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Wake Up Girls Season 1 Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

Wake Up Girls Season 1 Blu-ray Front CoverThe path is there but filled with trials and tribulations in one of the cruelest industries out there.

What They Say:
The gateway to Idol stardom might have opened for the newly formed singing group Wake Up, Girls, but the path to fame is full of perils and pitfalls. And for Mayu, Airi, Minami, Yoshino, Nanami, Kaya and Miyu, it’s going to be especially difficult knowing who to trust, as their manager Matsuda’s lack of experience could give other, less scrupulous, individuals a chance to take advantage.

That’s a situation that quickly comes to a head when Green Leaves’ president suddenly disappears with most of the money, and things only get worse when the replacement producer seems more interested in getting the girls into revealing swimsuits than promoting their music.

As malicious gossip begins to surface regarding Mayu’s past membership in a rival group, and internal tensions begin to tear the team apart, they’ll need more than just ambition to survive. Singing may be a business, but friendship and a love of music is what will keep everything together in Wake Up, Girls!

The Review:
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 broadcast in 2014, the transfer for this TV seriesis presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes of the season are spread across two discs in a nine/three format, giving it plenty of room to work with since it’s a monolingual release. 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 two discs against the interior walls. The front cover artwork uses the familiar promotional image with the group of girls in their green and white outfits, my least favorite of the outfits, while using the same colors in the background that kind of helps to wash the whole thing out when it needs to pop and stand out in a big and bold way. 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 a pale green 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 fairly standard as we get the cover artwork used here at the start where it feels like it has a bit more vibrancy to it than the cover itself and with some richer greens and blues brought in for the static image. The navigation to the right is as basic as you can get as it’s basically play the episodes or on the second disc the additional submenu for the extras as there’s no language selection to be had here. There’s nothing to really do here but I really like the image used and the general layout of it all.

The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The same day that the Wake Up, Girls movie was released, the TV series began its broadcast as well. It was certainly an unusual approach but one that got the show a bit of extra attention because of it. And with the way we get idol shows fairly regularly, it’s important to try and stand out. The film was enjoyable enough overall with what it did, serving as the basic setup for the series and getting the girls together over what was essentially a four episode story in movie form, and that allows the TV series to move forward from there. The series essentially runs over a year in the life of the girls after that first performance that gave them a taste of really being in front of even a tiny audience and the thrill of it all.

Wake Up, Girls has a fairly traditional TV season story here where the girls are now excited about what they experienced and are ready to do more – though their manager, Matsuda, is a bit hard to find with the New Year holiday and all that. He’s in a bad place, admittedly, since President Tange just abandoned the company and disappeared and that has him unsure of exactly how to proceed since he’s not exactly rich in experience. Which is why he ends up with a promoter of sorts named Sudo that gets the girls some gigs so that they can really begin to work and gain experience. Of course, Sudo looks like a stereotype of a bad yakuza/mob guy and sets them up for a massage place where they perform in swimsuits, get felt up, serve drinks, and end up being nothing more than show ponies for all the guys there. It’s an interesting angle to play as they’re basically humiliated in different ways and we see how they react to it in terms of following through on the job or not. It’s a big fanservice piece but its design is one that should make you feel kind of disgusted about it, to say the least.

This provides for the opportunity to see what Matsuda will do and he does push back a bit on it but is trapped by contracts and the fear of Sudo himself. It’s only the return of Tange that alters the course of things but even that just doesn’t flow well. There’s at least some tension between the girls and Matsuda toward Tange over what she did, though she just powers through it and pushes back against Matsuda for taking terrible jobs and doing things poorly. When all is said and done, however, the show just moves forward into the girls doing their best at various performances and venues as they work toward qualifying for a regional contest that will take them to the big competition in Tokyo where they’ll do their best but not quite go all the way, giving them room to grow in the second season that’s to come. Amid all of this we get some of the characters stories, fears, problems, and other trials and tribulations, but little of it stands out in any grand way unless you’re particularly into a character and/or their voice actress.

What becomes interesting about the show is how you end up viewing the situation. The series is fairly honest about some of the problems of being an idol, particularly in highlighting what the original run of I-1 applicants were like and how they were cut over time for a range of reasons. A lot of these things are exactly what I despise the idol industry and have lost total interest in most of the music produced, including what we get for anime series simply because of how much of it operates. The show really feels like an indictment of it while also trying to have it both ways by showing the Wake Up, Girls group try and do it right but still ending up caught up in a lot of it. So much of what we see with the I-1 side makes it clear that this is just a mess, but it also makes its accusations in the proper direction beyond itself by calling out the fans. When prospective idols are told that they’re idols first and humans second, they’re stripping them away of who they are in pursuit of some very short-term goal that will leave them humiliated and likely suffering from some level of PTSD because of what they have to do and how they’re treated. And a lot of this is just to ensure their purity for their fans who cannot handle the thought of them actually being, well, people. We see this often enough in the news with all sorts of drama about how they really are human after all, and that combined with how things are presented here just reinforces my distaste for this industry.

In Summary:
Wake Up, Girls doesn’t deviate from the standard stories of idols and their paths to fame while making sure they progress without achieving their end goal just yet. It’s hard to tell if it’s really trying to call out certain things in its own coy way about how the industry works or not, but in my mind it at least reinforces why it sucks and why there really needs to be a corporate and cultural change on this. The show holds up well with the same kind of style and animation as the film, which itself was really just a few episodes structured in theatrical form, and I like that it worked that approach to bring a lot of things together. There’s a lot of familiar here but it’s generally well executed and I like that it gives us time in Sendai as opposed to being all about Tokyo or being so overly dramatic and crazy. This is a grounded and fairly real world look at what it’s like and that in turn just makes me cringe all the more.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 9th, 2016
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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