Reviewby James Beckett,
Carole & Tuesday - Episodes 13-24 Streaming
After their surprising turn as runners-up in the Mars' Brightest reality show, Carole and Tuesday's dream of becoming bona fide musicians are finally coming true, though their lives have never been so complicated. As Tuesday's mother, Valerie Simmons, heats up her presidential campaign, the anti-immigration rhetoric is buzzing throughout Martian culture is getting harder to ignore. Carole, who is herself an orphaned refugee from Earth, is also being forced to come to terms with ghosts from her past, including the hotheaded rapper Ezekiel, whose penchant for cooking up political and inflammatory songs is set to land him in hot water. Meanwhile, Angela's rise as Mars' number one pop superstar is beset by its own troubles, which force her to confront a vicious stalker and an even more vicious lifestyle, not to mention the schemes of her mother, Dahlia, and her producer, Tao. As tensions rise all across the Red Planet, our heroines will have to figure out whether it is possible live life for the music, without letting the music consume your life. If they can do that, then they might just change the world…
The question that loomed over the first half of Carole and Tuesday's run was whether the girls would really be able to live up to the “7 Minute Miracle” that the pre-credits narration foreshadows in every single one of the show's twenty-four episodes. When it comes to any stories about up-and-coming artists, especially fictional ones that don't have a real world repertoire of masterpieces to adapt, there are few riskier gambles than declaring that your characters' work is going to literally change the world. After all, that means you have to show them performing something that is, if not genuinely awe-inspiring, at least good enough to pass for the real thing in the heat of the moment. I absolutely adored watching Carole and Tuesday climb the ranks of musicianship from the very bottom of the latter in Part 1 of the series, but that just meant that Shinichiro Watanabe and his crew had that much more to prove in order to stick the landing. Carole and Tuesday's big finish couldn't just be good; it needed to be miraculous.
We'll get to whether or not the series succeeds in its lofty ambitions a little bit later. First, though, I want to address how different Carole and Tuesday becomes in its back half, while still being recognizable as the same earnest underdog story it's always been. There's a lot more plot getting tossed around, for one thing, with an ever expanding cast of characters that are all given their due, in some form or another, though with varying degrees of success. As was the case before, I felt more disconnected from angela's plot than I would have liked, as I only really became invested in her emotional journey in the show's final episodes. Likewise, most of the major characters that are introduced in this half of the series only get one episode or so to make their mark, before being called upon at the last minute for the rousing finale.
Because the character writing and the direction of the show is as polished as ever, these characters and their stories usually work well enough as representations of all the ways music can lift artists up or tear them down, but not every one of them gets it a hundred percent right. The political stuff, especially, works better as a thematic counterweight to Carole and Tuesday's journey than as its own story – the journalist that digs up dirt on the Simmons family gets a half-hearted romantic subplot that mostly goes nowhere, and it is probably the one thing from the season that could be cut entirely without anyone noticing. Thankfully, the performances for all of these characters are rich enough that they make up for any of the story's shortcomings, and the English dub in particular continues to be superlative, providing voices for all of the characters that more or less run in sync with the excellent musical performances we get from the likes of Nai Br.XX (as Carole), Celeina Ann (as Tuesday), and even a kickass guest spot from rapper Denzel Curry (as Ezekiel).
Speaking of the show's political edge, while it was there from the beginning, it becomes the thematic and emotional core of the entire story in these last twelve episodes. The rise of Valerie Simmons as the face of Mars' anti-immigration movement is something that every one of our characters has to reckon with, in one way or another, and the real-world parallels are about as subtle as a kick to the teeth. While the rise of right-wing fear mongering is something the whole world is contending with as the 2010s come to a close, there is no denying that the commentary will hit particularly close to home for American viewers – for goodness sake, the task force that several characters are rounded up and jailed by is Martian ICE.
For many, it will be easy to scoff at how a show like Carole and Tuesday tries to tackle such volatile subject manner, particularly because the show's fundamentally optimistic tone doesn't exactly make for the most incisive takedown of bigotry and demagoguery. Valerie Simmons, for all of her political scheming, isn't given the comeuppance that she probably deserves because the show makes it clear that she is a figurehead that is being manipulated by the real assholes that work behind the scenes, who are little more than sneering cartoon villains. Later, even after characters have been forcibly detained and deported, seemingly without any due process, the show makes sure to show how there are some good people in Martian ICE that help get the word of rebellion out to the disenfranchised. At the end of the day, it should be no surprise that Carole and Tuesday is a work that fundamentally believes in the capacity for goodness that all humans share – or at least, it wants to believe it. In 2019, that willingness to humanize an ideological enemy can easily come across as centrist hand wringing, which there is an understandable lack of patience for, these days.
Here's the thing: Carole and Tuesday isn't about reflecting the world as it is, and it doesn't try to pretend that the way it engages with the very real woes of the 21st century is anything other than fantasy. At one point, when Carole and Tuesday are collaborating with one of their idols on a song to perform together, the characters practically turn to the camera to make sure nobody has missed out on the series' thematic purpose: Instead of having to reflect the kind of darkness we see in the world today, why not make music (or any art, for that matter) that chooses to be a beacon of light that imagines a better future? In that way, it absolutely makes sense that Carole and Tuesday would call such a far-reaching shot for Carole and Tuesday the singers, even as they remain the music industry underdogs throughout the entirety of their adventure. The “7 Minute Miracle” we've been hearing so much about is where the anime plants its feet in the ground and declares itself to be against not only bigotry and systemic discrimination, but the very poison of cynicism itself that allows such hateful ideologies to take root in the first place.
This might be considered a mild spoiler for Carole and Tuesday's conclusion, but the final end-card of the show declares the story “To be continued…in your mind.” To anyone who might see this and become concerned that Carole and Tuesday doesn't tell a wholly satisfying and deeply moving story within the span of its twenty-four episodes, don't worry. This is as moving, uplifting, and complete a work as any that Shinichiro Watanabe has produced so far, and it is easily my favorite work to come from him since Cowboy Bebop rocked the world of anime over twenty years ago. The crew at BONES should all be commended for the work they've put in to building such a colorful and well-realized world, and all of the performers deserve recognition for bringing this diverse and loveable cast of characters to life. If anything, when the show says that the world and people of Carole and Tuesday will live on in the hearts and minds of its fans, it is simply a final reiteration of the message the show has been trying to get across from the moment its heroine's had their fateful meeting on that bridge, underneath the Martian sky. It dares you to let go of your cynicism, and to imagine the better tomorrow that Carole, Tuesday, and so many others have strived to make real.
Is it ridiculous to believe that a bunch of well-intentioned musicians can sing a song and end intolerance and injustice once and for all? Of course it is. One good work of art won't be enough to end a war, or to take back all of the pain and violence suffered by so many at the hands of a spiteful few. That doesn't mean that a better future isn't still worth fighting for, though. Maybe the art that will inspire the next generation to join up with that fight will be a beautiful song, or a heartbreaking film, or even just a cheery Japanese cartoon that is filled with a bunch of pretty colors and catchy songs. That Carole and Tuesday could come along at the end of the 2010s to try and remind us that such a thing is even possible really does feel a bit like a miracle.
Overall : A
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ A stirring and exceptionally well-made testament to the power of goodwill and empathy in the face of society's worst impulses, with likeable characters and great tunes that round out the entire production
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