Friday, January 31, 2014
:anime: Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month:: Bonus Pick!! - Wake Up, Girls! / - Seven Idols
Wake Up, Girls! - Seven Idols (Movie)
Wake Up, Girls! (TV Series)
Official Site: Japanese
Additional Links: ANN Entries (Movie, TV), MAL Entries (Movie, TV)
Video: Crunchyroll [Japanese w/ English, German Subtitles]
Hey, you thought Dead Leaves was January's sole Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick? Well, we have a special Bonus Pick here with the new anime Wake Up, Girls!(!) The series is akin to a spiritual successor to director Yutaka Yamamato's (Kannagi, Fractale) blossom, a very well-received music video supporting those affected by the 2011 Touhoku earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan. Wake Up, Girls! sees "Yamakan" (who also conjured the idea) and character designer/chief animation director Sunao Chikaoka teaming again for another tale set the affected region, this time in Sendai, where a disparate group of girls--not all of them necessarily being talented--are being joined together as an idol group by a talent agency on the downturn. They hope to creating the next big thing on the scene, but are missing a centerpiece. There is one particular girl they do discover, but she refuses to get back into the harsh spotlight once more…
One of the reasons I have chosen WUG as a Bonus Pick is for its unusual debut, as a 52-min film entitled Wake Up, Girls! - Seven Idols debuted in Japanese theaters (and on Crunchyroll, a first for them) on the very same day as the first episode of the TV series. The film serves primarily as an "Episode #0", if not the true first episode, as the designated "first episode" continues straight from the final moments of the film and plays out in a way that makes it preferable to have seen the former first. You could watch TV Episode #1 first, but with both made available for free, it doesn't make any real sense to do so.
Another reason for showcasing WUG is for the staff behind it. Yamakan has had quite the career, ranging from the highs of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006)'s legendary ED and Kannagi to the lows of his high-profile departure/banishment from the former's Kyoto Animation and the Murphy's Law-dominated production of Fractale. Blossom felt like the beginning of his redemption and WUG--his first TV work as a creator--looks to continue that trek (and fans of said Haruhi ED may be happy to know that WUG, too, features some of that dancing and choreography that Yamakan seems to love…).
The series also benefits greatly from Chikaoka's beautiful and lithe designs and watercolor-like palette, though one would be hard-pressed to believe that he, beyond his seemingly G-rated artwork and style, also moonlights under the name "suna", drawing adult doujinshi for his decidedly-NSFW "sandworks" circle, (though he is hardly the only anime staffer out there). Lastly, there is also the matter of the aspiring idols, themselves, who are all voiced by--and named after--newcomers (though two have very limited experience) and have done a very good and enthusiastic job (there is also the added bonus, for older anime fans, of Gunbuster's Noriko Hidaka voicing the no-nonsense/questionable manager. She's been active, mind you, but it's nice to see that she still has that spunk…albeit in a more "different" form here.).
While the idol / all-girl music club/band-genre is already beginning to feel saturated, with K-ON! (only the second season and movie follow-up are available at the time of this post), The IDOLM@STER (whose series compositor/screenwriter is also at work here), and Love Live! leading the forefront, Wake Up, Girls! looks like it might be a capable-enough title to carve its own niche there. From a personal standpoint, I was a little unsure of it after the movie and first episode, but the two that have followed were quite good. Now let's hope the director has enough animators on his end to finish it out on time…