Party like it’s 1999.
What They Say:
Episode #5: “In the Embrace of the Beat / When Doves Cry”
The trail to solve the mystery of Jimi Stonefree leads Echo and Mu to a glittering purple city ruled by Denka.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Welcome to the city-state kingdom of Paisley Park, ruled by the Player Denka. It’s a city of sensuality where those that pass the screening test are given employment, housing, and ultimately a chance to win an audience with Denka himself!
I’m not going to bother digging through all the references, Prince or otherwise, in this episode. The whole theme is even more blatant than the previous episode. The only reference I didn’t notice that I wish had been there was a “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics,” which only exists in part because of Prince’s music.
This whole episode focuses more on cribbing Prince’s look and his unabashed flaunting of sexuality and disregard for gender norms. It ignores the fact that he was a fiend of a guitarist, one of the best, and a genius songwriter who did nearly as much work for other musicians as for himself. It does touch on the fact that the real Prince was also a Hendrix fan, which plays into the larger narrative of the kids tracking down Jimi.
While previous episodes of Listeners have played up the relationship between Mu and Echo as a teasing awkward friendship, this episode further teases the two. Mu and Echo are very much teenagers who haven’t been in relationships. It goes with the whole coming-of-age angle that many anime resort to. The fact that these two are the next generation and the hope to succeed where the previous generation failed is a big part of that coming of age. Yet Echo and Mu feud like two youngsters. A misunderstanding lead to a stupid argument that has the kids entering the city separately only to be matched back up with each other. (Give the assigned numbers 6 and 9. Subtle.)
The yin/yang sex reference aside, the awkwardness continues with Mu being assigned to a job which is like a live sex phone-line job. Echo ends up in an equipment garage working under a mechanic named Marshall. (Which I’m guessing is a reference to the Marshall amps, duh.) The duo spends a couple of weeks attempting to work up to a chance to meet the legendary Denka without realizing that he already had his eye on the kids. He even heads out into the street in disguise (as Prince’s most recognizable look) to chat with Echo. It turns out that he knows Mu’s true identity, as that of Jimi’s sister! (I was honestly expecting something weirder.)
Now we’re getting somewhere!
We also learn that the revolution Fest that was to occur failed because they basically lied to Jimi about what they were up to. They were planing on wiping out the Earless, but Jimi was a member of a group that believed there was some way to live alongside the Earless peacefully. Or maybe he thought there was a way to save them. Denka betrayed that trust, ending the short but intense relationship, and leaving Denka longing for a love long gone. He points the kids in the direction of Gnome’s last known whereabouts.
The hunt for Jimi continues as pieces slowly start to fall into place for Mu and Echo. The show has moved on past homage and almost straight into parody at this point. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all. Prince remains a respected figure in music, a man who was kind but intimidating. I can’t help but wonder what he’d think about all of this. He’d probably be amused. At this point, I’m content with what this show is, which is mostly one big gushing love letter to music without the music. LISTENERS is the cover band of anime, nothing original but well enough produced that I’m not ready to walk out of this bar just yet.
Next week we’re trading our walk-on part in a war for a lead role in a cage. Ready your lasers.
Episode Grade: B
Streamed by: Funimation