One of Macross creator Shoji Kawamori’s properties between Macross Frontier and Delta was AKB0048 — for all intents and purposes, a Macross series without variable fighters, solely focused on idol competition and wielding music as a weapon.
If one follows Shoji Kawamori’s somewhat dodgy, albeit interesting, excuse for an overall Macross timeline, his answer is this: much like history that is studied in classrooms and recreated in period dramas, Macross is the retelling of a historical event. The characters themselves may change, but every iteration will have the Macross staples of fighter pilots in transforming Valkyrie robots, idol singers, and a love triangle.
The first episode of Macross Delta breezes through this checklist with obvious ease. Plucky stowaway Freyja Wion, disillusioned grunt worker Hayate Immelman, and hapless Delta Platoon Lieutenant Mirage Farina Jenius – whose last name should immediately ring a bell with the seasoned Macross fan. Presumably, these three will compose the expected love triangle that will develop against the backdrop of a virus that is both spawned from song and quelled by song. Other checkmarks include the alien race Zentradi, a fighter pilot squadron, and an established group of idol singers that said squadron protects: Walkure.
“Matsuda, do you remember what I told you at the audition? About idols being a story? They’ve written tons of stories this past year, and today will become a new story. I know I shouldn’t be saying this, but these girls are idols.”
-Green Leaves President Junko Tange, Wake Up Girls!, episode 12
Where The Idolm@ster plays with traditional harem elements to captivate its audience, AKB0048 is the next evolution of Macross, and Love Live! is a high school musical, Wake Up, Girls! makes a compelling case for itself as more of a classic sports narrative. President Tange tells Matsuda – and by extension, frames the series for viewers – that idols are “a story.”
“If only I could stand on a larger stage and have even more fans…but I realized something after yesterday’s performance. I was naive. Ultimately, what I enjoyed was being coddled by the fans of this familiar store.”
-Miyu Okamoto, Wake Up, Girls!, episode 2
The second episode of Wake Up, Girls! provides a great deal of fodder for discussion. Coerced by their new idol producer, Sudo, the girls are forced to perform in skimpy bikinis to a leering, salivating crowd of drunken older men. This is the obvious part of the episode – as one intrepid 2-chan denizen pointed out, it’s as if Yutaka “Yamakan” Yamamoto is saying, “These are your moé pigs!” Easily contrasted with Miyu’s defection and performance to her fans at Maid in Sendai, the surface lesson is that there’s a truckload of uncomfortable, awful things that you have to do in order to get to the top.
It would be easy to leave the lesson learned at that without delving any deeper. While the bikini scene was uncomfortable to watch – more uncomfortable than the panty flashes in Wake Up, Girls! Seven Idols – what the episode had to say regarding idol management furthered this tone set by the girls’ swimsuit performance.
The story of Wake Up Girls! begins in a movie – one that I highly recommend you watch before beginning the television series – not in its first named episode. This sets a specific, cynical, framework through which to view the series, much like how The Idolm@ster‘s premiere episode was shot in the style of an idol interview, giving the show a specific tone. In spite of a harsh outlook on the idol industry, Wake Up Girls! doesn’t shine that same light on our would-be idols, similar to AKB0048‘s treatment of its progenies.
A few minutes in, our soon-to-be Producer of Green Leaves talent agency – who, in spite of bearing a strikingresemblance to Producer from The Idolm@ster, is also graced with a name, Kouhei Matsuda – watches company president Junko Tange yell at her own client like a deranged Anna Wintour. From that moment on, I knew that I was going to love this movie.