Every so often, an anime series completely sets the bar for storytelling, and the Netflix series Carole & Tuesday is a superb work of art that's without flaws. Helmed by the creative genius Shinichirō Watanabe, (Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy and Samurai Champloo) the creator dives into the world of western music and a fractured society through an enticing universe that draws parallels to our own.
Carole & Tuesday is an anime that is unlike anything that came before, and because of its intensely emotional story with a futuristic flare of originality, it will live on as one of the best series we've ever seen. So what is it about Carole & Tuesday that evokes such powerful emotions?
Music is Universally Therapeutic
One of the biggest thematic attributes in Carole & Tuesday is the importance of music. Not just to a musician, but in all of our lives on a daily basis. Music can reflect a particular mood, convey unspoken feelings, or help go through the motions of life through our happiest moments to the lowest of lows. In Carole & Tuesday, every character we meet has a particular connection to music whether the artist following their passions, or even those such as Flora and Desmond who stray from music as a result of trauma.
Carole uses music as an escape from her day to day life, and Tuesday views music as the only true extension of herself that she can access. Both come from very different lives with distinct personalities, but their bond is built on a shared passion which is the truest proof of music being a bridge to unite people. Aside from Carole and Tuesday, others like Angela cling to music as a last ditch effort to keep connections to her mother, but also the sliver of childhood innocence that she has lost growing up in a sometimes cutthroat industry.
The series begins by showing a pursuit of mainstream success, but as each character evolves before our eyes we discover that more than anything, there is a higher value on creating something that could change the world — and that's exactly what they end up achieving. The musical elements of Carole & Tuesday bring the series even more success, as a remarkable group of vocalists (Alisa, Celeina Ann and Nai Br.XX) rise to the challenge of delivering ranges from undeniable chart-worthy pop hits, lo-fi records, and heart wrenching ballads. Without the symbiotic relationship between plot-heavy musical ambitions and poignant songs, it would be rather difficult to cement Carole & Tuesday as the storytelling juggernaut that it is from beginning to end.
Emotionally Charged in a World That's All Too Relevant
During the first half of Carole & Tuesday, we begin to notice some undertones that help it feel tangible to the music industry and fame as a whole, with little notions of things like Vogue's viral interviews, Billboard Charts, Grammy Awards, Instagram, Coachella-like festivals, and even a few viral videos or Banksy pieces. It's refreshing to see that this is very much grounded in western influence as Watanabe intended, but things eventually take a much more drastic and emotional turn when it begins to address a tense political setting.
First, Tuesday's mother becomes a Trump-esque character, running for office with the goal of outlawing refugees from Earth to Mars with a heavy anti-immigration stance. Obviously it uses a sci-fi world to tell this story, but the message is eerily accurate as MICE (Mars version of ICE) begins to detain refugees and stages attacks to create distrust and disheartening shift in society. As mentioned in the series, many artists are scared to use their platform to speak out against heinous and inhuman choices being made, something that is eventually recognized as being compliant with the restructuring of a deeply flawed society.
The series truly uses the slice-of-life backdrop as a mask to tell a much more serious narrative, and because it's geared towards introducing Japanese viewers to western music, it also depicts a (barely) exaggerated version of the life we're living based on the ignorance and hate of people we've shamefully put in power. It's a bold statement for an anime, but the message is one that is overwhelmingly crucial for everyone to see. We may feel powerless about things going on around us much like many of the characters do, but our biggest strength is standing up for ourselves, what's ultimately right, and brining unity back to the forefront of our everyday lives.
One character that gets a healthy amount of time in the spotlight is model, child actor and eventually pop-star known as Angela. Angela is introduced as a confident, take-no-crap young woman with a bright future ahead of her. What we really learn from Angela's story is that there's so much more depth to someone who is often portrayed with a perfect persona, and in reality, her needs are completely ignored.
Angela is either seeking approval from her mother or even her less-than empathetic producer, Tao. Angela doesn't have friends, lives on her own and has very little trust for anyone because of her complex family life. Angela is set up for failure by everyone in her life, but regardless, the triple threat enjoys the obstacles of a challenge and rises to fame with each endeavor she tackles. Of course, this spotlights Angela's strength, dedication and talent, but not without taking a toll on the pop-star.
Initially Angela feels like a rival to Carole and Tuesday during their quest to break into the music industry, but her story drastically shifts and the solitude she experiences creates a whole other story that stands on its own. The pressure she is subjected to comes to a head when she simultaneously loses her mother, learns about her identity and loses the last remaining connection she has with Tao — something that's already complicated to begin with. Angela follows up her trauma with the impressive Grammy win for Best New Artist and a performance where she ultimately overdoses on-stage because of her reaching an inevitable breaking point.
This incorporates an addiction perspective as well as the importance of mental health, something that many artists are accurately privy to in the industry. While Angela's story is often a tear-jerker catalyst in Carole & Tuesday, her evolution into a new woman by the series end is the most beautiful yet tragic piece of the 24 episode tale. Seeing her open up to others and embrace a part of herself she was forced to initially shed gave Carole & Tuesday one of the most beautiful examples of storytelling you could ask for.
While Angela's search for herself was something pivotal to Carole & Tuesday, the titular singers depicted two unique paths of their own that when brought together creates pure magic. Carole is a hardened, independent orphan who has grown strong on her own, but struggled to be heard through music. Tuesday, the wealthy daughter of a politician feels invisible to those surrounding her.
When the two come together to create music, they help one another see themselves in more confident ways than before, bringing out the best qualities of each other. Of course, as musicians they blossom with the help of their incredible manager Gus and their respective talents, but we begin to see it manifest in other ways as well. Tuesday struggles but eventually succeeds at stating her needs and standing up to her family due to her partnership with Carole. Carole softens herself up to the idea of friendship more through the meek Tuesday, even building the confidence and determination to accept her biological father when the opportunity presents itself.
Carole and Tuesday are certainly crucial to each other's growth, but they also make each other stronger individually, making their partnership more about being the best version of yourself instead of entirely relying on anyone including each other. This becomes a recurring theme for many of the singers and characters Carole and Tuesday encounter having gone through their own obstacles, but seeing the pure spirit that the two embody is a spark that reintroduces people to their own dreams.
Carole & Tuesday is not only one of Watanabe's best projects, but one of the best anime series you will ever witness. From music, to identity, independence and even pursuing your dreams, there's no shortage of perfection. The series is available to stream on Netflix in two parts for 24 episodes of heartfelt brilliance, so make sure to experience the beautiful tale on your own — you won't be disappointed.