While working her shift at the Voyager restaurant, Minare Koda hears a familiar voice on the local radio station – it’s her voice, and she’s giving a drunken rant about a recent break-up with her ex-boyfriend. Rushing to the radio station, she confronts the producer who she had vented to the previous night at a bar, and attempts to set the record straight live on air. Following her outburst, Minare gets an unexpected offer – her own late-night radio talk show. But the prospect of a new job won’t solve all of Minare’s problems, and as she considers the path of an amateur radio host, she grapples with making ends meet and her perpetual status of being unlucky in love.
Wave, Listen to Me! is a slice of life series with a radio station gimmick and practical narrative that feels like it would be right at home attached to a live-action series. Based on the manga by Hiroaki Samura and created by animation studio Sunrise (coincidentally the studio behind one of my favourite series, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans), the show depicts the day-to-day of Minare as she struggles with an overbearing boss at her job at the Voyager restaurant, keeping her hot-headedness in check, and searching for her next relationship following a messy break-up with her ex-boyfriend Mitsuo. Top this all off with a helping of drama and goofy comedy as Minare attempts to navigate new relationships in her life and the requirements of being a radio host, and Wave, Listen to Me! presents a good case for being converted into a live-action TV drama. However, like Studio Ghibli’s film Only Yesterday, which similarly presents a human experience that could be easily converted to a live-action format, there is something altogether more engaging and comedic in presenting this story as an animated series where even though the problems are more realistic than the average anime, the reactions and the characters can be larger than life. This is basically my longwinded way of saying that I love when stories that don’t need to be animated are, and enjoy the diversity of genres that anime can tackle, including the everyday and mundane. As a result, I was almost pre-disposed to enjoying Wave, Listen to Me! and Minare’s pre-midlife crisis and the radio station factoids the series had to share.
That being said, Wave, Listen to Me! does take a while to find its identity as a series. The offer for Minare to become a radio host is made early on in the show, but it takes some time to get Minare in the booth and even then, her experiences as a host are inconsistent as this aspect of the narrative is often forced to take a back seat due to additional drama. As a result, for a series whose main selling point (at least in my mind anyway) involves a character hosting a radio show there is surprisingly less information about the ins and outs of radio stations and the work involved than I was expecting, and I found myself wanting more time spent with Minare developing material and in the recording booth. Despite this, the I have to admit that the show was honestly refreshing – as one of the rare slice of life anime that I’ve seen that doesn’t focus on high-schoolers, I was pleasantly engaged by Minare’s story as she waded her way through the messiness of adulthood and the responsibilities and dramas that come along with it. Additionally, sometimes the show is exceedingly clever – it establishes early on that Minare’s radio show segments are fictional and experimental, and that the series animates these segments as if they were actually occurring to engage the viewer. This set-up has a surprisingly good twist during one of Minare’s radio segments where the lines between reality and fiction blur, and little surprises like this throughout the series kept me invested.
As a slice of life series, Wave, Listen to Me! strikes a balance between drama and gimmick that works well enough to showcase the struggles of being a young adult, trying to make ends meet and searching for love, while also allowing the audience to take a peek into the world of broadcast radio. Pair this with engaging moments of cleverness, and Wave, Listen to Me! has all the makings of a live-action comedy drama elevated by the medium of animation. An easy recommend for those looking for a slice of life anime with a little something extra going on.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.
©2020Hiroaki Samura, KODANSHA /“Wave, Listen to Me!