8th March 2019. #3月8日はSSA. A date I will remember for a long while. Not because for the whole day I have been tweeting with this hashtag. Not because I accomplished a milestone in my life. It was for a seiyuu-idol unit called 'Wake Up, Girls!'. Why so you might ask. Let me share from how it all started to how it got to how it is now.
Since young I have been loving music, listening to various genres of various languages. I even went for concerts and autograph events of my favourite mando-pop artistes way back when I was just a Secondary school student. It was also around that period I was attracted to J-pop. Mainly by the legend, Hamasaki Ayumi. For almost every day while commuting to school, I would be listening to her songs and wished that one day I can attend her concert. Which I till date regret for never been to one.
Fast forward to my polytechnic days, I got to know AKB48 which was the first artiste/group that I got really invested on, both monetarily and time. For a few months in 2011, they were brought to Singapore for monthly performances and opened a shop selling various goods. It was the first time I personally experienced an idol concert, making me realize they are totally different from other concerts, even when compared to J-pop in general. There are special calls, mixes and chants - fan calls in layman term, and most importantly interactions. There were handshake events where you can have chance to converse with them for a few seconds. And subsequently when I ventured to other idol groups, 2shot events - polaroid shot with an idol, offkai sessions - after concert event where fans get to interact with the idols (in plain clothes) over dinner or some finger foods.
In 2012, AKB48 released their own anime called AKB0048 which made me start venturing into anime/games with idols in the plot, discovering titles and series like Macross, iDOLM@STER, Love Live.
Love Live was like the next turning point where I started being more interested in idol anime. In my first trip to Japan in 2014, I even spent a day doing pilgrimage to the locations the Love Live anime was based on. It was also around that period where there were many changes in AKB48, many members that I like were either graduated (left the group to pursue other careers), or not treated fairly by the management and eventually left. With the hate for the management and having not as much interest in the new members, I left the AKB48 fandom and concentrated on anime idols, and eventually also on chika idols (underground idols not in mainstream).
However, as Love Live transited from their first generation members to their second generation, my interest in the series waned. Especially so when the fan base started to get what was called 'cancerous', simply obnoxious and spreads unpleasantness both within the fan community and outside.
While I was invested into Love Live, I was also keeping tabs on other idol anime and one of them happens to be Wake Up, Girls. It looked promising enough that just within the first couple episodes that was aired in Japan back in January 2014, I have decided to preorder the first press limited editions of their Blu-ray and their singles.
First volume of the BD and the singles of the OP and ED (2014)
The series is so down to earth, realistic yet interesting, had great music even though with just three songs (7 Girls War, Tachiagare, Kotonoha no Aoba), and touches on my weak spot. The seiyuu-idol unit and the series were formed to help in the restoration efforts in Touhoku region which was greatly affected by the 11th March tsunami in 2011.
Wake Up, Girls! Season 1 Episode 09 (2014)
I gradually started to be very invested in WUG and became simply a casual in many other idol groups I follow or just dropped them totally. WUG eventually became pretty everything in my leisure time that I prioritized them over any other hobbies I have – gaming, crafting, cycling, etc.
In 2016, I decided that I should attend their LIVEs, at least on a yearly basis. I attended their 3rd LIVE Tour at their Sendai stop, skipping two days of Tokyo Idol Festival.
And just a day before that stop, their short performance at the KHB Tanabata Festa in Kotodai Park.
The place and stage where they performed on is the most sacred pilgrimage location as it was where all it started in the anime series. Coincidentally (or not), it's the same for me as a fan as well, where in the series the first WUG fan first witnessed their performance here. It is kind of hard to express fully the feelings and emotions I had when I got to see them in person for the first time. Purely happiness and excitement. Stronger than it was back then when I first saw AKB48 members in person.
Fast forwarding again, to 15th June 2018 when the disbandment announcement was made. I cried for a few nights and ended up not in the mood to do anything, even though I am on a vacation. Having seen them grow from being fresh talents to the well-polished group they are now and with a fan community who are mostly friendly and considerate. WUG, the fans and the staffs, as a whole, felt like a big family. Fans I met help each other out, not out to profit from each other, and sincerely care for each other even if only met for the first time. Thus, it felt more than just a simple disbandment. It felt close to as if parting with family members. It reached that level of emotions. Since that day, I was already at a lost and occasionally in denial. Flying to Japan to attend as much LIVEs as possible.
In a matter of fact, since the day I went for WUG 4th LIVE TOUR I already had some bad vibes. I initially intended to just attend their live tours yearly but after their 4th, there was a inner drive in me to attend as much events as possible before they will possibly be gone. I subsequently went for FESTA 2017, WUGRis Valentine Live 2017, their 3rd Bus tour which includes their 5th Anniversary LIVE. The bus tour was memorable both in a very good way and frankly speaking, in a little disappointed way. I had a lot of expectations before it, mainly coming from videos and what people talked about in the past two bus tours. But it turned out to be more like a bus tour with WUG as Guest of Honor than ‘WUG Bus Tour’. Nonetheless, the bus tour was still a very enjoyable one and through it I made a lot of new friends amongst the fans that attended. This was where I got introduced into a WUG discord group consisting of fans from all over the world, where everyone is just warm and accommodating, like a family.
I failed to attend the Green Leaves Fes as I had to take leave from work to return to Singapore to settle some issues and to celebrate my birthday (same day as Green Leaves Fes) with my family, even though I have won the tickets in the fan club ballot.
WUG 4th LIVE TOUR Zepp Tokyo (2017)
WUG Festa goods (2017)
Valentine Live Chocolate (2018)
Boarding the bus at Sendai for the bus tour (2018)
Ticket to the 5th Anniversary Live at the end of the bus tour (2018)
Then the announcement came. Like a bomb. I was already half expecting that in my brain but not in my heart. This made me want to attend more before it's all over. Subsequently, they announced their FINAL LIVE TOUR which consisted of three parts. Spanning from July 2018 all the way to February 2019, it was the longest live tour I have ever seen. Even though I couldn’t attend every single stop of each part due to work, I managed to attend one stop of each. The tour ended with the last stop of PART III being in Sendai, which I told myself and others that I no matter what I am going to attend. It means a lot to me as it was where it all started. I needed to end it there so that I can move on better after they disband. Like the theme of the FINAL TOUR, ‘HOME’, Sendai is the home of WUG, and the ‘home’ of the fandom. It is the place where I made a lot of fellow fans who became friends that felt like family, making the place even more like our home, in our hearts.
FINAL TOUR PART I (2018)
FINAL TOUR PART II (2018)
Attended ANIMEJAM 2018 for WUG too (2018)
FINAL TOUR PART III (2019)
In between the stops that I attended in PART I and PART II of the FINAL TOUR, there was two fan meets in August and September of 2018, which I also attended. The fan meets were only open to fan club members and tickets were acquired like usual, through a ballot. I was lucky to be able to get both afternoon and evening sessions of both of the fan meets and am very grateful to be able to be able to attend. The fan meets were like one of the best events I have attended and totally unforgettable. They revealed footages from behind the scenes, audition videos, embarrassing videos that were never released even on their fan club site. Watching the videos and seeing the WUG members react to them, while they tease each other, it really gives the fuzzy feeling and makes the whole place like a big ‘home’.
Fan Meetings at Hachioji and Kawasaki (2018)
With each time flying back, the feel of lost gets stronger. Throughout the days since the announcement, I would be randomly cry in my sleep. Waking up with red eyes, teared up eyes. Occasionally staring into space, feeling the emptiness to come. Occasionally not being able to work properly. Occasionally, needed their help in various ways. I am really sorry to my colleagues that I affected and grateful in the unconditional help they always give me, especially the period where I got really ill in between my trips. They truly do feel like family members too.
Finally, the day arrived. The day many of us fans dreaded but will be there, nonetheless. The final of everything. The FINAL LIVE of Wake Up, Girls!. #3月8日はSSA. The hashtag that flooded my twitter, along with #WUG_JP #WUG_SSA #ありがとうWUGちゃん, which I myself lost count of how many times I used them. With every time the hashtags filled with emotions. Saitama Super Arena, where the live was held, was extremely huge compared to the past lives WUG had. WUG lives has always been in halls and theatres which are not big as they believed in being close to fans, being able to see our faces and that similarly we can see them clearly too. Decisions like this and how some set list is made by the WUG members themselves, really makes it feel that WUG really cares about and love us fans.
This time round, the arena may be huge, but it was still filled full with love. And it was not just from WUG and us fans. There was also their own families, many people they have worked with in the past years, other artistes and groups they have worked with, including big names like May’n. The love can also be felt outside the FINAL LIVE, in shops, hotels, at the train stations and practically all over Sendai.
Throughout the live, everyone’s emotions are at the peak and overflowing, with lots of sniffling and sobbing. Especially so when WUG members read out their letters written for us and for each other. Every word they read out are just so filled with emotions and love. It really make this disbandment felt as if parting with dearly loved family members.
FINAL LIVE (2019)
WUG Discord Flowerstand
My message balloon on はなしごと flowerstand
Now that everything has come to an end. I need to start recovering financially and emotionally. So far I have experienced many actual idols graduate, groups disband, idols entangled in scandals and eventually leave, but this is my first to feel this much emotion. Frankly speaking, I'm still not ready to let go even after saying ‘sayonara’ softly during the end of 'Sayonara no Parade' at the FINAL LIVE. I am still going to buy their merchandises be it from second hand sources, am still going to follow each of the seven members in their own careers after April and have already made plans to go Sendai again. It will not be so soon though.
Revisited the place where I first seen WUG perform. Roughly the area I sat back then.
Like what WUG members have said, this is not the end, it is simply the beginning for the next chapter. In fact, the day right after the final live, I went to attend a stage play in Shinjuku where one of the members, Okuno Kaya (Kayatan), was performing in. It was a great experience and I commend how professional Kayatan is. Being able to act out perfectly without showing any signs fatigue or sadness, even though the final live just ended the day before.
Project Tokyo Dolls stage play (2019)
The Sendai performance in February was the full stop. The final live in March was the moving on to the next chapter. Being able to attend both of these is a blessing.
Lastly, I would like to say..
Thank you for these 6 years.