Listeners Ep. 1: Rock first, think later

Does this count as a mecha anime? I guess it does.

— I’m oddly looking forward to this show for this reason and this reason alone: it’s kind of like comfort food, but with a small twist to keep things “interesting.” It’s like how you might order mac ‘n cheese from a hipster restaurant where they’ve added guanciale, so they can now charge $18 for it.

— Like its many, many predecessors, Listeners starts with an ordinary, humble boy eking out an ordinary, humble life in his small, rundown town. But one day, he meets a mysterious girl with an equally mysterious past. And from that point on, his life will change forever! And would you believe that the girl has no memories of her past? Quelle surprise!

— So like I said, these shows are like comfort food. They rarely ever revolutionize the formula. They keep mostly what has worked before and make a few small tweaks along the way. So for its theme, we get music. Everything is tied back to music somehow. For example, our hero’s name is Echo.

— In previous anime series, the boy hero might feel trapped in his lame, boring life away from all the excitement in the world, but not Echo. Even though his job is to sift through garbage in what is known as “the trash dump of the world,” our protagonist has seemingly embraced an old man’s conservative outlook: “Do not look to dreams. Keep your eyes on the present.” Yeesh. But I guess this is how some people cope with their lot in life. You can sit here and complain or you can survive… or you could leave. Leave and go where, though?

— One day, Echo somehow manages to find a girl buried in all that trash. Isn’t it silly to always expect our waifus to be these magical girls who just show up from outta nowhere in order pluck us out of our boring, dreary lives? Maybe. But again, this is a formula appeals to a wide audience, so we see it again and again and again…

— So what’s up with this mysterious girl? Well, she has an output jack on her back just above her buttocks, which makes her a Player. Players are those who pilot Equipments, i.e. mechas. And we use said Equipments to fight the bad guys, a.k.a. the Earless. When Players do battle with their Equipments, it’s called a Gig. Yep, everything is about music or sound here.

— What I do like is that our mysterious girl isn’t this quiet, enigmatic maiden — someone who is distant and perhaps a bit alien-like. Instead, she’s rather cheerful and outspoken. Even though she has no recollection of her past, she rolls with the punches. She doesn’t worry over what she can’t control. In most respects, she seems like just any normal, ordinary girl. It’s not that I dislike previous mysterious girls like Eureka, but I just don’t want to see her archetype over and over again.

— Unfortunately, Echo and the girl find themselves in a bit of a Footloose situation, i.e. “Rawr, dancing and rock and roll are bad!” Okay, nobody said anything about dancing, but I bet the old folks here hate it too. The mayor soon shows up and tells the new girl to get out. After all, Players are bad news. Um, I thought they defended everyone from the Earless…? How is that a bad thing? Well, ten years ago, a disaster was supposedly triggered by Players, and I guess this is why the town of Liverchester is nothing more than a trash dump that the Earless won’t even bother with. Ergo, Players aren’t needed either. Isn’t that kind of foolish, though? It’s like saying we don’t need pandemic preparedness, because there’s just no way a pandemic would ever happen… ahem. Topical references aside, I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually learn that Players weren’t ultimately responsible for the disaster. Maybe. We’ll see.

— Naturally, Echo defends his new friend, ’cause he’s pretty much a huge Player nerd. They’re basically heroes to him, so even though he knows nothing about this girl, she’s gotta be someone amazing too! Man, our boy is very naive.

— It’s kinda weird how the mayor was ready to kick the girl out of town, but Echo’s sister somehow placates him with a mug of beer. Did he just decide to come back another day because he got some alcohol? Hm.

— After escaping the mayor’s wrath, Echo geeks out to the girl about his passion. This scene mostly serves to give us a bit of exposition, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Basically, mysterious bad guys showed up outta nowhere and destroyed stuff. We’ll have to wait if we want to know what the Earless really are and where they came from.

— Even though Echo has to spend his days sifting through trash from all around the world, he appreciates this meager life because it gives him the opportunity to salvage for parts. And in doing so, he has managed to whip together an Equipment. Yeah, that’s right, it’s just a simple piece of electronic until it transforms.

— The girl actually responds positively to Echo’s passion ’cause that’s what rock ‘n roll is all about, man! Passion and achieving your dreams! Making your mark on the world! Being carefree and going where the wind takes you! So she tells him to join her. They can leave this lousy dump and fight the Earless! This scene is odd to me, ’cause I feel like I’m being tugged at from two opposing sides. Echo claims that he’s perfectly content with this life of his, so he wouldn’t even dare step outside his comfort zone. Even though it’s his passion to be around Players, he’s perfectly happy to admire them from afar… really, really far. He insists over and over that he’s just an ordinary guy. Of course, I find his attitude a little lame but mostly sad. It’s sad that he has accepted this lot in life when he could do so, so much more!

But on the other hand, the pragmatic adult side of me can’t help but nitpick over the girl’s plans or lack thereof. You’re just gonna fight the Earless? Aren’t you scared to lose your life? How do you even know that some kid’s amateur Equipment cobbled together from junk parts is strong enough to defeat them? And where would you even go? Where would you even stay at night? How will you afford food? Hell, she barely even knows Echo, and she’s telling him to leave with her. She thinks she can rely on him? Life would be so easy if we could just trust everyone, but we know we can’t.

— For now, the girl will leave town by herself. Echo’s sister is even kind enough to give her some money, but it can’t possibly last long, can it?

— Sure enough, when morning comes, the Earless attack. By claiming that the Earless have no interest in Liverchester, the mayor pretty much jinxed his town. Way to go, old man. I do wonder why they just showed up, though. Maybe the girl’s presence really is responsible.

— The old man also thinks that if he just stands there and yells at the Earless, maybe they’ll go away.

— Sadly, the Earless kinda have a crappy design.

— Most big sisters would be protective and tell the boy hero to hide. The boy hero would then respond by disobeying her and doing what he thinks is right. Echo’s big sis, however, doesn’t let him leave without his Equipment. I don’t really have a problem with her essentially telling him to save the day, but man, how do you guys even know this thing that he put together from spare parts even works?

— So Echo rushes to the girl’s side, but he ends up falling into a pit when the Earless swipe at him. At first, he’s already rationalizing. He’s already telling himself that he wouldn’t have accomplished much if he had kept living, so hey, dying ain’t so bad! But that’s not rock ‘n roll, man! So Echo quickly changes his mind and cries out that he wants to live. That’s when the girl suddenly appears by his side. She approves of his change in attitude, so she plugs his Equipment… um… into her hole. Double entendres aside, if he had continued giving up on life, would she have just let him fall to his death? Or would she have used the Equipment anyway to save the town? Guess we’ll never know.

— So that tiny speaker somehow transform into this mecha. It’s not the prettiest mecha around, but I never really cared about how they look. I weirdly watch mecha shows for the characters and their story. On the other hand, I couldn’t care less about the stupid robots. Honestly, I think a giant, bipedal fighting machine is a dumb concept.

— In any case, the girl rocks out with the Equipment, and it seems as though music is what ultimately defeats the Earless. I guess we’ll get a better explanation later.

— So the town is saved, and in the aftermath, Echo decides to call the girl Mu due to the symbol on her necklace. They then hop on an outgoing train in order to kick off their grand adventure. Just like that, huh? No worries, huh? Not even gonna say goodbye to your sister, huh? Rock first and think later, I guess. It’s surprising to me that it has always been this easy to escape Liverchester. Nothing was ever truly tying Echo down to this place, but he never had the push to leave until Mu showed up. Of course, there are practical concerns — concerns which I’ve mentioned over and over. But I’m the adult who has to worry about how to make a living. Shows like Listeners, however, are all about throwing caution to the wind. Will this hold up as the story progresses? We’ll see.

— After the credits, we see these three obvious bad guys girls silently observing Mu and her new companion. They’ll probably give us a few clues concerning Mu’s past.

2 thoughts on “Listeners Ep. 1: Rock first, think later

  1. DerekL

    “What I do like is that our mysterious girl isn’t this quiet, enigmatic maiden”

    That at least was a refreshing change from the norm… But (at least in the movie) Alita did it better IMO.


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