Wave, Listen to Me! – 12 (Fin) – Don’t Stop the Signal

The final episode of Wave begins with a high school-aged Mizuho conferring with Kureno about her future. Specifically, she only dreams of becoming an assistant director for a radio station, as she’s more “behind the scenes” in nature. Kureno warns her that most stations won’t give someone with such small (if realistic) goals the time of day.

From there we go back to the present, and to another radio station entirely, where—bombshell—Makie turns out to be “Joker Skonsky”, making her first in-studio appearance. It’s something she keeps to herself, even when Nakamura finds her celebrating by herself with a couple drinks. And why not? After having her life controlled by her bro for so long, she absolutely deserves to go out there and do things by herself and for herself.

Nakamura doesn’t pry, he just tells her he’ll be opening his own restaurant soon, and if she ever needs a paying job, she’ll have one there. It’s a very sweet exchange that never feels the need to get too romantic or dramatic. What it feels like is two good friends on the same wavelength.

Later that night, Minare’s latest Wave broadcast begins with her reading listener submissions from the website and Twitter, responding to them, and eventually picking a winner. It’s actually a pretty standard bit for a show, but since it’s the first time her normally abnormal show is doing it, it has potential to be fresh.

Minare only makes it two minutes in until a 6.8 earthquake rocks the entire island of Hokkaido, knocking out power everywhere. Naturally the station has backup power, so Matou directs Minare to change gears and offer emergency information. At first I thought the shaking was dramatic license, but then suddenly it dawned on me that “oh shit it’s an earthquake!”

In other words, I had the exact same reaction as the first time I experienced an earthquake for real. It’s so strange and disorienting on a primal level, I can’t imagine having to not only keep a radio broadcast going but staying on message and not messing up.

Indeed, you can tell Minare is a bit off initially. Even though she’s pretty dang good at improvisation, she literally never saw herself as a news-reader, which is essentially what she becomes until people start sending messages about their current state.

Matou shows her a note to stop acting like an amateur, and she snaps out of it, returning to her “normal” energetic radio voice as she reads and reacts to the messages.

There’s a sense of community and solidarity continuing the show helps to cultivate even in times when the power’s out and no one knows when it will be back. People need to be comforted, and Minare’s in a unique position to comfort them simply by keeping things as breezy and mundane as possible. It surely means a lot to those who reached out to be personally reassured on the radio!

Meanwhile, the first thing Makie thinks of when the lights go out is “how can we help others?” The answer is heading to Voyager and cooking up some hot food for those who will need it. She and Nakamura get approval from the boss (who was out with Makie’s brother and wants the Gagarin curry out of his freezer anyway) and get to work. Nakamura and Makie really do make a great team.

Before she knows it, Minare’s typically 20-minute program is extended to 90 minutes, finally ending at 5:00AM when Madoka arrives to relieve her and provide relief with her celebrity voice. She even puts on a classic song about looking up at the stars, because what else are you gonna do when the lights are out in the city?

Minare heads to the nap room feeling great about her future in radio, but when Makie and Nakahara flag her down to give her a ride to Voyager to help out, she realizes she can (and should) keep room for a day and night job to make ends meet.

So ends Wave, an anime that marched to the beat of its own drum with its unique and assertive voice and thoroughly fascinating heroine. However accurate it is to real-world radio industry, it certainly felt (and sounded) more than sufficiently convincing for someone like me who doesn’t know a lot about it going in.

It was a strong and surprisingly cozy ending, demonstrating that whatever content you bring to the broadcast table, what’s most important is keeping the signal going, speaking clearly, and connecting with your listeners, making them feel heard and making sure they know you know they’re listening. Whether it’s a Terry Gross interview or the Shipping Forecast, there’s really nothing quite like radio.

Wave, Listen to Me! – 11 – Cough Up the Karma

Minare’s latest weird late-night occult/philosophy radio show continues as Mitsuo climbs out of the ground with his broken neck bent 90 degrees to the side. He invites Minare and “Matt” deep below the Sea of Trees where there’s a reincarnation of Asama-no-Okami (the deity personifying Mt. Fuji), who in turn will offer to take their karma and decided where they’ll be reincarnated, and as whom.

I have to admit, it’s all a bit trippy and bizarre, but aside from a few snickers (the deity decides to send all three to Sweden for their next lives because of it’s “established welfare”), it wasn’t really the funniest bit? More than a comedy, it’s meant to take hold of listeners as they determine which of the three people they’re most like: Matt, who murdered dozens for his work; Mitsuo, who wants to come back as someone who’s more aware of when he’s hurting others…or Minare, who doesn’t want to go to Sweden at all.

At the end of the show, Kureko again leaves a big empty space in the script for Minare to ad-lib, which is what she does best. She provides a litany of things she did in real life to real people (most of whom are listening; and Mitsuo is wearing a neck brace after her suplex), but having all that swept under the rug and being shipped to a new life Sweden isn’t for her. She’s a “wandering Japanese”, with no interest in any other country, and simply wants to return to the Sea of Trees. The deity obliges.

At the post-show meeting, Minare learns the voice of the deity was Chisato and the voice of Mitsuo was Koumoto, while Kureko thinks he got Mitsuo’s character down accurately. When Minare accuses Kureko of hating her for having such huge holes in the script, Matou admits he had Kureko leave lots of opportunities for ad-libbing on purpose, in order to assess and exploit Minare’s inherent adaptability. And adaptability, more than any other quality, is what makes a great radio personality.

Matou informs Minare that her next show will be from an idea she creates, or otherwise acquires from, say, listeners via email or social media. He also encourages her to listen to her favorite personalities on radio to get a feel for the increased freedom the medium provides over TV. That night, Mizuho is worried about Mizuho and her cheerful brave front in the midst of Kureko quitting radio, considering she wanted Kureko on her radio “dream team” once she’s promoted.

That night, Mizuho seems to lean in for a kiss, in what is surely one of the sexiest pieces of animation Wave has turned out—only for her to be rousing Minare to listen to a comic midnight broadcast. Mizuho also tells Minare that Matou is looking for her to create something “wild, living in the moment, and anarchistic”.

Whatever Minare comes up with, she only has one more episode to pull it off. After her momentous victory over Mitsuo, the last two weeks have taken a step back, and overall the show feels like it’s stalled. Still, better to peak in week 9 than not at all!

Wave, Listen to Me! – 10 – The Galactic Campaign

This week, which bears little resemblance to the last, starts with Mizuho asking a departing Kureko if he’s free for a meal sometime. It remains to be seen if Mizuho has feelings for the guy or simply likes and respects him as a friend and mentor, but though Kureko is too busy to commit to anything, Mizuho still wishes him well. All the while, Koumoto, who unsuccessfully courted Mizuho, watches from the shadows…which is kinda creepy!

Whatever Mizuho’s preference in terms of the age of a potential partner, she’s sad to hear that Minare has decided to move out sooner rather than later. Minare has learned from her recent experience that people tend to deteriorate as they come to rely on the kindness of others. She’s even observed that she’s someone predisposed to devoting herself to her partner, feeling as sense of pleasure from spoiling them.

While Minare exhibits signs of growth and self-reflection as part of a larger effort to avoid repeating past mistakes, she also exhibits a blind spot in her relationship to Nakahara. This blind spot is exposed by none other than Makie, who is not only frustrated by what she considers Minare’s continued “toying” with Nakahara, but Nakahara’s lack of interest in her.

There’s every indication Makie wants to move beyond indebted house guest (or refugee, or general object of pity), but whether she’s aware of it or not, Minare is an obstacle to that. For the record, Minare considers Nakahara incompatable simply because he’s so darned self-sufficient: not only is he not one to ask to borrow large sums of money, but he cooks, cleans, and even sows freakin’ leather!

That aside, Matou used Minare’s recordings of her date with Mitsuo (that’s right, she was wired for the whole thing!) in a way Minare did not expect. Rather than broadcast the date either in full or in edited form, he gave the samples of Mitsuo’s voice to a couple of legendary veteran sound engineers who go by the pseudonyms “Katokon and Kakoen”.

Masters of both foley and waveforms, they were able to create a synthetic voice that sounds just like Mitsuo, but can say whatever they require him to say in a broadcast. These two are a couple of colorful characters—you could also call them sound nerds—and Mizuho is delighted by their very old-school foley tricks like beads on fans.

The next episode of Wave, Listen to Me documents the “burial” of Mitsuo by fictional versions of Matou and Minare on a rainy day (to hide the burying sounds). The two foley masters work their magic while Mizuho and Koumoto provide support in this live radio drama.

Once Minare and Matou finish burying Mitsuo, they share a long and passionate kiss…only for Mitsuo’s hand to burst out of the ground and his formerly-lifeless corpse to move and speak anew with the synth voice the master techs devised. Matou’s ultimate goal is to also bury “Minare Koda”, and for a new legendary voice to rise from those ashes. All I can say is so far so good!

Wave, Listen to Me! – 05 – The Irregular at MRS High

Minare arrives at the station with a birthday cake for Mizuho only to find that Matou has already presented her with a cake. Mizuho smooths things over by telling Minare she’s never been happier to celebrate it twice on the same day, and the preparations for Minare’s first broadcast as a pro begin.

Matou has devised a “broadcast gaffe” that will break into and out of the normal late night music a la War of the Worlds. He makes sure Minare understands that the ceiling for success is as high as the stakes are low. There isn’t a sponsor, which means they have a little more leeway to go wild.

Minare takes the barebones, improv-filled script and runs with it. It involves the moment she just killed Mitsuo by stabbing, making good on the threat from her last broadcast. By amazing coincidence, a different woman has bound and gagged Mitsuo and is about to stab him when Minare’s program suddenly interrupts the music.

Had the mundane music continued, she may well have murdered Mitsuo for real. But are these events actually happening? I would say yes, since it isn’t Minare in the role of the murderer, and the woman hasn’t carried out the murder yet. They’re out of sync in a way that’s very advantageous for Mitsuo, who lives to break another heart.

The buildup and countdown to the broadcast gave me goosebumps, in the same manner as the tension and anticipation that immediately preceded a performance in Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, or Hibike! Euphonium. Those are all five-star anime, and I don’t mention them or compare the emotions felt during Minare’s monologue lightly.

As with her previous shows, Sugiyama Riho absolutely knocks it out of the park, taking scarce narrative crumbs and creating a chocolate mocha mille-fille. Minare flubs yet a single word yet comes off as unhinged, vulnerable, empty, grateful, and above all raw and human. She may not know it, but her passion and talent saved Mitsuo’s life.

More importantly, while Minare walked in an emotional mess due to witnessing Nakahara inviting another woman home, she walks out of the station at the crack of dawn feeling like a billion yen. Matou is genuinely impressed, and Mizuho is proud of her.

That night, due to the talk of Martians and UFOs (an homage to War) she dreams of having to save Mitsuo via a nutriet-absorbing facehugger that turns out to be one of Mizuho’s turtles sitting on her face…and shitting in her mouth!

That morning, Minare and Mizuho discover a lively online discussion, which is exactly what Matou both hoped and worked towards, discretely  posting the audio online as if he were an independent listener. As he suspected, Minare’s the kind of voice that creates buzz, and he’s eager to have her create more.

As for Minare, it’s back to working at the curry restaurant a mere five hours after she left the recording booth. And yet a group of men have already come to the restaurant as one of them recognized her voice. Minare loves the attention, and in the break room she declares to Nakahara that from now on she’ll be pursuing her radio career full-on.

She knows that what she felt in that booth and afterwards isn’t something she can get from that white waiter’s tunic—or from a man for that matter!

Wave, Listen to Me! – 04 – The Pleasure of Despair

The first day of Minare’s life gets off to a rough start as in the space of what feels like just a second or two, she oversleeps three hours. It’s a very relatable experience, and why I find myself so invested in Minare as a person. Like any other person, she’s often forced to react to things—good or bad—that come at her quite suddenly.

Far faster than the turtles she agrees to feed. One of those things is the breakfast Mizuho prepared for Minare. It’s so considerate and tasty she jokes that she’d marry Mizuho in a heartbeat and make love to her every night…until she finds the way-too-detailed feeding instructions! Suddenly things aren’t as simple as the seemed.

She sets out on a job-hunting excursion in slim hopes of gaining both an employer and sponsor. When Katou informs her of the massive cost of sponsorship, she basically gives up. But by having Nakahara join her, she finds life suddenly tossing her back into her own job, as Takahara and her replacement were injured in a car accident.

While it’s a dream come true for Nakahara—he always dreamed of running a restaurant as husband and wife—Minare is more ambiguous, and with good reason. Leaving Voyager felt like a step forward; returning there erases that step. And she’s still not sure about Nakahara as a partner; she asks him to wait until she’s 30…which is four years. Nakahara might be the kind of guy to wait that long, but does she really want a man who’ll do that?

Then the fourth woman in the pencil-sketched ED is introduced: Tachibana Makie (Noto Mamiko), the sister of the man who caused the accident involving Takarada. She comes offering her services for free, filling a much-needed labor gap.

She starts out washing dishes, then waits tables, works in the kitchen, and develops a new menu item. She even updates the blog, and gets rave online reviews for her gentle, quiet manner. And yet she seems to make Minare uneasy and suspicious—why would someone go this far on behalf of their brother?

There may be no need to be dubious of Makie’s motives, but because Minare feels something’s off, so do I. In the meantime, Minare comes home from the restaurant to share a meal and booze with Mizuho (whom we see refusing Koumoto’s advances right after regaling him of how she met Mr. Kureko. I also love how Mizuho is voiced by Iwami Manaka—Honda Tooru herself!

While Mizuho is glad Minare is working and making money again (far from a guarantee in these trying times!) she doesn’t want Minare to forget about radio. Whether Mizuho is on orders from someone at the station to encourage Minare or not, she seems to genuinely believe in her talents and doesn’t want her to feel overwhelmed or that Matou is overestimating her.

Life keeps coming at Minare fast on the night of Mizuho’s birthday. Minare gives a curt goodbye to Nakahara and Makie after closing, but doubles back to grab the cake from the kitchen fridge. That’s when he finds Nakahara confronting Makie about staying in the staff room…then offering to let her stay at his place, just as he did with Minare.

Clearly something is going on with Makie that makes her hesitant to go back to her home (if she even has a home). And when you put a man who loves hard-luck cases and a woman in an apparently uncertain emotional place, shenanigans are more than possible. Minare has taken Nakahara for granted as a will-they-won’t-they certainty, but Makie threatens that status quo.

Fortunately (or not), life isn’t done coming at her that night, as she gets a call from Matou urging her to report to the studio immediately to rehearse for a 20-minute slot that will air at 3:30 AM. It’s Go Time. No doubt her experiences with Nakahara Makie, and all the stuff that keeps coming at her will inspire her material. And no doubt it will be eminently watchable.