‘He said there’s things that I wanna fix But you know this shit n*gga, politics Don’t stop fighting and don’t stop believing You can make the world better for your kids before you leave it’ -J. Cole
Music is one of the oldest arts to grace man, and like most arts, can be used to convey powerful messages that sometimes go into the social-political realm. Many want to separate this ideal, the bull shit that goes into governing compared to the art that brings us joy. But the simple fact is this, in 1976 Bob Dylan resealed Hurricane. 1964 was the official end of Jim Crow, sorta. As the end of slavery, it was a task to get everyone on board, something that is seen in the political folk music that came a little over a decade later, painting a clear picture of racial inequality that in some concepts still take hold today.
This all comes back around in a way I wasn’t expecting when I decided to sit down and watch Watanabe’s 24 episodes 2019 original, Carole And Tuesday. A master of directing original, the show follows musical duo Carole and Tuesday. One, an orphaned immigrant on Mars from Earth after she was abandoned at a church on Christmas. Doing whatever she can to make ends meet she jumps from job to job living in a storage area behind a local shop. But even with the daily struggle, she doesn’t shy away from spending her evenings on a bridge, her hands on a keyboard as she sings a charming melody as the masses pass by.
It is at this moment she meets Tuesday, a rich runaway who fled her family’s manor to peruse her own dream of making music. With a Gibson in hand she stands, awe-struck at the haunting beautiful melody sung by Carole, that event solidifying the duo as an up-and-coming powerhouse in the Mars music community, a community that has been dominated by AI for years.
At the start the show watches a lot like Ready Player One, a novel turned movie by Ernest Cline, reads. Carole and Tuesday is a masterful western pop reference. One that somehow, managed to snag the rights from everything from Gibson to Timberlands. Hell Steve Aoki is even in one of the shots. But, much like Ready Player One, the references are cool, interesting, and clever but ultimately, the story, is boring. There isn’t a whole lot going on in terms of what Carole and Tuesday are up to, it is mostly them dicking around trying to figure out how to make money with their music. This is an understandable narrative point but it doesn’t make it interesting to watch. The first 4-5 episodes were mostly just the duo and their new manager, Gus, attempting to break out into the scene only to fail time and time again, mostly because the ideas themselves were rather stupid.
Then the tournament arc happens, sorta. Out of luck and frustrated Gus decides the best option is to get the duo on Mar’s version of The Voice saying best of luck. It is at this time we really get a glimpse of both the genius of Watanabe and just the sheer amount of talent that went into the making of this show. We can see comically a lot of the failed artists as they try their hand in front of the judges until only 8 out of the thousands are chosen. Those 8 then have to compete against one another in an elimination-style one song, one vote system, the winner, getting a record deal and thus starting their climb in the music world.
And let me say, the final 8, were wonderfully written and equally as talented.
The 8 are a mix-up of pop-cultural references in their own right. Child stars, indie groups, Instagram influencers, hell there is even an old metal rock duo. Following the next couple of episodes, we can see the talent of each solo and group while also getting a glimpse into an obsessive fan that starts to stalk Tuesday, something she (like most) isn’t sure how to deal with. Stalking is a relatively big thing in the show as it gets into the latter half, showing that fame isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, that the pressure of being in the spotlight weighs heavily on one’s shoulders.
This point is even more exacerbated in the later episodes as the child star, Angela Carpenter quickly becomes a massive pop star, realizes that she is, and always has been alone. Falling down a dark spiral as the world looks on in hushed whispers, those closest to her unsure what or if they can do anything at all. And that isn’t even touching on the fact that the orphan, Carole, suddenly has throngs of people coming out of the woodwork claiming to be her parents, ya know, cause money and fame and such.
Humans can be really fucked up.
Let’s recap, awesome pop reference? Check, I mean for fuck sake every episode is named artfully after massive western hits. Usually, in the context of that the episode, specifically the duo or Angela, has to deal with. A harsh look at fame and what it can do to people? Check, it goes as far as to show many artists fall from grace, being gripped by addiction. Wonderfully talented voice actors and original music? Super check, Carole, Tuesday, and Angela having separate voice actors for their song parts was an amazing touch and really showed the level of vocal abilities, allowing the series to be much more diverse contrasting the standard voice, and singing parts. So, it has all of that but I can say, that isn’t the meat of Carole and Tuesday, no, in fact, I don’t think we really get into the messy part of the show until after the second half, around episode 13. Political discourse.
I opened this article with a note of politics in songs, specifically, racial inequality and how it has been with us for a very long time. We always knew Tuesday’s mom, Valerie is an important political figure, later on, we discover that she isn’t just that, but she is slated to be the next president of Mars. What makes matters a bit sketchy, is she is running on a hard-line anti-immigration platform, fundamentally blaming Earth and its refugees for all the problems that are currently happening on Mars. Everything from crime to job shortages blames immigrants, it is an old but ever so potent message, no matter how ridiculously disgusting it may be.
Though Tuesday’s music career is for a short time a thorn in her mother’s side, they eventually stay out of each other’s lane. Refusing to comment or even acknowledge their family lineage. Which kinda works out, since they never really got along anyway. But as Carole (an immigrant herself) and Tuesday rise to fame they start to see this narrative in a more distasteful light, specifically after they discover a well regarded political rapper Ezekiel is arrested for overstaying his visa, though the real reason being more related to his hard-hitting rhymes pointed at the government of Mars.
Stuck in between her family’s influence and her own path in the music industry, Tuesday has to make a choice, does she speak out against her mother’s policies, the ones that are going after artists and immigrants like her best friend Carole, or does she stay quite. Oppression, specifically those that go to silence artists and journalists for reporting and criticizing the regime is without a doubt, one of the biggest affronts to human rights. That type of action is horrifying, and the show displays that struggle wonderfully.
Carole and Tuesday is an amazingly bold, brilliantly crafted look at fame, abuse, pop reference, that paints music and anime together in one fantastic stroke. It is so bold in fact, I don’t think anyone other than Watanabe would be able to pull it off as well as this series did. What is even more insane, is I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this show is even the best series he has ever directed. But it is, without a doubt, another masterwork lineup in an already stacked cinema discography.
What started out as boring quickly became one of the best shows I have seen in a while and one that should be appreciated for what it was able to do. I’ve stepped away from doing 1/10 reviews for such things but I can say, without a doubt, I fully endorse this show, and hope that my words convey what it was able to do, well.
As always thanks for the read!