Please note that this review contains spoilers.
Wave, Listen to Me! is a series by mangaka Hiroaki Samura (Blade of the Immortal) which centres on Minare Koda, 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.
Where we last left the story, Minare and Mizuho had agreed to accompany Kureko on a trip to Wassamu, a secluded mountain village, in the hopes of finding some inspirational material for his upcoming mystery novel.
Initially the scenario seems innocent enough, as the trio arrive in Wassamu and are greeted by their tour guide Hokakushi. Over dinner and through discussion we get more insight into Kureko’s other works as an author, all whilst Mizuho and Hokakushi lock horns (according to Minare’s humorous play-by-play commentary anyways).
This segues into the first day of research, as they discover how the village has become largely deserted due to the townsfolk moving away. The desolate landscape leads to a conversation about urban myths, and the situation only becomes more sinister as Hokakushi is seen speaking to someone on the phone.
The bulk of the volume is devoted to Minare, Mizuho and Kureko becoming embroiled in an elaborate scheme by the local radio manager, who has dressed himself up as a cultish figure known as “Father”, whom Hokakushi is working for.
They are initially lured into what appears to be Hokakushi’s house but it turns out to be a facility they cannot leave and they are required to assist “Father” to create a number of radio programs under strict instructions, with Moiwayama Radio airing them.
After an uncomfortable dinner set-up, the scheme is made further evident by an attempted honey trap (the act of gradually seducing a married man and then blackmailing them) which fails as Kureko is still single and fails to be coerced by Hokakushi.
Likewise, both Minare and Mizuho are also almost snared but ward off the threat. Initially, a deadline is given to free our protagonists, but naturally the situation progresses less than smoothly. By the volume’s end. drastic and clever actions have been taken to alert the team back at Moiwayama Radio Station as to what’s been going on, involving some elaborate techniques like subliminal messaging and backmasking (encoding audio materials on recording in such a way that they can only be heard and understood when the recording is played backwards.)
With another bizarre set-up for the story, this volume felt more akin to earlier volumes than what we saw last time around with a more straightforward scenario, and once more, I appreciated and enjoyed mangaka Hiraoki Samura’s ability to provide variety in the story as each of the protagonists demonstrate their own strengths and resources whilst keeping true to their characters.
In an extended sequence, Minare overhears a conversation outside, leading to the suspicion that their rooms are bugged. This leads to an elaborate sequence in which the trio discuss the situation through written text scribbled in their notebooks, all whilst a separate discussion is carried out as Minare makes up an elaborate story about a fictitious high school friend to try to prevent those spying on them from catching on that they’ve been rumbled. This sequence is executed well by Samura but also showcases the strengths of the translation team behind these English releases.
Minare also gets some interactions with Hiromi Saiki, a young member of the pseudo-cult who secretly wants to break away from his surroundings, whilst Mizuho and Hokakushi share an uneasy relationship due to their interests in Kureko but also Mizuho’s respect for her superior’s extra years of experience.
The end of the volume also delivers a nice twist relating to one of the interviewees Minare has to interview under duress and their relationship to a supporting player from an earlier volume, which I won’t spoil here but certainly offers some solid set-up for Volume 6.
Whilst I did like the story in this volume, it very much felt like preaparation for a bigger climax which I assume we will read in Volume 6. That said, as mentioned before, it does offer some nice character interactions and a more tense atmosphere due to the imprisonment of Minare, Mizuho and Kureko. New characters like Hokakushi and Hiromi offer some variety, especially with the former’s dubious moral compass throughout the plot so far.
Wave, Listen to Me! has once again been translated by Adam Hirsch, who provides another impressive job especially with the more elaborate layouts mentioned earlier in the review, plus the continued effort put into the translation notes found at the end of the book.
All in all, Volume 5 sees a return to the more offbeat humour and scenarios that have made the story memorable so far, whilst also introducing new characters with their own secrets to hide.