LISTENERS – 01 (First Impressions) – The Day After the Music Died

In a world where “Players” pilot “Equipment” and fight “Earless” with music, Echo Rec lives in the sleepy town of Liverchester, which shuns all of that—or at least the grouchy Mayor does. That’s probably due to the massive crater of destruction left by Players ten years ago.

Echo is content to sift through the mountains of junk, looking for treasures he uses to build his own Equipment as a hobby. One day, he finds a sleeping young woman partially buried in the junk with an input jack in her lower back—the mark of a Player.

Echo takes her home—a bar called Oasis run by his big sister Swell—and after being yelled at by the mayor, he takes her upstairs. When he tells her he’s fascinated by her she momentarily thinks he’s coming on to her, but he’s actually geeking out about her status as a Player, even if she doesn’t remember that, or even her name.

When he tells her his dream of building an Equipment that a Player can use to fight the Earless, she wonders why he doesn’t just stand up and live that dream. But Echo doesn’t think that’s possible; for his young age, he’s an old soul and a pragmatic one who, dreams aside, has set limits for himself.

The girl is put off by his lack of ambition, and heads to the train station (where she spends all night outside?) while Echo falls asleep finishing his Equipment (which has the resting form of a VOX amp, prized by professional rockers). The next morning, the Earless attack—giant versions of the black shadow monsters of ICO—Echo races to the station.

The girl has already saved the Mayor’s life, then dives in to a pit of junk Echo trips and falls down. Rather than dying, she hooks the amp into her jack and it transforms into a somewhat retro mech. With the girl and Echo riding on its shoulders controlling it, the mech defeats all of the Earless.

Echo’s dream thus realized in record time, he gives the girl a name—Myuu—and the two jump on a train bound for more interesting places than quiet Liverchester, without any luggage or supplies. The giant “Monument of Admonition” topples, the Mayor somewhat awkwardly reiterates the themes of the show to no one in particular, and one of three sinister Player sisters declares that she’s “found” Myuu, setting up a Player clash next week.

LISTENERS has an interesting setting but a somewhat confusing premise: there’s no concept of music in this world? Like, at all? I’m not sure that was that clearly explained, or even accurately depicted. This wasn’t A Quiet Place territory where any sound would attract monsters. There was music playing on the TV-jukebox thingy at Oasis!

Stylistically speaking I kinda liked the clashing of Eureka Seven futurism with industrial north-of-England dinginess, but in both look and sound I’ll admit I found Echo a bit annoying while his and Myuu’s wardrobes were overly baggy. Dialogue is oftentimes overly hoaky, wholesome, or repetitive. The CGI…looked like CGI, competently rendered but lacking weight and inventiveness and pulling me out of the fantasy rather than in.

I’m also not what you’d call a music buff; it’s always been something in the background to either help me dance or work. I also gave up on Carole & Tuesday when I just couldn’t do it with the sappy English lyrics anymore. But unless I’m missing something, this first episode’s connection to music, and rock-in-roll in particular seemed…tenuous? It’s a good-looking (if a bit gray) and fun enough opening. I just wasn’t convinced I need Listeners in my life.

Wave, Listen to Me! – 01 (First Impressions) – She’s Got Something to Say

Wave, Listen to Me! is a lot of fun. That is to say, it’s fun, and it’s also…a lot. The opening minutes is a surreal scenario in which late-night radio talk show host Koda Minare finds herself in the woods, face-to-face with a big brown bear. She tackles fluffy write-in comments from listeners that are well beneath the urgency of her present life-threatening situation.

But it’s all an illusion; we’re seeing what a radio listener would imagine, and we see it vividly because Minare is such a good audio performer. Her producers and assistants are along for the ride as she starts riffing off-script, drawing from her own extensive emotional baggage. It’s not just what you say on the radio waves that matters, but how you say it.

You can see why a radio programming director like Katou Kanetsugu would switch on his phone’s voice recorder upon encountering Koda Minare in the midst of the fifth—and worst—day of Getting Over a Tragedy; in this case her boyfriend breaking up with her. Minare is just her own unvarnished self, but Katou can sense the innate talent within her, and can’t let it go to waste.

Minare goes home, blacks out (though not before perfectly arranging her shoes in the genkan) wakes up, puts herself back together, and has a good therapeutic cry watching Ghost Ship (though her friend recommended Ghost). Then, while working at the soup curry restaurant Voyager, she suddenly hears herself drunkenly ranting on the radio during a “lonely hearts” show called September Blue Moon.

Minare drops what she’s doing (risking firing by her uptight boss), hops into her adorable little Daihatsu Mira Gino, races to the station, marches into the studio, and demands that they shut off her ranting immediately. Matou tells her three seconds of radio silence is a gaffe, and eight gets him canned, so if she wants it shut off, she’ll have to provide new material.

Surely knocked off balance, both by her recent relationship woes ( and associated bender) and the fact there’s always going to be something dreamlike, surreal, and disorienting about hearing yourself on the radio, to say nothing of being thrust into the recording booth, having a mic shoved in your face, and being asked to start talking when you get the signal.

When that signal comes in the form of a tap on the back, Minare comes out of the gate blazing, backtracking on her drunken stereotyping and hoping for the opportunity to judge a future partner by his unique individuality and not toss in a box based on his region of origin.

She closes by vowing to kill her ex Mitsuo even if she has to chase him to the end of the earth. Matou’s gamble pays off: Minare has “it”. She was born for this. It’s cathartic and thrilling to behold…and reminded me of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel of all things!

What’s so satisfying about Matou finding her and giving her the opportunity to talk on the radio is how much it fits her personality. While she has her own private life (and inner monologue that only we hear), whenever she’s around others she’s going to talk, talk and talk some more, especially when she’s on the sauce. It’s high time she made money doing this, right?!

This all works thanks to crackling, realistic dialogue and a brash, bravura performance by Sugiyama Riho, whose robust, confrontational, delinquent-ish voice reminds me of prime Sawashiro Miyuki and Shiraishi Ryouko. It will be interesting to see what other scenarios like the bear attack the producers come up with, as well as to see if and how Minare balances restaurant work, broadcasting, and finding a new partner…or just finding her ex and killing him!

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 10 – Goodbye, Dolly

When Misaki and Mikoto hit a major traffic jam, Misaki summons the power of the “Exterior” to brainwash every driver in their path to pull aside, thus clearing a path. It’s clearly a significant effort for Misaki, pushing Mental Out to its limits. From there, we learn about how her ability was developed at the same facility as Prototype, perhaps the first Mikoto clone. Her nickname, “Dolly” is a reference to the first successfully cloned sheep.

Dolly ‘s handlers have been unable to make progress with her ever since her friend “Mi-chan” (heavily implied to have been Kozaku Mitori) went away. The white coats (who distressingly see both Dolly and Misaki as merely test samples to be used and disposed of as needed) conscript Misaki to be Dolly’s new lab-issued friend.

Misaki uses Mental Out to brainwash Dolly into believing she’s Mi-chan. Misaki was just as haughty back then, so she’s initialy feels his whole enterprise to be a hassle…until she becomes fast friends with Dolly. Like the girl who was cloned to create her, Dolly is far more athletic than Misaki, as evidenced by her far superior garbage can aim.

At the same time, Misaki tries to impress upon Dolly the importance of growing into a refined lady—a losing battle she picks up with Mikoto, to a degree. Without even intending to go along with the white coats, Misaki ends up restoring Dolly’s “inner peace”, allowing research on her to continue without emotional anomalies.

More than that, Misaki forms a real emotional bond with Dolly, blushing when Dolly suddenly hugs her—and pointedly smells out the deception. The two are simply playing around until Dolly suddenly collapses, her clone body shutting down.

It’s then, when she reaches her hand out for a distraught Misaki, that Dolly asks her her name. It dawns on Misaki that Dolly knew she wasn’t Mi-chan, but kept the fiction going because she was happy to have a new friend, and grateful to Misaki for being one. Dolly’s death is a gut punch.

The white coats are then frustrated when Misaki is the one in emotional turmoil, as if it never occurred to them she’d have these things called feelings. Call it professional detachment from one’s scientific subjects…but Misaki is human, for chrissakes! Showing no deference to them, Misaki uses her Mental Out on all of them and learns the truth: once they’re done tinkering with her, she’ll meet the same fate as Dolly.

The Exterior project continues, with part of Misaki’s brain removed and cultivated into a huge brain, which serves as a booster for her powers—and which is what she used to part traffic back in the present. It’s also the “DNA Computer” the urban legends site mentioned. By the time she and Mikoto arrive at Exterior, Kihara Gensei’s forces have already infiltrated, forcing Misaki’s associate Keitz to flee to the roof with 10032.

But Misaki is too late: Kihara tunes the giant brain to his own brainwaves, bypassing the need for length registration and enabling him to use Mental Out. He uses it to freeze Keitz, takes his phone, and uses it to trash talk Misaki, revealing that it was he who instructed Kiyama Harumi on how to use Level Upper.

He then removes all of the protection placed on MISAKA 10032, something First Order immediately notices while playing cards with Accelerator in a hospital room. Then Kihara injects a kind of mental virus into 10032, which is instantaneously transmitted to all other Sisters in the network, knocking them all out.

Mikoto arrives on the rooftop just in time for Kihara to trigger her dormant esper powers. She’s revealed to be his main target all along, as he hopes she’ll be the first to achieve a stable Level 6. Several floors below, Misaki no longer has access to Exterior, while Touma manages to track down Saten as she’s exiting the factory with Xochitl.

The main pair of powerful lasses, then, will need some outside help if they’re going to have a chance of escaping Kihara’s clutches. Mikoto looks completely out of control—half-Akira, half-Little Prince—or worse, under Kihara’s control. Will spirited, virtuous youth win out over the greed and contempt of an old man with a Gorbachev birthmark? We shall see…

Elfen Lied – 04 – Remembering a Strange Dream

Poor Nana never had a chance.

Not just when it came to going toe-to-toe with Lucy, but throughout her tortured existence. All but brainwashed by Kurama to do his bidding as some kind of superhuman replacement daughter, Nana sought his approval any way she could, whether it was taking on the task of bringing Lucy in, to going beyond her mandate and trying to punish Lucy for the trouble she caused.

All the while, Nana and Lucy would be on the same side, as both are victims of the utterly inhuman research Kurama and his criminal ilk have been undertaking. Instead, Nana is Kurama’s puppet, giving Lucy no choice but to turn against her own kind to preserve her freedom.

Nana’s vectors may be longer, but Lucy’s pack a bigger punch, and she’s more experienced in their use. But none of her shortcomings matter to Nana: she has a job to do and she’s going to do it…or die.

Things reach a boiling point between Kouta and Yuka, with the latter sick and tired of him talking about nobody but Nyu, Nyu, Nyu. She slugs him and runs off, but later regrets it, considering Kouta is suffering and Nyu is little more than a young child in need of care and guidance, and definitely not a romantic rival.

Then there’s Mayu, whom Yuka sees getting her daily bag of free bread crusts on which to live. Mayu ends up witnessing the battle between Lucy and Nana and tries to get them to stop fighting. Nana, not willing to cause collateral casualties, withdraws her vectors from Lucy, giving Lucy an opening to relieve Nana of her arms and legs in what is, and is supposed to be, a sickening spectacle.

Kurama and his men arrive, surrounding Lucy, but she manages to slip away, leaving Kurama with a critically wounded but still conscious Nana. He can’t very well scold her for disobeying orders, since he knows all she ever wanted to do was please him and make him proud, like any daughter would.

While transporting her back to the lab, Kurama receives a summons from his boss, Secretary Shirakawa. Yuka manages to run into Lucy, who has transformed back into Nyu, and Yuka realizes she erred in being jealous of her.

Mayu, whom Lucy tossed into a tree for safety during the battle, ends up in the hospital, and calls Kouta to pick her up, since she clearly has no one else. The two arrive at Kouta’s house to find both Yuka and Nyu home, and the four have dinner together. Yuka and Kouta agree that the homeless Mayu should spend the night, considering they have plenty of rooms to spare.

Shirakawa orders Kurama to kill Nana, as she’s no longer useful to their plans. It’s a gut-wrenching scene, and I wept bitter tears for poor Nana, a gentle soul who was never given a chance. It’s apparent Kurama also grieves for Nana, but the fact is he played an active role in her lifelong bondage and suffering, as well as that of Lucy who knows how many others. I for one hope he pays for that at some point.

Perhaps Nana’s early exit was a mercy; who knows what further carnage and torment await Lucy and other Dicloniï, representing both the future of humanity and the manifestation of their collective sins.