And the start of an idol franchise begins with a movie. Is Wake Up, Girls! Shichinin no Idol worth your time?
The short answer is yes.
One of the important aspects of an idol franchise is that the main idol group (that is, the idol group upon which the series revolves around) is the underdog. No one would care about a series where the main characters are part of a successful idol group from the very beginning. They must start from the bottom level and claw their way up towards the top. As a result, recruiting the girls to join this “underground” idol group is necessary and often takes several episodes.
That’s why the fact that first installment of the Wake Up, Girls! franchise is a movie makes for an interesting move. Instead of sitting on our hands and watching several girls hem and haw for several weeks, we get to see them join Wake Up, Girls! over the course of a single 52 minute movie. While it could make the movie seem a bit rushed, I personally think it was a good idea because it allows the anime series to focus on other things aside from the recruitment drive (compare this to the Love Live! franchise where both μ’s and Aqours take over half a season to come together as a group).
The movie, and the Wake Up, Girls! franchise as a whole, are a more realistic take on idol group shows compared to other similar series in many regards. Expect some bittersweet setbacks to emerge. Said developments are not fully fleshed out until the anime series, however, so the movie can feel, at times, incomplete. You’ll just have to watch the anime series to see how the story of Wake Up, Girls! progresses from here.
Speaking of realism, the movie only features one insert song. While this is realistic considering that it takes time for (newbie) idol groups to learn and master songs (plus the fact that songs take time to be written and not everyone is willing to give no-names a chance), this could be condemned as unimpressive compared to other idol series. Still, タチアガレ! / Tachiagare! is a wonderful song, so at least the only prominent vocal song is of high quality, right? There was also a distinct lack of CG during the performance, which is unusual for an idol franchise. The animation as a whole is also rather average and dips into subpar at times, frankly, which isn’t a good thing for a movie.
As for the yuri, it’s basically non-existent. Maybe some could argue that Airi and Mayu have something going on. Or that Megumi and Mayu have a spark. Or that Shiho has some intense feelings towards Mayu. Mayu is basically the shipping goddess in this movie, in other words. But it’s all probably just in shippers’ heads, unfortunately. If viewers really want gay idols, Love Live! has that in spades.
Overall, I think Wake Up, Girls! Shichinin no Idol is a movie that can stand by itself as a more realistic, serious take on the schoolgirl idol genre. It is, however, a bit rushed since a trademark of idol shows, the recruitment drive, is shoved into a 52 minute movie even though the entire process usually takes several episodes. Furthermore, several plot points are brought up in this movie that are not fully addressed until the anime series, which started airing at the same time as this movie’s “launch date.” Finally, the animation is lackluster in several key moments and average at best in others.
If viewers really wanted to, they can skip this movie and start with the anime series considering how the first two episodes of Wake Up, Girls! features an OP that essentially summarizes the movie’s events in 1-and-a-half minutes. Nevertheless, I would still recommend watching this movie first in order to determine whether or not you want to commit and watch Wake Up, Girls! In my opinion, it’s a wonderful franchise that has its downsides yet is definitely underappreciated (and I don’t use that word lightly, unlike certain anime bloggers who claimed Sangatsu no Lion was underappreciated).