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.

Hagure Yuusha no Estetica – 01

Ousawa Akatsuki is returning to the normal world after a long stint as a “hero maverick” in another dimension, after having defeated the Demon King Garinth. He has brought with him the daughter of Garinth, Myuu, who he passes off as his long-lost little sister as they undergo preliminary exams at Babel, a school that helps Akaksuki and other victims of “Samon Syndrome” polish and control the powers they gained in the other dimension. The student council president, Hikami Kyouya, takes an interestin both, as a prophecy states Ousawa will rise to become “True Hero” and “Supreme King.”

The concept of ordinary people who are transported to other dimensions and take on the persona of epic heroes, only to return to earth with the same powers – is not a terrible one. Where this series really falls flat on its face is in the execution, right from the start. An initially interesting-looking chase scene at the beginning ends with the hero relieving all his attackers (all maids, natch) of their bras, instantly eliminating any and all dignity and solemnity. Har har.

Visually speaking, the character design is dull, and many scenes are over-saturated or washed out by light, obscuring faces and details. The choice to mention and show Myuu’s boobs – purely for the sake of mentioning and showing her boobs – leads us to predict that future episodes will expand on this topic…and like Akatsuki’s cocky playa attitude and his albino rival Kyouya’s evil grins, we see that getting old fast.

Rating: 4 (Fair) (dropped)