Overview (Spoilers Below):
In a wasteland of a world, a young dreamer named Echo makes a living collecting scraps from the junk piles spread all over town. Nothing much changes until he meets a strange girl who has lost her memories. She does have an input jack on her back (weird, right?), and so everyone immediately pegs her as a Player – people who can pilot mechs called Equipment to fight monsters called the Earless.
Echo takes her back to his room upstairs of Swell’s bar, but they get into a minor tussle about whether to strike out on their own together as a team. Echo is scared to change up his routine, but the girl, called μ, is eager for a good time since she’s forgotten everything else going on in her life. Annoyed, she decides to leave town, but before she can get on the train, a group of Earless attack. Together, the two of them fight off the shadowy giants and save the town.
Listeners comes out with a pretty solid opening episode filled with interesting worldbuilding, nice character designs, and a well-executed (if bland) storyline. It’s a show that comes from people with respectable credentials to their names, including some associated with Cowboy Bebop (overrated) and Terror In Resonance (underrated). Though the premise and this premiere episode rely heavily on familiar imagery like giant robots and wastelands of rubbish, I’m excited to stick around and see what Listeners has in store for us.
Let’s get the good stuff into the open first: this show looks super cool. It has a distinct visual style that sets it apart from your run of the mill seasonal show, and almost every character has a memorable aspect to their design. μ in particular just looks so cool! Although the whole ‘aux port in the back’ thing is kinda weird. The worldbuilding overall is nice, too. From the rundown bar with the janky TV to the retro equipment used by Echo, it’s sets the setting up well and is an immersive world.
Echo is fairly bland, as a lot of main characters are made to be so viewers can easily project themselves onto them. He’s got dreams, but is too set in his ways to follow them fully. But the arrival of μ sets a fire to his soul: “Running her out of town wouldn’t be right!” She’s lost her memory, but not her personality, thankfully. She’s super spunky and just the right amount of crazy to pair nicely with Echo. I love that her reaction to losing her memory is that even without her past, “I know that I’m me.”. Plus, side characters like the Mayor and Swell the bartender are nicely fleshed out. Swell is awesome, and I love the way she steps up when Echo is absent: “Don’t worry about being a player… just be you.”
Everything’s not perfect, though. The storyline itself is completely laid out, but it’s just not very surprising as of now. Granted, first episodes have to set up the entire show and introduce it to people, so I’m not going to hold this against Listeners too much for now. It just feels like every other ‘girl with amnesia inspires dorky boy to live his dream’ show at the moment. There were also a few weird things that jumped out at me, like how the show is already resorting to using flashbacks to fill space. We’re getting flashbacks before the end of the first episode, which is kinda crazy. It just feels weird to be reminded of something that just happened. Another thing that made me twist up my eyes was the design of the Earless monsters. They’re so bland! Just big shadowy shapes. And the Earless have ears for some reason!
Funimation hasn’t posted the official cast list as of this writing, but I’m very happy with how everyone sounds – except for one major exception. Echo’s voice just doesn’t sound right for how he looks. His actor’s performance is fine and all, but it just sounds a bit too generic anime MC for a fairly unique character design. Maybe I’m imagining him with a slightly bassier voice? Regardless, the rest of the cast seem perfectly suited for their roles, especially μ.
I don’t know exactly what the future holds for the rest of Listeners simuldub. It was intended to be one of the same-day dub releases, with this first episode recorded in advance. Needless to say, recent developments in the world have forced companies like Funimation to scramble their schedules while converting production to a work from home affair. But Echo is a survivor, and I’m sure Listeners will survive, too. And when it returns, I’ll be waiting with open ears.