Wake Up Girls Final Sendai and Learning to Love It All the Way to the End

With the last of the Sendai stop in the rear mirror, the seiyuu-idol unit Wake Up, Girls! is only one more live away from disbandment. I’m just trying to grapple with it the best I can as a fan of WUG who has now attended the last few shows in Sendai.

As to how we got here, let’s just say in Japanese popular entertainment, idol groups are common and idols of this variety come and go just like how their next-door-girl charms can be found, well, next door. There are a lot of reasons behind why a media-mix idol project that is about to hit its 6th year in existence would stop, too, despite selling out their largest venue thus far (Saitama Super Arena for their final live). But this is not that post. This post is about me, and WUGchans, damn it.

As a fan who started to follow WUG before the term WUGner became official I think there is something about following the group from cradle to the grave. I still remember reading ANN articles on Yamakan’s search for talent nationwide. I remember how in Jan/Feb 2014, while attending the big IDOLM@STER MOIW 2014 concert and on that trip to Japan, we tried and failed to go see WUGchans at a theater greeting, showcasing the first WUG movie. A friend and I were browsing K-Books and saw a signed poster from WUGchans going for over a man, left the aisle and then came back, and someone had already taken it from the shelf. The tinge of regret from that event lives on even today, even if both of us have gotten several signed goods since.

To be fair I didn’t quite consider myself as a WUGner until later in the year–more like just a typical seibuta who is into voice actresses and eventing. Well, I am always that I suppose. It was not until, at least, Chicago, when I first met the WUGchans at Anime Central 2014, that I consider myself fan enough to call myself one. (But then again, I had to be a fan to even fly to Chicago to see them in the first place.) As I would say now, I went to Acen that year to pick an oshimen. From watching the first TV anime as it was airing in winter of 2014 as well as other footage online, Miyu seemed to be the right fit for me. But having seen them in person then only further confirmed Miyu for me, despite how cute and appealing the others also were. I guess I’m not that big of a seibuta after all.

I still remember first seeing them while waiting to go into the opening ceremony at Acen. We were just chatting in front of the entrance when Hiro, Yamakan and four(?) of the seven walked right in. We waved at them. It was Airi, MayuC, Minami and Yoppi. Actually memory is now sufficiently fuzzy that I don’t remember or am misremembering these details. I still remember MayuC’s expression when I first saw her, though. It’s not too different than what you would expect of a typical Japanese young person walking around, lol, Anime Central, in her first trip to the mainland USA.

[That first Anime Central was quite instructive in a number of ways. One thing that came up repeatedly is different close encounters with these 81Produce seiyuu at various events. I’m sure some of you have heard of the stories coming from Machi Asobi, but we had the same at Anime Central already, plus AX 2017, and elsewhere. It seems like these seiyuu are more next door-y idols in more than just the figurative speech kind of way.]

Fast forward to 2019, things have changed, but only by a bit. MayuC remains the same person that we saw then. She’s like that timid but very brave-minded woman with a wild streak, but also who now has the confidence to show it off. I too have changed: from “I don’t like the WUGchans that much” to “WUGchans ga dai daisuki da!”

(See the setlist here. I’m going to jump around a lot across the 4 shows.)

And love is what unites us. WUG is a project born of love, after all. After the great disaster in Tohoku, WUG was born to love it back, and in some ways Sendai, too, has did what little it could to embrace WUG. There were no louder display of Sendai’s love for Wake Up Girls than last weekend. Like this:

During the live, each session repeated Airi’s two solo-event songs, songs about the enduring qualities of Tohoku and her people, but also that video montage of pilgrimage business owners was very cute. It was an uplifting tune for an uplifting message.

I don’t mind it if the Date Clan has some Miyu oshi in it. Myu needs more fans.

WUGners were pilgrims that weekend. The EBeans building (the mall where Animate/Gamers/Lashingbang Sendai were) had this tall “thanks for all the WUGs” poster and LOL Watanabe Nanami even put it in her IG story. Anyways. Gyoza no Tenpari, the ramen shop moonlit in the first season, got lines all weekend long and the obaachan looked visibly tired, according to some witness accounts, LOL. That pancake place, 38 Mitsubachi, the place famous for the birth of umenyaan in the first season, also had massive lines. The International Center Sendai Subway station had a popup gallery of a bunch of the WUG Sendai pilgrimage spots too.

I suppose it’s hardly different than going to the visitor info center at Sendai JR station and asking for a WUG leaflet, at least before Butai Meguri and other apps are a thing. The thing is, I like Sendai, but I’m tired of pilgrimaging the WUG spots, so I barely did any on this trip. Only real thing that I did was visiting the 7 Girls War PV park, which is diagonally across from the live venue. I don’t count Luvya or eating grilled cow tongue at Kisuke…although I guess those also count. I mean I’ve had enough pilgrimaging of Sendai over the last 4+ years (but I’m always down for gyuton and idol cafes!) that I felt it was enough.

Sendai feels somewhat at home at this point. I had even had to mallrat around more than once, to kill time around Sendai JR station. The EBeans building feels almost like the back of my hand because of WUG Bus 3. The feeling came right back when I had to do that on Sunday waiting for friends to gather. I can see why MayuC said the same, as the WUGchans had to go there way more times than me (not even counting Airi).

Maybe I should talk about the live itself.

Just to further set the stage, during the last Sendai show, the WUGchans brought up the fact that over the last 8 months, they performed 33 solo live shows as part of the WUG Final tour. We suspect this final tour itself was something long planned and after Green Leaves Fes the plan to disband and do the final tour was set in to motion. But this was a huge tour. In fact they did something like 18 shows just in the first two months of 2019 alone. Kumamoto (2), Osaka (5), Nagano (2), Tokushima (2), Aichi (3), and Sendai (4) makes up those 18. That’s not counting two shows at Wugris for V-day weekend. I was able to go to the 3 shows in Aichi leading up to Sendai, and that means I was able to see the first public performance of Sayonara no Parade when they first did it there.

Sayonara no Parade is the ultimate WUG song. As you might remember, the WUG project is lead, musically, by the composer collective MONACA. The most famous one there is Kousaki Satoru, who recently has had his work profiled on Anisong Station. He wrote Tachiagare…and Sayonara no Parade.

For IDOLM@STER Ps who’s been around in 2014, you know how M@STERPIECE was written by Kousaki? Who also wrote RE@DY and Jibun REST@RT? Yeah it’s the same idea but 10x more tear-jerking.

Watching Sayonara no Parade in person is even “worse,” as you would expect. Not only musically it cues some key WUG pieces, the dance choreography also assembled many memorable moves from other WUG dances. I think if you were guns out blazing and zentsuu’d the full WUG Final Tour, you should have had enough furicopy practice to recognize them all. By Sendai Sunday I had already done some of the songs 5+ times and was picking out the moves in Sayonara no Parade.

I want to mention Aichi one more bit, in that I had some great seats due to luck and friends. And by this point in time the WUGchans are extremely comfortable at the Final tour live routine so they were doing a lot of extra service during songs. This means a lot of facial cues in interacting with the audience. This means baiting each other’s oshis in the crowd. It also means a lot more unusual interactions between them during the songs. That adds up to mean the Aichi lives were a ton of fun, especially if you were in the crossfire. It felt like I was falling in love with the WUGchans yet again. It wasn’t about going to see my favorite idol group (or whatever you call these seiyuu units) one last time or as many times as possible before they end. It was just unbridled joy to see these girls not give much of a damn and trying to unleash every last ounce of joy from the “shunkan” and “jikan” that we were sharing.

As a seiyuu otaku, that hit me really hard. I mean it’s one thing to get fished at a chika idol event, or even a normal idol event, but this is a major label seiyuu artist group. It’s quite something. WUGchans don’t sing in character, but they still hold out personas built over time. The anime characters are their shields still, however faint it may seem at times. For seiyuu activity, it’s amazing to see in the raw.

Then again, this is Wake Up, Girls! from the start. The concept of the group has always been avex x 81Produce, the gambit is seiyuu who are idols who are also playing characters. The ultimate example and the ultimate demonstration is this WUG Final Tour. May it be Aichi or Iwate or Sendai (the 3 stops of Final Tour I attended), the training and range of the performers are on display and they are beyond expectations, especially for stans all around who are invested personally.

Yet, for those of us who have been with the WUGchans since towards the start, this hasn’t always been the case. I can say for sure when I saw the WUGchans perform Shoujo Koukyoukyoku for the very first time in 2nd tour Osaka, they weren’t anywhere close to the quality they now possess. WUGchan’s stage, as a whole, evolved a great deal since the start. In fact it wasn’t really until 4th tour that I felt comfortable praising their performance without any qualifiers, and today they are even better. But put it differently, I see the hard work they put in and personal growth that has happened to the WUGchans.

What I really want to say is that underneath the tears and the sad-ass trumpet giving us the wake up call during the Goodbye Parade, there is this powerful performance, a wonderful idol trope and talented voice actresses at work. It is on that stage, with those credentials, and upon the rock of hard work, with which they shine, and tries their best to have the most fun memories at the final live. Well, the actual final live is not yet, but in a lot of ways Sendai is the true final.

The final day of Sendai will be on Blu-ray. That actually affects how the idols perform–they basically now appeal more to camera and a bit less to the crowd, but Myu and Nanamin will still go at it, and Yoppi can’t help herself but to charm the crowd with that smile. The crowd won’t let them have it Avex’s way, either. Literally a row away from my day 2 night seat were the guys holding up the Minyami banner, a mixed group of male and female WUGners repping as grandmothers, I guess. They’re actually just passionate WUGners, but you know how it goes. Minyami is more known to run a poker face at the live and rarely do appeals, but she had to give it up to them.

The afternoon show on Sunday was perhaps the more emotionally charged live as the reality of the end of the tour was upon the WUGchans. I can’t forget how Minyami lost it and how MayuC also gave into the emotions. It was not only a rare look at those who don’t usually cry, but also a powerful mirror, as I can only imagine what most of the hardcore fans also feel. The two Tohoku girls (as Airi is from Sendai and Kaya is from Iwate somewhere) held fort by being the more level-headed and motherly ones, taking care of everything. Meanwhile I’m just cherishing the one moment when Miyu even teared up, when right after her final MC, went to the back to wipe away her tears. She did manage to keep on smiling.

Anyways, there were some really heavy MC on Sunday afternoon. Conversational Japanese is beyond me as far as this blog is concerned, so your best bet is to just read their blogs. Minyami’s latest one is worth a read if you are interested in how much of that pure emotion flowed out of her on stage that day. Mayu’s also a good starting point to understand where the group stands emotionally today.

There were some shoutouts to the kankeisha over the weekend as well. We got word that Kumagaya will attend Sunday, and I can personally confirm this on the afternoon show since my seats were in the 2nd level to the left diagonal side, just a couple sections from the kankeisha area. On Saturday night Kaya gave her onii-chan a shoutout. He then stood up and wave green lights, next to his wife. MayuC and the rest then gave Kaya’s sister-in-law a shoutout, which was pretty funny. This was the cutest imouto appeal ever by the way. Kaya is such terrific wife material… On Sunday night, MayuC gave her mom a shoutout while thanking her with tears in her eyes. My seat was also on the second floor, but on the right side, so I already spotted her family earlier since it was the only group with a younger child (Mayu is the only one with a little brother of that age range). I don’t recognize most of their parents, so besides them I only recognized Aichan’s parents (because her mom looks just like her…).

There are a few other highlights I want to address over that weekend. The big one to me is how Kaya was able to orchestrate Heart Line to make the best of a divisive song. Leading up to the weekend the topic came up once among the guys I hung out with, asking if Heart Line having uneven calls is an issue. Some WUGners obviously do not like how only 4 of them gets personalized calls. I personally didn’t care either way. 7 Girls War was always like that too (although you can do a MayuC call now).

For the uninitiated, Heart Line calls are basically fans calling the nickname of the idols at different times during their solo parts. During the bridge MayuC and Yoppi both get fairly long lines and we would do the chain calls for that. On Sunday, Kaya told Yoppi and MayuC to force Aichan to sing the bridge, so the entire venue just focus-fired Aichan the whole time. This change was then explained later in the MC, which is how we know Kaya was the instigator (and surprised Airi). For the night show, all seven of them sang the bridge and we just yelled whoever our oshi was. Now this song is forever memorable just for that experience. Aren’t WUGchans the best?

What else? There were a bunch of opportunity to call out that the Sendai Sunday evening show was taped. When they do it, they also make a big appeal at a camera. Pretty sure in all those cases Myu just photobombs those cuts, and at one of them they called her out for NG-ing the scene. Miyu clearly was just having fun and having not much else to care about. Nanamin was a good contrast–who stuck to her game and played it like an elegant, no-brain gal. She’s more Ohtsuki Yui than Ohtsuki Yui.

Looking back at the emotionally heavy Sunday afternoon show, it almost felt as if the WUGs were using the afternoon session to get pumped up for the evening session, which would be recorded. They kind of let it out and got us into it more. This is where MayuC’s call to action sort of is from, where despite WUGchans disbanding, we are going into it guns blazing.

For the most part, the afternoon crowd was not as into it as the evening crowd. Funny thing is it also felt that there were fewer concentrated WUGner eventers at Sendai than in Aichi. Like there were more normal fans of WUG and WUGchans, just not your typical idol wota. It really makes you think about the importance of the two WUG anime TV series. But anyways, while Saturday night show there were some slightly interesting things (like Yoppi proposing to Aichan LOL), there is some forethought from the WUGchans to clear plate and prepare for the night show on Sunday. Maybe that’s why Minyami let it out in the afternoon session. (Somehow, there was a joke about “yoru no WUG” being “kin-18” on day one, but it definitely was more spicy on day 1 night than day, LOL.)

Without jumping into the whirlpool of emotions, it’s easy to get hung up on why the Sendai stop is the final show for WUGchans or why they said it. It was important to realize just that this is but a small amount, out of a large pool of experiences, that we share with the idols we love and care for. They help us feel better about life in general, they inspire us, they are examples to us, and make us smile. It is all that what art would do, when art is life, in the best example that reality entertainment can provide. We have to deal with the sorrows of parting as all good things come to an end, but that’s just a normal process for life–yet another lesson in life that WUGchans will get to teach us.

Time to prepare for WUG SSA… See you there?

PS. Yamakan sent a flower stand! As far as I’m aware, it is not something that has ever happened since his departure from the project. Fans were amused and maybe a little wary of it. Still, he deserves both the scorn and praise he is owed! I took a kusorip type pic with it, and I saw at least one other who did while just walking around the venue pre-show.

For flower stands in general, there were actually quite a lot of them for Sendai. Typically WUG gets a handful, maybe up to a dozen stands at a tour stop. There were at least 4x as many at Sendai.

PPS. Just in terms of the live itself, furicopy is the way a lot of people go. There are timed jumps, calls, hand motions, all the usual signature of an idol live event. Definitely also check out this post on Gokujou Smile, this call site, learn the hand motion to TUNAGO, get ready to loudly yell “ORE MO” a few times, and wait for the Sendai rainbow when the blu-ray comes out!

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