This Week in Anime
Carole & Tuesday Tries to Fight the Power

by Michelle Liu & Steve Jones,

Steve and Micchy sort out the remaining threads of Shinichiro Watanabe's musical sci-fi drama Carole & Tuesday as our folk-singing duo take on the music industry, political corruption, and a not-so-subtle condemnation of American immigration policies.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet

Steve. I've known you for years. Thought we were friends! So I can't believe you kept something this big from me.

How come you never told me you were Martian??

Honestly this should not come as a surprise to anyone, least of all you. Sadly my days of looking like John Wick are over.
Oh right, haircut and all. But more importantly, Carole and Tuesday's second half is finally on Netflix, and I haven't been able to stop listening to the soundtrack for a solid week.
Yo tell me about it? I've been listening to nothing but "Polly Jean" on repeat for the past hour. Obviously, when you're making a show about music, you better be sure that the music in it is actually good. Carole & Tuesday passes with flying colors, and, like many of Shinichiro Watanabe's other shows, its soundtrack is going to be remembered and loved for a long time. I guarantee it.
I'd say it occasionally threatens to sound too typical of its genres, but that's compared to real-life hits rather than anime soundtracks, which should tell you how good the show's music is. It's just a shame that Denzel Curry's tracks (which are absolute fire, by the way) didn't make it onto the show's soundtrack. But the rest of it is on Spotify and all the other usual places, so go go go!
Oh yeah, speaking of Denzel Curry, I'd say it's C&T's frequent featuring of real contemporary musicians outside the anime-sphere that makes it feel so fresh. I mean you've got noted anime nerds like Flying Lotus and Thundercat pitching in, but also plenty of other people. It's a very cool, collaborative effort that speaks to the show's overall themes. But of course we can't forget the power of our two main lovable music dorks and their many good faces.
They're so precious!!

It's really a good thing that the cast is so lovable, since the latter half of the show definitely goes in a few questionable directions re: the political race going on in the background. But it's hard to be too down on the show's missteps when it's overall so cozy and wonderful, even as the protagonists go up against the horrors of ICE MICE.
Yeah, after a comparatively-straightforward first half, C&T continues its deep dive into the many layers of the music industry alongside a bolder look at much broader political topics. I certainly can't fault it for being ambitious! And it's also certainly very, VERY obvious about what it's addressing.

If you thought Promare was being too subtle with its ICE allegory, well.
I have NO idea what you're talking about.

Though I'm starting to think maybe Shinichiro Watanabe doesn't have the greatest opinion of cops. Just the vibe I'm getting.
Darn, if only he had 20+ years of anime to comb through in order to discern some kind of pattern. Seriously, though, on a visceral level, it's reassuring to see such blatant condemnation of ICE and police brutality coming from voices outside of America. A nice reminder of just how brazenly evil these institutions are to anybody with a functioning brain and heart.
Last time (with Terror in Resonance) Watanabe's big thing was Japanese nationalism; this time it's American. And Carole and Tuesday doesn't hold back in showing exactly what it looks like to the rest of the world. Coming up with real solutions to these problems, on the other hand, it kinda struggles with. But if nothing else, it's dang earnest about pushing this idea that art can transcend boundaries and identities to bring people together.
Its struggles are understandable. In some of its more compelling moments, it actually does address that gnawing feeling of helplessness when one considers just how profoundly screwed everything seems right now.

All Carole & Tuesday know is how to make music, so naturally that ends up being their solution.

It's a hopelessly idealistic one, but it's one the show manages to sell by virtue of its craft. On an intellectual level, I can identify the naivety, but on an emotional level, I was just as swept up in the moment as the cast of sobbing characters. It's a nice dream to have!
Honestly, I wish I could believe racism could be solved if everybody just got together singing Kumbaya! But the world's a lil more complicated than that, so when that's C&T's big last-ditch solution I find it a little hard to fully savor the triumph. Now sure, they don't really fix everything with their big campfire song, but I don't think it's quite the miracle the show promises at the beginning of all 24 episodes. That said, god damn is the "Mother" scene beautiful. My heart loves it, even though my brain doesn't wholly believe that it would make all that big a difference.
C&T's heart is in the right place, so I'm pretty forgiving of its bright-eyed vision for the future, but that doesn't excuse some of its more tone deaf moments of "reconciliation." Showing ICE guards sharing a heartwarming moment with their still-wrongfully-incarcerated prisoners is just wrong.

And you ESPECIALLY don't get to do that after showing the literal cages they put people in.
I get the idea is how music can bring people from all walks of life together, but I take issue with the naive assumption that the people making life hell for others should also be invited to the party. Like no, I don't think tolerance means you have to be friends with your racist uncle Joe. Which I suppose brings me to how the show handles Tuesday's politician mom.
Good, because I was going there next anyway lol. I get what the show is trying to say, but the idea that politicians don't actually support things like mass deportation and just do so to please the masses is the worst kind of liberal brain poison and runs counter to everything that's happened in the past 3 years (and beyond). Some politicians are literally just that evil!
To some extent it is true that politicians have to play the game, saying things they don't entirely believe to appeal to their constituents. But when they have as much power as they do, it doesn't matter what they personally think as private citizens; the policies they make can affect thousands or millions, and feeling bad about it doesn't mean jack squat to the people they hurt. So it's especially rich that Tuesday and her brother Spencer defend their mom's character with "Well, she's never been prejudiced around us, so how could she possibly be bad?"
Like, after spending pretty much the entire show running on a platform eerily similar to a certain orange president's, Valerie's swayed by a single show of solidarity and the knowledge that her advisor did a sabotage? I don't buy it.
It's wholly unrealistic and frankly cowardly. It's much easier to place the blame on a single conniving pollster than to reckon with a broken system of government that rewards preying on and amplifying unfounded racist apprehensions.
Yeah, were we ever planning to reckon with how anti-Earth prejudice is popular on Mars? Xenophobia doesn't spring out of a vacuum, y'all. Sure, Jerry might be taking advantage of ignorance and bigotry, but that requires the populace to be ignorant and bigoted in the first place. Just because we arrested one guy for domestic terrorism doesn't mean racism is over.
Like I said earlier, I can't fault C&T for being ambitious, but that ambition in scope needs to be paired with ambition in solution. And I'm not saying that single anime needs to solve racism, but I do need a little more than "they sang a song and everyone lived happily ever after. Amen." Even if it is a very good song.
And, well, C&T is just a cartoon. It's nice to think that art can have an impact on the world (it sometimes can!) but problems as big and systemic as racism or xenophobia don't go away just like that. What art can do is inspire individual people, offer hope, plant the seeds for action. But the action has to happen for anything to change.
And speaking of change, I'd say that C&T's continued exploration of the past and present of its constantly evolving music industry remains its most compelling thread into the second season. I mean we explore everything from enigmatic dying glam artists living a secluded life in a giant glass egg, to a group of session musicians discovered by happenstance under a bridge. It's a wide and weird industry full of eccentric people, and Carole & Tuesday celebrates all of that.
My favorite eccentric in the show has to be this one.
Oh my god I loved Ertegun's little dark night of soul, complete with existential t-shirt.
The best part of that episode is how he goes bankrupt because his Pinocchio robot assistant goes and runs off with all his BitCoin. Like that's priceless.
i despise the crypto puppet

Heybot!-reject-looking loser.
Other highlights of that episode: Ertegun sleeping under a blanket of newspapers on his own beach chair, Ertegun showing up to Tao's office beatboxing in his underwear.
Don't forget my favorite Ertegun: Keytar Ertegun.

I'm not huge on EDM, but I would listen to every single one of that man's albums.
The episode's a riot, but more importantly it makes Ertegun reevaluate his place in the music industry, as well as Carole and Tuesday's influence on him. When he loses access to all his fancy music equipment, his only choice is to make music the poor man's way: with his own imagination and a bit of enthusiasm. That's where he started, and even though he's at the forefront of AI music he always has the option of looking to his roots, straddling generations of music technology.
I like, too, that C&T never takes a hardline stance against AI-assisted music. Instead, the show always focuses on the human elements: both the people performing the music, and even the people behind the AI. That human touch is the irreplaceable component needed in any piece of music, regardless of how else it's put together. AI might be regarded like autotune—a flavor with its own strengths and drawbacks that musicians can keep in their toolbox. It's not going to stop people from creating their own music, nor will it stop people from appreciating all different kinds of music.
That also means there never was a real rivalry between Angela and C&T - people can like both Angela's shiny, polished pop and the duo's more down-to-earth sound. They push each other to improve, but to the listeners it's just more music to enjoy. Why compare cakes when you can have two cakes?
or three very adorable cakes
As a side note, lest we think C&T is complete science-fiction, there are musicians who are experimenting with AI, and it can lead to some really fascinating sounds and textures.

Granted, I don't think we'll be hearing anything quite like this on the next Beyoncé album, but who knows what the future holds!
Maybe Space Beyonce's, though.
I love how Space Beyoncé gives Tuesday a 404 error.

Not that I can blame her, of course.
I'd say it's like she's on Ellen and her childhood idol just came onstage, but they already were on Ellen.
I think you mean Allen.
Carole and Tuesday also have even more breathtakingly beautiful scenes this season, both playing music and growing closer together. Like, this stunning winter scene of Carole trying to find and comfort a heartbroken Tuesday is C&T at its heart-on-its-sleeve finest.

The show's absolutely wonderful at crafting those moments that hit like a gut punch. That scene is definitely one of the highlights, as is the one where a washed-up Flora unconsciously begins humming along to C&T's cover of her song.

These two girls don't have much, but they have each other and their music, and that's all they really need to move people.
Money does help tho.
Well, yeah, but when doesn't it?
Very true. But you're right, one of C&T's more salient points is the equalizing factor of music. A crappy lo-fi recording of guitar and piano can sometimes be more affecting than the most glossily-produced pop song. Tho I suppose it does also help when your lo-fi sound has an inter-generationally renowned producer who might also be a Texan ax-murderer.
Texan ax murderer weed dealer whose vocabulary is 10% "shit", to be specific.
That's something the girls can experiment with once they turn 18. Oh no, now I'm wondering if weed is legal on Mars.
Probably not, or else Angela could've started with something less dangerous than abusing prescription drugs. Not enough shady salesmen pitching her on the health benefits of CBD, I guess.
Yeah, for as much as C&T celebrates music as an institution, it certainly doesn't shy away from showing the darker sides of the industry, from drug abuse, to creepy stalkers, to legal interference with freedom of expression.
Oh yeah, it turns into Perfect Blue for a hot minute.

Angela really gets it rough tho; she's gotta endure all the isolation of being a public figure and a crappy mom. Being Angela is suffering.
Not to mention her only anchor is her mysterious producer who's revealed to be her estranged test-tube brother who ends up having to go on the lam after turning into a vigilante hacker.

I'm honestly not sure what that entire subplot was about, but it sure was a thing.
Yeah that was a hell of a reveal to drop in the penultimate episode, but I guess we needed some reason for why Tao's so interested in her well-being? Maybe?
Yeah I didn't know what to take from it, but at least Tao's aesthetic was always on point.
He's pretty good, I agree.
So before we wrap up, I gotta ask the most important question: what's your favorite song from the show?
That's a hard choice, but if I had to pick it'd either be "Army of Two" or "Round & Laundry." Though the real winner in my heart will always be "galactic mermaid" because how can you not love a song that's mostly curse words.
Lyrics for the ages, for sure.
Should I take that to mean the filthy one is also your favorite?
It's certainly up there! As far as songs that exist as part of the story, I think I'd also have to go with "Army of Two," but overall I'd say the second opening "Polly Jean." It's composed by Keigo Oyamada, a.k.a. Cornelius (one of my favorite former-Shibuya-kei artists), and it slots right in with the focus on texture and rhythm that's defined his contemporary career. Plus, it's named after PJ Harvey, and that rules.
Honestly though, I could listen to that whole soundtrack for ages. Even Angela's most generic Disney Channel pop songs are at least easy to listen to, so yeah, it's gonna stay part of my regular listening for a while yet.
Couldn't agree more.

I'm proud of Shinichiro Watanabe for finally making an anime that's about 50% music video by volume. Carole & Tuesday, in that regard, is perhaps the purest Watanabe show, and that's a beautiful thing.
It really is.

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