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LISTENERS Episode #01 Anime Review

4 min read
Can music save your mortal soul?
LISTENERS Episode #01

You are listening to Rock 104.7, the Mech.

What They Say:
In a world without music, young Echo was there the day legendary “Prayer” Jimi Stonefree and his mecha disappeared while fighting the mysterious Earless. Ten years later, he meets an amnesiac young girl named μ (Mu) who has an input jack on her back. Could she be a “Prayer” like Jimi? Together they set off on a journey to unravel her past and save humanity.

Episode #1: “Live Forever”
Echo makes a simple living, sorting through trash for anything of value. But one day, he finds a girl in the scrap field, and suddenly, the legendary Players who pilot mecha called Equipment to fight the Earless aren’t just stories from faraway places.

The Review
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

Oh hey, Dai Sato is back and he’s rocking out with JIN and MAPPA this time.

Look, I love dumb ‘rock saves the world’ premises, and this show is as dumb as they come. You have a boy named Echo who works at a massive scrapyard that used to be a city. He sorts garbage all day to find salvage and heads home to his sister’s diner. He crushes his own dreams and parrots the company line from the mayor. Then one day he finds a young, unconscious woman in the refuse who appears to be a Player.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Yeah, I’m certain the show creators are extremely aware of how generic ‘the boy finds mystery girl, save the world’ sounds. At least the mystery girl with amnesia has a personality. She’s a manic pixie dream girl, who happens to be a mech pilot. In their world mechs called “Equipment” battle giant monsters called “Earless.” They are revered as superstars elsewhere but in Echo’s town under a giant f-hole monument and the iron hand of the flaccid mayor, they are nothing but trouble.

This episode plays out as you’d expect with Mu being frustrated with Echo’s lack of ambition to make his dreams come true. Then she is able to use his equipment to battle a sudden attack of Earless (which look like giant monkey-mice made of static.) The town is saved, and the pair make their escape via train to parts elsewhere.

Did I mention there was a legendary Player named Jimi who disappeared?

Echo dubs the young woman Mμ (which I’ll probably just refer to as Mu because I don’t want to have to keep tracking down that letter.) He calls her that because it was on the vacuum tube around her neck. This refers to the amplification factor, or voltage gain, of passing through a tube. So, she’s basically a living amp… connecting to an amp which turns into a mech. Yeah. For a hot second I thought she was going to be named after the Mu chord.

Visually, the style of this series brings to mind Rage of Bahamut. The characters have a chubbier, more rounded aesthetic and the liveliness of the animation brings to mind past MAPPA works. The original character designs by artist pomodorosa are not your typical generic anime. For one thing, they have noses! Echo is lovingly dorky looking, and Mu feels like a young 80’s pop star. Translating those designs to animation lost a small amount of character, but I think they look more refined. (You can see the original art in the ending sequence of this first episode.)

Musically, well… I’m a bit disappointed. The soundtrack feels somewhat generic for a show which is so steeped in musical references. The heavy guitar riffs and strumming isn’t particularly melodic or catchy, it’s just there to remind the viewer that everything is rock. For a world where music is apparently no longer a thing, I would have thought the animation staff would go heavy on the symbolism. They should have held back the music until the moment of reveal at the end of this episode!

Speaking of world-building, boy are they playing fast and loose with their universe. There’s no good explanation for where the Earless came from, what the mechs are exactly, where Players came from. It’s all just a mishmash of nonsense. Look… rock operas do tend to lean heavily into nonsense, but is it asking too much for an explanation of where the bulk of the mech came from? Because it kind of just pops out of the ground and then disappears.

 

In Summary:
LISTENERS asks a question that’s been asked many times before. Can music save your mortal soul? Can the small-town boy survive an encounter with a mystery girl, monsters, and mechs? It’s a mish-mash of musical terminology, references, and mecha battles. A visually entertaining spectacle of sound and noise signifying nothing. That’s what LISTENERS is, and I’m here for this ride. Will it be Woodstock or the Fyre Festival remains to be seen, but right now it feels like an overproduced studio album rather than the spunky garage rock anthem it wants to be.

Episode Grade: B

Streamed by: Funimation

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