The musical references in Listeners may not be especially profound, but they certainly are plentiful. So far, each episode of the musical mecha anime has paid homage to a classic rock band or an influential artist, including Oasis, Nirvana, Prince and more. Music fans will find more references than they can shake a drumstick at, as the show is packed full of them, from the slightly arcane to the blaringly obvious.
Listeners seems eager to prove its music-loving cred, paying tribute to iconic acts in some pretty unexpected places. The less musically inclined might have a harder time picking up on the less obvious homages, so here’s a guide to each episode’s musical reference, as well as a few others picked up along the way.
The anime’s first episode references the English rock band Oasis. Swell Reck – protagonist Echo’s elder sister – runs a bar named “Oasis,” and the episode title “Live Forever” refers to an Oasis song of the same name. The idea of “living” is present throughout the episode as Echo struggles with what to do with his scrapheap-scrounging existence, though it’s hard to stretch the Oasis symbolism any further than that. The episode spends more time introducing viewers to “Jimi Stonefree,” a mysterious figure referential to Jimi Hendrix and his song “Stonefree”.
Episode 2 “Half Man” references the song Halber Mensch – German for “half man” – by the German experimental rock band Einstürzende Neubauten. The anime also names its first antagonist group the “Neubauten Sisters.” While they initially look torn straight from Nier: Automata, this whacky trio pays decent homage to Einstürzende Neubauten, a band known for its unorthodox sound and custom-made instruments. The Neubauten Sisters torment Echo and Mu with illusory shenanigans until the two are saved by Bilin Valentine.
Listeners’ third episode, “You Made Me Realise,” pays tribute to Scottish shoegaze group My Bloody Valentine. The episode introduces Bilin and Kevin Valentine, a veteran “Player” duo, who act as mentor figures for the protagonists and flirt with each other through My Bloody Valentine lyrics. The episode showcases some shoegaze-esque guitar riffs in obvious homage to the band that pioneered the genre, and dazzle viewers with some blaring red lights right out of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless album aesthetic.
Episode 4’s title, “Teen Spirit,” once again proves Listeners knows little of subtlety, this time paying tribute to American rock band Nirvana and their song “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The anime takes Echo and Mu to Freak Scene Academy, a school struggling with a stress-relieving drug called Teen Spirit. The character Nir looks like a little Kurt Cobain, and that’s no coincidence. What may be a coincidence is how uneasy this stress-relieving drug storyline feels in light of the Nirvana singer’s death; it certainly doesn’t seem in the Listeners spirit to tackle such a serious topic. It’s possible someone just wanted to reincarnate Kurt Cobain as a cute anime girl, and everything else just kind of happened.
Prince is in this episode. Prince is literally a character in the episode. Episode 5 “In the Embrace of the Beat,” calls him Denka and has this colorful reincarnation of the American singer guide Echo and Mu through the Listeners red-light district. The title refers to the 1984 song “When Doves Cry,” and plenty of other references drop throughout the episode. The red-light district, for instance, is called Paisley Park, another reference to a Prince song. It’s also in this episode that Echo and Mu learn more about the enigmatic Jimi Stonefree.
The sixth episode of Listeners does its reference a little more creatively. Of course, it still provides the usual unsubtle title in “Goodbye Blue Sky,” which references a song by the influential English rock band Pink Floyd. However, its most interesting tribute comes in form of the episode’s architecture: “The Wall” – another song reference – is a triangular prism-like structure paying homage to the iconic album cover of The Dark Side of the Moon. It’s a nice shakeup from the trend of having the referenced artist or band cameo as a character.
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In only six episodes, Listeners has paid homage to a number of iconic musical acts. Here's a guide to each reference.