I love this show! You know I love unique efforts in anime. And you know I tend to categorize individual anime based on whether the series is driven by its characters, artwork, or story. It’s a rare bonus when the soundtrack for a show plays a big role in any of those factors. It’s an even rarer bonus when purely […]
I love this show!
You know I love unique efforts in anime. And you know I tend to categorize individual anime based on whether the series is driven by its characters, artwork, or story. It’s a rare bonus when the soundtrack for a show plays a big role in any of those factors. It’s an even rarer bonus when purely the voice acting plays a big role in one of those three factors. It’s Godzilla versus Mothra megadeath rare when a show is driven completely by its voice acting. Quick, what’s the rarest thing you can think of? An item in a game? Pure diamond? A four-leaf clover? A sane dub enthusiast (I love you all)? It’s rarer than any of that.
I couldn’t stop watching this show, couldn’t stop listening to it! And I can’t wait for it to get another season! 2020 seems so long ago, but I can’t give up hope on this. Like many seinen shows, I fear this might not have reached a popularity level that would convince the studio a second season is worth it. But it definitely deserves it. Because being unique is all fine and good, but put together something as magnificent as the unique elements of this show are, and you have something special that deserves attention and praise. I definitely recommend this one.
I’ll evaluate this with my normal framework, but the voice acting really is everything in this show. So I’ll keep other evaluation brief as I keep the focus on the audio side of things.
These guys and girls are a lot of fun—and Minare Koda is a hundred times more fun than everyone else!
Minare Koda is the typical seinen protagonist, drifting through part-time work, no compass in life, on the slow and depressing road to irrelevance, insignificance, cynicism, and bankruptcy. She’s young but not-so-young, alive but slowly dying, living day after day in mindless repetition. Or, so we eventually kind of find out: because our first meeting with her doesn’t imply any of this whatsoever.
No, our first meeting with Koda-san, at the very beginning of the first episode, is outdoors. At night. In the woods. By a stream. By a stream! And there’s a bear! And this woman is frantically and emphatically describing most of this to us, all amidst an unbroken stream of consciousness the likes of which you might never see anywhere else ever again! Her voice fluctuates in volume, emotion, speed, but she never stops, never lets up the relentless assault on our ears and our hearts.
I fell in love. I couldn’t get enough of this directionless young woman turned late night radio personality. She didn’t really do anything worthy of inspiring affection other than just talk. But she felt so alive! She had words for everything. If words are truly weapons, Ainz Ool Gown himself would’ve succumbed to Minare Koda. And I loved that. I loved how she “never missed a beat.” I loved that she had a natural talent and it naturally brought her to success. It couldn’t be contained! I loved how lively she was, even though she realized she had nothing going for her and she didn’t really seem super enthusiastic about this life thing, yet she kept spitting out opinions and jibes and internal musings turned external. She wore no mask, had little to no filter. She was purely her, and I loved that. We don’t see that often in life.
Nor do we hear people talk like Minare much either. Let me now begin my effluence of wholly warranted praise for Minare’s VA, Riho Sugiyama. Someone, please sign her onto every anime you can get her into for the next 50 years! Pay her millions, nay billions of dollars to do it! While I daresay she’ll never match this performance again, the mere chance that she could repeat it, get anywhere close to it, or, heaven help us, surpass it, is exhilarating to think about. What an amazing performance! Sugiyama-san has basically been doing anime roles for only four years (started in 2018, current date is 2022), and only for two years by the time this show emerged (2020), and hasn’t done anything significant other than her lead role in this show. She’s been in 86 as Henrietta Rose and has a bit part in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, but never any lead roles until this. Who in the hell overlooked this kind of talent for two years? And continues to overlook it up to the current date?
It’s funny, just like MInare gets her chance in this anime, so Sugiyama finally got her chance here. And just like Minare takes full advantage of it, so does Sugiyama. That’s something else amazing about this show that I realized as I was watching (listening): these two, both the character Minare and the real-life seiyuu Sugiyama, are both emerging into greatness at the same time, via different paths and in different worlds, but via the same voice: via the same trait of humanity, Sugiyama’s voice breathes life into an anime character while simultaneously catapulting her to the greatest heights of the anime voice acting world. Sugiyama was even born in Hokkaido, the very setting for this show! She brings a humanness to this anime like few voice actors ever manage to do. It’s hard to describe how incredible all of this seems to me, and how wonderful an experience it was to partake in it as a viewer.
I cannot stop my effusiveness about this character. Neither she nor I can be stopped, neither she nor I will be stopped! This character, in this story, with this voice actor, is one of the best confluences of events I can think of in recent history, certainly in the world of anime. What a joy it is to be alive in this time to experience such wonders as this!
Minare so overshadows everything else in this show it’s hard to think much about any of the other characters sometimes. Yet most of them too have some interest factor. I’m going to quickly quibble about one element, and that’s that Minare totally would overshadow this show, and no other character would get any recognition at all, if the writers didn’t spend so much time focusing in on other characters. My problem with this of course is that we get to hear less of Minare when she’s not the focus of a scene, and that happens too much. This show could literally be nothing more than Minare talking and I think it would still be crazy fun! Yet the writers spent a lot of dialogue on the side characters, which I dislike a little bit, because with only 12 episodes, I couldn’t get enough of Minare as it was.
But to make up for it, the other characters are very entertaining. The producer/director at the radio station, Matou-san, who discovers Minare, is a nice character. There’s not much to him, but he is an impactful personality. I loved the part at the end where—spoiler—during the earthquake’s aftermath, he quickly writes a note to the jabbering Minare telling her to “stop acting like an amateur.” That’s the kind of advice anyone would love to receive: believe in yourself, be yourself, be great, let go, stop holding back. It’s caring, loving, in a way the advice from an employer almost never is. Matou-san is a bit gruff, a bit unapproachable, but he knows his stuff, and he knows when he’s found a gem. He knows what Minare is capable of even if she doesn’t, and he intends to get her to realize it. I like this part of his character.
The biggest side-story that detracted from Minare’s screentime was the saga surrounding Makie Tachibana, the girl who comes to work at the restaurant to help make up for her brother injuring the restaurant owner in a car accident. I like her quiet demeanor and soft voice, another great voice acting performance in this show, courtesy of Mamiko Noto. Most of you will know her from Kimi ni Todoke, where she plays the very shy MC Sawako, or perhaps as Kotomi Ichinose from Clannad. Or Mavis from Fairy Tail. Sheele from Akame ga Kill! Anna Liebert from Monster. Elsa from Re:Zero. Rin from InuYasha. Or a personal favorite of mine, Hagoromo Gitsune from Nurarihyon. Yeah, she’s been around for a bit. I love her voice. It gives me a special thrill. Yes Makie’s screentime takes away from Minare’s, but with this kind of a resume for her voice actor, it’s almost totally worth it.
Speaking of legendary voice actors: Sayaka Ohara plays Madoka Chishiro, the top radio personality at Minare’s radio station. Sayaka Ohara, as in Erza Scarlett (Fairy Tail; and subsequently as Elsie Crimson in Fairy Tail’s child, Edens Zero), Ouzen the Immovable (Made in Abyss), Irisviel (Fate/Zero), Sofia Valmer (Jormungand), etc. So many powerful, amazing characters! My heart skipped a beat when I learned she was in this show. It’s perfect for her. Chishiro-san doesn’t have a lot of lines in this show, but that imperious voice is not to be mistaken when she does speak! It leaks through every fiber of your being.
So you get the idea. Everybody has pretty prominent and highly successful VAs, and they get their screentime. Even though it takes away from Minare more than I’d like, nevertheless it’s great to hear all these guys and girls. This show is like a celebration of great anime voice acting, and I love it to no end for that. These characters make that happen. What a wonderful cast; what a wonderful experience. What a wonderful addition to the world of anime!
Nothing to get excited about, but it does the work it should do.
Anime is a visual medium. But I can safely say I’ve never seen an anime where the artwork was probably as much as an afterthought as the soundtrack usually is in most anime. The artwork is arguably the least important factor in this show! That’s pretty unique in its own right, for better or worse.
I noticed one thing that kept bugging me, and that was the odd light circle present in most characters’ eyes. It was weird looking. I call it a “light circle,” as usually we see those little circles of white or lighter color meant to imply spherical shape in the anime eye. But usually anime eyes are so big that this occurs on the colored iris itself, yet in most cases here, with slightly more normal sized eyes, the circle is outside the iris, often larger than the iris itself, and darker than the white area it sits atop of. It’s like the characters have a blue spot in their eyes that isn’t part of the colored iris. It was distracting visually. I couldn’t understand its inclusion.
Still, I like the artwork. It has that slightly edgy seinen feel to it. Lots of plain, solid colors, extensive shadowing, more realistic proportions in the human figures, a lot less hair. And lots and lots of reaction shots as Minare muses either internally or externally—though usually externally.
I love the design for Minare. She looks like she doesn’t give a crap about anything. Her somewhat sarcastic personality is written all over her complexion. And while she still has that look throughout the show, I love how her appearance begins to look like it fits what she’s doing now, the path in life she’s found herself on. Her appearance, her aspect, while still the same, no longer looks like a disinterested and cynical part-timer, but like a quirky and still somewhat cynical artist-personality type, seeing the world just a little differently than everyone else.
Nobody’s especially beautiful, but I love their striking looks. Matou-san is a sharp-looking dude. But dudes aside. The girls have an air of quiet power about them. Nothing’s quiet about Minare–her appearance of strength comes through all the expressions on her face. But Makie and Chishiro look almost threatening at times, and I like it. They’re kind of scary in a doki doki kind of way. Makie is very mild mannered, and so far Chishiro has behaved perfectly normally without any pretense or haughtiness, but I feel like there’s a lot behind these two characters simply due to how they look. They both look very powerful.
Most importantly, the artwork does the work it should do. In many anime that means playing a dominant role, astounding us visually with beauty, impossibility, quality, or sheer power. Sometimes it means getting out of the way of the story and letting it do its own work. Rarely does it mean getting out of the way of the dialogue and voice acting, supporting those elements perfectly and yet not playing a primary role in our sensory experience. Yet the artists here managed to do this. I know this series came from manga, so it was probably pretty easy to simply take much of the visual work there and just place it here for the voice actors to do their thing with, but still, it could’ve been a mismatch if it wasn’t handled carefully, so I applaud the visual side of this work. It may not capture us visually like other anime, but it’s not supposed to. It’s supposed to enhance the dialogue of these various characters, and it does so perfectly.
Minare is working part-time. She’s been directionless in life since her school days, gone through sour relationships, has a difficult relationship with one parent, and has become a bit depressed and cynical. The typical seinen slice-of-life framework. Since this isn’t romance, we take the non-romance track, and Minare meets someone who catapults her into a new world, where she discovers herself and her calling, and they happ liveily ever after.
Again, like the artwork, the story doesn’t have to be a big deal here. But it does have to cater towards the vocal/dialogue elements in this story. What better plot device to base such a story around than a completely audio medium: radio!
Radio? Like Minare points out near the end of the series, most of us probably think radio is dying. Not many of us listen to anything on the radio, much less have it on so much that, if someone whose voice we could instantly recognize happened to come on, we’d all hear it at the same time. In this show, all MInare’s friends hear her on her first night, one of her spiels stops the attempted murder of her ex-boyfriend by his new girlfriend, and she inspires Makie to take a step down a path of her own choosing. Does radio really reach that many people?
Regardless, it’s a good choice for a plot device. Unless we’re talking about podcasts these days (2022), little else other than radio is produced entirely for the voice. Even singing nowadays is meant to be accompanied by visuals at some point. But if you’re looking for something that airs live and is entirely centered around the sound of the human voice, you’re looking for radio. It’s a great story element for this kind of tale.
I love all the situations these guys get into. Most of them are hilarious. The thing with the guy who takes Minare home after she crashes drunkenly at this place and the bags of rotting meat was hilarious. The bear thing was just a script, but it was golden. Minare’s conversation with her dad and Matou changing his mind and deciding not to use that on air had me falling off the chair laughing. The date with her ex was side splitting. The ongoing saga with the restaurant owner and Nakahara kept you squirming uncomfortably every now and then. Even the earthquake in the final episode was unexpected and had a great impact. It suddenly turned the show a bit serious, and we got to see Minare have some great moments as she truly shined through.
I was a little frustrated by all the subplots. Makie’s situation, the script-writer Kureko’s brief sidestory, and Nakahara’s involvement with the restaurant, Minare, and Makie all take away from the main plot a little. Again, the only reason I dislike this is because I’d love to hear Minare more, and the less time we spend on her the worse off everything is. But also again, the redeeming factor in this is that we get to hear a lot of other really good voice actors, aforementioned. I feel like we’re not done with subplots though if this gets a second season. Surely there’s more to Chishiro than her just appearing every now and then, and Makie emerges in a confusing new role very late in S1—I’m still not sure who was who and what was what with all that. So this model may continue into a season two.
Well, as long as we get plenty of Minare and her radio program, titled the same as the anime, “Nami yo Kiitekure!,” or “Wave, Listen to Me!,” then I’m happy. Let the story be what it will. Hey, Minare’s situations that she makes up in her ramblings are enough anyway! It’s like a crazy story within a story. I need more of it!
Sound is a curious thing. It’s hard for us to explain why we as humans react to it the way we do. It’s definitely one of those things that make us human. Sounds can prompt emotions and actions in a way no other sense can. How many of you feel a curious nostalgia at hearing the opening for Neon Genesis Evangelion? How many of you felt the sadness tearing at your heart as you listen to the background music in A Silent Voice? White Album? Your Lie in April? How many of you would turn on the Monogatari series just to hear Chiwa Saito, Yui Horie, Maaya Sakamoto, and Miyuki Sawashiro, and feel the chills run through your spine as you listen to them say words you cannot understand? How many of you felt the thrill of war, battle, revenge, as you listened to the various Attack on Titan openings, your heart tightening, your teeth clinching, tears of rage and despair welling up in your eyes, from whence you know not where?
That’s the kind of role sound can play in anime. It’s way more powerful than we realize. When an anime overlooks it, we usually don’t notice, because anime ultimately is a visual medium. I’ve always said, and will continue to say, that a great anime could be written without dialogue or sound. Hence sound is usually a bonus: but it should never be an afterthought. Even an anime that’s made in total silence has a reason behind that silence. When sound is present and plays a significant role, it puts that anime in a new tier of greatness already.
I talked a lot about how I loved this show. Well, when one thinks of loving a show, you might think of a Fairy Tail, or an InuYasha, maybe a Naruto or One Piece, or even a Non Non Biyori, where you look at it, watch it, smile, and feel that warm fuzzy feeling inside. I laughed my head off at this show. I sat there with my mouth agape gasping for breath. Have you ever tried to laugh with your mouth open? I would be watching in total confusion, and this uncontrollable urge to laugh wouldn’t stop welling up. I literally wanted to fall off my seat and roll on the floor laughing. Even hilarity can be powerful. And this really was. It seared its way into my memory and my heart forever.
I love it. I need more of it. Hey, Sunrise studio, make more of this show! Let’s get a collection going and crowdfund for the next season! I cannot say it enough: I love listening to this show! I love how unique it is, I love how it makes you feel new feelings in new ways, I love how it makes me laugh, I love how it makes me love. I love that it’s anime, anime in a way I’ve rarely seen it before. I love it all.