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! – 09 – The Ecstasy and Agony of the Man-Child

When Minare gets a friendly text from Mitsuo after her bear attack broadcast, her first instinct is to borrow Mizuho’s laptop so she can Google “how to buy a gun” (much tougher in Japan than the U.S.) with which to shoot him, as she promised herself she’d do.

Mizuho calls for calm, and Minare downgrades her intentions to murdering him socially, via doxxing. When Matou and Mizuho both pooh-pooh that idea, Minare agrees to a date at Mt. Moiwa…with no apparent plan in place. Her only prep involves an “aggressive” outfit and dark red lips, knowing he prefers light pink. It’s the little things!

No doubt Minare’s first question going into the date is What gives with the sudden contact after months of nothing? In that regard, it’s fitting that her outfit includes a sleuth’s fedora. It should be noted that Minare has possibly never looked hotter than she does here, and that’s definitely intentional. It’s provocative, yet also self-conscious.

When they first meet up, she can’t help but blush while thinking how he hasn’t changed a bit. It hasn’t been that long, Minare! He then proceeds to throw her off-balance, first by paying for his own cable car ticket (¥1700 per person—not cheap!), then offering up her favorite torimon, and then handing her a brown envelope containing ¥250,000, half of what he owes her. What gives, indeed!

While pondering the possibility of becoming ensnared in an eternal limbo of debt repayment, Minare’s first word in edgewise is an accusation of infidelity by Mitsuo (she heard from a friend he was walking with another girl). That’s when Mitsuo owns up to the fact he indeed befriended a girl, but totally glosses over the particulars of that relationship and goes straight to the story of her trying to stab him.

Mitsuo is hungry and wants curry, and lets it be known by a kind of specific man-child whine that has an almost Pavlovian effect on Minare. However shlumpy this guy looks and how possibly insincere he’s acting, it’s obvious Minare had legitimate feelings for this guy, and there are parts of him that are still thoroughly disarming.

Here’s someone who planned to kill him when he became an abstract bogeyman, but now, in the reality of their reunion and his M.C.T. (Man Child Terror) field, her homicidal designs all but evaporate. Still, once she hears the details of Mitsuo’s brush with death, it doesn’t take long for Detective Koda Minare to forge a theory about the other woman’s motive: she must have also lent Mitsuo money.

There’s a constant push-and-pull going on throughout Minare and Mitsuo’s date that is both all-too-realistic and extremely fascinating. The pain of his past betrayal and her suspicion over his present motives is always on one end of the scale, rising and falling from prominence as Mitsuo works his practiced Suga charm.

Minare is happy and excited to just be on another date again, after much drinking alone, self-commiserating, and the breaking-and-entering of Oki’s place. She even considers the possibility that even a creature like Mitsuo could change for the better after nearly being offed by the latest victim of his adorkably breezy treachery.

For all his faults, Mitsuo is Minare’s type, whether he’s being “cute”, commenting on her lip color, suggesting they do one activity after the other, demonstrating growth by paying his fair share, or telling her the words “there’s no one better than you.” It must feel so good for her hear words like that from someone with whom she’s shared so much history, both good and bad.

Minare is sufficiently hungry for domestic affection that she slips easily back into the comfort and familiarity of Mitsuo’s place, even reflexively making coffee when they’ve already had a ton of it throughout the day. She also takes comfort in his very specific preferences, like what drink goes best with what food.

But when Mitsuo toasts their reunion and “reconciliation”, Minare’s dormant rage re-surfaces, vowing to keep her heart shut tight until the full amount is paid back. He assures her he borrowed it to be a co-signer for a friend’s debt and always meant to pay her back.

Having presented himself as a Good Guy who helps people in need, Mitsuo’s head finds Minare’s thighs, which he admits he’s missed dearly. Minare, in turn, fishes out the ear pick she left there which is so beloved she gave it a name—Onikirimaru!—and proceeds to clean Mitsuo’s ears “for her own sake and pleasure!”

Since it’s been a while since they’ve done this, she’s elated to find a “gold rush” in there. How adorably disgusting! Not to mention intimate. And despite having planned to kill him only yesterday, she still falls for his upside-down face as he once again points out his preference in lip color, and Minare removes the deep red with a tissue.

It is here, where Minare realizes how Mitsuo’s Man-Child nature seemingly encourages her to take the lead while in reality making her the subservient one. It’s a shtick he probably does without even thinking. But the spell is immediately broken when she spots a strange bit of trash when tossing her tissue.

After a sip of coffee, Mitsuo references the “coffee kiss” they’d often do—another beautiful detail that speaks to the deeply specific intimacy of two former lovers. Minare leans down for a kiss, but stops mere inches from his lips. Suddenly, she’s Detective Koda again, she has Mitsuo in “the box”, and he’s not getting out until she’s heard the unvarnished truth from his un-coffee-kissed lips.

He admits he lost the ¥500,000 at the tracks, but came into the ¥250,000 after helping out the relative of a rich oil executive (again implying his charitable good-guy nature). Minare admonishes him for his get-rich-quick nature, urging him to live more frugally by, for instance, learning to cook.

It’s a lure the Man-Child can’t resist; he assures her everything will be fine; why should he cook when there’s so many good, cheap restaurants? Quite literally taking matters into her own thighs, Detective Koda locks Mitsuo’s face in a leg-lock and shows him the suspicious piece of trash: a free magazine full of recipes with a single dried bell pepper seed stuck to the cover.

It’s evidence not just that someone interested in cooking was in the room, but made Mitsuo’s favorite stir-fry recipe, indicating an intimacy with the other woman he had been concealing from her. No need for a judge or jury; in Minare’s eyes, Mr. Suga is guilty. His sentence is what must be some kind of professional wrestling throw that drives his head hard into the floor.

No longer under the influence of Mitsuo’s smile after seeing him lie once more while wearing it, Detective Koda puts her fedora back on and tells him she’ll forgive the remaining half of the money she lent him. It’s preferable to letting him to betray yet another woman to pay him back.

While she harbored abstract (and ultimately impossible) murderous designs prior to their reunion, this Minare is wiser and more level-headed in her condemnation and handing down of punishment. Mitsuo may be glad to be off the hook for the ¥250,000, but if he was being honest when he said there’s “no one better” than Minare, her refusing to take him back is harsh punishment indeed.

This episode was a thrilling, layered, ultimately bittersweet tour-de-force depicting the games played, battles fought, and lies told behind easy smiles and flirtations of two people. You really get the feeling Minare would prefer being in a happy loving relationship with Mitsuo, but she just can’t trust the bastard, and there’s no indication he’ll ever stop fucking up and lying about it.

As Minare enjoys a decisive moral and tactical victory, the episode doesn’t overlook the bitter tragedy of that. If she’s the hard-boiled private dick in an old noir crime novel, Mitsuo is the “homme fatale”. In the end, her loyalty to the truth and her solidarity with women prevailed.

If nothing else, it should make for a hell of a broadcast…