Listeners Ep. 4: Unraveling Stonefree’s legacy

The way this show keeps building up Jimi Stonefree, I can’t help but feel like the ultimate reveal is gonna be a letdown. But hey, the true gift will be the friends we made along the way!

— In this week’s episode, Echo and Mu hit up a high school that may or may not have information about Jimi Stonefree. And since this is Listeners, the academy certainly is odd in more ways than one. I wonder if these cheerleaders are as bored as the ones in “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

— Basically, the director will hand over a classified file on Stonefree, but only if our heroes look into a drug that has been spreading throughout campus. Apparently, you don’t go to the cops for this sort of thing. You gotta turn to two random children who show up outta nowhere.

— What does the drug do? Let’s just say it puts you in a state of nirvana! Oh ho ho, I’ll be here all day, folks. But in all seriousness, the drug was originally used to help Players de-stress in their battles against the Earless. Naturally, people would get hooked on it and use it back home.

Wut.

— Also, I’m not sure what the second slur is supposed to be.

— Right off the bat, Mu is popular with the boys. I guess she’s supposed to be a hottie.

Oof.

— It doesn’t take long, however, for the student council president to hog Mu all to himself. Still, what kind of name is Hole? Sure, our hero’s name is Echo, but Hole? Hole?!

— The student council president helps Mu with her investigation, but it’s really just a tour of the very, very strange high school. For example, there are these weirdos make up the Math Club. And look at these guys! Get it? Smashing Pumpkins? Oh man, nothing like Gen-X references in a zoomer world!

— Last but not least, there’s a guy who has… a naked fairy version of himself? I don’t even know, man.

— If Mu gets a new boy toy, then I guess Echo also gets a new partner. An antisocial girl starts stalking him throughout campus. Eventually, they become friends and bond over their love for Stonefree. Like always, characters in this show talk about how amazing Stonefree was and how he tried to change the world, but no one ever gets into specifics. Even these Stonefree fanatics speak about him in such vague terms. For example, they like to say that his music touched them, but gimme some damn details! How did his music touched them exactly? It’s kinda infuriating, honestly.

— Echo also comes for a long line of dense anime protagonists, so he hugs Nir outta nowhere. Well, actions have consequences, which we will see later.

— The kid decides to show off his custom amp to Nir, so she goes and takes it for a joy ride. I guess it doesn’t matter which amp you use, because the Player is who determines the form of the Equipment. That aside, considering how much destructive power these Equipments are capable of, I feel like maybe they should design something to prevent people from just talking over an amp. Something like a key…

Listeners feels like a story that should’ve gotten a two-cour treatment. As a result, what we get feels very rushed, so I’m still not quite sure I fully understand Nir’s motivation. She felt she had made a genuine connection with Echo, so she thought riding his Equipment would make her feel less lonely? And when that didn’t work, she then tried to commit suicide? I feel like someone like Nir would usually get her own arc. Unfortunately, she gets a single episode.

— In the aftermath, she retreats to the school pool, which is revealed to be the exact location where the Teen Spirit drug is being made… which seems ridiculous to me. I know student council presidents in anime tend to wield an exorbitant amount of control — and conversely, the adults are useless — but manufacturing a drug under everyone’s nose is a bit much.

— Nevertheless, he proceeds to show up and spill the beans. He’s also one of those nihilistic freaks who wants to destroy the world. He doesn’t want to graduate and join the army just to fight the Earless, so he hatched a plan. First, he will obviously try to sell the drug. Second, he thinks Nir is his meal ticket? He can sell her to the army and become a general? If she’s so strong, why wouldn’t the army just recruit her themselves? Why would they need to buy her from him? Honestly, it just goes back to the story feeling super rushed.

— Echo, however, does the usual anime protagonist thing of proclaiming that Nir is his friend. As a result, when he and Hole both fall off the diving board, the girl saves Echo. Hole, however, gets to dunk his pink tighty-whiteys in a pool of drugs.

— Nir then implies that Echo shouldn’t play with her feelings if he already has someone else. She then warns Mu that all players eventually lose their minds. I guess we’re now supposed to wonder if the same had happened to Stonefree. Maybe he got too close to greatness, and lost his mind on that fateful day. But I mean, who knows because the story has been insistent on drip-feeding us with details regarding the legendary Player.

— Before our heroes can question her, Nir decides to just blast off into the night sky. Um, okay? Where is she going to go? Shrug.

— Despite all the damage to the school, the director is just happy that the kids solved the case. Unfortunately, the Stonefree file is heavily redacted. They’ll have to go elsewhere if they want to find out more about the legendary Player, so this means hitting up Denka, which is just the word for “prince.”

— Right before the credits roll, Mu asks if Echo realizes that Nir was a girl. Apparently, he did not. Yep, just another dense anime protagonist.

— I don’t dislike Listeners, but it’s shaping up to be more like Kraft’s instant mac instead of a gussied up version from a sit-down restaurant.

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