Ota Kuniyoshi must be crying right now.
Today, June 15, 2018, it is announced that the idol group Wake Up, Girls! will be disbanding by March 2019 [see this PDF, in Japanese]. On my part, this is sad news, but there is a purpose for doing so:
“… the group will disband so that the members can each pursue their individual goals and dreams and so they can walk their individual paths.”[Anime News Network, emphasis mine]
Now that they will go part ways, as with any idol group which has disbanded, let me tell you about my experience with WUG! as a group.
The Wake Up, Girls! anime series is as “real” as it gets (or so I think)
Having watched the first movie and the first anime series, I am aware that the drama involved in WUG! is as heavy as that of the first THE iDOLM@STER series. The thing is that WUG has took jabs on AKB48 and Shukan Bunshun, something that I didn’t felt heavily on the part of iM@S.
Then again, this was not the real deal: All I know is that WUG! is formed after the 3/11 Disaster, and outspoken anime director Yutaka Yamamoto (Yamakan) had a hand in the first series.
Looking back to the archived stories on ANN, this is actually the second partnership between Avex and 81 Produce — the first partnership blossomed into what we know today as i☆Ris. (I also have my respect for i☆Ris as it has given us Yuu Serizawa and Himika Akaneya. Yuu Serizawa is my i☆Ris oshi.)
To think that an iM@S scriptwriter was involved with the first series, setting aside the fact that this was billed as the reunion of the Lucky☆Star staff, I think it make sense why the drama here feels so familiar.
The journey of WUG! in the anime starts from scratch. I am allured to the underdog that is WUG!, their challenges with their larger rival I-1 Club (maybe this is patterned after AKB48’s Heavy Rotation — from “I want you!” to “I-1 chu!”)
The journey of WUG! in reality is that there are nine girls selected to form a group, and the rest is history — they have been through music singles and albums, anime series, anime movies, a theater run, castings on TV programs, their own live TV show, overseas concerts, a Seiyuu Award, supporting the Rakuten Eagles, et cetera. Wake Up, Girls! has become a multi-media franchise akin to the likes of its neighbors.
In addition, they also sang the opening theme songs to Restaurant to Another World (with May’n) and Love Tyrant (Renai Boukun).
The versatile Minami Tanaka has an excellent voice acting career. Nanami Yamashita has met Saori Hayami in two instances. The rest, as far as I see their records on the ANN Encyclopedia, had most of their time on WUG!, some for Kakegurui.
If I were to see this as a manager of a performance-based organization, I will not hold back in saying that they have to grow as individuals.
The thing is, they are gradually at that point: Airi Eino and Kaya Okuno are in Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody, Mayu Yoshioka was in Hundred, Miyu Takagi was in Anime-Gataris, Yoshino Aoyama did a lead role in Love Tyrant, so on and so forth.
From what I see, they are being given opportunities to lead in their respective series individually. This next phase that they will do will further test them not just as WUG!, but also as individuals.
So what’s their Legacy?
In the end of the day, what has Wake Up Girls! left in me? What are the things that will make us remember them? I looked upon the tweets online for this answer, because — I have to be honest — I can’t think up of a solid reason.
The story of Wake Up, Girls! is an inspiration to us. Their songs, their stories, their struggles, and even the gall to react as humans… I mean, who cares if they are anidols, we love them. We HUG the WUG because we believe in them.
Setting these aside, the future of their sub-unit Run Girls, Run! is yet to be seen. If they succeed WUG!, that will be wonderful — I expect a spin-off anime series from them.
Also, I could elaborate on the post-announcement happenings, but I decided to take it to Twitter instead. This space is too precious to be vandalized with angry thoughts.