Last Friday, Netflix finally decided to grace U.S. audiences with Part 1 of Carole and Tuesday, one of my most anticipated series of the year based on the creators’s pedigrees and the pitch. The series is directed by Shinichirō Watanabe (creator of perennial favorites Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo as well as the much more niche Space Dandy) and produced by Bones (the studio that has produced series like Eureka Black, Darker than Black, Soul Eater, both adaptations of Full Metal Alchemist, and My Hero Academia). If somehow none of those names have you at least interested in Carole and Tuesday, maybe the synopsis can convince.
Set an indeterminate amount of time in the future, Mars has been terraformed and most of the entertainment industry has defaulted to using Artificial Intelligence to write and compose all of the music for human artists/puppets to perform. Amidst the day-to-day life of Alba City, Carole is a simple orphan trying to make ends meet and Tuesday is a runaway with nothing but a Gibson acoustic guitar after her single suitcase gets stolen. After fate draws Tuesday to Carole’s keyboard on top of a bridge, the two begin their strange ascent into the music business on purely their own merit.
After waiting the excruciating long months for the first twelve episodes, and while I’m not a fan of waiting another several months for the back half of the series, I am very happy to report that the series, while not perfect, brings an unadulterated joy and a clear love of music and creatives and their process to your screen. It’s well worth the time to devour the series in its entirety.
Right off the bat, I will say that Carole and Tuesday does not fully capitalize on its Martian setting and robotic components. These elements are certainly there, but Alba City very easily could have been mistaken Earth. The setting doesn’t fully integrate into the main narrative, although hints to both the protagonists’s backstories indicate that it will be more heavily incorporated later. And with that out of the way, let me extol this beautifully animated series properly.
Carole and Tuesday
Carole (originally voiced by Miyuri Shimabukuro, Jeannie Tirado in the dub, with vocals by Nai Br.XX) and Tuesday (originally voiced by Kana Inchinose, Brianna Knickerbocker in the dub, with vocals by Celeina) are absolutely endearing from their introductory moments and through the twelve episode run. There is an earnestness and honesty in the passion they have for making music entirely on their own. While the characters play into familiar tropes, they are excellent executions of these familiar storytelling techniques. They experience growth as individuals and a duo and their slow breakthrough into the music is actually inspiring. I mean this as sincerely as I possibly can — this is a series that makes me want to make art again. Now, I’m a writer by trade but anytime a creative stumbles upon a piece of work so clearly made by people who are excited about the creative process they can’t really help but be uplifted. The journey that Carole and Tuesday take, leading to an eventual “Seven Minute Miracle on Mars” constantly hinted at in the opening credits, is well done between the ups and downs of a still capitalist driven music industry.
Outside of the two protagonists, the main cast features equally intriguing characters like Angela Carpenter (originally voiced by Sumire Uesaka, Ryan Bartley in the dub, with vocals by Alisa). Angela is a famous model who wants to transition over to the music business knowing full well she’d be nothing but a glorified puppet. Her storyline slowly converges into Carole and Tuesday’s plot. Tao, the music producer behind the advanced AI that make Angela’s musical tracks. You have Roddy and Gus Goldman, the support staff behind Carole and Tuesday who help them between recording videos, finding gigs, and eventually entering them into the mandatory tournament (because every anime needs to have a tournament arc). And a colorful assortment of addition musical artists that provide an interesting counterbalance. The characters are strong and, while there are some questionable moments and actions that had me raising my eyebrows, for the most part feel true to life.
A Rare Treat
Here’s the thing: the story is perfectly serviceable, but the quality of the soundtrack and animation is nothing short of phenomenal. Every time you hear a musical cue be ready for an audiovisual experience that is frustratingly good. Mockery, the composer of the series, does a brilliant job of creating a wide range of diverse tracks and Nai Br.xx, Celenia Ann, Alisa, and all of the vocalists absolutely own each and every song that they sing. If you have not been watching the videos that I’ve been interspersing throughout this review, you should because they do a better job of explaining why you need to watch this series than I ever could. And Bones’ animation is brilliantly fluid and matches the spectacle of any musical concert you’ve been to. These songs should be playing on the radio. If someone had a mixtape or vinyl record available, I would buy it in a heartbeat because every track is straight flames. There are hits, bangers, bops, all accompanied by world-class animation.
Carole and Tuesday is one of those rare shows that just spurs joy. There is no overt violence (although when you’re dealing with a realistic depiction of the music industry and social media era, you’re going to get some more subtle, insidious forms of violence), and the series focuses on something pure: the friendship of two women who want to make music more than anything else in the world. And that’s something special. That’s something I really hope everyone watches because listen, it’s that enjoyable.