After a breakup, Minare Koda drowns her sorrows with a group of strangers. The next morning she remembers nothing, but in the middle of her shift as a waitress she hears her own voice coming through the radio, a drunken ramble recorded the night before. When she dashes to the station to stop the broadcast, Minare ends up on air, the start of a career she had never expected.
“It’s the skim milk of romance manga” is how author Hiroaki Samura, best known for Blade of the Immortal, describes Wave, Listen to Me! in the first volume afterword. And he’s not wrong. Minare herself is a larger than life character, without the necessary substance to ground such an unfocused story with such a sprawling ensemble. Her slapstick approach to life is at odds with the more realistic “slice of life” style of the rest of the series, and her relationships with every other member of the cast (none of which are romantic from her perspective) are too shallow to be satisfying.
Minare appears to have no goal beyond killing her ex-boyfriend for stealing her money and abandoning her, but please see the earlier comment about slapstick: tense revenge thriller this is not. Minare simply reacts to the people around her who have their own goals involving her. This could in itself be the basis for decent character development, but by the end of the first volume we get no hint that this is likely. Instead, every opportunity to develop Minare’s character is crushed by whatever ham-fisted joke Samura has decided is more valuable.
This won’t even appeal to anyone looking for a manga about life in radio, as Minare’s entry into the industry is unconventional, inconsistent, and almost entirely without detail. We learn more about how the curry is made in the restaurant where she works than we do about how a radio program is developed.
Samura is a technically skilled artist who has created a book with distinct character designs, an unusual setting in Hokkaido, and an unusual situation in local radio. It’s just not clear what he intended to do with all of these ingredients. Wave, Listen to Me! is neither slice of life romance nor workplace drama. Maybe it settles into a tone or a structure in future volumes, but if Samura’s art and Minare’s quirky manners aren’t enough to hold your attention, you may struggle to stay invested for that long.
story and art: Hirokai Samura