Interview: LISTENERS Series Composition Writer Dai Sato

by Lynzee Loveridge,

As LISTENERS draws to a close, Anime News Network was able to interview esteemed writer Dai Sato to discuss music, mecha, and themes. The original anime premiered in April and follows Echo, a boy who thinks he's destined for a quiet life recycling trash, and Mu, the girl he finds who is destined to be a heroic Player. The pair begin traveling together to find out the truth behind the conflict between Players and the Earless and recover Mu's memories.

©1st Place, Slowcurve, Story Riders/Listeners Partners

When did the creative process for LISTENERS begin?

This project started around seven years ago, when the producer Hashimoto-san and Jin-san met. Jin-san just happened to be thinking of an original project with robots and music. Jin-san liked the anime I was involved with, like Cowboy Bebop and Eureka Seven. They added me to the project (Hashimoto-san and I were working on another project together), and from there we started the proposal for the anime.

Was music always central to the story? How did the themes evolve?

As I answered previously, the theme for the new project from the time Jin-san and Hashimoto-san met was robots and music. After I got involved, we started fleshing out the specifics. As we were talking about what kind of music we liked, the subject of guitar rock focused in England came up, and from there we started constructing the story.

How would you describe your work relationship with JIN? Do you collaborate simultaneously?

First off, the core of the project was Jin-san's story and music, so we thought together about the setting of the world, the structure of the story, and the actual writing of the scripts. We shared ideas and offered feedback on the scripts we wrote, a method of working that I don't really use much. So we were generally working together.

Whose idea was it to include the Neubauten Sisters? Einsturzende Neubauten is considered pretty obscure!

When we set out to make Noise one of the themes of the anime, we decided to tell a road movie-like story in a fantasy world where the countries are based on music genres. At that stage, we thought that we wanted to put in far-off genres according to a musical methodology like melody and rhythm. From there, we all came up with ideas together.

Music and mecha have a long history in anime. Do you see LISTENERS continuing or building on this legacy?

Of course I do. The producer Hashimoto-san worked at a studio that was involved in Macross. I myself have worked on Macross Plus, Cowboy Bebop, and Eureka Seven, among others. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a tradition, but there was a part of me that was aware that it was following in succession of some lofty titles.

So far LISTENERS has included references to artists all over the world. Are any of the characters reflective of your own musical tastes?

Of course, I have feelings of respect and attachment to the characters and genres. When it comes to my personal taste, I may not write the people I admire as is, but there are a lot of parts that use those people as motifs. In particular, Kevin, Bilin, and Denka are drawn from artists who were active in my youth in the 80s and 90s, and they reflect my feelings and inclinations.

How did you decide which era to sample music from? Many of the artists alluded to in the series would be considered "classic," with hit songs from 25 years ago.

We didn't decide on any particular decade as a rule. However, in order to create a fantasy-like setting where the countries are based on musical genres, we had to use legends and hearsay that would evoke a feeling of history. Perhaps inevitably, a lot of parts drew from "the classics."

Is there a song you consider important to you or a time in your life?

These aren't songs that were used in this anime, but on a personal level, "Rydeen" by Yellow Music Orchestra and "Blue Monday" by New Order are very important songs to me. In the period when I was transitioning from elementary school student to middle school student, they made me become aware of listening to music for its own sake.

You've previously written other popular mecha series like Eureka Seven, how does Echo and Mu compare to Renton and Eureka?

When creating something, I can't compare it to anything I've worked on before, or any other work.

There are many mysteries surrounding the Earless, but their name implies an inability to enjoy music. How would you describe the importance of music to being human?

If you watch this anime to the end, I think that Echo and Mu will express one of the answers that the staff thought of as a team. So I hope you watch all the way to the final episode.

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