Anime: Wake Up, Girls!

From left to right, Miyu Okamoto, Minami Katayama, Airi Hayashida, Mayu Shimada, Yoshino Nanase, Nanami Hisami and Kaya Kikuma.

Green Leaves Entertainment was once a well-known production company in Sendai that managed the careers of magicians, photo idols, fortune-tellers, and other entertainers. However, after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, the company fell upon hard times and was eventually threatened with bankruptcy.

In a last bid to survive, the President of Green Leaves decides to create a seven-person idol unit scouted from local and undiscovered Sendai talent: "Wake Up, Girls!". But the girls soon realise that the journey to the top is fraught with low-paying gigs, punishing schedules and hours of practice. Overcoming their hesitancies and doubts, they strive to leave an impact on a saturated industry dominated by the manufactured mega-group "I-1 Club".

Depicting a more realistic side of the idol industry, Wake Up, Girls! aired during the Winter 2014 Anime season. A prequel film, called Shichinin no Idol (The Seven Idols), was released on January 10, 2014, the same day the anime opened. Wake Up, Girls! is directed by Yutaka Yamamoto, and produced by Ordet and Tatsunoko Production. Wake Up, Girls! has its own game called Stage no Tenshi (which is based on the Mobage platform), and the series is available for streaming at CrunchyRoll.

An spin-off featuring the girls in Super-Deformed fashion, wearing animal costumes premiered in the Fall 2014 Anime season under the name of Wake Up Girl!! Zoo. A new movie has been scheduled for early 2015, featuring closure for the TV series.

Wake Up, Girls! provides examples of:

  • A-Cup Angst: In episode 9, Minami asks Kaya if eating saury is the reason why her breasts are so big. Several of the other girls immediately start eating the fish much faster after hearing it.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Every girl gets at least one episode where the focus is mainly on them, such as Minami in episode 3 and Airi in episode 7.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Several of the girls are referred to by their nicknames. For instance, Yoshino is called "Yoppi", and Mayu was nicknamed Mayushi back during her time with I-1 (current fans still call her thus). All of the girls in I-1 girls appear to have a nickname, and Wake Up, Girls itself is affectionately dubbed "WUG-chan" by fans in the fifth episode.
  • A House Divided: Hayasaka does this in episode 7, telling the girls to cut their weakest member Airi, or else he as the acting manager, would fire all of them on the spot. They start lashing out at each other as they're unable to come to an agreement.
  • Animal Motifs: Each of the girls have a predator motif.
    • Mayu: Lion
    • Miyu: Eagle
    • Minami: Tiger
    • Yoshino: Bear
    • Nanami: Wolf
    • Kaya: Crocodile
    • Airi: Shark
  • Anime Hair: While there are some dark purple and dark blue hair colours (such as Yoshino), this is averted; most of the girls have realistic hairstyles and colours.
  • Asshole Victim: Quite a few of them surprisingly:
    • Sudo, who exploits the girls and puts them in a job that requires them to be in a bikini as well as entertaining a bunch of old perverted men. Tange beats the crap out of him, and tells him never to come near them again, or she was going to do even worse things to him.
    • The reporter from Tokyo interviewing the girls in episode 4. Though it starts out innocently enough, when he gets to Mayu, he immediately begins asking some rather harsh questions about her time in the I-1 idol group. Tange ends up kicking and punching him for belittling the other girls and for bringing up Mayu's past harshly like that.
  • Berserk Button: Despite her irresponsible mannerisms, Junko is concerned for the girls and will not hesitate to beat down anyone attempting to exploit them.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Tange showing back up in episode 2, and beating up Sudo, who put the girls up in a health spa gig which forced them to sing and dance in front of a group of Dirty Old Man. And in episode 4, she hits the reporter asking Mayu some fairly harsh questions about her past in the I-1 idol group a few years back.
  • Big Eater: Minami is ever-enthusiastic about eating and is usually seen with a large amount of food during mealtimes.
  • Brutal Honesty: Tasuku Hayasaka, who asks Airi why she wants to be an idol after watching her repeatedly goof up in episode 6. He also chides the girls after hearing they're only practicing about twenty hours a week, which he says is half the time the I-1 girls put in.
  • Butt Monkey: Matsuda is a low key example towards Tange. In the prequel film, the room they're renting to audition the girls has a no smoking policy. Shortly after Tange lights one up, an employee of the building yells at them. She immediately shifts the blame onto Matsuda, apologizing and telling the employee she'll scold him accordingly. She will also often threaten to cut his pay or makes him pay for company expenses out of his own pocket, such as his bus fare for the trip in episode 9.
  • Call Back: In the beginning of the prequel film, Mayu talks about the three ways to make people happy. At the end of episode 12, she repeats it.
  • Cliff Hanger: Episode 6 ends on one, when Hayasaka, who was currently training and managing them, tells the girls they can cut one of the weaker members from the group, or else he would fire all of them on the spot.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Besides representation by a predator motif, each girl is associated with a unique colour, which is also present in each of the respective ribbons or ties in their concert uniforms.
    • Mayu: Red
    • Miyu: Orange
    • Minami: Yellow
    • Kaya: Green
    • Yoshino: Light blue
    • Airi: Dark blue
    • Nanami: Purple
  • Conspicuous CG: During the I-1 Club practice scenes, those who stand in the first row are hand-drawn, and everyone else are CG-animated.
  • Cool Big Sis: Being the oldest of the group, as well having a as soft spoken and responsible nature, Kaya plays this role to the other girls.
  • Cover Version: In episode two, Miyu performs a cover of Haiyore! Nyarko-san's opening.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Hayasaka does this in episode 6 and 7, when talking to the girls about cutting Airi due to her apparent lack of talent. But it turns out he just wanted to test their resolve.
  • Cry Cute: The girls do this from time to time:
    • Airi and Yoshino have a pretty epic one in episode 7 after the latter tells the former she's not as bad as she thinks is despite what Hayasaka said about her being untalented.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Miyu describes herself as having these characteristics.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared with other anime about idols, Wake Up, Girls! illustrates some of the uglier sides of the business, including small-time performances with low attendance and even harassment during some performances.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Mayu's history with I-1 is alluded to in several points, but by episode nine, Mayu finally opens up and shares her story. It turns out that she had joined I-1 Club as a first-generation member. When a close friend and fellow member of the first generation was dismissed for having a relationship, which the I-1 prohibits, she appealed to the producer to let it slide. In return, he gave her the ultimatum to sell more singles with her as the center as opposed to a different one featuring Shiho, or be fired for going against him. Mayu lost and was forced to resign, leading to her parents having a rather messy divorce.
    • Kaya and Mayu share stories of their past with one another, revealing that the former had lost her parents at a young age. Shortly after, one of her childhood friends disappeared when his fishing boat that went missing, leading her to run away from home.
  • Darkest Hour:
    • One is featured in the prequel film, after the Green Leaves Entertainment president disappears with all of the money intended to pay for the debut CD's along with renting a concert hall. However, Maya shows up soaking wet, and stating that she wants to be an idol after all, and doesn't want all the effort the girls put in to go to waste.
    • Another happens in episode 7, after being told by Hayasaka to cut their weakest member Airi, or else he would fire all of the girls. They get into an argument about it at first, but in the end pull through and work together to ensure they all can take part in the Wake Up Girls idol group.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • I-1 Club is the most popular idol group in the series' universe and shares many similarities with real life AKB48, being a Tokyo-based group with an iconic red outfit and a dream to perform at the Tokyo Dome.
    • Mayu's story bears resemblance to that of AKB's former centre, Atsuko "Acchan" Maeda. The group's goal is to perform at Kouhaku, the same as Momoiro Clover Z and NMB48. As of the movie, it's been changed to Tokyo Dome, the same as AKB.
    • Yoshino auditioned for Japan Girls' Collection, a parody of Tokyo Girls Style.
  • Doing It for the Art: In-universe example. Tasuku Hayasaka in episode 6 says he's more interested in passion projects than simply making money. Considering he's one of the reasons the I-1 idol group is so popular, it's hard to question him. He offers to train the Wake Up Girls group for free, comparing the girls to "rough ingredients" that he as a "chef" would then make worthy of a three star restaurant. He watched the girls dismal concert performance back in episode 5, but also saw the potential they had, hence why he wants to make them successful.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Hayasaka, the music producer who was also responsible for the success of the I-1 idol group, does this for the Wake Up Girls group in episode 6. He trains them hard, and has them perform a lot of concerts to help them gain experience and get better.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The girls go through quite a bit before reaching the idol concert in episode 12. And even then they face an extremely hostile group, almost all of whom are more shocked to see ex-I1-1 idol member Mayu there. They do end up winning over the crowd. And though they don't win the contest, a major record label is interested in signing them on after watching them perform at the contest, so they're still in a much better place than when they first started out.
  • Elegant Classical Musician: Nanami is trained classically in voice and piano.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In episode 1, Sudo-san arrives late to the talent agency. He is also seen eating pizza from the delivery man standing outside after Matsuda assumed was sent there by accident. Finally, the first thing he does it put a bikini on the table, and tells all of the girls to try it on.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Though Sudo tries to paint it differently, many of the girls, along with Matsuda, have serious doubts about the job at the health spa requiring them to entertain old men while wearing bikinis. They largely put up with the antics, including getting their pictures taken in bikinis and waiting on the customers. But once Miyu is told to kiss an old man, she bolts out of there.
  • Expy: Yoshino bears a resemblance to Chihaya of The iDOLM@STER fame.
  • Fanservice:
    • Time constraints during WUG’s first performance means that the girls eschew Modesty Shorts, leading to a large number of panty shots.
    • In episode two, Sudo makes the girls perform on bikini in a hot spring, claiming it is the same as gravure work.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The Wake Up Girls gradually learn to accept each other, and become friends. It gets to the point where they don't want any girl to leave the group, nor be left out of any performances. Contrast that to the I-1 idol group, which has a large cadre of girls to choose from, and many are let go to be easily replaced by another girl.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: A non-combat related example in episode 12. Yoshino trips on a cable in the previous episode, and later finds out her ankle is sprained. The girls worry about what to do next. Mayu suggests withdrawing, as they don't want to perform without her, but Shiho from the I-1 group brings two medics in to brace her ankle long enough to do their song and dance.
  • Genki Girl: Minami and Miyu are generally more cheerful and optimistic than the others in WUG.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Minami and Miyu both sport pigtails.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: The girls second concert in episode 5. Unfortunately it's on the same day as the I-1 idol group's concert in Sendai. The huge difference in talent between the two group's are further driven by the huge sold-out crowd at the I-1 concert, contrasted with the Wake Up Girls! concert which has only a few audience members. The I-1 group also sings and dances in fairly perfect unison, while the WUG group continually screws up during their performance, such as dropping their mic or bumping into another member accidentally during the dancing portion. Unsurprisingly, they're not feeling too good after the concert ends.
  • Helping Would Be Kill Stealing: Aside from punching out some unsavory folks, Tange is largely hands off with much of the personal problems the girls face. Matsuda wonders about this at times, but Tange is letting them work the problems out themselves so they can grow stronger from the experiences, rather than be someone who bails them out every single time.
  • Hime Cut: Yoshino’s hair is styled in this manner.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Despite deserting with the group’s funds early in WUG’s existence, Green Leave’s president, Junko Tange, savagely delivers a beating to Sudo for attempting to scam and sexualise the girls.
  • Idol Singer: This series is about idols and some of the challenges they face en route to the top.
  • Important Haircut: Yoshino has short hair in the 2015's movie promotional art.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Minami is good friends with quite a few senior citizens.
  • Intrepid Reporter: One shows up in episode 4. It seems innocent enough at first, as he tells Tange that he wants to do a report on a small, regional idol group. However, it turns out he's only interested in interviewing Mayu because of her past scandal in the I-1 idol group. He slams her with some really personal questions such as asking her about the official reason she quit due to losing a center battle, and the rumors behind the scenes reasons that she was in a lot of conflicts within the group, and perhaps even took bribes. Tange gets angry enough that she ends up punching the reporter, and doesn't even care when he says he'll sue for assault.
  • Irony: In episode 3, the girls take part in a local news station to report the weather, along with a gourmet section. The gourmet girls expect to have it easy compared to the weather girls group. However, the gourmet's first session ends up outside in pouring rain. The weather girls meanwhile, get to stay indoors, though they have to wear animal costumes.
  • It Amused Me: Tasuku Hayasaka essentially says this in episode 6 when talking to Tange about working with the Wake Up Girls group and shaping them up to be nationwide idols on the level of the I-1 group after watching their terrible second concert performance. He sweetens the deal by offering to train them for free, because he claims it's more about the passion than the money.
  • Large Ham:
    • Tange ends up speaking like this at times, especially when she's angry.
    • The otaku who's been following and supporting the Wake Up Girls behind the scenes such as in online forums and his group tend to speak this way during their meetings. Unfortunately they're doing it in a public restaurant, and often have to be told by the waitstaff to tone their voices down.
  • The Leader: Owing to her maturity and prior experience in the entertainment industry, Yoshino is referred to as “Leader” by everyone else in WUG.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: The girls are told briefly about the origin of their group name in the prequel film. However, as they walk home, they discover a love hotel that has the same name as their group, suggesting the president just lifted the name from that hotel.
  • The Load: Hayasaka considers Airi to be one, and gives the girls an ultimatum at the end of episode 6 to cut her, or disband the group right then and there. This ultimately ends up making the girls work harder together, which is really what he was trying to get them to do.
  • Mama Bear: Despite her mannerisms, Junko cares deeply for the girls; in addition to delivering the aforementioned beat down to Sudo in episode two, she tries her best to cheer up Mayu at the end of the fourth episode after punching the reporter asking Mayu some questions about her past with the I-1 idol group.
  • Meido: Miyu works at a maid cafe and has a strong passion for performing to an audience.
  • Only Six Faces: The girls share similar facial features and eye shape, but can be differentiated by their personalities and hairstyles.
  • Otaku Surrogate: Miyu, who follows idols and idol forums, uses netspeak in casual conversation, loves anime songs, and is quite knowledgeable about anime tropes.
  • Panty Shot: The girls twirl their skirts throughout their debut to reveal their panties while they perform. This causes problems when they do the job Sudo gets for them in the second episode.
  • Parental Abandonment: Mayu's parents are divorced. Part of it stemmed from Mayu quitting the I-1 idol group, which is mainly why her mother is unsupportive and bitter towards her when she suddenly wants to become an idol again with the Wake Up Girls! group.
  • Perpetual Poverty: The Green Leaves agency starts out this way. They don't have a lot of money, so they can't advertise much, and the office is also rather tiny. Tange also disappears briefly with all of the agency's money, which forces Matsuda to send the CD's back along with canceling the debut. And when they finally get a chance to perform, the girls are just wearing their school uniforms rather than matching outfits.
  • Real Place Background: The show takes place in the Japanese town of Sendai; many locations are vividly portrayed.
  • Refusal of the Call: Mayu in the prequel film repeatedly refuses to audition. She reconsiders after watching the girls rehearse, and especially after watching the dvd Matsuda bought for her of when she was part of the I-1 idol group, and remembering the fun she had in it.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Miyu's response to being exploited in Sudo's job during episode 2. The other girls just barely manage to hang on longer. Fortunately Tange just happened to be in the health spa, and beats the crap out of Sudo for exploiting the girls. Several of the girls, and especially the regulars at her previous job at a maid cafe, changes her mind about quitting the idol group.
  • Secret Test of Character: One occurs in episode 7. Hayasaka says the girls can cut Airi, who's underperforming, or else he'll fire them all. He later has some of them get three dolls out of a claw crane game, and watches with some amusement as they fail repeatedly but continue on supporting each other. Meanwhile, Mayu and Yoshino go talk to Airi, and convince her not to quit.
  • Sequel Hook: Tange receives a call from what she assumes is the real estate agent in episode 12, and doesn't want to answer the phone. However, it actually turns out to be a major record label called Bivex, and they want to sign the Wake Up Girls group to their label after watching them perform at the idol concert. The ending rolls right after this.
  • Sex Sells: Sudo tries to exploit this in episode 2. It doesn't go over well with the girls or Matsuda however, and especially not with Tange once she finds out.
  • Shrinking Violet: At the series’ beginning, Mayu is shy, hesitant and unwilling to join WUG, although as she opens up to everyone, she gradually rediscovers her passion for performing as an idol.
  • Smug Snake: Tasuku Hayasaka comes off as one initially. Matsuda watches an interview of him on tv where he says he's more interested in passion in art than the money when discussing his role in making the I-1 idol group a nationwide sensation. He then tells Tange he wants to do the same for the Wake Up Girls group, and offers to do it free of charge since he finds them interesting after watching their horrible second concert performance.
  • Start My Own: Tange orders Matsuda to find a few girls to form an idol group after their last client leaves in the prequel film.
  • Tempting Fate: In episode 3, one of the girls is attempting to hold herself up from falling into a tub of hot water. She tells them not to make her lose her balance. So naturally one of the other girls smacks her butt, causing her to lose her balance and fall in.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Shiho essentially does this to the Wake Up Girls group in episode 12, after eavesdropping on them and finding out Yoshino sprained her ankle after tripping on a cable in the previous episode. Though Mayu suggests withdrawing because they don't want to perform without Yoshino, Shiho brings two medics in to put a brace on Yoshino's ankle to allow her to perform. She later tells Mayu she refuses to let them quit, and wants them to perform no matter what, mostly so she can then crush Mayu's hopes and dreams of being an idol once and for all.
  • Title-Only Opening: This is inverted in the movie, where the "Wake Up, Girls!" title card doesn't appear until the final shot, and then cuts to the end credits.
  • Training from Hell:
    • The I-1 Idol group rehearsal seems to be based on this. Their director not only just refers to the girls by their numbers, but accepts no failures and will kick out anyone he seems mess up even once, as seen in episode 5.
    • The Wake Up Girls receive some from Tasuku Hayasaka, a music producer who was partly responsible for making the I-1 girls a success. He has them train hard and takes an interest in them because he wants to turn them from a group of nobodies into a nationwide sensation on the level of the I-1 group.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Subverted. Though they make it to the national idol contest, they don't win. Despite that however, a major record label calls Tange stating they want to sign the girls on after watching their performance.
  • Unknown Rival: The I-1 Idol group president says that despite the overall good their Sendai concert was, three people were missing from it. He then specifically shows them the Wake Up Girls posters and pictures. While some of the girls giggle, he says that though they seem pathetic now, they could very well end up challenging the I-1 group in popularity, and wants them crushed mercilessly on the performance charts.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Mayu's mother is completely unsupportive of her when she attempts to become an idol with the Wake Up Girls group after she was fired from the I-1 idol group which also led to a messy divorce for her parents. However, in episode 11, after watching how happy Mayu was with the second idol group she joined, she changes her mind about it.
  • Wham Episode:
    • In episode 6, Tasuku Hayasaka takes over in training and managing the Wake Up Girls group. Unfortunately he's harsh in training them, and after watching their performances, suggests that one of them, Airi, who keeps messing up during performances should get cut from the group. He tells them they can either cut her from the group, or they would all be fired.
    • In episode 10, the Wake Up Girls participate in a regional idol battle against other idol groups. They win with a song written by Hayasaka called "First Rate Smile". The next day, the I-1 group announces their new single, which has the same name as the ones the WUG group just sung and won the contest in. Which was also written by Hayasaka.
    • At the end of episode 11, Yoshino trips over a cable lying on the floor on the stage. She later pulls back her stocking to reveal she sprained her ankle. Worse, she's chosen as the center for this performance, meaning the attention will be on her.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Tange disappearing with all of the agency's money in the prequel film. She shows back up in episode 2 in a Big Damn Heroes moment, but Matsuda and the girls are still upset at her for screwing their debut up.
    • Matsuda explodes at Hayasaka in episode 7 after his ultimatum telling the girls to cut their weakest member, or he would fire them all. Unfortunately his and Tange's hands are tied, as they agreed to let Hayasaka do whatever he felt like doing in exchange for training the girls for free. Even when the girls complain to Tange, she says it's up to Hayasaka.
    • Yoshino lashes out at Mayu in episode 8 after the latter agrees with Hayasaka that they're not practicing enough compared to the I-1 group and are performing subpar at best. She gets mad that Mayu keeps comparing them to the I-1 group, and yet won't reveal her history with them.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Mayu and Yoshino do this in episode 7 to Airi, who was seriously considering quitting after Hayasaka's Brutal Honesty about her being the weak link in their group. But both girls tell her how she held the group together. And in Mayu's case, convinced her to become an idol again after watching how much fun the girls were having during their rehearsals.
  • You Are Number Six: The I-1 Club director only refers to its members by their numbers.