Listeners is an anime original series produced by MAPPA. It was created by Jin (Shizen no Teki-P), co-written by Dai Satō, and directed by Hiroaki Ando.
So, if you read my Mid-Season Anime Review of Listeners, you would be met with glowing positivity and little complaint. That all changed in the very next episode and it was all downhill from there.
Everything about this show screamed “Next Big Hit”. It’s produced by MAPPA, the studio responsible for amazing anime like Kakegurui, Dororo, Yuri!!! On Ice, Garo, and more. Then you have Dai Satō, who wrote the anime scripts for Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Wolf’s Rain, and again, many more. Finally, our other big contender on this series, Jin, a Vocaloid music producer and creator of the mixed-media project Kagerou Project. You see these names and you think, “whatever they make, it’s going to be amazing”, you’d think that, and you’d be wrong.
The general plot is simple enough. One day, the Earth was changed with the appearance of the Earless. For unknown reasons, these black shadowy monsters began to swarm cities across the globe and wreak havoc. The only thing that was clear was they were drawn to music and so it was quickly banned. There are no instruments and outside of the occasional illegal jukebox, music isn’t even acknowledged to have ever existed. Again, the world was changed when Players began to appear.
A Player is a person with an auxiliary port that has manifested on their body. This port allows them to plug into and pilot special mecha that use music to combat the Earless. Echo Rec is a teenage boy. He is obsessed with Players, especially a legendary one known as Jimi Stonefree. He dreams of becoming a Player but is resigned to his normal, mundane life, until finds Myuu (μ). She’s doesn’t remember who she is or where she came from, she’s a “Player.” Together, the two begin a journey to find Jimi and unlock the secrets of the Earless.
Sounds great, right? With every episode named after a famous song and every Player based on a famous musician/band it sounds like the perfect show for music fans. However, that’s basically where it stops, with a great idea. Honestly, the soundtrack is solid and the animation/art style is absolutely beautiful. It’s anime movie quality. I just wish they put as much effort into the design as they did into the script. The plot becomes increasing hard to follow and even by the end, nothing is truly explained. At one point we learn what the Earless are, only to be told they aren’t that, but they still somehow are, but also they aren’t? They there’s a whole subplot that happens with Myuu and Jimi that doesn’t end with a satisfying resolution either. It just…ends. Even some of the happy things that come with the ending, while sweet, don’t actually make any sense.
I have never been so very excited for a show and been so utterly let down. Despite the growing confusion in every episode, I kept finding myself thinking, “it will make sense next episode, it will get better next episode, we just have to flesh out some plot and then we’ll be back on track’ – but once this train went off the rails it never really got back on them. I really want to recommend this show, I really want to love this show, but it’s simply just another show that is ultimately forgettable.
OVERALL SCORE: 5 / 10
Listeners is available on Funimation.