Wake Up, Girls! - Seven Idols is the first part of an anime franchise being made to help the Tohoku region get back on its feet following the now infamous earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The film, and the franchise as a whole, focuses on a struggling talent agency and their newly formed idol group, Wake Up, Girls!. Does this film from former KyoAni director Yutaka Yamamoto get this franchise off on the right foot, or does it fall flat on its face?
Wake Up, Girls! - Seven Idols gives us a brief look at the realism of the idol industry, though it doesn't get nearly as in depth as the primary series does. Mostly this is shown in the process of forming the group. An example of this includes the agency focusing only on pretty young girls first, actual talent be damned. Another example is when the girls are auditioning, the agency's president, Junko Tange, asks the girls if they are virgins, which is practically a must for real life idols to retain their marketability.
Something that is really interesting about the Wake Up, Girls! franchise is not only are the seven main girls essentially rookie idols (though some do have a bit of experience), they are rookie voice actors. You see, each of these seven girls actually share their first names with the girls doing their voices. In a rather nice touch, several of these seven voice actors were affected in some way by the tsunami. And just like their characters on screen, they make a mistake every now and then, but for the most part they are more than competent in their performances.
Tasteful and Justified Fanservice:
As the WUG are preparing for their concert at the end of the film, they all decide to go all out and give the people in the audience something in return for braving the freezing cold, and what that something is is using their real panties in their performance instead of show panties. This is pretty much one of the very few bits of fanservice in the entire film and I thought it was handled rather well. Certainly better than how most anime films and series deal with it, and is one of the few times the fanservice was meant for the fans in the work itself, not the viewers.
Sliding Scale of Maturity:
One of the pluses to the WUG! franchise is that the titular group is comprised of a wide range of girls. That however becomes a negative as well. The girls more or less all act their age. This can lead to good results, such as the mature and level headed 18 year old Kaya, and to bad results, such as the extremely stuck up and selfish 13 year old Nanami.
Less a Film and More of a Pilot:
This entire time I've been calling Seven Idols a film, and that's because it is a film, with an ending (albeit an open ended one) and all. However, what it really is, is the pilot for the subsequent anime series, as the series picks up right after the film ends, making the film essentially the first two episodes of the anime. And this is made more obvious by how all of the characters are barely developed, because the aim for this film wasn't to develop them, merely introduce them. As a stand alone film, it is still pretty decent, but as a pilot, it is excellent.
It is understandable that a media project like Wake Up, Girls! would have limited funds to it, and the primary studio behind it is still relatively new, but it still has to be pointed out that at times the animation can get bad. Like, really bad. They are able to skirt by for most of the film, but it is most prevalent and jarring during the concert at the end where the animation quality sharply drops during the middle of the performance and none of the characters looked at all like they should. It doesn't help matters that Yutaka took to Twitter shortly after the anime series itself started airing requesting for more animators to help on this series.
When the chips are down, Wake Up, Girls! - Seven Idols more than succeeds at its job at being the introduction to the Wake Up, Girls! series. As a stand alone film it is more than passable, though far from being one of the best. As a pilot, it does everything a pilot needs to do and then some. The WUG! franchise as a whole is one of my favorites of this season, so I highly recommend watching this film....and then watch the show immediately afterwards.