Weekly Digest 1/18/14 – Golden Time, Wake Up, Girls

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It’s been quite a week for Wake Up, Girls, even before it aired.

Golden Time – 14

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I’m not sure where I stand with Golden Time at the moment, to be honest.  Is demotion to a digest post a precursor to termination?  Yeah, that’s possible – in all honesty it was a real struggle to avoid the fast-forward button for much of this episode.

In a nutshell, not much about this series is working for me at the moment.  We’re like a late-stage relationship in the process of ending, where I find something to annoy me in everything it does.  It’s not often I ever find my way back from that point (in any sort of relationship, anime included) and there comes a time where it might just be better to go our separate ways.

I don’t think this episode was terrible in its own terms, but I’ve never found GT to be good at comedy even when I was enjoying the show, so an episode that relies heavily on it is off to a rough start.  It was nice getting some other characters back in the mix besides Kouko and Banri, but Kouko’s antics just aren’t funny to me, and she tends to overpower every scene she’s in like a woman wearing too much cheap perfume walking into an elevator.  I get the pathos with Kouko, truly I do – but I just don’t find her pleasant to be around.   I hope she finds some peace, but frankly, she’s one of the most annoying anime characters I’ve seen in a long time.

As for the headline, the development with Yana and Linda, part of me says that feels like drama for its own sake though I suppose on some level it was predictable (indeed, I mentioned that I thought Mitsuo was developing an interest).  Banri dates Yana’s ex, Yana dates Banri’s ex (though in the latter case since they never dated Linda isn’t technically Banri’s ex, and she and Yana may not actually be dating formally).  I want to care, but Yana has so completely disappeared from the story that when I see him now he seems like a total stranger to me.

More and more, GT is looking like a series where I watch the last episode because I’m curious to see how it all ends up, but not enjoying it enough to watch everything in-between.  Next week is probably the fish-or-cut-bait ep for me – if it doesn’t reconnect with me then, it’s probably see you in March.

Wake Up, Girls – 02

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Wake Up Girls - 02 -15 Wake Up Girls - 02 -16 Wake Up Girls - 02 -17

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

There are so many problems with Wake Up, Girls that it’s hard to know where to begin describing them.  There are narrative problems, most obviously the way the return of the obnoxious Tange-san was glossed over and and she was allowed to resume control of everyone’s lives with nothing more than a rote apology after embezzling their money and gambling it away.  There are practical problems – Yamakan was on Twitter this week with an open call for animators, indicating that Ordet is nowhere near ready to keep WUG on a production schedule.  And there are problems with Yamakan himself – namely that so many of the people he needs to appeal to in order for WUG to succeed commercially despise him, and don’t want any part of making any enterprise he engages in a success.

Here’s the biggest problem, though – Wake Up, Girls is in its very existence a mass of contradictions.  If it’s a series about the idol industry that doesn’t expose it for what it is, it’s part of the problem and mere exploitation.  If it shines a light on the ugliness and greed, it’s doomed not just to fail commercially, but be utterly despised.  The audience who buys anime is not generally fond of mirrors, and the overlap of that audience with the idol fanbase least of all.  The entire enterprise is built on fantasy and lust, and they sure as hell don’t want to see anything that bursts their libido’s bubble.

I still don’t quite know where WUG’s goals are and what it intends to do to address that problem, but I’m pretty confident that if he could,  Yamakan would like to flips the lights on and watch the cockroaches scatter.  The first part of this episode is ugly, skeevy and uncomfortable as hell.  And you know what?  It damn well should be.  Anyone who’s a supporter of the idol industry should be uncomfortable.  They should be forced to watch scenes like the ugliness at the onsen and much worse, because they shouldn’t be able to pretend that the tiny, sanitized sliver of the idol exploitation trade they’re allowed to see is reflective of how things really are.  They should be forced to get down into the sewage and truly feel how exploitative, twisted and venal this business is, and understand the poisonous impact it has on anime, music, the role of women and girls in Japan and Japanese society in general.

If it does nothing else in its run, the first half of this episode of WUG is probably enough of a reason for it to have existed.  The rage exploding all over 2chan in its wake is predictable, and – as long as you don’t have any stake in this series actually succeeding – entirely welcome.  But that’s the problem – WUG isn’t a public service message, it’s an anime trying to make money for a struggling new studio.  And as such it has no choice but to be exploitive itself at the same time it’s exposing (in quite gentle terms compared to the reality) the horrors of the idol trade.  I suspect in the end it’s going to try and split the difference, offering fanservice and a sanitized idea that the industry isn’t all bad while at the same time gingerly pushing the envelope.  And that won’t work – it can’t possibly work, because it won’t satisfy those living in a dream world who don’t want anything but pandering to their fantasy, and it will undercut any reform-minded message it might be trying to convey.  It’s too bad, really, but I don’t think a truly skeptical idol anime has any chance whatsoever to succeed.

And what of the series itself, in dramatic terms?  As I said, it has major issues.  Matsuda reveals himself to be nothing more than a complete pushover and something of an idiot, and the wholly detestable (and criminal) Tange waltzes back in and takes charge.  Suda is the one element here I have no problems with, because he’s the most realistic character in the episode (his “resolve” is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what most girls pursuing this path must endure).  In spite of everything else WUG still has an earnest charm to it, and as a show that’s actually about something it stands apart from most of the anime schedule this season.  In the end, this show is going to be a spectacular failure for one reason or another and probably several, but that’s kind of a shame.

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10 comments

  1. R

    i'll have to agree with Golden Time. this episode was just a pain to watch. the first third of it was totally pointless, the deal with yana and linda suddenly together feels too forced for drama (heck, when did yana even become important in the story after the first five episodes. 2D kun had a lot more scenes than the guy). and the last part? oh god! the last part. i do get that it was supposed to look more into kouko's still-brewing personal insecurities. but they could have done it in a non-fanservicey way. it just distracts too much from what they are trying to say at that what more, they don't seem to know where they want to go with Ghost Banri. last week, he was active with all the cursing stuff and now he just reverts back to being passive. point.

  2. t

    wake up girl episode was very interesting.
    I don't know about any of the administrative and/or commercial issues and TBH, whatever the issues are, it doesn't matter to me. I look at the episode and everything so far(movie and last week) and it's interesting and I like it. what the future holds for studio Ordet?that's a different question. and it's still early to know about the future sells for this series. and again, it won't matter if the series is good.

    indeed, first half showed the ugliness and all bad things in idol industry. it was like that last week. but then come the 2nd half which came to show exactly what we see last week (movie+ep #01) – there is still room for your dreams, girls. true, there are ugly people in this industry, but some good people too. not only inside the industry like the young manager, this part also showed the love of true fans. moreover, it was important to show the way of overcoming some challenges of one's insecurity and the challenges of life.

    WUG doesn't have to be completely mirror and reflect only the bad in order for us to think about it. it should be fun too. and that's what works. at least for me.
    and if you ask me, I think it's presented very lovely the way of contradiction. because this isn't really contradiction. true, it's not likely to happen in this world to everyone to have such great fans and good people inside the industry. but presenting the good along with the bad just work here. the naivete of the girls for keep singing and dreaming along side the challenges and everything. there must come story and character development too, and I feel it.

    there is still more to come. it seems like some girls are more dominant from others in the group, but eventually I think there is a good interaction and chemistry with them all. true, some more prominent than others, but it's ok. and it seems like the ex-idol girl still have some past to overcome as we keep seeing her old group I-1.
    I hope our girls will continue to move on, there is a potential to develop some interesting some stuff in terms of story and characters and I really would love to see that part too – realizing their dream, keep singing, not give up and overcome challenges and stay themselves. and I feel it's going on this way

    p.s
    a word of the ED sequence which is lovely. it's like real images but kinda blurry. kinda like an intermediate situation between real image and animation. and I like that. same applies for the situation of our idols.

  3. t

    as for golden time. well, keeping secrets about Yana and Linda is kinda annoying.
    but at least it's fresh change. seeing different interaction with 2d-kun and Chinami with Koko and Banri. also the interaction between Koko and Chinami.
    sure, GT isn't succeeding in comedy, but it was a fresh change. mostly not seeing Linda, and one glimpse of her change the mood.

  4. i

    'They should be forced to get down into the sewage' – clearly Enzo read my comment about idol fans bathing in shit. I'll probably hate idols and that industry I do consider prostitution on some level for the rest of my life but as long as a fan of it never talks to me about, I really don't care much if it exists or not anymore because I live so far away that it barely affects me. I think I'll take the high road and just pretend it doesn't exist and feign ignorance at its mention. Oh but idol anime is still shit. IMO.

    GT has gone off the tracks. I feel that the message the author is trying to make is one of two: either a dysfunctional relationship can be fixed or that it can't and at some point will have to end. The former is for Banri to be with Koko forever and the latter with Linda. Personally and that OP really tells me that its the latter that is going to happen but not until the very last few episodes. That bench scene was so out of 500 days of Summer.

    It's interesting because when I gave shit about GT and Koko I got flak but now the roles are reversed.

  5. B

    also in the last episode GT worked with ghost Banri an left the whole threat thing open, yet nothing happened in this one. Kinda pointless to do it so early then, right?
    I think that in two or three more episodes will now how this end, because this show only has two cards left, ghost Banri's threat (that will probably in koko's favor) and Banri's accident (that is more related to Linda), sow whichever goes last is the wining girl.

  6. M

    "Outstanding: Grade B+

    It feels like NoitaminA 2005 when watching Golden Time. Why we don't get more series based at college I don't know, but because we so rarely do anymore Golden Time feels incredibly refreshing and different."

    Amazing what weeks can do to premature evaluation.

    "I don't think this episode was terrible in its own terms, but I've never found GT to be good at comedy even when I was enjoying the show."

    That's a pretty damning condemnation for a Romantic Comedy. How it ever ranked as outstanding is simply baffling now.

  7. i

    I don't think its baffling. I never once thought of GT as outstanding, usually between average to pretty good and occasionally fighting with Samunmenco and NnA for top dog status on Thursday. I think GE just had a love at first sight sort of thing with the college and near his house setting and of course Linda.

  8. m

    I couldn't avoid skipping ahead while watching the show. I just breeze past any of the comedy part and move to the parts that at least attempt to move the story along. Koko has gotten unbearable to watch, and she really does take over a scene in the worst way. Linda and Yana seems overly forced, like they're trying to imply ghost Banri did that which would make no sense. Yana hardly ever is around Linda, and certainly Linda isn't going to just randomly start dating Banri's friend out of nowhere. I've also hit the point of "cut the awful attempts to be funny, stop the bs with ghost banri having absurd powers, and get back to what made the show good in the beginning or I'm done" I'm not going to watch something that I skip half of the episode bc its annoying me.

  9. M

    There was a conversation on RC last week about Golden Time in that even if the author is sending us the message that this dysfunctional relationship between Koko & Banri just won't work,the show still won't be more than slightly above average,if even that.

    It just has too many issues in pacing & execution,not to mention that it doesn't have any other features like good visuals or music. The characters,which should be a key aspect of any romance,are lacking big time. Kouko's annoying,Banri's not as bad but he's far from an interesting character and is slowly starting to annoy me too on how he just goes with along with the flow,Ghost Banri shouldn't even exist,Linda's pretty good but she gets way too little screentime,the supporting characters have barely had any importance(unless you'd count Linda as one,which might be the case with the little screentime she's getting) and all this with 2-cours at it's disposal where we're past the mid-point. Blood Lad did more with it's main & supporting cast in freaking 10 episodes.

  10. S

    I am impressed by Wake Up Girls. Last week I thought it was above average though fairly dull, but after the first half of this episode it might well be a gem. Just like Watamote, I feel this show really has something to say and does it with a realistic, uncomfortable yet very humanizing portrayal. I’m glad the show doesn’t sugarcoat the hardships of upcoming idols like Love Live and even though the first half is still pretty tame compared to real life, the series does a good job by addressing the grim side of idol culture. And yet, it also deals well with the good-natured, idealistic dreams of the girls.
    Wake Up Girls gives its subject a morally grey identity instead of a black-or-white one which in my opinion is the major positive point of the show.
    Unfortunately, it’s probably going to bomb in sales like Watamote.

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