- Episodes : 12
- Genre : Action, Mecha, Music, Sci-Fi
- Airing Date : April 4, 2020 – June 20, 2020
- Studio : MAPPA
LISTENERS is the latest hit by Dai Satou, who also wrote for Eureka Seven, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and Cowboy Bebop. Taking place in a dystopia, Echo Rec, a teenager who makes his living by collecting junk in a run-down town, has his life changed forever when he finds a mysterious amnesiac girl while on the job. Without knowing her name, Echo names her Mu. Things get stranger when she happens to be a Player, a person with an audio jack on their body which can hook up to an amp which in turn, becomes a mech, or in the world of LISTENERS, Equipment. What is the Equipment used for? It is used to combat monsters known as the Earless. However, Mu has a connection to Jimi Stonefree, a heroic figure in their world who disappeared 10 years prior to the start of the story. Now, Echo and Mu go on a journey to find out who Jimi is and what happened to him.
While other anime such as Eureka Seven and Cowboy Bebop have done futuristic stories with characters that take influence from counterculture, but it brings a bit of a fresh twist to it. Throughout most of the series, Mu and Echo go on a journey around the world, meet new people, and discover new things. While they tend to face numerous adversities, they overcome them and not only do they become better people for it but so do the people they encounter. Many of the characters are obvious musical references from the Boomer and Gen-X crowds. For the younger Boomers and older Gen-X’ers, Jimi Stonefree is an amalgamation of Jimi Hendrix and one of his hit songs, Stone Free. Nir is a reference to Nirvana with her design being based on Kurt Cobain, and how her shirt says Polly, one of Nirvana’s hit songs. Plus, many of the episode titles are references themselves such as Live Forever (episode 1) is a reference to the hit by Oasis, and Goodbye Blue Sky (episode 6) is a homage to Pink Floyd. So, LISTENERS is certainly an anime for music enthusiasts.
However, due to its length, a lot of themes are forced into the last few episodes. Its attempts at portraying prejudice just feels too forced towards the ending. Considering we learn the origins of the Earless towards the last three episodes, it’s difficult to take the themes seriously. Also, when the series gets around to Mu’s origin, it leaves a lot more questions than answers.
Art and Animation
The character designs provided by pomodorosa (who is also a musician) share many similar qualities with those of Eureka Seven. They have a rather childish look to them, but they perfectly symbolize the optimism of children in a world of doom and gloom. The character design and the design of the world share that perfect balance. A lot of the other supporting characters take influence from music and pop culture. As we shared in previous articles, Denka (whose name means “His/Her Majesty”) is obviously inspired by Prince. Not just his name, but take one good look at him, you’ll instantly recognize the resemblance.
The mech designs have a steampunk vibe to them, and they are appropriately clunky with how they’re maneuvered. The fighting (at least in the first half of LISTENERS) has this kind of “clumsiness” to it which gives its own spin on what could be seen as realistic. At the same time, they also give a comedic spin to it. Towards the ending, it becomes closer to a standard mech anime where the ultimate overpowered mech shows up and it’s up to our heroes to stop it.
The chemistry of Rie Takahashi as Mu and Ayumu Murase as Echo is the true heart of LISTENERS. While the nature of their relationship (as in mostly being rocky, but always there for each other) has been done numerous times, their performances truly bring you in. Not only are you sucked into their relationship, but their individual personalities as well. Through Mu, you can feel her inner search and with Echo, you can genuinely feel that he wants to be out of his bubble. Other notable personalities featured in LISTENERS are Rie Kugimiya (Al from FMA) as Nir, Junichi Sawabeas Denka, Atsuko Tanaka as Kim, and Jun Fukuyama as Jimi. So you’re getting a who’s who in the world of anime.
The music is obviously the heart and soul of this series. In compliments to its influences, the background track uses a lot of guitar riffs. The guitar riffs are universally applied to all moods whether it be exciting, sad, or comedic. Every time you hear it, you just want to air guitar to it just like Bill & Ted. What makes LISTENERS stand out is that for EVERY episode, you’re going to get a different ending theme provided by Rie Takahashi, the voice of Mu. Through every ending theme, you can hear how truly talented she is as every theme song evokes every emotion you can think of.
We feel that this is anime that should have been 22 (or 24) episodes as opposed to 12. There are a lot more qualities and characters that could have used more development and expansion, most emphatically with Jimi. Considering that Jimi is kind of the “center” of the world of LISTENERS, we feel a lot more could be done with his presence and his legacy. Without giving away too much, the ending is relatively happy, but there are some things that are questionable which we won’t get into due to spoilers. We understand that a good percentage of fans don’t mind a 12-episode format by only providing the minimum. For those that are detail-oriented, this may not be the series for you. We do feel the potential of a sequel through OVAs or a movie in the future. What do you say? Should we have a sequel? Or should the first series have done more? Please leave a comment!