Given the cover, one would imagine this manga is about a radio host who has a temper and takes to screaming into a microphone. Boy would they be wrong about that; I picked up the first volume without a single idea of what I was in for and ended up being pleasantly surprised. Let’s dive in shall we?
Wave, Listen to Me! Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics)
So what’s it about? The official summary reads:
The stage is Sapporo, Hokkaido. One night, our heroine, Minare Koda, spills her heartbroken woes to a radio station worker she meets while out drinking one night. The next day, she hears a recording of her pitiful grumbling being played live over the air. Minare storms into the station in a rage, only to then be duped by the station director into doing an impromptu talk show explaining her harsh dialogue. With just one recording, the many eccentric facets of Minare’s life begin to pull every which direction as she falls ever deeper into the world of radio. Wave, listen to me!
Why does this book matter?
From the same creator behind Blade of the Immortal and Die Wergelder, Hiroaki Samura brings his customary solid art style to a romantic drama. Or is a romantic drama? First and foremost, the protagonist is a fascinating character who is funny and filled with foibles. She’s infectiously interesting and will draw you into the story no matter the subject matter.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The use of lettering helps understand the emotion of the characters.
Minare Koda is an incredibly well-written protagonist who, at face value, has the same sort of manga traits we’ve seen a thousand times before, but overcomes them with a clear personality. Those traits include being quick to anger and somewhat random silliness, but over the course of the manga I felt like I was getting to know the character. At first, you see her as the selfish character who is still young and figuring things out, but as the characters around her give her support she gains a confidence in a way that makes you root for her. She has little to offer beyond sheer confidence, but in the world of radio that can be everything.
Samura writes very good dialogue, internal and between characters, which altogether makes for a pleasing experience. The use of lettering to bold certain text, or making some text smaller, helps convey whether the dialogue is being said under one’s breath or louder and with sheer confidence. The lettering allows the dialogue to feel more natural and thus more entertaining. That helps say, when Minare is acting silly and other characters react stupefied.
Of course, the drawing helps with character development too and there are quite a few moments in this manga where we see Minare by herself in her own thoughts… or simply resting and thinking about the day. Samura does a good job showing quiet moments among the loud and dramatic, which helps make the story feel genuine and real. The art is vivid and very clear in exhibiting expressions. The perspective is quite nice too, with scenes feeling more three dimensional. This is partly due to the well rendered environments, but even between characters, you get a sense of depth via how far apart they stand.
Since the art feels so realistic and honest, it ends up making the experience with the characters that much more intimate. This is a character who wants to be loved, figure her path out, and do well at it. I would imagine most young adults could relate to this character and while she has her problems, she’s a good role model because of it.
The supporting characters are interesting and well rendered too. From the radio manager who discovers her–and cleverly brings her in–to a coworker who lets her move in when Minare has nowhere to go, they’re all equally interesting and compelling. They feel like real people, and Samura never strays away from the strong personalities he’s set up.
Minare can be a bit of a goofball.
It can’t be perfect can it?
It took a surprising number of pages for me to start enjoying this manga. That’s partly due to the radio show aspect taking a while to get going–in all honesty it doesn’t really start in this volume–and instead her time working at a curry soup restaurant takes up much of the duration. While the character is being built, I found there to be a lot of references to Japanese culture (with handy notes showing up on quite a few pages) which includes a topic focused on where people are from; having not lived in or ever been to Japan I found it difficult to understand the deeper meaning of their conversation and I couldn’t relate their ideas to America. Add that with other Japanese references (like bands I’ve never heard of) and I found myself a bit in the dark here and there. It never took me out of the manga, and to be honest at times it was interesting to peer into their culture, but it left me feeling like I wasn’t getting the full experience.
This is a fine manga that’s got plenty of good character work to chew on and absorb. One might argue it’s a soap opera, but it’s more than that, in part because it’s not all about romance and love, but instead characters discovering themselves and just trying to make it through a single day. Wave, Listen to Me! is great entertainment that you’ll relate to in a way that’ll make you not want to put it down.