Wave, Listen to Me!
Story & Art: Hiroaki Samura
Translation: Adam Hirsch
Lettering: Darren Smith
Editing: Alexandra Swanson
Hiroaki Samura is well known in the West for his bloody samurai epic, Blade of the Immortal. His beautiful, detailed artwork portrays scenes of violence, gore, and brutality as he spins the tale of Manji, who is on a quest to kill 1000 evil men to dispel his own curse. Incredible as this work is, it’s not always an easy story to stomach, and Samura has made rather a name for himself by trading on violence, and especially violence against women, in most of his bibliography.
So his most recent series, Wave, Listen to Me!, is that proverbial breath of fresh air for readers who love the look of his art but can’t make peace with his subject matter. In this thoroughly modern story, Minare Koda has just had her heart broken by her boyfriend. The scene opens with her in a bar, drunkenly confiding her feelings to an older man she’s just met. The next day, as she’s waiting tables at her job when she hears her own voice coming over the restaurant’s speakers. The man with whom she had been conversing, Kanetsugu Mato, seems to have been the director of a radio station, who secured Minare’s drunken consent to record her ramblings.
When Minare bursts into the radio station and tries to stop the broadcast, Mato tells her that he can’t have more than three seconds of dead air — she must fill in that space on the spot. She does so, and Mato’s interest is piqued; he determines to give her a show of her own based almost solely on the fact that once she starts talking, she can go on and on without stopping. After much debating with herself, Minare agrees to try it out, becoming a late-night radio show host with the mile-a-minute segments.
Wave, Listen to Me! is pretty much the antithesis of Blade of the Immortal. In an afterword at the end of the first volume, Samura admits: “I’m getting older, so I feel it’s about time I tune it down on the torture porn and parody stories and this manga is the result of that compulsion.” And so we have a modern setting with a woman protagonist who, as far as the first volume is concerned, is doing everything in her power to make it on her own. And it’s funny. Minare is a mess, and her sense of logic is utterly baffling. Her story is fun to follow, especially in those moments where her laidback nature is waylaid by her anxieties about her circumstances, painting her as a complex character who, like all of us, is just trying to find a way to exist in the world.
Samura is just as adept at visually fleshing out a modern setting as he is an Edo period setting, every panel utilizing a range of tones to establish place and provide texture. Though his artwork is what one might consider more realistic in the scope of manga illustration, he is still able to render humor through characters’ facial expressions as if they were more cartoonish (especially Minare’s face, easily the most expressive of all the characters). He promises that this is a romantic comedy, so readers can anticipate more of Minare’s blunt tirades on love as the story continues.
Wave, Listen to Me! is a beautifully rendered romantic comedy that is sure to appeal to a broad audience. The manga is available digitally through Kodansha Comics, and the first volume will also be available in print starting May 26, 2020. For those who want to see the lively Minare Koda hustling and chatting on screen, there is a recent anime adaptation available to stream through Funimation.