Wake Up, Girls! Final: The Process of Waking Up

I have dozens of takes on this, hear me out. It’s all I could think about lately. And it has been 2 months. Not all the takes are sane, or fit for posting here, so they aren’t. A few made it. And I do get to talk about the live itself. I do get there. Trust me. This post isn’t even 5000 words!

Sup guys, it is horrible

In the end, I was looking for justification to chase after what “sparks joy” I guess. I wanted to TUNAGO with the WUGchans (the seiyuu), as seiyuu idols, working in that capacity, they’re doing what they could as cheerleaders for a broken Tohoku region after a devastating earthquake and tsunami. In that process, WUG (the project/thing) was food for my mind, my emotions, and my heart.

The reasons were self-evident I think. Yamakan’s project hit my sweet spot like no others–WUGchans are both seiyuu and idols in the most meta-yet-not-meta ways, and the crowd responded as such. This is the true power of Avex x 81Produce as their names respectively would infer in this collaboration. For evidence, WUGners are the best mix of actual idol wotas and anisong/anime/seiyuu wotas in all the fandoms that I have seen. It’s notably different than all the other groups I had first-hand experience with, and it was both refreshing and kind of amusing when I first found out about it. I mean you can compare it to, say, A応P or SP5 or even Sphere and see the difference.

It’s a major effort to follow an idol group closely when you are unable to understand the language natively, and is located across the globe. I’m a 14-hour plane ride from Tokyo. When I first heard the story about Avex-Training-Camp Nanamin unable to make it to school in Tokushima on Monday because work in Tokyo held her late Sunday, I was amused but not at all impressed. This isn’t some song about flying on Saturday. Well, yes, I know some WUGners flew Saturday out of Tokyo after SSA, but at least the fridge in their airplane didn’t break, causing them major critical loss of eventing. This is the world we live in. I hope someone would tell the WUGchans their stories.

The big picture

Contextually, what was I doing with myself, going to see these pretty ladies sing and dance their heart out? I mean it was good. And maybe that is enough of a justification. I wanted to believe (and I think it was largely correct) that through these performances I witnessed not just in the past 12 months, but in the past 5+ years, the emotions, the body language, the dance, the messaging, their voices and tears, and most importantly, the way they shined on stage, expressed more than clearly across the barriers of language and distance. It was not just a sirens’ call for a thirsty generation, cultural conquistadors reaping where they have not sowed. It was just the ancient human ritual of a performative musical experience in which the audience and the performers supplicate the Muse as one, in which the calls and music are our prayer and our penlights the ceremonial incense, our wave offering.

I think for WUGners, WUG Final Tour and Final SSA was art. For everyone else, it was that road to the final show which the WUGchans shined the brightest, to go out as seven supernovae. It is a blessing in disguise, just look around at the other acts that ended their journey just in 2019. That was not WUG’s fate.

(Polaris is a F7 type Ib yellow supergiant, but actually that’s just Polaris A and not Ab and B. Just in case anyone is curious about that.)

As you can see I have a lot to justify. Miyu’s top-shelf smile on my weary eventer soul is a big, big prize to pay for.

This outpouring

Looking at eventer instagram the past couple months, I see a bunch of tired, happy party people. Is it not exactly what we are asking for? Well, I guess that is a part of it. The young, trendy, well-to-do travelers side of the eventing spectrum overlaps with the young, struggling folks but living without regret. We are invested gate-climbers into a fandom that makes Nanamin’s travel woes trivial. It doesn’t justify the gatekeeping (obviously I’m not going to look down at the trials of a 16yo seiyuu-to-be in a letter written to her) but it puts life in perspective. To paraphrase again, in case you didn’t know, when your top idol group goes out of business, that puts your life in perspective.

And maybe WUGchans had a lot of fans in the industry? Maybe that is why there was the unexpected outpouring during and after WUG Final SSA from all kind of industry folks and beyond. It really spoke to a lot of people, not just people in the same industry, but people who can really resonate with what the WUGchans is trying to say–namely all of us. It’s like when Rieri and Kuro both reacted like me to Miyu’s letter was just to show that some things goes well beyond any barrier of language, culture, space or age.

Check the list of other female seiyuu who attended SSA Final. It’s nice that Anisama BD came out not too long ago so you can see that backstage interaction between Kin-chan and MayuC, and Yoppi and Ayasa.

And I totally lost my voice during Myu’s letter, and had to recover in time to jump on a work call couple hours later, LOL. Is there a WUG song about losing your voice?

Food for soul, eat Tohoku

I always wanted something deeper, something more introspective. WUG as a project gave me that in the form of depicting a country suffering quietly. It’s not hard to forget that Fukushima is still home of a boiling nuclear reactor, or when visiting Sendai for pilgrimage you see these flattened areas. Well, it’s worse I guess.

It’s like going up to Aoba Castle to visit its ruins–razed several times, but last during the US occupation. (Related: Morioka’s castle was burnt down a few hundred years earlier, LOL.) I remember visiting Sendai for the very first time–there was an earthquake just a few months earlier and the giant metal eagle was being refurbished because it fell during the quake. All the literature I read about Japan and trauma comes bubbling up into my consciousness–then and now.

On the WUG bus tour we saw more tsunami damage first hand. There was this popup seafood market in which we ate some fresh seafood but it was also a good spot to see the slowly rebuilding effort nearby, on the industry level for farming seafood. What we didn’t see are the houses and farms that were destroyed but left unbuilt because the economic will isn’t there, and the locals have moved on. The little documentary they showed us during the bus ride was surreal, complete with various actual videos of the flooding–I imagine if you lived in Japan, that stuff was on TV a lot back in 2011.

If grilled saba filled my tummy, knowing my visits to Tohoku filled my spirit a little. I was a worthless wota chasing after pretty girl groups, but yet here we are, chatting with the locals and writing it up in English. That counts for something, I hope. It’s like when I was visiting the Date mausoleum during a plain weekday, a bunch of old Japanese dudes were volunteering as guides and one of them spoke some English, so we talked as he gave me a tour.

This is also why you should never confuse Cool Japan with otaku pilgrimages. That’s just uncouth. I think there’s a fine line between the idea I’m trying to express here and the reality in which we all suffer silently after some kind of trauma. Instead of worrying about that, just make sure your tourism is about enriching yourself as what tourism does, broadening our horizons, and that we contribute to the economic sustainability of the locals. Both are easy, low hanging fruits that will justify just about any Japan trip. Or even your 10th trip to Numazu or whatever.

In short, if you are a WUG fan, go visit Tohoku. I mean, for every and each reason to go to Numazu if you are a Liver there are probably 10 more for WUGners to go to Tohoku. For starters, let me show you the excellent way of the Wanko Soba.

Well, that’s kind of the theme behind Gokujou Smile. It’s like every major idol group has one of these kind of songs, no? And I actually think it’s a great idol tune–catchy, energetic and cheerful.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

I want to talk about Myu’s smile some more. I identify as a Miyu oshi because I really like her. I mean, I like all of WUG to varying extents, even Shinso, admittedly, but it is Takagi Miyu and Okamoto Miyu I like the best, I guess. Or at least, as the saying goes, she is the member that I recommend.

I never really spelled out how I started liking her, why I did, and how it continued to burn. I guess in terms of the characters in the original anime, Miyu spoke out to me the most. It’s not like I have a thing for that Akiba-kei stuff, but obviously my taste in anime and game and music lines up with that. I also tend to tilt towards nerdy Japanese otaku artists as if they have a natural advantage. It is kind of a “one of us” feel. I am a pushover when it comes to that, kind of.

But that was superficial. I think the most attractive aspect for Miyu personally is the way she is out there getting it done. Her natural blessings aside (insert eyes emoji here), it was a bit of that everyday, next-door-girl charm that is so prevalent in today’s JP idol scene, plus seeing her grow up as a high schooler (in Chicago, so I guess she had just graduated) and a know-nothing newbie hooked onto 2hu that became whoever she is today. I’m not even sure I know who she is today. But it’s really her championship attitude and it’s inspiring to see a woman of her means doing the best she can to make more out of it.

While I was repping Myu during the last few stops of Final tour, she rewarded me with some personal attention during the Aichi lives, and ever since I was stuck thinking about it. I want to say I can’t get enough of it, but I think I could… My heart can only take so much stimulation lol.

But enough about her. It’s fair to say all of the WUGchans are a salve to my weary soul. It’s not just from eventing, but all the ups and downs of life. Just recently I’ve had a major family thing that happened which I won’t get into here, but that drove me from avoiding WUG music after the live (because it was emotionally distracting to go aaaaaaah when that song comes on) into back to listening to it, as it was a form of comfort. Perspective lends to a clarity that makes acceptance of something painful more naturally. In the big picture, WUG disbanding was not a big deal–I may not have had any more chances to do a lot of things that I thoroughly enjoyed when WUG was around, and that is what I mourn the most, but it is a far cry from the more standard trauma we all experience throughout our lives–death and taxes, for starter.

And it’s like a religious experience in a lot of ways. With WUGchans in your heart, they are walking alongside you wherever you go. It’s the love that you bring to the live that gets polished and transformed into something even more powerful that you can bring home. The final tour part 3 stops and Final SSA all start with this kind of a pep talk and it makes a lot of sense especially now.

Walking with a 16yo holding your baggage

The WUGchans have their own takes on Final SSA and the disbanding in general. You can kind of see it here although most of the videos are not publicly available anymore.

Myu is on twitter as of 4/1 and she talked about the big box of stuff she got from SSA, which will surely take a bit of time to go through.

The Onsen Musume project has already enlisted all of WUG as part of their super-group of hot spring anthropomorphic cast. A few of them actually represent hot springs from their home prefectures.

MayuC and Minyami joined twitter. Nanamin opened shop on IG. Kaya created an account on both but has hardly used them. I’m guessing Yoppi can’t be trusted with either and Ai-chan can’t handle Twitter.

None of that has anything to do with the fact that WUG Final was like, a year+ effort in which the troubled production gets a conclusive closure. Rather than going out in a whimper, WUGchans blew it up. They may have filled SSA, but they also filled their (and our) schedules with a 33-show final tour. Hopefully they also filled Avex’s coffers for that final time. Shinso was a bomb, from all practical purposes, so I get it. It felt like during 5th Anniversary the WUGchans were already moved in that sort of a way. The sudden announcement in June really did not catch me in that right way, and it took a while to process my feelings after that too (although rather quickly). Having to schedule out the trip to see the Final Tour was tough with so little warning, which is a big reason why I missed part 1 completely and didn’t even see them at Anisama despite showing up on days 2 and 3.

There was a live to talk about, right?

I’m not really talking about the SSA final live much in this post, because frankly thinking about WUG was such a big attention sink in the following days, I actively avoided thinking about it when I could. It was emotionally draining to dwell on it, especially when the memory was fresh. That didn’t stop me from talking or tweeting about it or going to Animate the day after to see the display (again).

But at some point, I just want to fully internalize the experience. I want to remember WUGchans not because the complicated and deep emotional bond I now have to let go with them, but more because I think it is a positive life experience for me. It is another life’s teacher. Like, thanks to WUG, I can do better at speed mixing. I can furicopy much better, especially first time seeing a routine. I can oshijump for longer. And that’s just the start.

I feel the AWM 2017 show where WUG participated was the starting point for a lot of people out in the US/Canada, but based on my small sample size I think the hardcore East Asian folks tend to latch on starting on 2nd tour and rolling forward. As with a final live, a lot of people crawled out of the woodworks to see their well-liked media-mix band do the thing one more time at a local tour stop. Sendai was a good example of this as it was filled with more regular anime otaku than usual.

Final SSA in that sense was also a very “diluted” live. The tiger’s den that was Ichinomiya is nice contrast, just a month prior. Still, as far as I can tell people did what was sensible in a public setting with a notable number of people doing mixes and spread out all over.

I guess I would be more hardcore if I got to see 3rd tour and realize this was a group worth more of my time and money. As it was, it was only after seeing them after 4th tour that I thought WUG events were worth my while as a main reason to fly. I mean I kind of already know this, but the singing, dancing, and performing aspect of WUGchans was lacking for quite some time, although in a way they have always had that magic going on. It was just not quite justifiable if you had to come from so far. I guess what helped turn things around was indeed rallying fans from AX, and others, that made the WUG Bus 3 a thing, setting myself in motion for the final trip.

It is better to fall in than to fall out

One thing I was concerned about going to the Final stretch was how it will make me fall more in love with the WUGchans, and making the eventual farewell that much more difficult. In turn this worry became a view that I had with all the Americans who wanted to catch WUG one more time, or for the first time, at SSA. Well it’s hard to see your girls at their best and at their last, but all the more so when you haven’t even seen nothing yet. You are coming to say hello and to say goodbye.

Then again, they are blessed. It might be painful, I guess YMMV here, but it is better to love than not to have loved at all. This peculiar situation turns out to be a proof of that adage. I love it how it teaches us to love one another in this odd case. It is not just a matter of knowledge of mind, but knowledge of emotions and heart, a real kind of experience you gain from literally experiencing things as they happen, as I don’t know if this kind of thing could be learned second or third-handed.

That said, it kind of bit me in the rear because I thought I was emotionally prepared to deal with WUGchans disbanding. It turns out I wasn’t, at least not after the fact. Going into it I thought I had made my peace with it. But the Ichinomiya shows were a game changer in that respect, and Sendai finished the job.

The WUGchans went out with a bang, but it was more bang than they have ever, well, banged? And the after-effects was prolonged for me. I had made peace with it in my mind well before SSA, but I don’t think I’ve gotten over it completely.

The buppan

Changing gears: it’s important to document what happened to the goods sale at the WUG Final SSA. The goods for the live was only on sale the day of the live. Literally five minutes before start of sales, we got told of a 1-item-per-person limit on all items except bromides. Note that a lot of the items for sale were “gacha” type where you get a random good inside the packaging–the stickers, the pin badges, the bromides. So that already will screw over some people.

The real damage is more complicated. For every 15000 JPY you spend you get to further gacha at a signed thingy, and for 8000 spent you get a bonus gift. This means people were buying 1 of everything + max of the bromides early on. Invariably everything sells out as a result. OK, well that’s not surprising, but the real complication was that there were two buppan periods, and they held back stock between them.

There was a FC event to attend the pre-live rehearsal. This meant FC ticket winners can go to the first sales session from 9 to 11:30 or so. Things were already sold out by 11:00 to the degree where the only thing left was the pamphlet. In fact by 10:30 or so, only bromides, sticker and the pamphlet was left. At 500 a pop even max bromides and sticker + pamphlet didn’t reach 15000 so people just left the line at that point. The second wave starts at noon for general public, and things went even faster.

Personally I had counted on friends to buy me goods, so I got one pity prize (still, mucho gracias) in the form of a SSA charm. My flight landed the day of the live and I had to work/do some random stuff to line up early. Not that it matters since it’s not like I or anyone in line knew they were limiting it to 1 per person until 5 minutes before start time. [Too bad I didn’t buy an Iwate one when I had the chance to complete at least all the stops that I attended.]

Because I was in the FC event I couldn’t do the second buppan either. That would have been an OK camp since I arrived at around 10am, and the line wasn’t long then, for the general line.

The only redeeming thing, which was expected in foresight, was that after the fiasco of that bupan they did a round of mail order, which should be shipping as I type… Because, you know, after Myu coined Kusablade as Kusablade, I kinda needed it.

The pre-live rehearsal

During the rehearsal, WUGchans did their usual deal. If you’ve ever been to one of their rehearsals, it’s not that different actually. For a big event at this large venue, WUGchans did a lot more MC and did full songs, so it’s very different in that sense.

There was the usual mic checks and some of the songs they did only the first verse. As a special surprise we got 2 rehearsal-only performances, one of them is a song I saw for the first time, so bless them. We were there more for the MC and raw reactions.

There were a good chunk of the MCs where the WUGchans gave thanks to all the staff, many who are obviously visible. The stage manager(?) also was doing a lot of talking given the occasion and all.

There were 2000+ fans and we filled out arena A, B and part of C, and the front part of the 200 level up to the center stage. It feels weird seeing SSA so empty, LOL. It was comforting to see a normal Arena 2 config though, so I knew my seats weren’t bad then, all the way up 9 rows(?) in 200 level left side.

Still, it’s great to have this rehearsal to get the brain rolling on what WUG final means. It’s great getting the reactions from other hardcore fans. I think Watanabe NanamiHana was literally right behind me and she was loud as hell (but so were a lot of us, assuming you weren’t crying). It doesn’t feel so loud because we were only a quarter of the venue’s total capacity, but we tried.

During one of the MCs we raised our W blades (for those who have them), and Myu said they were “kusa” which is a fair call on the lousy looking penlight. Actually it isn’t even bad looking, but just doesn’t seem worth using and is not really bright at all.

This is the kind of content that lives on forever with me. OK maybe not forever but they have surprisingly good shelf life.

Finally, the parade

The live itself is a familiar roll-through of their Final Tour setlist, just slightly rearranged. It went hype first, then it went collab, then random WUG anime songs across the ages, then it went to the new songs. Without the skit, they were able to fit in all 4 new songs in a lead-up block to the first encore. They were on the carts for their solo medley that capped with WUG ZOO. They gave May’n during One in a Billion a white spotlight. Everything was spot on.

Launching with the seifuku outfit, the set also is a bit of a time lapse view of WUG from their starting days. I guess that’s what they mean by parade. There were a few outfit changes, but you can tell that from the pics.

One of the goods they were selling after the live was specific bromides that you can order, taken from shots during SSA Final. I should have ordered some…

My favorite WUG outfit has to be the 5th anniversary ones now, so I was pretty glad I got to see it one last time. Actually I’m pretty happy about their outfit selections in general for final SSA.

The chap sitting next to me was my renban from the WUG discord ticket pool. First timer for WUG and he did well to do a lot of calls. Guess they make them WUGners in a factory or something but he sync’d up with the crowd just fine. There was another local fella who we did the TUNAGO with and he was pretty standard, upstanding eventer type.

TUNAGO came on after the WUGchans read their letters, if I recall correctly. The letters, oh man. Just watch the Blu-rays. I’ll just say one more thing about them, that given the scatter-brained nature of some of their MCs, WUGchan letters is the best move at their final live. Even then it was very WUG.

The encores were thundering, as it could get, in a 2/3 filled SSA. Everyone was yelling like no tomorrow, which is logical given there are no more WUG calls after that live. Literally logical.

I don’t think we got a fourth encore because they kind of just booted us by forcing the second part of the the FC event, which is a goodbye greeting after the show.

The goodbye march and beyond

As the Arena clears out into the chilly March night I got into the line for the goodbye event. I had to be in a hurry but I kind of waited for people who didn’t really meet up. Ooops.

The line was really long–2000+ people after all–but it went by in about an hour for me despite being towards the tail end of the line. By then the WUGchans were drained emotionally and you can see it in their faces. I love how Myu still delivered the goods when yours truly shows up as this fat orange ball. What a champ.

The WUG FC organizers stood nearby and said thanks which was funny and it’s nice to see them in the flesh because I never stop by their booths. Well, still, I recognized them because they’ve been around!

I met up with some of the folks who were done, and caught a train back to my hotel to jump on a conference call. That was a mixed blessing in disguise because it took my mind off of things.

In fact, work was pretty crazy the past 12+ months–in general that helped me from thinking about WUG much, because it was definitely overwhelming in the first few days. My JP trip was full of other things to worry about, so that helped in the immediate. It was an emotional wound in which I had to leave alone so the bleeding stops first? Forcing the issue might have helped things roll on faster but it sure hurt.

With 2 months of distance, I can finally recall the live and all that rushing emotions without getting tripped up, and in a way that is fit to publish (well, as if anything I write is fit for publishing). More like, I can write about it without falling into a divergent sinkhole of emotionally-charged thread of thought.

The unfortunate thing about it is that the toll of time on my memory is evident and a lot of the vivid details are now lost. Maybe the Animax SSA special will jar some of it back. The live blu-ray definitely will. I’m looking forward to the Final Tour Sendai home video later this month.

Well, maybe I’ll eventually get that 5th ura bluray and commeserate with that, plus Yoppi is getting on twitter finally?


2 Responses to “Wake Up, Girls! Final: The Process of Waking Up”

  • astrange

    I thought I’d see some of you guys at WUG Kumamoto, but it was only us there. It was Yoppi’s hometown so we got a very, very long slideshow of her childhood photos.

    Btw, Kumamoto has an inexplicable Seattle’s Best Coffee outpost in the station.

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