Well, this is a first: doing an anime review on this site (as opposed to doing it on my own site), but this one is a little special to me.
Enter Shinichiro Watanabe, the name synonymous with gateway anime that you can easily recommend to your non-anime friends. He has directed some of the most well-known anime of the past couple of decades with titles such as Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo & Space Dandy and some more niche titles like Kids on the Slope & Terror in Resonance. Something that you’ll notice and is heavily acclaimed about each show he’s directed is how he incorporates a genre of music into the atmosphere of the anime, like hip-hop (Samurai Champloo), classic jazz (Kids on the Slope), blues-jazz-funk (Cowboy Bebop), dance/electronic (Space Dandy) & ambient (Terror in Resonance). However, with this one he directed …well, he’s the chief director (Motonobu Hori being the other director), Carole & Tuesday, the series is centered entirely around music itself.
On top of that, this project is in commemoration of both the 20th anniversary of Studio Bones and the 10th Anniversary of record label FlyingDog. So this is a doubly special thing, and most were looking forward to watching this in the Spring season of 2019… except it was on Netflix due to airing on Fuji TV’s +Ultra programming block, making us endure the wait, and behold. So what do we get with this one?
Fifty years have passed since mankind began migrating to the new frontier: Mars. It’s an age where most culture is produced by AI, and people are content to be passive consumers. There’s a girl scraping a living in the metropolis of Alba City, Carole, working part-time while trying to become a musician, and she’s always felt like something is missing. There’s another girl, born to a wealthy family in the provincial town of Herschel City, and she dreams of becoming a musician, but nobody around her understands. She feels like the loneliest person in the world. Her name is Tuesday, and a chance meeting brings the two of them together.
The story (or at least, C&T’s story) is very much about the rise to stardom (or as I call it, “The come-up”) of our two titular characters. You get the whole “Two people from two different worlds” aspect right away, and once they played together on the street, they got a knack for it. Of course, like most struggling musicians, you have those moments of them trying to get their name out there, from doing guerilla performances at stages to making a music video to even getting booked at a festival even though they’re probably the smallest names on there. Most of their attempts fall flat but nevertheless, their parts always brought so much emotion, heart and joy whenever on screen. They also have a manager named Gus Goldman, a former drummer, and while at first glance, he would seem like someone who would use the duo to profit for himself, he doesn’t. He genuinely sees the two are talented and wants to get them ahead, and he also has a friend named Roddy, a sound technician with some connections himself, one of them being a big-time EDM DJ named Ertegun. Think of him as a cross between David Guetta and Calvin Harris in how epic he presents himself whenever he’s performing.
Fun fact: The name “Ertegun” comes from Ahmet Ertegun, one of the original founders of record company Atlantic Records.
On the other side of the story, we have our other main non-titular character: Angela Carpenter: a former child actress/model who wants to pursue a career as a singer. This end of the story is about how her life is more soul-sucking work, parallel to the idol scene in Japan. Her agent is her mother Dahlia Carpenter, one of those showbiz mothers that has Angela working on anything to keep her name afloat. Her manager is Katy Kimura, who is a legit fan of Angela’s, although I felt bad for the girl when Angela was treating her like dirt. She also has a music producer named Tao, and he’s definitely a strange guy as he uses AI to create music. Hell, in this show, most songs are often handled by AI (Artificial Intelligence), which is why when people heard Carole & Tuesday for the first time, they were shocked by their performances.
The duo and Angela don’t clash until they meet in Mars Brightest, the talent show that’s basically American Idol but on Mars, and it definitely lives up to that description. I’ll admit that Angela’s storyline doesn’t really hold up to me that much at first, but that was just for the first par. In the latter half, things get heavy with her, and you really feel for her as they get worse. In the first half, I didn’t really like Angela that much and I get that she was more of a quasi-antagonist/rival to Carole & Tuesday, but honestly I got very concerned for her in the latter half of this series.
In fact, while I love the 1st half, the 2nd half really ups the series’ A-Game. Not to mention, things get exceptionally heated especially in the political sense. Tuesday’s mom, Valerie Simmons, is a governor running a campaign for the presidency of Mars, and the platform she’s running is not too far off from what you see in reality nowadays (immigration, ICE or better yet, MICE… you thought Promare went hard on this? This is on the pulse of that, too). Come to think of it, the story with the rapper Ezekiel aka Amer (a childhood friend of Carole) and his situation is closely similar to what happened with rapper 21 Savage in February 2019, but, yes, the show is very clear on their opinion of ICE.
We also have a plethora of major and minor characters that play various parts in the story, including the contestants on Mars Brightest like Pyotr, the social media celebrity who I thought I was going to be annoyed by at first but ended up being a decent character. There’s GGK who reminded me of FKA Twigs mixed with SZA and maybea bit of Rihanna. Cybelle has a lovely singing voice but is mostly a dangerous person to be around with, and then there’s The Mermaid Sisters who will forever hold one of the best musical moments in the show (oh, you know what that moment is), The Fire Brothers who got some, well… fire, especially in their old age, and thanks to OG Bulldog, I want trap opera to be a thing. Crystal and Flora are are Carole & Tuesday’s favorite singers, with the latter being a friend of Gus and yeah, from her appearance, she has been through some harsh and depressing events in her career.
Tobe is this crazy (and possibly psychotic) music producer that’s helping C&T working on their album, and he’s very strict on what works and what is crap. Oh, and his first appearance is him with a swinging axe.
Animation-wise, the series looks fantastic with the overall layout and design of Mars in the future, and while Mars as a livable planet is not new to Watanabe and crew, it still shows some unique flavor in there, and that goes for the character designs as well. It’s not exactly too crazy, but they are fitting enough to how people usually represent themselves in real life. Plus, some of the gag moments are often hilarious, especially when it comes to Carole & Tuesday’s facial reactions.
Now let’s get to the music: as expected, this plays a huge role in the show (hell, each episode is named after a popular song, so there’s that fact). Remember when I said that Watanabe’s past shows incorporates different specific genres? Well, this is like a gumbo of his past works as there are a bunch of different genres in the mix. Pop definitely takes up the majority of it, mostly to songs performed by Carole & Tuesday, aka their singing voices Nai Br.XX & Celeina Ann, and their songs are soulful, pleasing, and catchy as well. That goes to the 2 opening songs “Kiss Me” & “Polly Jean,” and the first ending song “Hold Me Now” whose melody sounds like “What a Fool Believes” by Michael McDonald. There’s also Angela’s singing voice Alisa, who made some solid performances with the 2nd ED song, “Not Afraid,” and while her songs represent more of a polished, cleaned-up style of pop, they’re still great songs.
In fact, there are a lot of collaborators to the music in this show, especially from some well-known acts like Australian EDM producer Alison Wonderland, Japanese hip-hop producer Taku Takahashi (producer of group m-flo who also worked with Watanabe in the past), and even singer-songwriter Madison McFerrin & producer Taylor McFerrin (both are children of vocalist and conductor Bobby McFerrin). However, the ones that definitely got my attention are Flying Lotus and Thundercat. The latter happens to be the singing voice of Skip and performed “Unrequited Love” on episode 6, “Show Me The Way,” and that bass and smooth production oozes with Brainfeeder’s signature goodness. Another highlight is the singing voice of Ezekiel happens to be Denzel Curry on the mic, contributing to “Crash The Server” & “Lonesome Jazz” on episodes 20 and 21, respectively. It’s fitting considering Watanabe directed the music video to Flying Lotus’ “More” (featuring Anderson .Paak) from his album Flamagra that year, and that album also featured Denzel Curry with “Black Balloons Reprise.” In case you couldn’t tell, it was one of my favorite albums of 2019.
I tuned in to the English dub of this, and considering that all the songs are in English, it was more fitting to watch it in that language. The dub is solid with great ADR direction and writing from Erica Mendez & Kyle McCarley, the latter whom voices Tao in the show. Jeannie Tirado & Brianna Knickerbocker provides the voices of the titular characters and are a great seamless complement to their singing voices. I also enjoyed Ryan Bartley’s performance of Angela, especially going outside her usual range of voices and characters she usually voices. I didn’t mention this before but Gus did remind me a little bit of Nanbu from Megalo Box and as it turns out, the VA, Jason Marnocha, does both of those voices.
Carole & Tuesday was easily one of the most anticipated anime series of 2019, and while the long wait for it to show up on Netflix did irk me, it was worth it to see how amazing it turned out to be. There was enough emotion, heart and passion in one episode than most anime do in their entire, run with vibrant and unique animation, intriguing characters, and of course the music is just fantastic to hear all around, especially on that one last song performance in the final episode. Watanabe, Hori & crew delivered on this project and I hope this gains more attention, as not only is this another great effort from them, but it is the best anime of 2019.
Carole & Tuesday can be streamed on Netflix.