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Wake Up, Girls! TV Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

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Wake Up Girls Season 1 DVD Front CoverFollowing immediately on from Wake Up, Girls! The Movie, this series starts giving us answers to the questions the movie previously posed.

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!

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
Audio:
The only language available for this release is the Japanese track. After getting a 5.1 mix for the movie, I am a bit disappointed that this series only gets a 2.0 stereo mix, but it makes sense. There’s some decent directionality with sound effects, but the dialogue stays mostly centered. Honestly, this mix makes a bit more sense for a series like this that is so dialogue based, but it’s still sad after being treated to a surround mix in the movie.

Video:
While not exactly a technical marvel, Wake Up, Girls! has some smooth animations and choreography during the performance scenes, the characters have good—albeit somewhat generic—designs, and it overall provides a pleasant atmosphere for the girls to grow in. Technically, I did not notice any egregious flaws. The only thing that stood out was a softness at times which I couldn’t decide whether was intentional or an effect of being on DVD. Overall, it looked nice.

Packaging:
The design for this release is fine, though basic. Coming in a simple amaray case, the front cover has a picture of the seven girls jumping while the series’s logo is super imposed. The back features a picture of Yoppi in her school uniform with some small screen shots, a summary of the movie, and the technical details. The discs use pictures of Miyu and Minami, also in their uniforms. Overall, a fine design.

Menu:
The menu is also fairly basic, but perfectly fine. The main menu has an image of the one of the girls (Airi on disc one and Nanami on disc 2) to join Wake Up, Girls while the theme song plays in the background with the selections off to the right. Rather than a Play All button, each episode has its own selection, but episodes will continue one after another without having to return to the menu. The music has a nice long loop that allows for the entire theme to play before resetting, so letting it play won’t get old really quickly.

Extras:
The only extras on this release are clean versions of the OP/ED and some trailers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Picking up immediately where Wake Up, Girls: The Movie leaves off, the Wake Up, Girls have had their public debut. While the desertion of President Tenge with their funds has left them in financial ruins, their debut leaves the girls exhilarated and determined to continue, regardless of the obstacles in their path. Unfortunately, Matsuda is both inexperienced as a manager and gullible, a poor combination that leads to the girls being connected with a sleazy producer who is more interested presenting them as objects of titillation rather than honestly attempting to advance their careers.

Luckily (sorta), Tenge returns to the company in time to stave off disaster and right the ship again. She is able to get the girls some exposure on local TV and radio, which leads to their second concert, which is unfortunately scheduled at the same time as a local I-1 (the biggest idol group around) concert. However, the Wake Up, Girls’s show draws the attention of Hayasaka, a top tier music producer who is best known for his work with I-1. Despite the group being well below his level, Hayasaka is intrigued with the prospect of helping build the Wake Up, Girls as potential rivals to I-1, and he pushes the girls to heights they never even dreamed. The only question is whether or not his efforts are honest, or if he has other plans with Shiraki, the President of I-1.

As noted, this series picks up the Wake Up, Girls! story right from where Wake Up, Girls: The Movie ends. The way this series begins, it expects you to have seen The Movie before you watch the series, as it is not going to stop at all and explain what happened in The Movie to bring you up to speed. So if you do not see The Movie first, you might be a little lost when the series starts up, though in time you will be able to put enough of the pieces together that it won’t matter.

The Movie introduces us to all the girls, but we aren’t really given much time to really get to know them. We’re more concerned with getting them together and ready to become an idol group. With a bit more time to stretch out and explore things, the TV series gives us plenty more opportunity to get to know each of these girls. Like The Movie, the mystery surrounding Mayu’s past with I-1 drives much of the plot here, but each of the girls gets plenty of screen time. We get to examine Miyu’s prior life in a maid café, Nanami’s dreams of using Wake Up, Girls as a stepping stone to become a concert pianist, question Aiyu’s complete lack of talent and place in the group, etc. The questions that The Movie raises get answered here, giving us an interesting cast to help move the story forward and keep us engaged.

The thing that was a little difficult for me to adjust to at first with watching this series was what I considered to be a strange tone. Wake Up, Girls! wants to be relatively cute and lighthearted, but we would have these moments where things would get seemingly intense as one or more of the girls looked to have to handle something serious in their respective lives. Mayu has a troubled home life, Aiyu is made to feel unnecessary by Hayasaka, and Yoshino continually struggles with the fact that the others look to her as their leader even though it’s obvious that Mayu outshines all of them by a large degree. And yet, the solutions to all of these problems all end up being relatively easy, and we’d quickly be back to lightheartedness before we know it. At times, it feels like it does not entirely know what it wants to be.

Once I adjusted to this oddity, though, I began to appreciate the series for what it was trying to do. What it is trying to build here is friendship between the seven girls. They all come from very diverse backgrounds, and there’s no logic as to why grouping them together would work. But all of the issues that pop up are little more than excuses for the girls to come together and figure out the way forward together. And despite plenty of obvious setups, it even manages to avoid many of the more stereotypical anime trappings and comedic situations, relying more on light humor and the personalities of the characters to give us our laughs. So what we have is a series that is almost aggressively character driven. The end result of the plot almost doesn’t matter as much as just giving these girls a reason to be friends and experience life together. Accepted as that, Wake Up, Girls! is a very pleasant series that pushes few buttons and doesn’t need to.

In Summary:
There’s very little actual negative I can say about Wake Up, Girls!. It’s not going to challenge you in any way—it’s not a tense melodrama nor an emotional rollercoaster. It’s just a lighthearted tale filled with tender moments and light comedy that doesn’t rely on a lot of the more obvious anime tropes and is generally a complete pick-me-up. It’s not fantastic, but it’s great for what it is. Just make sure you watch The Movie before delving into the series so that you aren’t lost when it picks up. Recommended.

Features:
Special Features: Clean Opening and Closing Animations.

Spoken Languages: Japanese, 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: August 9, 2016
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16×9 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, LG BP330 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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