Self-empowerment parable through the medium of superpowered CGI rock n’ roll-robots. You’ve heard this story before even if you didn’t realize it–the folks behind Listeners are surely familiar with the seminal FLCL–but wearing its influences on its sleeve is no knock. Call Listeners a “high variance” seasonal, this one could end up being the best of the season or it could putter out into the same disappointment pit that Darling in the FranXX fell into. Perhaps most likely is that it could stay the course and turn out to be Just Solid. It’s hard to say right now.
The show’s got a fair bit going for it; a strong aesthetic that welds a 2000s-era look (I’ve seen Eureka Seven brought up as a point of comparison and I do see it) to clear inspirations from classic rock album art, and a good command of what differentiates the retro from the merely dated. On the less positive side, the animation is inconsistent and there are some very unwelcome sex jokes in the first half of the first episode. Listeners is a “who knows” right now, but consider keeping your eye on it if you’re the gambling type. Speaking personally, I’m also a sucker for anything whose first episode ends with its protagonists having to flee from their hometown (well, one of theirs’ hometown, it’s complicated) on a train. We’ll see where it goes.
First Impression Score: 6/10
Gal & Dinosaur
One of the season’s true oddballs, Gal is ostensibly an adaptation of the manga of the same name, a comedic slice-of-life series about a gyaru and her unexpected new roommate, a blue dinosaur. While it does directly adapt the source material the approach is….eclectic, to say the least. This all makes more sense if you consider the director here–Jun Aoki, of Pop Team Epic fame.
This isn’t to oversimplify, as the two shows are far from identical. Even the animated front half has a slow, loping pace that flows like not much else airing right now, and very differently from the hyperfrantic PTE. The second half of the series, which is in live action and reprises some of the same material, is more in line with what Aoki converts from Pop Team Epic will be expecting. The altered context and different medium changes the way some of the gags land and it’s interesting to compare and contrast the two. Of course, even if you’re not one for that kind of thing, it’s hard to deny the simple comedy appeal of airhorns.
I suspect whether you prefer the more traditionally adaptive first half or the weirder, more experimental second will come down to how big a fan you were of the manga. Personally, I was never huge on the Pop Team Epic adaptation (as far as bizarre slapstick anime I prefer Teekyuu and the brain-melting Ai Mai Mi!), so I know my preference, but both halves excel at what they’re trying to do. It’s hardly “essential TV”, but this is the kind of thing that if you’re part of the intended audience, you’ll figure it out pretty quickly. Definitely one to at least give a cursory watch to see if it’s Your Thing or not.
First Impression Score: 7/10
Sing “Yesterday” For Me
Straight-n-true adaptation of a classic drama manga makes its way to television. The original manga dates way back to 1997, and some of the plot beats here make that pretty obvious even if the setting didn’t (and it does). Yet, despite going into this being pretty sure I wouldn’t like it, I found myself surprisingly compelled by the cast of castaways that are Sing “Yesterday” For Me‘s characters. To a one, they’re burnt-out young adults ranging from a high school dropout to a high school teacher to our main character, a disaffected convenience store worker and self-described “loser”.
This is stuff that’s fairly well-tread ground for the genre and it wasn’t exactly revolutionary in ’97 either. Yet, somehow, I feel more of a beating heart under this show than I do many similar titles, perhaps it’s just the age range of the cast, perhaps it’s that even in the first episode said cast picks at and openly questions the value of stories like this in the first place. Maybe I’m just kind of amazed that there was a confession in the first episode of something based on a romance manga. Who knows? Yesterday is one to keep your eyes on. Those familiar with the original will have more concrete opinions, but even for someone like me who isn’t, the possible ceiling for this series seems very, very high.
First Impression Score: 8/10