Wave, Listen to Me! is a series by mangaka Hiroaki Samura (Blade of the Immortal) which centres on Minare, an almost 30-year-old woman struggling with her personal issues and frustrations, who happens upon circumstances which lead to her becoming a popular radio personality.
The series was adapted into an anime in 2020 to positive reception and this first volume encapsulates the beginnings of the story, setting up the main cast and establishing the tone and indeed the appeal of this seinen comedy-drama Slice-of-Life manga.
The setup here is simple enough as Minare Koda is working a dead-end job as a floor manager for a small restaurant, Voyager, in Sapporo. Whilst in the middle of a nasty break-up, she becomes increasingly disgruntled and drinks away her sorrows in a local bar, where she unknowingly encounters a producer for the nearby radio station.
One thing leads to another and her obliviousness soon turns to embarrassment and frustration as her ramblings end up broadcast on the air, showcasing her struggles to the world.
Initially on the warpath, Minare storms the radio station looking for blood – but eventually finds herself working for the station, due to her energetic and ever off-kilter personality which has an enigmatic appeal to those around her.
It is here that the heart of the story lies as Minare realises that, despite initially disliking the position she’s in, this new job not only pays better but is also a breath of fresh air – injecting some excitement and life into her mundane day-to-day routine.
I think there’s something inherently interesting and endearing about flawed characters, especially in a medium in which a lot of protagonists can seem invulnerable to the everyday struggles of life. This is probably why I find Minare to be such a likeable lead as mangaka Samura takes the time to develop a character whose flaws are (literally) out in the open and their struggles are relatable. Watching the early process of a new start come to life here makes for a promising start to the series.
You can really feel for a character like Minare because, despite being in a messy part of her life, she’s really trying to move forward, even if she seems reluctant to at first, due to her mindset.
The supporting characters here are also decent as the most important is Kanetsugu, the radio producer who essentially manipulates Minare into joining the show. His intentions at this stage are a bit hard to read but despite an air of sleaziness, he really does see some potential in Minare. There’s also Mizuho, an assistant at the station who befriends Minare and lets her stay around as a pseudo-housemate. She comes across as likeable and kind but with some eccentricities like keeping turtles.
Elsewhere, Minare’s restaurant co-workers are interesting enough for what we see of them, with chef Nakahara being a standout due to his attempts to assist Minare, who is appreciative in her own way but sets clear boundaries. There’s also a bizarre encounter with one of Minare’s neighbours who tries to assist her during a drunken situation, only to get floored for his troubles.
This first volume does great work cementing its central protagonist in such a way that you’re keen to read on and follow how the story develops. The supporting characters also help to flesh out the world around Minare and set the wheels in motion too.
Looking at the art style, Wave has an almost raw feeling to its design at times. Samura provides some wonderfully detailed and animated expressions for Minare which help to illustrate her various emotional states throughout the volume.
The first volume has been translated by Adam Hirsch and Jiajing Sun. On top of being able to bring across Minare’s quirks and drunken rants, there’s also seven pages’ worth of translation notes that go above and beyond in explaining various references within the volume that Western readers may not immediately understand.
In summary, Wave, Listen to Me! Volume 1 is a great introduction to the story and its main protagonist Minare, who quickly becomes an endearing character to follow as her journey into the world of radio begins and her life gradually gets back on track.
Any fans of the anime will want to pick this up too, as mangaka Hiroaki Samura’s artwork and characterisation shine through.
Read the first chapter for free on Kodansha Comics’ site here.