Event Report: Wake Up, Girls Final Tour Part II ~Fantasia~ Osaka (Day 1)

Out of the seemingly infinite constellations of seiyuu, idols, singers, and bands that populate the sky of the Japanese music industry, the group that I follow the most closely is Wake Up, Girls!. I first got into 2.5D/seiyuu idols/whatever it’s called almost eight years ago with Idolmaster, and since then I have been on adventures that had me driving five hours both ways to see a delayed viewing of Aqours, bought me face to face with Nakamura Eriko, and took me to Japan for a weekend to see Walkure. But of all the franchises I have been into, none of them have ever made me feel the  passion and love that I feel towards Wake Up, Girls!. So when they announced in June that they were disbanding next March,  I knew I had to go see them.

Before I knew it, I was on a plane going from Chicago to my second trip to Japan this year. Don’t get into eventing, kids. Your wallet will thank you.

This adventure was mostly organized as a meetup of the WUG Discord server. Eight of us booked a really nice and spacious penthouse in downtown Osaka. MEM (@MEMgrizzlies7), Vestro, and I flew out from Chicago Wednesday night and finally arrived in Osaka on Friday morning, where we met up with fellow Chicagoan Nobue (@VVVSnow) before dropping our stuff in the penthouse.

A view from the penthouse. Living the WUGner high life, baby!

We spent Friday the rest of Friday in Osaka gaijining around in Nipponbashi and Dotonbori while the rest of our crew slowly arrived. We found a Gamers (otaku goods store) that had a WUG section and cleaned that shit out. After a nice dinner or Osaka fried stuff and a few cans of Strong Zero, I was mentally ready to see WUG four times over the next two days.

Message we left WUG on a board at Gamers in Osaka.

Day 1 (October 6)

The Osaka leg of WUG Final Tour Part II took place over two days (Saturday and Sunday), with a morning and afternoon session each day. Even when I talked about this to my parents, who know nothing about this stuff, my mom thought it must be really tiring for the performers. WUG are just that good, I guess.

The lives took place in Namikiri Hall which is in a suburb of Osaka called Kishiwada. It was around a 40 minute train ride from Nanba Station in downtown Osaka.

Namikiri Hall
Line for buppan. Being a North American-based WUGner, this is the most WUGners I have ever seen in one place in my life.
Insti (@Instigare) makes his appearance. That troll.
Kaigai WUGner crew is all ready!

I was with Vestro (he is one of my editors over at Anime Maru) for the afternoon session. We had pretty good seats, in the lower level, row 14, off to the left just a bit (stage right). We took our seats  and noticed that RPG soundtracks were playing. We looked a bit confused at each other but we figured it was just some music to keep us entertained as we waited for the show to start. Eventually, “Time’s Scar” (from Chrono Cross) started playing and everyone got pretty into it. Right as it ended, the lights dimmed.

The opening video introduced this (slightly corny) fantasy setting where a dragon has conquered the universe and enslaved humanity, who must use the power of imagination to defeat it. At this point, “Suki no Skill” started, with the girls on stage performing behind a transparent screen that projected special effects into it.

Low-rez officially released pictures I managed to find definitely do not do justice to how cool “Suki no Skill” looked.

Next, another video played and it appeared to be an RPG parody of 16-bit Mayu going around gathering a party and defeating enemies. It looked like they literally made it in RPG Maker and there were a bunch of cute references and jokes about old school RPG’s. It was a creative little piece, but I was never a huge fan of wedging a song between two videos and I was eager to see WUG perform again. On screen, Mayu’s party of Nanami, Kaya, and Yoppi finally encounter the big dragon. Immediately, the stage is lit, the transparent curtain falls, and “Outlander Rhapsody” starts.

Mayu, Nanami, Kaya, and Yoppi are on stage in their cool black fantasy costumes with capes and swords and pretending to fight this dragon that was being displayed on the screens built into the stage.

“Outlander Rhapsody” is a cute little song that I don’t think many WUGners pay much attention to (it was performed at 3rd Live). Seeing it re-imagined and re-choreographed as a sword fight against a 7-headed dragon was so incredibly cool.

Just when our heroes start struggling against this powerful foe during the bridge of the song, I hear Airi’s voice call out behind me, offering to help. I turn around and Airi is standing right in front of me in the aisle two rows behind our seats. I could not believe I was this close to a member of WUG. After we all cheered and yelled, Airi (with Miyu and Minami in the other sections) ran up to the stage to help our heroes.

The dragon slain, Mayu did this cool sword twirl. This live was off to a great start. Now every time this formerly forgettable single B-side comes on, the memories will forever be entwined by one of the coolest song performances I’ve ever seen.

“Little Challenger” was next, and it was framed as the conclusion to our heroes’ adventure. It was a calming song and showed the world becoming free now that the dragon was defeated.

These first three songs really crystallize what makes WUG great. For as long as they existed, they have tried to do things differently; from bus tours to self-produced solo events. The formal name of this leg of the tour is “Fantasia”, and WUG went extra lengths, sometimes teetering on the border of original and gimmicky, to create an unexpected and memorable experience that reflects that theme.

My previous post about the tendency of Aqours to rely heavily on non-performance videos and intermissions predictably generated a lot of response. One of the responses that have stuck with me is a commentor who said they preferred a “more dynamic performance and fewer songs” which until now I could not understand. WUG — with practical effects, crafting a narrative, songs used in different ways, creative choreography — has finally demonstrated to me what that statement means. This is what a dynamic performance looks like.

“Unmei no Megami” was next which was yet another treat because it’s my favorite I-1 Club song. I love how swingy this song is, and the girls have the best facial expressions while performing it.

Then, “Jewelry Wonderland” really slowed everything down and gave the live a nice, chill vibe.

A goofy comedy corner followed, where the girls perform this wacky convenience store skit which is kind of hard to explain (partially because I understood like 40% of it). We are in Osaka, after all. Anyway, Nanamin did a deep funny voice, and the girls were all very silly.

After the girls went backstage to change, Mayu had us all sit down talked to us a little bit. Mayu is from Osaka, so the live centered a little bit around her. We got to hear her “Non Stop Diamond Hope”, which is a song that is on the B-side of each girl’s 3rd character song and has unique lyrics for everyone. It’s a great tune with really fun calls and the dark Namikiri Hall with all red glowsticks looks like some kind of satanic temple. I know it’s asking for a lot, but I wish we got to hear Mayu’s A-side 3rd character song, “Yume Massugu” this weekend, which is one of my favorite character songs that has an dazzling chorus that shows off her vocal talent.

I really did not expect “Ah Hikarizuka Kagekidan” this weekend, but it was overwhelming cute, ending with Yoshino holding Mayu’s hand while kneeling.

After a pretty long intermission where they read through the script to a story that is again hard to describe, the room was in a pretty eager mood. That’s when “Polaris” came on.

“Polaris” live takes on a completely different energy compared to just listening to it or watching it. It’s quite a cute song, but it’s very energetic when performed live and is an important set piece of the entire performance. The furicopy and singalong at the end brings the entire audience together, and in that moment the thousands in the performance hall and WUG were one.

Polaris is the North Star, around which all the stars in the night sky rotate. The seven stars of the big dipper point towards Polaris and is a useful asterism for lost travelers to determine which direction is north. And just like the seven stars of WUG point towards their ultimate dreams and destiny, so too do the countless stars representing everyone who supports them, locked together in an eternal procession through the heavens.

A short video of various behind the scenes clips followed. It was a montage of WUG moments through the years 2015 through 2017. I could not help but get teary-eyed thinking about how far the girls have come.

One of the major concerns I had for this live was the setlist; I was not impressed by the setlist for part 1, which I felt emphasized new songs which are great, but not great enough to warrant the exclusion of “7 Girls War”. I remember talking about this with some old school WUGners while I was in Montreal for Otakuthon earlier this year. They reassured me that perhaps WUG was just exploring some of their new songs and would definitely hit up their classics in Part II, but I still had a deep-seated fear I would never hear “7 Girls War” live again.

At this point I was having an absolute blast with the live. Wake Up, Girls! live was already shaping up to everything I expected it to be, and Polaris injected a great unifying energy into the crowd. So you can imagine the excitement everyone felt right when the video ended, the lights came on, and “7 Girls War” started. Things were moving at light speed and I could barely react. There is no universe in which “7 Girls War” is not hype.

During “7 Girls War”, the girls again came over to the back aisle so I before I knew it, I was again 10 feet away from Airi (and Miyu). A verse later, they switched places and Minami and Nanami came over to our side.

This is the part of “7 Girls War” where Airi was in our section. Vestro can be seen in the green circle. I am next to him but blocked from view :/

Before I go into how I felt being so close to my oshimen, I would like to talk about being 10 feet away from the Tanaka Minami. Minya is not the shortest member of WUG, but she is tiny. She has wonderful features and her pale skin looked like it was almost glowing. In her fitted dress and twintails she looked like a doll dancing in front of me.

Nanami was not directly in front of me like Minami was, but she was dancing in front of our section. I yelled as loud as I could and held my glowstick as high as I could. Right before she went back up to the stage, I got eye contact and a wave in my direction directly at me, of course. I couldn’t believe I was so close to these girls who live half a world away whom I typically just see on a screen. This is why eventing is the best fucking hobby in the world.

“Tachiagare” was next, the mother song of WUG. I feel like experiencing this song live and doing the calls is a kind of religious rite of passage for all WUGners. I am so grateful to finally experience it.

Things slowed down with “Shizukunokanmuri” and “Beyond the Bottom”, a pair of lovely songs that really show off WUG’s singing talent. I am so impressed that after hours of surely tiring dancing, the girls are still able to harmonize and hit every note so gracefully. Over the years, these girls have gotten so incredibly talented.

The encore call felt like it lasted forever. But eventually the girls came out in a formation of five that looked oddly familiar. My mind immediately jumped to “Seventeen Crisis”.

If I had to pick, I would say “Seventeen Crisis” is my favorite WUG song (I love my hipster picks). The song debuted in 2nd Live and I when I saw it was performed in Part I of Final Tour, I thought for sure I had missed my opportunity to see it live. It’s the only 5-person WUG song, and when Yoppi and Minami ran in at the last moment to make it seven, I thought I had been faked out.

So when “Seventeen Crisis” started I completely LOST MY MIND. This song that I’ve listened to since the start of my love affair with WUG, this song that I’ve long accepted I would never hear live, this song that is my favorite song of my favorite group, was being performed live. And I was there.

WUG still performed “Seventeen Crisis” as a 5-person song with Yoppi and Minami acting the first part out on stage, which was incredibly cute. The choreography is awesome and the chorus absolutely kicks with this hype-ass dance beat.

I remember the first time I saw this song while watching 2nd Live. I have up to that point never seen an idol shine as brilliantly on stage as Miyu during her solo. It’s really hard to pin down exactly, but I feel like that was the moment I really fell in love with WUG. I still can’t believe I got to see Miyu’s solo again in real life, and she shines ten thousand times more brilliantly in real life. “Seventeen Crisis” is a special song to me, and in the parade of memorable moments that weekend, it is surely near the top.

WUG was wearing their cute dresses from this year’s Anisama, which they introduced. “Heartline” followed, the WUG song that arguably has the most fun calls. I’ll talk more about this song in my Day 2 writeup.

The final song was “Shoujo Koukyoukyoku”, another exclusion from Part I that I was glad to see back in. “Shoujo Koukyoukyoku” has long been one of my favorite songs and seeing the famous hips in real life was quite the experience.

It was all over before I knew it, but that was OK. Because I would be seeing the whole thing again in 2 hours. And then twice again the next day! What a great weekend this is going to be.

I was with MEM for the night session on the second level. It was very much a similar experience except the seats were crappier. The major setlist change we got was “16-sai no Agape” instead of “Tachiagare”. I thought I would feel weird about it because a WUG live without “Tachiagare” is a crime against nature, but “16-sai no Agape” kicks ass and I was going to hear “Tachiagare” again tomorrow anyway.

We returned to our penthouse after which MEM collapsed and could not be awoken again. For someone who slept so much on the plane that guy was just completely out of energy. The old geezer in me could still keep going, so we decided to hit up an izakaya and get some food. Kids these days…

Day 2 Event Report can be found here