Production: Bones, FlyingDog
Platform: Streaming – Netflix
Release Date: Out Now
In my review for Part 1 of Carole & Tuesday, I talked about how I really liked the partnership of the two leads (Carole and Tuesday, if that isn’t clear) but it lost its way during the Mars’ Brightest competition that dominates Episodes 7-12. My hopes going into Part 2 were that the series would keep the focus on that central dynamic of Carole, Tuesday, and the people directly around them, and stop with the shallow and unnecessary scenes. Whilst slightly formulaic in places, Part 2 delivered on this and is an improvement as a result! This review half-accidentally turned into me recapping a lot of what happens, but I am going with it, so, spoiler warning, and strap in! Also, and I don’t know if this is a controversial opinion, but to me the music in Part 2 is overall wayyyyy better. Someone please tell me if that is controversial?! Don’t be angry… (I’m right though).
-SPOILERS FOR CAROLE & TUESDAY AHEAD-
We rejoin Carole Stanley (Miyuri Shimabukuro/Jeannie Tirado) and Tuesday Simmons (Kara Ichinose/Brianna Knickerbocker) straight after the end of Mars’ Brightest, having been disqualified but also being offered a recording contract. Whilst the winner Angela Carpenter (Sumire Uesaka/Ryan Bartley) is wowing the world with her new song Breathe Again, Carole and Tuesday – along with manager Gus Goldman (Akio Ôtsuka/Jason Marnocha) and the helpful Roddy (Miyu Irino/Zach Aguilar) – refuse the offered deal and prioritise their creative freedom. So, essentially, they’re not far away from where they were before the Mars’ Brightest competition, especially financially – the main difference is that they are recognised more. Which is nice in a way, but also not so nice when people are hassling them at the launderettes. Just let them do their washing, you creeps.
Okay, so their new mission is to create a song and an album with which to debut, and the early episodes follow them trying to do so through several avenues. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s a similar structure to the early episodes of Part 1, when the group was attempting numerous methods of getting the initial word out. Now, I really enjoyed those episodes in Part 1, as it made the characters and the interactions the focal point, so revisiting that vibe is welcome to a degree; however, it did feel to me that we were repeating some of the same territory. Take Gus and Roddy – they continue their general support for Carole and Tuesday, but other than that they don’t get much new development in Part 2. Roddy especially – he gets noticeably less focus, and I was hoping for more from his obvious crush on Tuesday… that sorta falls away. I’m a romantic, okay?
Still, there are a lot of sweet moments here. After finding the hard taskmasker producer Tobe (Hiroshi Iwasaki/Joe DiMucci), Carole and Tuesday produce their first song, initially reaching a respectable 53rd in the charts. I really appreciated being able to see more of the actual process of Carole and Tuesday making their songs, as often times before we didn’t know about a song until they were about to play it. Seeing the struggle of playing over and over to get it just right shows the effort it takes to make the music, which is also important as a contrast to the proliferation of AI music on Mars. We get more of this in later episodes too, such as when Carole and Tuesday are under pressure to create an inspiring song and are working together to get through their writing block (including putting keywords up all over Carole’s apartment).
In these episodes they meet up with a diverse selection of other characters: there is the respected, distinctive Desmond (Kôichi Yamadera/Patrick Seitz), teaching Carole and Tuesday crucial life lessons (perhaps including how to pull off purple) in Episode 15 God Only Knows; and the insightful story of Flora in E16 A Natural Woman, who Gus used to manage before she signed a contract elsewhere and her career went downhill (Give You The World is such an amazing song). This brings back Gus saying to Carole and Tuesday in E13 Walk This Way, upon the decision of whether to take the recording deal: “What’s more important? Money or freedom?”. On the other hand, there is the episode with a focus on DJ Ertegun (Mamoru Miyano/Ray Chase), E17 Head Over Heels, which is the closest Part 2 gets to repeating the mistakes of Mars’ Brightest. Ertegun losing his money and having to rediscover his inner confidence is a solid episode idea, but I reckon there was more potential to be had. It being mostly sorted in one episode seemed really quick, and I was expecting more of a redemption over his rude rejection of Carole and Tuesday in E3 Fire and Rain.
I am also glad to say that Angela gets much more of a comprehensive arc in Part 2. After a bold start, very much getting the early edge over Carole and Tuesday by performing her new song at a press conference (the *audacity* of it, can you believe), there starts to be more nuances to her relationship with Tao (Hiroshi Kamiya/Kyle McCarley) that only become more evident as the episodes progress. Her path connects to that of DJ Ertegun, and subsequently drastically improves that rushed plot thread. Instead of the vague intentions of Angela and those around her in Part 1 that seemed intended to be a mystery but instead were tough to be invested in, they’re a much more developed set of characters here, giving us more insight into who they are and being easier to get behind as a result. When a threatening stalker invades Angela’s privacy, it unsettles her and throws up a whole other set of complications – by giving Angela enough screen time that she essentially becomes a third main character, it makes this threat more keenly felt. Furthermore, her musical performances have this incredible ability to richly portray the feelings of that moment (props to Alisa, who voices her songs). To name just one for now; The Tower, which plays at the end of E23 Don’t Sop Believin’, is hauntingly beautiful.
Meanwhile, other individual plotlines are proceeding too. Carole is finding out about her father Dann (Atsuki Tani), and Tuesday is in contact with journalist Kyle (Jun’ichi Suwabe/Ben Lepley). In Part 1 there were mentions of Carole – as a refugee from Earth – not knowing of her family, but there is more info uncovered here in well-executed sequences that helped me empathise with her position more. As for Tuesday, Kyle is doing a piece on her mother, election candidate Valerie (Tomoko Miyadera/Rachel Robinson), and the suspicious activity of Jerry (Yutaka Aoyama/Kirk Thornton), one of her backers. Jerry is engaging in some very shady, underhanded, and downright horrific tactics to push onto her his agenda of stopping immigration from Earth (draw real-world parallels as you see fit). In Part 1 we got some seeds sown about the political stance of Valerie and how it had affected her relationship with her children, and this pays off in Part 2 as Tuesday proactively chooses to talk with Kyle. Valerie’s stance on immigration is potentially going to directly affect Carole, so there is clear reason why Tuesday would be motivated to speak out.
What I really liked was the show mixing these deep topics with moments where you are reminded that Carole and Tuesday are 17, and dealing with the emotions that come with that age of your life. Tuesday is talking to Kyle because of the political situation first and foremost, but through having multiple personal conversations she understandably starts to fall for him a bit. This is built up subtly with her blushing at certain remarks from Kyle, to the point where she goes to give him a thank you gift – dressing up to do so – in E18 Only Love Can Break Your Heart (guess where this is going…). Upon getting to him, she discovers he is with a woman already, and there is this heartbreaking moment of slow-motion as she, and we, realise the situation. She turns around with Kyle seemingly not even knowing she was there… this reminds me a lot of my favourite moment of Part 1, when her brother Spencer (Takahiro Sakurai/Lucien Dodge) arrives at Mars Lounge and just turns around to leave. They’re both moments of emotional show, don’t tell, and there is even an extra gut-punch here as Carole finds Tuesday, forlorn, on a bridge in the rain. In the first episode, these two connect over their loneliness on a bridge, and now they’re finding, and comforting, each other again. Agh, my heart!
Another note from my review of Part 1 was that the animation style was inconsistent in places, and this is another area which Part 2 refines. It commits to the traditional yet expressive approach, and is much better at maintaining the same level of quality across the episodes. There are less uses of exaggerated expressions, though this actually made them stand out more – mostly, these are from Tuesday, often adorable in her shy but confident approach to situations; while she may be initially taken aback, she responds with resolve, determined to overcome any obstacle. Also her beret game is awesome. Carole is more steadfast, with a poised composure that anchors the pair together. However, this doesn’t prevent her getting to show a range of emotions; for example, when she says farewell to her father – she is initially facing in another direction, determined to not give away any indication, but as Dann leaves to return to prison, she resolves to break through that and sends him off in optimistic fashion.
Music As The Message
Episode 19 People Get Ready is where many of the characters and their individual stories converge in a climactic fashion. Returning to the Cydonia Festival where they filled in during E6 Life is a Carnival, Carole & Tuesday are now a main act, along with the new combo of Angela and DJ Ertegun. The stalker is targeting Angela when she arrives on stage, but here we see some of Tao’s personal feelings finally burst through his calculated front as he goes to extraordinary means to save her. When he realises that they haven’t caught the right person, he uncharacteristically runs towards the stage to prevent Angela from being harmed. Tao has been cold and ruthlessly composed for much of the series until now, but we start to see him in a different light here that hints at revelations to come.
After Angela and DJ Ertegun wow the audience with the production of their joint performance, Carole and Tuesday take a low-fi approach to their act and get a similarly positive reaction. It’s a lovely combination of musical scenes showing how competition and contrast can be healthy, and going from the rapturous LIGHTS GO OUT to the tender Message in the Wind is just joyous. This is part of why I say I prefer the music in Part 2 – there is both quality and variety to the soundtrack, with less of those one-note performances that negatively affected Part 1. Even for the opening and closing credits, they’re more cohesively separate and confident in their music choice and art direction. Oh, and if it were somehow in any doubt, Nai Br.XX and Celeina Ann are once again tremendous as the vocals for the Carole & Tuesday tracks. Beautiful Breakdown from E20 Immigrant Song is the best song and well, that’s final, so I hope you are on board.
From here on out, the episodes keep up a high standard. I would say that from the latter stages of E18 Only Love Can Break Your Heart through to the end of the finale E24 A Change is Gonna Come is the best run of the series. Whilst Part 1 went off the rails a bit in the later stages, Part 2 goes the opposite way and gets better! After all the set-up so far, the closing episodes pay off character arcs and take these people to new places of growth. The previously-mentioned E20 Immigrant Song continues this in style, with Carole reuniting with an old friend she encountered at the Cydonia Festival. Carole and Amer knew each other when they were younger, but he now goes by Ezekiel and makes hard-hitting rap music to call out the injustice of how immigrants are being treated. It’s a surprise for Carole, seeing how much Amer has changed, and this serves to provide us knowledge of Ezekiel’s past when he – and others – are imprisoned because of their views.
Following the Festival, it feels as though the characters are in closer proximity, and the music is not only reflecting their feelings, but the situations they are in. During Part 1 it was as if Carole and Tuesday were on their path over here, Angela was over there, and the political element was pushed into a background that rarely connected much to either. In Part 2, the ways the characters act more directly influence each other and the music they are making. Immigrant Song is my favourite episode of the entire series – with the range from Carole and Tuesday’s Beautiful Breakdown to Ezekiel’s Crash the Server, and the themes they represent, it’s incredible musically, and there is intense drama as relationships reach a breaking point – one case being Angela and her mother figure Dahlia (Kenyû Horiuchi/Brook Chalmers), leading to devastating consequences.
We’re In This Together
The fallout of Episode 20 is felt just as two major events are about to happen in Argo City: the Mars Grammys, and then one final, grandiose gesture of solidarity when the singers all unite at the Mars Immigration Memorial Hall. Unlike Mars’ Brightest in the later episodes of Part 1, there isn’t a misjudged scene in sight, and no unnecessary extra acts. First up, we get Carole, Tuesday, and Crystal (Maaya Sakamoto/Cristina Valenzuela) singing After the Fire together, literally putting the two girls on stage with their idol to show how far they have come. This builds to a emotional crescendo when Angela follows them, despite having just lost Dahlia – there is such shock and grief in the vocals for Endless… those lyrics are so raw, they struck me in the soul. Angela has won Mars’ Brightest, topped the charts, and won the Best New Artist Grammy, but that human connection being lost? That’s more valuable than all of them.
For Carole and Tuesday, the final flourish for their series arcs is in finding the theme of the song everyone is going to sing at the Mars Immigration Memorial Hall, a setting that circles back to Roddy recording them there in E2 Born to Run. Tying into Tuesday’s brother Spencer pleading to their mother to break connection with Jerry, even if that means not being President, the pair hit on a mutual similarity that all of us can connect over – and hence the anthem Mother is created. After losing her own mother figure, the final episodes see Angela really altering her perspective, in her relationship with Tao and her rivalry with Carole and Tuesday. I am so pleased that Angela was incorporated more into Part 2. Without her, the rest of the show would work nowhere near as well. It’s significant, too (at least to me), that Angela is the focal point of the ending credits for Part 2, in a departure from the previous credits with Carole and Tuesday. It further signifies her more prominent role. Y’know, I guess Carole & Tuesday & Angela isn’t as catchy, but it may be a more accurate name for this anime.
I shall say, in the final episode, the series doesn’t hold back on callbacks and fan service. The closing joint performance of Mother is such an unabashedly hey-isn’t-this-so-emotional ending, but it JUST about earns it. JUST. I am slightly disappointed that the series doesn’t really fully resolve some of the plotlines, particularly those of the political goings-on… it’s more of a message of an ending, which does feel a bit of a cop-out. I’ll add that whilst I’m all for leaving some aspects to the imagination, there is a lot of Part 2 dedicated to Carole and Tuesday making their album; one plot point is them trying to find the closing song for it, and when they do nail it in the form of the breathtaking Lay It All On Me, it made me excited to see how the album was received – and we don’t get that. It’s almost as if there is a 25th episode missing that wraps up the aftermath. However, the ending is undeniably a tear-jerker to watch, and I can only complain so much about an anime that makes me cry (these were positive tears, to clarify).
Final Thoughts on Part 2
When I hope that a show improves in certain areas, and that is exactly what it does, it’s only right to heap praise upon it. Additionally, it’s a sign that the people behind the anime understood what worked and what didn’t in the first batch of episodes. My main complaint is that there is some repeated episode and season structure from before, but even then it is from the better segment of Part 1. I also felt as though some characters were left on the sidelines for a lot of the time, as with Gus and Roddy. On the whole, though, these 12 episodes take the story and the characters to new levels, are visually striking, and have fantastic music that I shall be playing on Spotify for the foreseeable future!
Final Thoughts on the Series
Having now reviewed both Part 1 and Part 2 of Carole & Tuesday, I thought I would add a final section wrapping up my two reviews. Despite being officially split into two I sort of have the series in four separate parts in my mind of about six episodes each. When analysing the series divided in this way, Carole & Tuesday starts off by getting you invested in the charming character dynamic of these two girls from utterly different backgrounds. Then there are some serious misjudgments of tone in Mars’ Brightest before the show returns to the formula that works so well at the beginning. It crucially does not repeat mistakes; conversely, it goes into complex territory that pays off multiple character arcs in a poignant way. It can’t be ignored that the series does have that rough patch, but it also doesn’t severely damage the rest of Carole & Tuesday as it is quite self-contained. This is an anime that draws you in with wonderful characters, and then casts a spell of musical expression. If I was taking lessons from this anime, they are that our pasts don’t define us and shouldn’t prevent us from meeting new people from other places, and that art – be it musical or otherwise – has a powerful ability to put across the way we feel. It’s hard not to be inspired by these two genuine, talented, and kind souls – with vastly different life experiences – as they form a powerful bond through music that extends out and influences other people for the better.