2017年10月放送開始のWake Up, Girls! 新章1話のネタバレおよび批判的コメントを盛大に含むので、英語にしました。ご注意ください。
The sentences that follow include the story of
the 1st episode of Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter, which will be
broadcast from October 2017, and the critical comments on it. Please turn back
if you do not want to read such things.
At the end of the preview event, Shin Itagaki, the new director of Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter said, "Just enjoy it, not considering difficult things." That might be a correct attitude as an anime director whose fortune is determined by economic profit made from his work. Even if it might be a faithful attitude in a sense, however, it is farthest one from that of the originator, who has created what has deeply influenced me, thus what I deeply love.
Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter is likely to attract a certain number of fans. Its character designs are, so to say, modernized, with some parts of the bodies exaggerated. The story and the title of the episode faithfully reflects the traditional way of beginning new anime series. A crisis occurs also in this beginning episode, but it is resolved in a heartwarming way, which, however, leaves some signs of future troubles to be described in the later episodes.
In spite of all positive elements of the episode 1, my impression after watching it was rather ambiguous or even pessimistic. Admitting that there must be many fans who praise the episode with their firm beliefs about what an anime work should be, I was fairly disappointed with this work. My disappointment began from the very beginning, when its title appeared on the right side of the screen: "We are Wake Up, Girls!". It was hackneyed, or, borrowing from the excellent lyric of the existing song of WUG, "cliché". This title seems to represent the lack of (a kind of) philosophy underpinning the whole series. This absence is easily contrasted by the previous series of WUG, whose subtitles were extracted from Akira Kurosawa’s works. The reason for this seems to be that both the previous series and Kurosawa’s works are characterized by the intersection of each characters’ lives, as is clear in Kurosawa’s famous work, Rashomon. In the previous series, such contrapunctual structure was suggested by the naming of the subtitles. Meanwhile, the new subtitle - "We are Wake Up, Girls!" – is entirely void in this sense.
Although the appearance of the trio of "Run Girls, Run!" at the beginning implied a prospect for the brand-new development, this optimism was soon rebutted by the description of Minami Katayama. The episode starts with the scene in which the members of WUG are photographed in a TV studio. We – at least I – expect that they work as professionals. This is a legitimate expectation because this new episode is two years later than the previous series. Thus the WUG members on the screen must be in the fourth year of their career as idols. Unbelievably, however, Minami begs her manager Matsuda to give her some foods like a five-year-old infant, although she is eighteen!
Similar lack of reality underlies the 1st episode as a whole. Later, WUG appears on a famous TV program, but another member – Airi Hayashida – forgets to wear a scrunchie, which is important for WUG members; because of that, WUG members are late for the photographing and severely accused thereof by Moka Suzuki, a member of a WUG’s rival group called I-1 Club. The episode itself is surely unrealistic - but this might be somehow justified, for this is only anime. You might say to me, "Hey, don’t be so serious."
However, this unrealistic storyline even changes the meanings contained in the conflict between WUG and I-1 Club into a cheaper one. In the previous series, WUG and I-1 Club are sharply contrasted, with their fundamental organizing principles greatly different from each other. While I-1 Club is governed by a set of strict rules and hierarchy, both of which are externally imposed by the manager Shiraki, WUG members struggle to establish an understanding of who they themselves are. This process of exploring identity is expressed by contrasting WUG with I-1 Club. This is, to my eyes, one of the most important elements in the previous series. In the meantime, the relation between these two idol groups in the new episode is much simpler: I-1 Club who completed the job well accuses WUG of failing to do so.
Drawing on the above-mentioned micro-level criticisms, I saw the episode 1 as characterized by infancy and unreality. Although two years must have passed in the story, the characters are not that mature; rather, with the new character design, they look much younger than the previous series. This seems to me not just because of the design, but because of the script, or even the overall structure of the new series. In the previous series, all the characters attempted to, and did, grow up (or, so to speak, "wake up"). For example, Kaya Kikuma, whose intimate friend was engulfed by 3/11 Tsunami attack, tried to overcome her traumatic experience through the activities of WUG. This course has moved all the fans (needless to say, including me), as a story of reincarnation. It is because this description of resurgence resonates our own experience that we have come to be attracted by WUG.
Moreover, this new episode 1 is in sharp contrast with the previous one in terms of reality. As I stated above, the descriptions in the episode are far from real. This is all the stranger because the whole setting of the series is undoubtedly real. As is evidently introduced in the episode, the world of idols is on the ebb. This seems to be a correct understanding of the current idol scene in reality, but at the same time, this serious background is fatally inconsistent with the infant and unreal descriptions of the characters’ behaviors.
I have much more to say – What a cheap modelling of the dancing 3D dolls! Why are you so rude in a TV studio!? And, as I have intentionally avoided mentioning, why was the previous director Yutaka Yamamoto kicked off!? But they are the things I might (or might not) speak about elsewhere. I would like to conclude these remarks by saying that infancy and unreality, which I felt from the episode 1, are not what I expect from WUG series. I have wanted to watch WUG, not something that looks like WUG; but actually what I think I saw was the latter.