Shelf Life Wake Up, Girls!
by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
I talked about my overly ambitious streaming queue a few weeks ago, and while a couple of shows have gotten the axe (farewell, Scorching Ping Pong Girls), I'm actually finding that keeping up hasn't been as tough as I'd feared. It certainly helps that there's a lot of fun stuff airing this season, and there's enough variety amongst the good shows that I'm not getting tired of any particular genre. I'm feeling pretty confident at the moment, so let's see if I can actually make it to December without falling hopelessly far behind. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Wake Up, Girls!
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Shelf Life Reviews
After taking a look at the movie earlier this year, James finds out if the Wake Up, Girls! TV series is better, worse, or more of the same in this week's review.
The answer is “No, not quite. But it came close! So very close.”
I wanted to love Wake Up Girls!, I really did. It picks up right where the movie left off, with the seven ladies teaming up with their hopeless manager Kohei to try and rise up the ranks of idol stardom. Outside of the previously famous Shiho, none of the girls have any real experience in the idol business, so they're working their way up from the very bottom. Like I mentioned in my earlier review, I have a fondness for “getting the band together” stories, so an underdog idol show should be right up my alley. Wake Up Girls! does a lot of things right, and a lot of little improvements make it a genuinely likable and endearing show. Unfortunately, its rough edges end up overpowering the good will it generates, and the result is a show that's just a little too underwhelming to fully recommend.
Again, this isn't to say Wake up Girls! is bad. There are several things that I genuinely like about the show, especially compared to the triteness of its movie. I'm glad to report that the show does a surprisingly good job of depicting the struggles a small-time act of singers in Japan might have to go through to be successful. WUG!'s struggles range from the silly (variety show shenanigans and a comically unreliable boss) to the serious (sexual harassment and sleazy managers). All the while, it manages to make a solid effort in developing the interior lives of its seven lead girls. Wake Up Girls could have very easily aimed squarely at the “moe slice of life” bullseye, but it genuinely tries to lend an air of drama and gravitas to otherwise lightweight proceedings, which is commendable.
Unfortunately, that “solid effort” is as much a drawback as it is a positive, since the show's writing misses just as often as it hits. For every genuinely moving or engaging scene, there are just as many stretches that devolve into maudlin waterworks or, in the worst cases, being just plain boring. You'd think that a show with only twelve episodes wouldn't have a lot of time for dead air, but I found myself checking my watch at least once or twice per episode, especially in the back half. Personally, I think the story would have been better served with a shorter, ten-episode run.
Pacing issues aside, the biggest problem Wake Up Girls! faces is that, despite its efforts, it never manages to give all seven of its girls as much personality and emotional investment as it clearly wants to. At least it fares much better than the movie, where the girls were essentially ciphers. The show actually bothers to give each girl a little time in the spotlight. Minami becomes the breakout star of her variety segment, Airi struggles to improve her talents, and poor Mayu has a whole lot of baggage concerning her past life with the mega-popular idol group, A-1. Again, it's a strong effort, but for whatever reason, my engagement with the characters always ended up hitting a wall. I like the girls, and I was moderately interested in their musical pursuits, but the story never did quite enough for me to become heavily invested. When the show is about a group of idols and the idols themselves are largely unmemorable, the whole thing gets dragged down as a result.
The final thing that keeps WUG! from being a true success is its lackluster artistry. If the movie has anything on the series, it's the visual polish that this TV production simply can't manage. Off-model characters, wonky faces, and stiff movement pop up in every episode; the only time the show steps its animation up is during any given musical performance. The show's direction and character design is equally flat, which only makes the faults in the animation stand out more. It isn't a terrible looking show, but it is a very boring-looking show, and that's almost just as bad.
As far as the Blu-Ray release goes, it's the same song-and-dance we usually get from Sentai. No extras, no dub, just twelve episodes of an anime in high definition. As far as the transfer goes, it's fine; there's no obvious flaws in the audio or visuals. If anything, the audio is the highlight of the set; there aren't a whole lot of songs that can be crammed into 12 episodes, but the ones we get are catchy and sound good on disc. The series runs for 30 to 40 dollars online, give or take, which is par for the course for a show of this length. However, I feel like you do need to see Wake Up Girls! The Movie to appreciate this show, and that's an additional 20 dollars, so keep that in mind.
Do I recommend buying it outright? Unfortunately no, especially since getting the entire series will cost about 60 dollars, and I can't say Wake Up Girls in its entirety is worth that much. I admire its underdog spirit, especially since it tries to be something of substance, but its writing and animation shortcomings hold it back from ever truly accomplishing its goals. If you love idol shows, maybe give it a rental; it's possible that it might strike a chord for you that it didn't for me. For the rest of the world though, this show is a third place idol anime contender at best. As is the case for so many of the pop idols the show fashions itself after, it's almost certainly destined to fade away into the limbo of unfulfilled potential.
That's it for this week's review section. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from Ben, who took some inspiration from my recent misadventures in furniture assembly:
My Shelves have previously been featured on shelf life years ago. When you were talking about your failure at building a book case in last weeks column I knew I had to send you an update. This is a rotating shelf I have added and as you can see it is my monument to failure. Don't worry Paul it happens to all of us."
Any shelf with anime on it is a good shelf, and at least yours rotates! Mine just stands still and looks silly. Thanks for sharing, and for letting me know I'm not alone in my furniture woes!
Whether your collection is neatly arranged on custom-built shelves or piled haphazardly on top of a cardboard box, this is the place to share it with the world. Just send me your photos at [email protected]!
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