Wave, Listen to Me!
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Wave, Listen to Me! ?
Wave, Listen to Me! was always going to need someone special performing the role of Minare, given the show's fundamental premise. I was sold on Riho Sugiyama's chops from the very first episode, but it's been awhile since we've gotten to see and hear her performing like that again. If there were still any doubts about whether or not Sugiyama is turning in one of the best vocal performances of the year, they ought to be well and quashed after “You're Not Getting Out Alive”, which easily claims the title of the show's best episode since the premiere with its stellar writing and surprisingly chilling directing.
We've gotten glimpses of horror-esque vignettes from the show before (and can anyone explain what the whole “bleeding ceiling” bit from a few episodes back was about?), but Minare's first run as a full-blown host gives us the first extended segment from Wave that is meant to be just a touch on the eerie side. Kanetsugu even explains this as his explicit intent behind his planning of the debut: He's presenting the segment as an unscheduled “radio gaffe” that is delivering the increasingly goofy script as a real artifact, with Minare playing the role of the woman who is confessing to the brutal murder of her lover, Mitsuo. Kanetsugu knows that a 21st century audience is too jaded to completely fall for it, like they reportedly did when Orson Welles played off War of the Worlds as a news report in America during the Great Depression, but he'll be plenty satisfied if Minare's antics creep people out for even a second.
Minare's got her work cut out for her too, since the staff writer, Kureko, has produced more of an outline than a script, with much of the material dependent on Minare's ad-libbing. It makes for a great little program, even when Kureko drops a nonsensical bomb and has Minare's killer get apprehended not by the police, but by probing space aliens with cloning technology. It's a true testament to Sugiyama's skills as an actress that we legitimately buy that this off-beat little story would be entertaining enough to tune in for — especially since it is basically the local radio equivalent to those cheapie found-footage horror movies that are clogging up the Netflix and Amazon Prime back catalogs. Kanetsugu was right when he pinpointed that Minare's vocal quality has a certain magnetism to it, so much so that I'm fairly sure I'd enjoy listening to her even if I didn't have subtitles translating for me. Her little anecdotes are spot-on too, like the one about the dog who was put down after biting some old lady on the street, as they showcase that nobody knows how to bullshit and improvise like a seasoned veteran of the food-service industry.
What really elevates “You're Not Getting Out Alive”, though, is its willingness to get truly strange, and even genuinely creepy, when the needs arise. If the episode was merely a repeat of the premiere, where you watch Minare's bizarre sketch play out visually as she narrates it, it would have been solid enough. Wave takes advantage of our expectations, though, when Minare's narration is cross-cut with an actual attempted murder, which just so happens to be between a jilted woman and a poor bastard named Mitsuo. At first, I thought that this was too much of a coincidence to even consider taking seriously, but then Mitsuo recognized Minare's name, which got me thinking that this thieving asshole is the same thieving asshole that ran off with our heroine's savings. Now, is it narratively convenient that Minare's over-the-top fake-murder radio show would just so happen to intervene in the very real stabbing of her ex-boyfriend? Hell yes, but the scene is drawn and directed with such honest tension that I can't be bothered to care too much, and the poetic irony of it is too delightful to ignore.I have no clue how this real world drama will intersect with Minare's story, but it's another layer of perfectly balanced tone and refreshing boldness in a title that already excelling in those categories, so I won't complain. Tatsuma Minamikawa and the artists at Sunrise are clearly putting their all into making Wave, Listen to Me! a series to be reckoned with, and the work is paying off in spades. The brief cuts of action have outperformed shows that are dedicated to brawling and bloodshed, and this episode's dabbling into horror and suspense was better many of the series I've seen that are actively trying to be scary. This is the kind of anime that has everything that I'm looking for in the medium, and I can't wait to see what weird and wonderful places it takes us next.
Odds and Ends
• You've Got a Face Made for Radio: I'm going to double-dip with the review's main screen-cap for this one, but does it count as a “face” when my favorite image from the episode was Minare getting her blood sucked out of her skull by a suspiciously turtle-like machine in her dream sequence?
• The aliens of Minare's broadcast/dream don't know anything about human art and culture, but they're considerate enough to check her blood-donation chart to make sure they aren't overdrawing her monthly limit of 400 mL. That's nice.
• Immediately after her dream, Minare wakes up to Mizuho's real turtles taking a dump in her open mouth. I'll hand it to you, Wave: This is not a gag I ever would have predicted seeing in any show, ever.
• I'm not the only one who mistakenly thought the actual knife-wielding maniac was Makie, was I? Man, imagine the twists the story would have taken if that were the case.
Wave, Listen to Me! is currently streaming on Funimation.
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