First Look: Listeners

Anime original by Mappa
Streaming Funimation

Premise

In a world devoid of music and under constant attack by monstrous creatures known as the Earless, Echo Rec is a boy who makes his living as a junk collector in his small town. One day, he stumbles upon a mysterious girl with an audio input jack on her body and no memories of her past. Turns out she possesses the rare ability of a Player, an individual capable of controlling mechs called Equipment.  The two embark on a journey of self discovery.

Gee’s verdict: Steady Beat

I apologize, you’re going to hear this sentiment a lot in this post, but Listeners is very obviously Dai Sato’s attempt to recapture the magic of the original Eureka Seven. You got your young boy with dreams of more, a mysterious girl, giant robots, a cataclysmic event prior to the start of the series that defines the world’s culture, a genuine love of music that pervades every aspects of its identity, etc. And here’s the thing, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a reason Eureka Seven resonated with so many of us in the early 00s. And there’s a fair amount to like about Listeners as well. Echo and Mu are a likable pair and already have a pretty solid dynamic. If nothing else, I can appreciate the mysterious waifu being the proactive one in the pair.

If there’s anything I have to throw against the show, it’s the frankly unappealing mecha designs. The original Eureka Seven boasted the design work of the legendary Shoji Kawamori. The Nirvash is one of the most iconic mecha of the early 00s. The ones in Listeners…much less so. It’s not even just the CG, which is just expected at this point, but the designs themselves aren’t particularly compelling. They’re weird, but not in the oddly charming way of say, Gurren Lagann’s Gunmen. All said and done though, Listeners is an enjoyable package and I’m interested in seeing where it takes us.

Zigg’s verdict: Supersonic

I don’t mean to be reductive but…man, this was really, really a lot like the first episode of Eureka Seven. Daydreaming teenage boy who yearns for a life of excitement finds mysterious waifu with glowing green artifact, they team up to pilot a mech and cause enormous rainbow explosions. At least writer Dai Sato is only plagiarizing himself. That aside, I enjoyed this quite a bit. The world they’ve built here seems interesting and worth exploring, and one of the best things it’s stolen from E7 is that sense of wistful wanderlust that makes you want to see these kids bust out and live their dreams. A lot is going to depend on whether they can make the mysteries of the Earless and Mu compelling, but I’m, certainly interested in seeing more. Oh, and Blur were better.

Artemis’ verdict: Listeners Seven

I’m an unapologetic Dai Sato fan, but even I’m hoping Listeners won’t be coasting by on its Eureka Seven genetics. Even if I’d just happened to watch Eureka Seven in passing, it’s abundantly clear from minute one that Sato’s touch is all over this, from the scripting down to the character designs. Hell, there’s even a scene near the end of this premiere that could be compared to a scene from the ending of the first episode of Eureka Seven, literally shot by shot, internal monologue included. I don’t mean to imply there’s no potential here for innovation – the impressive worldbuilding and scope of the setting is hard to pass by, and the music is obviously a stand-out point too, even if it lacks that completely unforgettable, undeniably unique ‘oomph’ I was anticipating. However, while Listeners at least teases at being its own beast, it’s still going to have to work very hard to distinguish itself, because the storytelling beats and stylistic similarities are just too blatant to ignore, even if you tried to go out of your way to do just that. I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on it, but I’m hoping this first episode served only as a jumping-off point for something more original.

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