Production: Bones, FlyingDog
Platform: Streaming – Netflix
Release Date: Out Now
This is an anime someone *cough* you know who you are *cough* had been telling me to watch for a long time, and, well, I have finally got around to it! I tend to enjoy anime with a musical theme, such as Your Lie in April, so an anime about two 17-year-old girls (can you guess their names?!) breaking their way into the music scene seems very much in my wheelhouse. In this review, I shall be reviewing Part 1, which is made up of 12 episodes, with a review for Part 2 at a later date.
-SOME SPOILERS FOR CAROLE & TUESDAY: PART 1 AHEAD-
It Goes Two Ways
Ah, y’know, Part 1 of Carole & Tuesday starts out so well. Then, as it goes on, it really loses its way as you enter the second half… OK, I’m getting ahead of myself! We start out from the perspective of Tuesday Simmons (Kana Ichinose/Brianna Knickerbocker), a quiet and reserved girl from a rich family (her mother is a well-known politician). She has run away from home, with only her futuristic self-driving suitcase and guitar in tow. Oh yeah, did I mention this is set in the future? Oh, and on Mars? Ultimately, it isn’t that different from an Earth setting; there are subtle inclinations here and there, such as a train crossing the red surface of the planet, or talk of past events on Earth. One of the main differences to note is how AI are much more prominent, specifically with all music now being created through AI software. Well, nearly all…
Tuesday makes her way to Alba City, and isn’t off to a great start when her briefcase is stolen. Wandering to a bridge in the evening, she then hears the music of Carole Stanley (Miyuri Shimabukuro/Jeannie Tirado) as she busks on said bridge. Most people are walking past Carole without much notice, but this music connects to Tuesday; the connotations of loneliness, yet an optimistic loneliness that is open to connection, forms an immediate bond between these two girls. Chased off the bridge by security, they return to Carole’s apartment and continue the formation of their friendship. Tuesday adds her lyrics and guitar to the song Carole was playing, producing the song The Loneliest Girl.
From the outset, the musical performances are fantastic. The voices of Nai Br.XX and Celeina Ann for the songs go fantastically well together, and the music really sells the emotions being put across. Plenty of original music performances punctuate the series, with my personal favourite being Whispering My Love from Episode 8 All the Young Dudes. The colourful credits have energetic tracks playing over them as well; visually, the intro has quite a traditional, rustic appearance to the animation, with the outro having a much more crisp, but static, approach. This variation of animation is carried into the episodes, to a varying level of success. At times there seemed to be an inconsistency to the way characters are portrayed. I don’t mean when you get the exaggerated facial expressions so often seen in anime, but more the scene-to-scene visual style. This is only a small complaint – I really like the slightly more traditional, expressive style which runs through most of the show!
Piano & Guitar
This early section of the series is wonderful, focusing on Carole and Tuesday as they get to know each other. As they talk and learn who each other is at heart, so do we, and I immediately found myself rooting for them. When they break into the Mars Immigration Memorial Hall to play the piano there, programmer and engineer Roddy (Miyu Irino/Zach Aguilar) records it and posts the video online, capturing the attention of previously-successful manager Gus Goldman (Akio Ôtsuka/Jason Marnocha). He is now down-and-out, divorced and spending a lot of time drinking at a bar; however, this music reinvigorates him to search Carole & Tuesday out and become their manager. Following episodes revolve around the various methods they try in order to get more people to be aware of their non-AI music; this includes trying to be featured by the ridiculously over-the-top (in a great way, though) DJ Ertegun (Mamoru Miyano/Ray Chase), and making a music video.
A tactic-of-the-week vibe runs through these episodes that could be seen as repetitive, but the interactions between the characters are so endearing that it works. Carole is going through different jobs to get money, whilst Tuesday is getting used to being in a bustling city away from her family, and their positive influence on Roddy and Gus is clear straight away. Despite a general lack of resources, their optimistic efforts are enjoyable to witness. Episode 4 Video Killed the Radio Star is a great example; Gus’s ex-wife Marie (Aya Hisakawa/Allegra Clark) is brought in to help on the aforementioned music video, and through the creative and well-intentioned process, you notice how she sees the positive influence Carole and Tuesday have had on him. At the end of the episode, she tells him how she is getting married to her new partner; he, whilst perhaps disappointed, gives her a heartfelt send-off that shows how he has earnestly changed.
Throughout, we are also being introduced to a contrasting story; teen model Angela Carpenter (Sumire Uesaka/Ryan Bartley) is aspiring to be a singer, and together with her mother and manager Dahlia (Kenyû Horiuchi/Brook Chalmers) seeks out Tao (Hiroshi Kamiya/Kyle McCarley). He is a music producer who makes hit music through AI technology, and his techniques for pushing Angela are frankly disturbing. Tao is cold and efficient in the way he achieves his goals, acting as a juxtaposition to Carole and Tuesday and their approach. A lack of time with Angela means it is much more difficult to connect with her aspiring journey to musical stardom in the same way. In Part 2, I hope this is amended; as far as reviewing Part 1 as a cohesive whole, though, it is noteworthy.
One of my favourite moments in the series is at the end of Episode 5 Every Breath You Take, where Roddy has managed to get Carole and Tuesday a one-song gig at Mars Lounge, an independent live house. After multiple different attempts to get the word out, their performance of Someday I’ll Find My Way Home gets people to turn their heads – even if there is not many people there. During this, Tuesday’s brother Spencer Simmons (Takahiro Sakurai/Lucien Dodge) walks in. He has been sent to bring Tuesday back home, and has finally found her. Yet, upon seeing her in the middle of her musical act, he simply turns around and walks away, acknowledging that she has found a place more suited to her. It’s a beautiful moment, subtle yet hard-hitting without any direct dialogue from each to the other. This type of scene is where the series is at its best.
As Carole & Tuesday continues into Episode 7 Show Me the Way and beyond, though, that subtlety starts to get lost. After a rocky experience at the Cydonia Festival, the pair enter the Mars’ Brightest competition – essentially, a talent show along the lines of a Britain’s Got Talent or The X Factor. As an idea for their next route these characters take this is fine, but how it takes over the series and breaks the tone of the episodes prior really jarred me. A low point of the entirety of Part 1 is a montage of contestants in the audition phase, which comes off as a bunch of tone-deaf jokes of different stereotypes. It seems as though it isn’t from the same anime; when we get to Carole & Tuesday and their audition, we see revelations about Carole that make Tuesday develop as a character in an intelligent way. There is so much of a differential in quality within this one sequence!
Mars’ Brightest is the main plot thread of the rest of Part 1, and brings Carole and Tuesday together with Angela as they both participate in the later stages. Several other characters are additionally introduced as competitors, which, similarly to the audition phase, get so much less development than Carole, Tuesday, and Angela. There are a few that are given time for us to be invested in them, such as social media star Pyotr (Shouta Aoi/Erik Scott Kimerer) who – despite first appearing potentially vapid – has much more to him; also Cybelle (Ayane Sakura/Laura Stahl), a contestant with an obsession about Tuesday. But, again, some of them are just made into jokes that I found in bad taste, such as the song of profanities from the Mermaid Sisters… another low point in an anime with many highs. It’s just unnecessary, and a confounding narrative decision.
I found myself comparing proceedings to another anime I have recently watched, Yuri!!! On Ice. In that show, there are multiple skating competitions with various new characters being regularly introduced. The focus on the main characters is maintained for all 12 episodes, yet all the skaters we meet are both unique and well-developed, with engaging stories and motivations. With, at times, similar amounts of time dedicated to them, new contestants in Carole & Tuesday: Part 1 have startlingly less depth to them that subsequently makes them much less memorable and affects the whole show negatively as a result.
Getting the Act Back Together
Furthermore, the more time that is spent on these scenes, the less we get on what made the early episodes so fantastic – the relationship between people from very different backgrounds, in particular Carole and Tuesday. They start to get fewer scenes together – to a degree, this is a story point, but simply not showing them together isn’t enough to justify them feeling pushed apart; show me how they are feeling, and why they aren’t connecting in the same way. In the final episodes of Part 1, they return to the fore again as personal matters intervene in Mars’ Brightest, and Carole & Tuesday picks up in quality again – I am hopeful that this is a sign of great things to come in Part 2.
For all these criticisms, the positive momentum and investment in the characters built by the early episodes helps carry Carole & Tuesday through to those much-improved Episodes 11 and 12 that close out Part 1. Whilst the story takes some rough turns to that point, the visuals and music mostly remain at a high quality, especially whenever Carole and Tuesday take the stage together. We also start to see much more of who Angela is as a person as Mars’ Brightest reaches a conclusion, and I am eagerly anticipating seeing how her story further intertwines with that of Carole and Tuesday.
Over the arc of Part 1, Carole are Tuesday are (as you may expect) the core of the show. The way their dynamic evolves to where it is at the end of Episode 12 We’ve Only Just Begun is a satisfying progression, even if there is lost potential for it to have been done better through the Mars’ Brightest episodes. Roddy, Gus, and Tuesday’s brother Spencer are some of those who organically learn important lessons as a result of that arc, too. Considering how quickly the show works through other plotlines, Mars’ Brightest could have been condensed to allow more opportunities to learn about the characters.
The 12 episodes that make up Carole & Tuesday: Part 1 vary in quality. If I was just reviewing the first 6 episodes, the score would likely be 9 or above, but the missteps through the Mars’ Brightest episodes really negatively impacted my enjoyment of the show. However, the goodwill built early on by the duo of Carole and Tuesday softened those disappointments, and the reward was the vast improvement in the final episodes. My hopes are that Part 2 keeps the best parts of the show and avoids more of those misjudged scenes. Stay tuned to this website to find out my thoughts!