What They Say:
In Wake Up, Girls! Green Leaves Entertainment is in the worst situation any Talent Management Agency can be in… they have NO talent! Desperate for an act, President Junko Tange targets the idol singer market and gives her flunky Matsuda his marching orders: get a girl group to manage, even if it means building one from scratch!
Since complete singing groups rarely appear out of thin air, Matsuda’s now in the difficult position of having to find girls with the right skills who don’t already have contracts with Japan’s music industry. That girl at the Maid Café? Good enough! A lead singer who’s been fired from another group? Sure, why not? How about one who’s only 13 years old? What could possibly go wrong there?
They may not be on the A-list, the B-List, or even the C-list to start, but with a little love and a whole lot of hard work, it’s possible that all Japan may someday wake up to the music of WAKE UP, GIRLS!
The audio presentation for this feature is done in its original Japanese language only and in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. Though it’s a film and was shown in theaters, it’s essentially a double-length TV episode so it doesn’t go for anything big or flashy in this department. The mix is straightforward where it handles the dialogue well with placement as needed and depth as well while the music sections are where it shines. There aren’t a lot of them because of the placement within the timeframe of the story but the bigger moments are well done and it has a rich and warm feeling. There’s not much more to the show than that but it handles it all well with a clean and problem free mix that didn’t have any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally in theaters in 2014, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Tatsunoko Production and Ordet, there’s a lot of really good detail to be had here that’s well represented with a solid look about it. The real world settings are given a lot of life through the backgrounds as well as the character designs and animation there, making it stand out well in the way that really will get fans attentions. There are no shortcuts being taken here. The transfer captures the look of it all very well with clean and solid colors and no problems with blocking or noise throughout. It’s definitely an easy transfer to enjoy and get into.
The packaging for this release is done in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the single disc inside. The front cover artwork uses the familiar promotional image for the film ahead of its theatrical release with the girls all in their respective school uniforms jumping about. It’s cute, upbeat, and has the right kind of positivity about it – but far too much blue as it really needs more pop to bring it to life. The logo is kept to the lower left, awkward logo that it is, and the border given to it is decent but probably could have been done without. The back cover has a bit more of an ornate leafy framing to it against an orange background while within that we get more blues and the breakdowns. With a nice shot of our lead character, the taglines are solid and the premise is covered pretty well. Production credits round out the rest and we get a clean breakdown of the technical specs of the disc in an easy to read format. No show related inserts are included with this release.
The menu for this release is a really nice change of pace from the usual imagery we see for it as we get an off-white background that has some cute pops of primary colors about it while the foreground has the six main girls in their school uniforms, sans jackets, so there’s a lot more white to it and color through their ties and scarves. The navigation to the left is as basic as you can get as it’s basically play the feature or go to the trailers for others shows submenu. There’s nothing to really do here but I really like the image used and the general layout of it all.
The launch of a new property has plenty of challenges but the folks behind Wake Up, Girls definitely approached it in a really engaging way that got attention. On the same day that the TV series debuted in Japan, they brought out a 52-minute feature film that serves as the setup point for the series. That got attention for the TV show and drew people in to see what it was all about. They also had the film streamed to 108 countries at the same time so that they could engage with the TV series itself, which saw expansive streaming. After the fact we got a short-form comedy series as well where the girls were reimagined as animals at a zoo, which essentially kept the voice actresses working and keeping the characters themselves alive a bit longer. I didn’t catch the film or the main TV series when it came out but it certainly had me interested because of the approach it took.
What we get here is essentially setup but it works well in establishing things. You can imagine this as a double-length opening episode as it serves to introduce us to the main cast of characters, though it only really humanizes and engages us with one of the main idols. The premise has us dealing with a talent manager in Sendai named Junko Tange who owns Green Leaves Entertainment. With her assistant Matsuda, the two are currently struggling since anyone who has any talent ends up in Tokyo faster than a leaf can fall and that means they end up without a lot to work with. It’s certainly frustrating as you can see that, outside of a quirk or two, Tange is definitely good at her job and wants to do it. But because of the situation they’re in a phase where they need money and that has her opting to build an idol group that will stand out in Sendai and represent the area. Making a branded group of sorts and they’re less able to reinvent themselves and leave.
This has the two of them working their way through the city in recruitment mode trying to find the right talent. Suffice to say, it’s all done haphazardly and by luck in some cases because you get moments of Matsuda just handing out his card to young women who promptly leave him because of the potential for creeperism and shady managers. He does luck out in finding some really good talent with a young woman named Mayu, but part of that comes from the fact that she was the center in the well known I-1 Club group. She ended up in a battle for that position and lost, opting instead to retire and just go back to school. It’s here that she makes a friend who gets recruited and then does what she can to slowly draw her in along the way. Mayu’s got talent and in watching how Matsuda does what he can to rekindle her love of performing shows that he’s definitely got the right view of things.
The feature works the familiar story arc of a great many idol shows in their origin stage so there are no surprises here. What works is that we get some decently interesting characters that feel like they have some potential to them and a setting that offers up something a little different. I’m not a big follower of voice actor/singer talent (and my j-pop days are far behind me) so there’s likely some appeal in that area that I’m not connecting with, though I enjoyed the music that we do get here well enough. I like pop music in general so I’m certainly not against it. What helps to make this work better than it might otherwise is that it feels like a very polished work with some great detail and quality about the production. The designs are strong, the settings are great, and it has the right rhythm and flow to work as it should to draw you in. It does have me curious to see the TV series because of the lead in Mayu in her past as that offers something that most other shows working the raw talent angle tend to not have.
With this essentially being an extended TV episode that serves almost as a prequel of sorts, Wake Up, Girls serves as a solid foundation for what’s to come. I liked the creative approach of how the film and the TV series were designed because it’s smart marketing. What will have me come back for the show is the quality of the animation and the potential for the characters and story. And some of it is just to see what Matsuda will do because he’s got a fun little bit of attitude and weariness that makes for some good interactions with a bunch of teenage girls. This release is pretty well put together, though I wish it and the series were bundled together as one releases because that’s what it truly is in the end.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Running Time: 52 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.