Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.

5 April 2014: Golden Time and Wake Up, Girls! share a common problem

The once and future center.

Both Golden Time and Wake Up, Girls! are good concepts with some flaws in their execution. For the most part, the two shows' flaws are not related, but there is one issue they both share: Neither Kaga Koko nor Shimada Mayu seem special enough.

2D, Koko, and Banri
Koko, original light novel illustration.

Koko is supposed to be a stupendous beauty who dresses in a way befitting a wealthy gorgeous young woman with a keen eye for fashion. Sure, she's marred by being batshit crazy, but outwardly she's supposed to be phenomenal. This is more apparent from the light novel illustrations and the manga, both of which devote quite a bit more attention to Koko than the other characters. It's supposed to be sort of a big deal when she rends her clothes to make impromptu adjustments in order to fit in at Nana's club early on in the story, but the anime rushed straight through that bit during the episode where it casually blew through quite a bit of the books' contents.

Didn't even need to sign in blood this time.

Mayu is supposed to be an amazingly talented idol. She was one of I-1 Club's first centers, and only got drummed out of the corps for political reasons. (That is, nefarious internal idol politics, not "I kicked a giant mouse in the butt" politics.) However, although she's more talented and prominent than the other six "WUG-chan" girls, she doesn't clearly overshadow any of them except Airi. (And let's face it, that's only because Airi sucks.) So how important is it that Koko and Mayu aren't dramatically better than those around them, at least with regard to their purported strengths? I think it does matter—or at a minimum—is under-explored.

Koko, manga version.

In Koko's case, you can't throw a stick down an anime aisle without hitting an bishoujo ojou-sama with perfect grades, a talent for sports, and a huge group of fans. These girls inexplicably dedicate themselves to some potato during middle school and/or high school, and lackluster anime shenanigans typically result. Golden Time ostensibly tells the story about what happens afterward when Potato-kun dodges a bullet and gloms her off on a new college buddy, warning him that she's totally not worth the drama. But if Koko isn't special enough, then it changes the nature of Banri's relationship with her. There's a genuine shortage of straightforward anime romances that actually go somewhere, but the relationship in Golden Time plays a bit differently in the anime than it appears to in the light novel and the manga.

Minami, Mayu, and Miyu
Too much mabushii is bad for your eyes.

In Mayu's case, you have to look to the (apparently widely ignored) Wake Up, Girls! prelude movie to see signs Mayu may originally have been supposed to be different. The movie is very much about securing Mayu's involvement in the Wake Up, Girls! idol team, and although her membership isn't critical to the group's success, it's obviously a huge boost. The movie also implies the Wake Up, Girls! superfan A-number-1 is actually a devoted Shimada Mayu worshiper. The movie shows his dismay at missing his opportunity to acquire a rare early I-1 Club DVD from the days when Mayu was still a member, before she was ejected for kicking a giant mouse in the butt nefarious internal idol politics. I suspect at some point a decision was made to focus more on WUG as a group for the anime, so it was necessary to avoid overshadowing the other members too much with Mayu's brilliance.

Koko, anime version.

Technically, Golden Time and Wake Up, Girls don't actually share a common problem, because I suspect in Koko's case the impetus was practical whereas in Mayu's case, the impetus was artistic. Golden Time clearly did not get J.C. Staff's superlovely high-budget treatment such as it trots out for To Aru Kagaku no Railgun, so it probably wouldn't have been cost effective to exquisitely draw Koko for all her scenes, even though it would have been nice to more clearly see the contrast between her and the common folk.

Aim for the one in the middle.

It's still not clear to me whether Wake Up, Girls! will continue to run now that its initial 12 episodes are complete. (I suspect this is a decision bean counters had to kick down the road until there is a clearer understanding whether the show is profitable enough to support.) I'm not sure spreading the focus across the group as a whole made the show more interesting, even though it was arguably the right thing to do. Personally, I would have preferred a show about Mayu resurrecting a moribund career and dragging some schlubs up to the top with her.

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