idol unit? Couldn’t it be something sweet and nice? So okay, there are lots of funny names going around but I guess you have to be unique in your performance and even in your group’s name just to stand out since there are quite a number of idols out there.

Of the very few girl group idols that I have seen, Wake Up Girls (WUG) as I can see isn’t the kind that could rival its flashier counterparts like AKB0048 and Love Live. Firstly, there is no sci-fi element and idols kicking ass so you can say this anime is more down to earth like Love Live. However WUG isn’t as flashy or cutely sweet as Love Live as it chronicles the struggles of that small idol unit based in the Sendai countryside. The road to being an idol is always tough. You have to put in hours into your practice and your performance to stay relevant or else you’ll become yesterday’s news. Yes. Today will become yesterday like for every day. Haha. But seriously, I thought this series was going to be a little interesting after reading the short synopsis of how the idol group and its agency are on the brink of going bust due to some troubles. This is much more serious than say, your beloved school closing down. Thus, there is somewhat something interesting that attracts me to see how this unknown small fry would face such obstacles and triumph in the end. We all love a good humble beginning to great success stories, don’t we?

Episode 1
On Christmas Eve, WUG did a debut concert but on Christmas day, internet forum boards are rife with postings that Mayu Shimada was spotted as part of that group and further speculating her return to idol work. However many remain sceptical as they see her as past her prime. On New Year’s Day, manager Kouhei Matsuda wakes up to a bad start. He had nightmares. After Mayu pays her respects at the shrine, she meets with Kaya Kikuma as they walk together to the agency, Green Leaves Entertainment. They talk about their future and the direction they are heading, the reason why they are here. Miyu Okamoto is also here for the same reason. Although they worry that the agency may close down since it does not have money, Miyu remains positive that hard work will pay off just like how she currently does in her maid cafe. When Matsuda arrives, he calls the rest of the girls, Nanami Hisami, Minami Katayama, Airi Hayashida and Yoshino Nanase to the agency. There is a famous producer, Sudo who has seen their Christmas debut they are interested in helping manage the group. Some are happy but the rest remain sceptical. Matsuda explains he used to work under their president, Junko Tange. Let’s say she is very bossy, pushy and rough but she had connections. It made Matsudo feel like a loser. By the way, Tange ran off with the money. Now he has a chance to improve things and hopes the girls will work with him again. The girls leave with high hopes but the few remain pessimistic. At the cafe, they discuss about this and Miyu remains optimistic and acts out her maid cafe greeting example to the rest. Another idol group, I-1 is making its public announcement on their nationwide concert tour. Mayu was once a member of this group. Flashback to WUG doing their debut gig on stage to a handful of audience who probably had nowhere to go on that day. Come the weekend, Matsuda and the girls anxiously wait for Sudo to turn up. A few false alarms. Who the heck keeps ordering these food deliveries? Or do they get the address wrong? And then Sudo shows up. Uhm… He looks like a yakuza… The first thing he asks the girls to do is to put on a skimpy bikini.

Episode 2
Sudo has also found them a stage to perform. That’s great, right? Yeah. The public bath for men. Seriously, the boring men here seem to have no purpose in life. It’s like they’re half dead. Serious. The girls put on their courage to wear the white bikini (because Sudo saw them during their debut performance where they ‘flashed’ their panties so they shouldn’t be shy about this) to perform in front of the guys. I think they know nothing about idols and just love their nice asses. That’s why they’re cheering. During the break, Matsuda tries to talk to Sudo about the inappropriateness about it all but got lectured back about resolve and that the super popular Shiho Iwazaki from I-1 is also doing it. He also views Matsuda not fit to be their manager as he doesn’t even give try putting his girls on stage. Later Matsuda and the girls discuss and it seems this rookie left the payment dealings to Sudo and didn’t even know the contract he signed them up for! Yes. ‘Photo shooting’ means the loser guys get to take pictures all they want with the girls. They also need to serve the customers. Even if some of their hands go wandering, they can’t raise a finger back. ‘Participating in various attraction’ means playing games with the customers and Miyu certainly had her last straw when a customer ‘earned the right’ to kiss her. Who would want to kiss this ugly f*cker?! She pushes him away and runs away. This made Miyu rather quit than continuing with this. If they abandon this now, they have to return the money the host paid upfront to Sudo. Miyu still leaves while the rest are in a dilemma whether to go ahead.

Suddenly Tange barges in and lectures Matsuda like hell. With her is Sudo being beaten to a pulp. She threatens this shady producer and you can guarantee he won’t be showing his ass around them anymore and pay the cancellation fee. Yeah. She’s scary. But the girls are saved. If Matsuda thinks he can lecture her about running away with the money, think again. She’s still dominating. Apparently her darling needed some money so she took the agency’s money and went gambling. She lost it all. That’s the only apology you’ll ever hear from her. Noting that Miyu is not around, she has the girls go look for her. Not going to break up so fast, aren’t we? They find her at her maid cafe as she explains maybe she did lack the resolve to perform on stage. Because back here, she feels comfortable with her fans who truly love her and it made her want to be surrounded by them even more. They would never do anything to hurt her. Since her performance time is now, she invites them to watch. Oh God. That Nyaruko song… At the end, she thanks her fans and they in turn support her with all their might for her to be part of WUG. Their positive encouragement brings tears to her eyes. Now that the group is a whole again, Tange already has got a job for them and they’ll be appearing in a small segment on TV.

Episode 3
The girls will be split into 2 groups. One will be doing local gourmet and the other weather report. However the latter one also has scalding water. WTF?! It’s obvious all want to do local gourmet so it is decided who goes where via drawing sticks. The ones who got the short end of the stick to do the weather report are Kaya, Miyu, Airi and Yoshino. For this quartet, not only they have to enter hot water but during the weather report, they have to wear animal suits. I don’t even… It’s much better on the gourmet group since Minami is a big eater, she wallops everything. Even if Mayu and Nanami may put the show in jeopardy since they’ll be tasting lots of weird local delicacies, thanks to Minami the show is saved. The director’s only concern is that she expands her vocabulary instead of just saying it is delicious. How does “Tasty, meow!” sound? Both the shows get good reviews and this gives them the chance to promote their upcoming concert at Sendai. Minami’s grannies at the old folks’ home are glad to see her lively as usual and they think of crashing and surprising her by turning up at the concert. But first, they need to make something for her. Mayu notices Minami always holds a charm. She explains it is from her grandma and she used it during the audition. She believes this charm soothes her when she is nervous and protects her from making mistakes. Ever since she passed the audition, the grannies have been supporting her. She knows they’ll continue to do so. But it’s a different case for Mayu because her mom isn’t impressed that she is doing this again. She won’t listen to what she has to say. The day before the concert, the grannies show her a big yellow banner they made for Minami. Yellow like the bright sun that Minami is. However bad luck strikes because on the day of the concert, grandma experiences chest pains and had to be rushed to the hospital. Minami loses all confidence and can’t sing and is very worried. Once her pals get wind of this, Tange wants them to go ahead without Minami and cover for her part while they go make rearrangements with the producers. Minami is by grandma’s side at the hospital. She is doing fine. After her words of encouragement, Minami rushes back to her pals. She is okay to be here since by performing, grandma will be happier. The concert is a success and thanks to that, Mayu’s past of leaving I-1 due to some internal conflict may start to creep back up on her.

Episode 4
A Mayu fan posts the good stuffs he saw at the Sendai concert. However the forums are filled with naysayers who are badmouthing her. Tange relays another good news that the girls will be doing a regular radio programme though it lasts a minute before midnight. Anna and Karina from Twinkle are also here since they will be writing a new song for them. The girls try their hand in practising to speak in limited time. 60 seconds among 7 girls. That’s like around 8 seconds per girl, right? Tange and the other adults discuss about Mayu because she seemed trouble. Similarly, Miyu talks to her but she doesn’t say much and only wonders if she shouldn’t have come back. A publisher from Tokyo, Suzuki calls Tange to set up an interview with the group. Of course with this big chance, she wouldn’t let go. However Suzuki has an ulterior motive especially about the former I-1 idol Mayu. Meanwhile at the training room of I-1 where every girl is training hard. There are so many members that I think it’s like a mini army. The president, Tooru Shiraki (who looks like a typical baddie) gets straight to the point in selecting the best members for their nationwide concert in Sendai, rejecting those who failed the cut and admitting new ones to the team. Some members who know Mayu saw her stint in Sendai and are puzzled she is working in the countryside. I-1’s Megumi Yoshikawa contacts Mayu to tell her about their concert in Sendai. Suzuki and fellow cameraman, Yamada are at the agency to interview the girls. Suzuki seems like he is hurrying the interview of the other girls and when he gets to Mayu, he spams her questions of her departure from I-1 and wants to know the truth. A scandal about her seeing some guy. Tange kicks his ass. Wasn’t this supposed to be an interview on WUG and not Mayu’s past? Indeed. But WUG cannot exist without Mayu, right? When he shows his project about the struggles of a fallen idol that will have people making fuss over her, Tange punches him. He’ll sue! She doesn’t care! Try it! While Tange talks to Mayu about healing her emotional scars, the other girls discuss the malicious postings on her. Welcome to the harsh reality of show business, girls. Meanwhile the true Mayu fan continues to fight for her online. Mayu bumps into Shiho.

Episode 5
Shiho is not impressed she is back and she definitely won’t forget how Mayu caused them trouble. The new song for WUG is ready and Tange thinks of doing a live concert. However everyone else is not so sure because something like this happened before Tange ran away with the money. This time it’ll be different, she guarantees. But there is another bad news. I-1’s concert is scheduled on the same day with theirs! Yoshino takes the lead in organizing the songs they want to sing and since they have only 2, she feels they need to sing more. Of course with the other music genres the other girls suggest, it’s not going to cut it. Till Yoshino accidentally suggests singing songs from I-1. She apologizes but Mayu is okay with it. But she thinks they should show their own colours and there isn’t any need to sing their songs. Meanwhile the I-1 Spartan training regiment continues. It’s like they’re under the watchful eye of some MIB and they even have recording of those who are out of sync with the rest, immediately replay that part and tell her she’s out! You want to be part of this idol group?! Whereas out WUG are more casual although their practice seems to be ‘lonely’. They even have Anna and Karina point out their mistakes in which their dance choreography is indeed in a mess. Their promotion isn’t going too well either because the crowd snubs them unlike the I-1’s fancy promotion. Even if they aren’t there in person, you can see I-1 banners dominate. On concert day, I-1’s concert as expected is to a huge sell-out crowd. Compared to WUG… They can’t even fill a mini room. I think those fans are mostly Miyu’s maid cafe fans. Unlike I-1 giving a professional and entertaining performance, WUG make some silly mistakes, dropping the microphone, bumping into each other and Yoshino being nervous with her lines. At the end of the day, it was just depressing for them. You think Tange isn’t reading their atmosphere as she is feeling happy over their great performance. But she tells them off who are they to think they can compare with I-1? Those are pros. They aren’t ready yet. So don’t ruin the celebration mood. I think this just makes them more depress. Next day, she has them tour the theatre where I-1 is giving fans a handshake. The girls are in awe of their professionalism and feel dumb for getting depressed. Mayu goes up to shake hands with Megumi and ultimately Shiho who seem reluctant to extend her hand but does it anyway. Mayu tells her that she can finally come to like idols.

Episode 6
Tasuku Hayasaka approaches Tange and wants her to let him handle WUG. She is suspicious because he is the composer for I-1. However he claims that idol group doesn’t inspire him anymore. Matsuda is watching an interview of Hayasaka on TV, probably saying a few bad things when Tange brings the real person back. Oh sh*t! Tange and Matsuda remain suspicious and have him sign a contract for they do not want trouble despite assurances that he is willing to do it for free. He hasn’t told I-1 about this because he thinks it is best when somebody catches that guy off guard. It’s like everyone is always worried about how he feels. Besides, Hayasaka doesn’t belong to him and can work for whoever he wants. Tange doesn’t want this to look like they’re picking a fight with I-1 but he assures her that it is he who is the one who approached them. So the girls undergo Hayasaka’s own Spartan regiment. Weird poses to build their stamina. Can you seriously listen and reply in that pose?! There are a few conditions, though. Hayasaka will be their teacher and train them for free. This means they will have long trainings during weekends and for the second and fourth Saturdays, they will perform 3 live concerts to gain experience. Lastly, nobody can complain how he handles everything. In short, he is in full control of the girls. It is no surprise the girls are dead tired and at their limit. Maybe not so bad for Mayu since she got a little idol training previously. Hayasaka talks to Tange and Matsuda and he thinks of cutting off Airi from the group. Speaking of her, she is getting more tired by the day and spaces out during her jobs.

One rainy day after their usual lesson, Hayasaka has Airi stay back. Mayu waits for her while the rest who are already at their limit, leave first. Hayasaka tells it bluntly to Airi that she doesn’t have talent and may be suited to be part of the audience. If she wants to reconsider, now is the time. When Airi leaves, she wants to be left alone instead of walking back with Mayu. Meanwhile Shiraki explains to his army of idols about the small WUG concert held on the same day as theirs. How did he know? He analyzed the sold out tickets for I-1 and 3 didn’t turn up!!! THREE PEOPLE DIDN’T SHOW UP AND HE KNOWS! HE KNOWS!!!!!!!!!!!! However this is no laughing matter. He can see in no time this local countryside group will be a threat and wants them crushed. This guy is really insane. WUG is in their first back to back concert. Only 4 people turn up. Pathetic. Well, this is to gauge how much audience they can gather for the later show. But the first gig was a disaster. Airi knocks into the amplifier. It is no surprise Hayasaka doesn’t mince his words that kindergarten kids are better than them. Then he hints to Airi ‘there is still time’. On a lesson day, Airi didn’t turn up and her friends are worried since she is usually the early one. Plus, Hayasaka won’t conduct his lesson if all of them are not here. So when the big teacher comes in, the girls tell him Airi isn’t here yet. He gets it straight to them that the group doesn’t need Airi and is thinking of dropping her. Although the girls don’t like it, they are reminded that he has absolute power. He gives them a choice. If they are willing to cut Airi, the lessons will go on. Otherwise, they are all fired. Your answer in 10 minutes. And Airi is sitting all alone in her room. Still thinking…

Episode 7
Matsuda confronts Hayasaka that he has gone too far but Tange seems to agree with him (although she may not like it) that if the girls crumble under such pressure, they aren’t worthy to be idols. The girls are in a big dilemma. Furthermore, Yoshino as the group leader is forced to make a decision. Finally they decide. WUG is incomplete with Airi. Yoshino and Mayu will go bring her back while the rest go talk to Tange who in turn tell them they should go talk to Hayasaka since he is the one in charge. So when they find him playing the crane game, he has them get 3 dolls for him. It’s going to take some time but they won’t give up. I wonder how many coins they’re going to spare. Damn machine. Game over so fast. Airi helps out her dad’s confectionary store, which is of course a little weird. She’s never lend a hand before and suddenly here she is. Isn’t she always busy with her lessons? Dad knows… Yoshino and Mayu arrive at her doorstep. Airi’s confidence is rock bottom as you can tell from her speech that she’s beating herself up that she’s the lowest and most untalented among the group. She really thinks of quitting WUG so as not to trouble them anymore. Mayu feels the group is not complete without her and that thanks to Airi, she tried to become an idol again. Yoshino too give her piece of mind. Airi was the one who came up that if anyone of them had troubles, they should discuss them together. If they don’t, what is the purpose of this group? So after much discussion, they decide to bring her back at all cost. As her first order as leader, she wants her back. So emotionally charged that somehow I felt it turned into a crying contest between Yoshino and Airi. Meanwhile the other girls already complete their crane task. Because of that, Hayasaka changes his mind and will accept Airi back and continue their lessons. Although he is sick in watching amateurs pretending to be friends, that is the very think that he likes about them. Yeah, the close friendship thingy. You hardly see that in I-1, right? Now that Airi is back, she promises to make Hayasaka acknowledge him. However he says doing that won’t do her or them any good. They must make the ordinary public acknowledge them. And to do that, he has entered them in the Idol Festival 2014 contest.

Episode 8
Hayasaka has also written a song for them. They should learn it by their next lesson. Meanwhile Shiraki and I-1 are in their usual ‘training’. He mentions to them about the Idol Festival and wants them to crush them all. Then the usual cull list of those who make it and giving a stern warning for those who greeted him when he came in because they shouldn’t be distracted but focused on their singing and dancing. Some of the I-1 girls are talking about Hayasaka working for WUG and the amazing part is that he is working for free. Meanwhile Shiraki talks to Hayasaka and he knows that he is handling WUG. They know Mayu is the one pulling the other members along and if all goes well, WUG can turn out to be interesting. Matsuda and WUG are reading the ‘prize’ for winning Idol Festival (some big contract with a big record company). They need to practice their choreography while Hayasaka is away since he is busy with I-1 events for this few weeks. Later Nanami talks to Matsuda alone. She shows him the requirements for some hikarizuka music genre entrance exam. She doesn’t bat an eyelid saying she is just using WUG as a stepping stone for this and always intended to stop working with the group by then. On short, she won’t be able to participate in the Idol Festival which is held around this time. Matsuda is so dumbfounded… Oh no, what should he do? The other girls are at a cafe when the I-1 girls also patron it. Shiho talks to Mayu and knows her group is entering the festival. She reminds her that she was part of I-1 and if she is going to produce embarrassing results, she’ll damage I-1’s reputation and it’s better she don’t participate at all. If she’s coming, bring all they’ve got and she’ll crush them with all she’s got too.

Although there are many other smaller idol units, WUG receive quite an attention on the forums due to Mayu who was once I-1’s centre. After the girls practice their dance, Airi stays back to continue practising. Nanami asks her why she is working so hard. You know, not good at anything, trying to change who she is, not running away, being half-hearted, wanting to be a proper member instead of just a fan, etc. The girls show the results of their practice to Hayasaka. He isn’t impressed a bit. Even if Kaya notes they’re working hard, that’s where he tells them off that everybody is just doing that. What matters most is the result. After learning the average of 20 hours of practice they put in each week, he thinks it is appalling and nowhere near half of I-1’s practice hours. Of course putting in the hours isn’t just what counts, they must work 100 times harder. At this rate, they won’t even make it past the preliminaries. Mayu thinks they should continue practising and review their practice menu. She is worried because doing these half-hearted practices aren’t good enough and at this rate they won’t beat I-1. This causes a friction with Yoshino who thinks she joined WUG to beat I-1. Even so, it’s like she’s dragging them into it. Mayu denies that but Yoshino wants her to tell the truth why she quit I-1. Kaya breaks them up but the damage is done. Matsuda talks to Tange about Kaya’s suggestion for an overnight training camp. She thinks it’s a good idea to let off some steam but he is worried the group is falling apart at this rate.

Episode 9
Kaya’s aunt runs an inn at Kesennuma. Kaya talks to Mayu about her secret. She lost her parents when she was young and her aunt is like her mom. She lets her read some letter that hoped she would return. Kaya couldn’t make that decision and ended up idling around Sendai. She saw the audition for WUG and applied thinking it would be work-cum-fun. Of course it stopped being that since there were difficult and frustrating times. She also tells her about her childhood friend who kept telling her to challenge people stronger than her. In no time, she improved enough to beat him. That’s why she can’t walk away after losing to strong opponents and doesn’t think WUG can end up like this. Something in her keeps telling her to keep trying and she wants to work hard for those who can’t. Now it’s Mayu’s turn to tell her secret. When she said she wanted to make herself happy at the audition, it was probably because she couldn’t make others happy so at least that is what she wanted to do. Four years ago when she became part of the first generation of I-1 (starting out as a really small and modest club although Shiraki’s tough rules are still enforced), everything was exciting because it was a new experience. But the strict rules became harder to take and many girls would secretly cry. They felt restricted. When Mayu’s friend was dropped because she had a boyfriend despite she never neglected her lessons, Mayu went to confront Shiraki. That guy was uncompromising. He believes once you love other people than your fans, you stop being an idol and become some subhuman trash. Such existence is not needed in I-1. Remember, they are idols first and humans second. Probably Mayu was too rash that she broke his prized record. He then tells her the group will be releasing 2 singles simultaneously. Mayu will be the centre in one while Shiho handles the other. Whosever sales is the lowest will be fired. Mayu’s mom became upset that she angered Shiraki since everything will be lost if she is fired as she sacrificed everything for her. Of course Shiho’s sales top the charts that week and the rest is history. Then the scandal about Mayu seeing a guy was a trap to cover up. Her parents divorced subsequently. Mayu came back to her mom’s home in Sendai. She couldn’t give up on singing and dancing, the reason she wanted to give another try. Though she still holds a grudge against I-1, after learning a lot from everyone in WUG, she believes she can finally make herself happy. By this time everybody else has heard her. Naturally they reconcile and even good news, Nanami is touched by their resolve that she shreds her hikarizuka entrance exam requirement and will put all her effort in WUG from now on. But does she have to litter around? Now they have to pick it up…

Episode 10
WUG passed the initial screening for the Idol Festival and are under the Tohoku Block. Checking out the other competitors in their block, some look more like comedians. Oga Demons… Are they some sort of demon exorcist?! Don’t laugh! Tange warns them that such groups are the real threats because they have something unique that makes them stand out. This has her ask WUG what is it that makes them unique. So the girls ask various people at their jobs and fans at the concert but the answers are mostly on the individual. One night, Yoshino and Mayu stumble upon Oga Demons who are in town to check out their rivals. I’m not sure if they’re making a threat or just fooling around. I think it should be the former. Mayu goes back and wants to talk to mommy about how she feels. Basically, she’s saying she’s happier at WUG compared to her days in I-1 and is sorry for hurting dad and her. She tries to invite her to the festival but mommy doesn’t seem enthusiastic. She doesn’t care what her daughter does. Anna and Karina drop by to give WUG their outfits. About their question of their uniqueness, they think it’s best left decided to the people who see them perform. On the day of the concert, fans of all idol groups turn out in full force including those hardcore WUG guys. Not forgetting Minami’s old folks’ ladies too. Before the competition starts, Shiraki greets everyone via video conferencing and tells us about how it works. The winner of each block (the one with the highest votes from judges, online and offline polls) will get to compete in the final in Tokyo. All the idols strut their stuff on stage. Mayu sees her mom in the crowd and from her smile and tears, you can bet she is happy for her daughter. After all the votes are in, the winner of the Tohoku Block is… WUG! But of course. Oga Demons acknowledge their victory and hopes they will win the finals for them. Back at the agency, Tange gives Mayu the contract her mom came yesterday to sign Mayu to formally join the group. It’s a good sign that she has approved! Matsuda turns on the TV to see any news of Idol Festival. But what he sees is I-1 announcing their new single going on sale today. But isn’t that WUG’s song that Hayasaka wrote for them?

Episode 11
They think they’ve been had, since they can’t use this song anymore as there will be copyright issues. Then here comes that sneaky Hayasaka. He claims he has written a better song for them so he gave that one to I-1. But do they have time to learn a new song? He puts it this way. If they win this festival, they’ll be acknowledged as I-1’s rival and possibly be the best. Top idols can learn new songs and choreography in a day. Whether they win it is up to them. He appoints Yoshino to be the centre for this song. I guess there is only one way. Put in more hard work. I-1 girls are talking about WUG who made it through the preliminaries. Shiho thinks it is good because that way they can crush them and it won’t be much of the competition if WUG doesn’t do the same. As they talk about their new single that Hayasaka supposedly written for WUG, Shiho sounds like a paranoid that it didn’t give I-1 and advantage. In fact it might mean WUG doesn’t need that song anymore and have something more amazing for the finals. WUG has a sizeable amount of fans now. At least their mini theatre is filled. Even some of their classmates ask their autograph. WUG perform their new song and show to Hayasaka their effort. I’m not sure if he’s being sarcastic or something. But he delivers good advice because their job is to convince the audience and that no idol performance is ever perfect even though they strive for that. Yoshino made scrunchies for her members. That night, everyone packs up their stuffs, ready to leave for Tokyo. You wonder if they’re running away or something since their luggage… Anyway they have firsthand experience on how crowded Tokyo is. But the arena they’ll be performing in is damn huge! During rehearsal, nervous Yoshino trips on a wire. Then they see I-1 record their live performance. Just amazing. This is the reason why they are top idols. During the break, Yoshino checks her feet and her worst nightmare comes true. It is swollen! OMFG! I thought it was some sort of critical disease. Looks painful.

Episode 12
Yoshino panics but maintains her calm among her pals. However she spaces out a lot and during rehearsal she is off tempo. The others know something is wrong with her especially with her odd feet movements. She then lets them know and of course Yoshino’s choices are either she can continue or they go on without her. But she’s the centre… Mayu suggests they withdraw because WUG isn’t a whole without all 7 of them. Shiho heard it all and walks in. She won’t let them quit and calls a couple of nurses to bandage Yoshino’s leg. They did a good job to make it last for a few hours. Although not optimum, at least she can move better. WUG make some changes to their dance routine. As the finals begin, Shiraki starts ranting about America’s September 11 and its relation to entertainment and idols. I don’t give a f*ck about that and just start the show! When it is WUG’s turn to take to the stage, the entire arena is quiet. Everyone isn’t impressed that Mayu is back. But the small hardcore WUG fans didn’t give up and continue to cheer on them. So quiet the arena that their cheers sound so loud that it’s resonating. Slowly as WUG performs, everyone sees how good they are and start to cheer hard for them. See, you don’t judge a book by its cover. Yoshino may not be perfect in the jumping part may but the girls are ready to catch her when she almost loses her balance. At the end of their gig, the crowd is so impressed that they start chanting their name! WUG! WUG! WUG!!! It just brings a lot of tears to their eyes. Of course they do this at the backstage. Feel free to let those tears flow. Before the announcement of the results, I-1 performs as the special guest. Miyu notes that was where Mayu once stood but Mayu disagrees because her place will always be in WUG. So the results are in and the winner is… Not WUG! WTF?! Who the hell is Akamiso All Stars?! I guess they’re the better idols tonight. Mayu narrates about herself being happy because if one isn’t happy, they cannot make others happy. Back at the agency, Tange is scared to answer the phone because she counted her chickens and signed up for a bigger office. That call must be the real estate agency. Matsuda picks it up but it turns out to be a major recording label from Tokyo, Bivex. After watching them perform at Idol Festival, they like their performance very much and want to sign them up. Tange revives and the future looks bright for them.

Rise And Shine
Okay… That’s my verdict. Not the best there is but I suppose it was entertaining enough for me to sit through a dozen of episodes. At least they didn’t turn it into some musical where they will break into a song after every few minutes. That isn’t my type of show. For the first half of the series, it somewhat felt a little boring. Maybe it’s because we see them do small time gigs and not going anywhere that is going to make them epic megastars and overnight sensations. It is only when Hayasaka came into the picture, things finally picked up and got interesting since his very unusual ways start shaping WUG to the idols they become now. And now that they have become the best (almost), what is next? Maybe that is why the ‘cliff-hanger’ ending so that if there are lots of WUG converts in real life, they may make another season. I thought that the ‘consolation prize’ for them not winning the Idol Festival was that in return they caught the eyes of the people in Bivex. It could have been icing on the cake but you can’t be greedy and have your cake and eat it. In conjunction to the start of the TV series, this anime also had a movie released simultaneously and it chronicles how the girls of WUG were assembled (and how they got this name too). But as usual, I didn’t see it so I can’t really say much.

Characters play an important role in such genres but with idol units these days consisting of so many members that they can qualify to be a team of some sport, it is hard to say that all of them equally stand out. That is why in each group, there is a coveted centre position. You get all the attention. For this series, from what I can see it is mostly Yoshino and Mayu, the former being the group’s leader and the latter being the ex-member and centre of a currently popular band. Not to say that the other members do not stand out, although there are some episodes that give a little more focus to these other members such as Miyu’s maid cafe and Airi on the verge of being cut from the group, basically I feel that Yoshino and Mayu are the ones who hog more of the spotlight. It’s also great to see that each member isn’t perfect and have their own issues to deal with like Airi who feels she is the least talented, Nanami who puts her hikarizuka music first and of course Mayu’s own ghost of the past and bitter grudge against I-1. At the end of the day, they realize that all 7 of them make up WUG and no more, no less. Something that I believe Hayasaka saw in them because when you have an idol group so big and with enough members to form a mini country, you lose that tight close knit friendship and bond. It plays a vital role why they are able to perform and coordinate so well together not because the songs Hayasaka wrote are damn good. It is partly what the girls put in and their hard work pays off.

Speaking of Hayasaka, I think he is the best character in the series because of his uncanny approach in training the girls. His advice and words are very true and inspiring. Probably he is bored and lost interest after working with the best for so long so he needs to find something challenging. Why not raise and bring up a group of unknowns and let them shine on stage? That seems to be more challenging and interesting, right? Who cares about money and fame when there is nothing to motivate you anymore? Heh. I think only rich and famous people can say that after they have achieved that. Would Hayasaka be doing this for free if he isn’t loaded? My guess is that he won’t even be looking at any other idol groups if he isn’t wealthy as he is now. But I think Hayasaka really cares about WUG and when he threatened to cut Airi from the group, it was just his way to test them. I believe he wasn’t really going to drop her. Tange is quite a brash woman but I guess if you do not have such attitude in this dog eat dog world, you can kiss your agency goodbye. Otherwise she is surprisingly quite a good president with some well connections. Maybe she just needs to give up smoking. Unless that really calms her down in tense situations. I just can’t fathom how she really did ran away with the money at first and then come back again. She really must have such a thick skin. As for Matsuda, I feel that he is like for comical relief. In the sense that the way I see it, he is mostly useless thanks to his timid and inexperience as an idol manager. It’s like he is blur on just about everything as he relies on Tange for those decisions that are critical. Sometimes I feel the series can do without him.

Shiraki may look like the antagonist of the series since he does not show any emotion, which makes him look like a robot. At certain angles, I thought he looked like that character from the Three Stooges thanks to that haircut. Just an unfunny and perhaps ‘evil’ version of Moe? His guidelines are strict and to a point it may be considered inhumane enough to warrant human rights group to protest but if you think about it, he already laid down the rules to be followed strictly. So if you do not adhere to them or do not live up to his standards, out you go. There is no point wasting time on the weak because this way, stronger and better idols can be produced. That is why I-1 which started out as a modest unknown, now becomes the biggest popular idol group in Japan. Every girl who joined this group has their dreams. Some dreams come true but many others are just crushed. Just look at those auditioning hopefuls at American Idol. You’ll get the picture. Imagine if he is the lenient and happy smiley guy, you think the girls will take him seriously? If that happens, what will eventually be of I-1?

But the one thing that I still personally oppose is that idols are still human beings no matter how super or awesome they become. Sure, you are some perfect idol in the eyes of many but that is just in the entertainment industry. As the individual you are, you are still human no matter what deep down. Also, I do not believe that idols cannot have their own romance life. As long as they don’t shirk their duties, what is wrong with falling in love? Not to say that this is an issue in this series but there seems to be this perception that idols must stay single and pure. Sounds like the idols are some sort of possession and belonging by the fans? That’s why I find it baffling that people will come to hate an idol if she ever gets into such relationship. If this was the case in Hollywood in America, you have lots of single celebrities who can’t afford to date somebody or even get married because you might just earn the ire of your fans. Heck, maybe it’ll stem the high divorce rates too. Haha! So now Mayu has come back, I am not sure if Shiho is willing to bury the hatchet. From her expressions, it is not likely. As I can see, she won’t be satisfied till Mayu is out of this industry. But let them settle their battle and differences on stage.

I shouldn’t be touching on this subject but I thought this series was going to have fanservice when the first episode shows the girls flashing their panties in their debut concert. Here I am watching the episode and pondering if this is going to be a boring paced anime when suddenly, pantsu! Different coloured panties!!! WTF?! It’s like this stunt was bait to catch viewers’ attention and make you stay. You’re watching this show nice and quiet and suddenly the flashing makes you stop and go “Woah!” and you want to rewind that scene just to make sure that your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. But take note, this is the only panty flashing fanservice you’ll ever see for the rest of the series. If you don’t count that sleazy swimsuit one, that is. So it’s like teasing us with that first episode and the rest of the episodes are void of any fanservice whatsoever. In this sense, I guess they’ve done it well just to capture our attention. So sorry ecchi fans. Idols are supposed to be pure, remember? So don’t get your hopes up if you want to see some slips.

One thing that is a minus point for this anime is the art and drawing. It just feels plain and simple and sometimes uninspiring. WUG and the girls of I-1 of course look like your bishoujo idols but other minor characters like WUG fans and Minami’s grannies look plain. I did mention that Shiraki looks like a certain Three Stooges character, didn’t I? I guess it is for realism. Sometimes it is odd when you have pretty girls in the idols (maybe that is why they stand out) but the normal common people are somewhat ‘ugly. Of course if you compare to AKB0048 and Love Live, these animes are much flashier and vibrant in their colours whereas WUG is just, well, dull. Sometimes I get confused between Mayu and Yoshino because they look closely similar with nearly same hairstyles but thanks to their slightly different hair colour which makes them ‘distinguishable’. This anime was jointly produced by Ordet and Tatsunoko Productions. Maybe the art is plain because animes under them like Fractale, Senyuu and Black Rock Shooter have their art styles so. As for Tatsunoko Productions, they have been in the anime industry for quite a long time so they have many old titles (Tekkaman Blade series, Time Bokan series and Metal Fight Beyblade series) as well as new ones (Sket Dance, Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream and the new Yozakura Quartet series).

Just like the idol animes I have seen, the seiyuus of the characters in this anime are based on real idols in real life. Prior to the production of the anime, there was an audition held to find potential members of WUG. Therefore, the characters are named after their real life counterparts, at least their first name maintained and with all of them making their debut in voice acting in this anime (a handful did voice acting in one or two other animes). Some also looking close like their anime character. Duh? The other supporting characters are voiced by veteran seiyuus like Kana Hanazawa and Haruka Tomatsu as Anna and Karina respectively. Kenichi Suzumura as Hayasaka feels so much like his other sadistic anime character, Sougou from Gintama. So I thought he was really at home voicing this talented songwriter. Other casts include Yuka Ootsubo as Shiho (Kyouko in YuruYuri), Noriko Hidaka as Tange (Akane in Ranma 1/2), Shintarou Asanuma as Matsuda (Tsuda in Seitokai Yakuindomo) and Minami Tsuda as Megumi (Tsubaki in Ro-Kyu-Bu SS).

Music plays an important role in such genres as well as in real life. Honestly, although sounding like typical idol songs (cute, lively and filled with dance choreography), I just find them okay. I won’t go so far to say that they don’t sound appealing but it is one of those songs you hear for a while before you move on to something else. Enjoyable for the time being. Obviously the cast of WUG sings all the opening and ending themes with Tachiagare being the first opening theme while 7 Girls War as the second opening outfit. The ending theme felt a bit out of place. Kotonoha Aoba is a slow ballad and sometimes I thought there was some sort of high school graduation ceremony or maybe a funeral (touch wood!). Perhaps it is good that idols bring in a variety of music styles into their mix so it isn’t always the sunshiny cheerful type where you can dance and fans screaming their head away in support. On a trivial note, the real seiyuus and idols of WUG are seen reading their lines for the next episode preview. While a couple of them are reading at the might, a few of them behind would be doing some funny signs and gestures like as though they’re just fooling around.

As said, this idol anime may not live up to its flashier counterparts but at least this anime shows us some of the real life difficulties and issues faced by idols wannabes. Nobody said being an idol was a bed of roses. Just like anything else, it takes hard work and perseverance to reach that height. The real idol unit itself may have difficulties in maintaining as a group or stay relevant for a long period of time. Sometimes I feel being kawaii isn’t just really enough. Just like how having the passion to sing and dance aren’t enough although theoretically those are what is essentially and fundamentally needed. After all, idol groups are a dime a dozen and they come and go so fast that you hardly ever notice them. Some becoming one hit wonders and then turn into a distant memory of the past. I’m not sure if I have the right to say that since I am not really an avid idol fan. Maybe WUG in the anime did reach some sort of success but I am not too sure about that translation in real life. Can they sustain in the long run? I certainly hope that after rising and waking up nice and fresh, they won’t fall back to sleep again. Worse, an eternal deep slumber.

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