There are only a few director/creators in anime that their mere name is enough to make a sizable portion of anime fandom commit to watching their shows. This blue moon of a season happens to have two such director/creators. The first is Shinichirou Watanabe with his work – Carole & Tuesday – and the second is Kunihiko Ikuhara with his work – Sarazanmai. Of the two, I was more curious about Carole & Tuesday because one kinda already knows what one will get with Ikuhara (interesting story wrapped in a bonkers, memorable, animation style) and I wanted to see if Shinichirou Watanabe can channel his inner Shoji Kawamori.
Carole is a scrappy teenager living by herself in the busy metropolis of Alba City on Mars with dreams of becoming a musician. Tuesday is a daughter of a rich family and her stifling, impersonal upbringing has left her lonely and she dreams of becoming a musician after listening to an old song by Cyndi Lauper. A fateful encounter happens when Tuesday runs away from her backwater town to Alba City and crosses paths with Carole. The pair are instant best friends and begin working on making their dreams come true in a world where most new culture is created by AI algorithms.
The Fine Print
I have a long history with Shinichiro Watanabe. The first series of his I watched was Samurai Champloo on Cartoon Network 14 years ago when I was still a very new fan to anime. It, along with GiTS: Stand Alone Complex S1 and S2, gave me a standard to compare future action anime to and they still continue to beat the vast majority of action-oriented anime that get released, even today. I’ve gone on to watch all his subsequent TV series and I went back to watch Cowboy Bebop and, while I agree that he’s an important name in the industry, I’m still waiting for a series that I’d call a masterpiece or, at least, excellent.
That’s right. And that’s my unpopular opinion of the day.
The closest he’s come is with the second half of Samurai Champloo. The first half is rather forgettable as each episode focuses on the important plot point of the main cast’s hunger and need to eat. Kids on the Slope is overall his best series and also the only series of his that is an adaptation of existing source material. Terror in Resonance is completely forgettable. Outside of a few episodes, Space Dandy was a waste of talent on a lackluster, sometimes terrible, story. Cowboy Bebop was a fun, lightweight series made worse when the show did a u-turn at the end and attempted to finish with a serious story arc that just felt out of place.
With that as my mindset, how did I like the first episode of Carole & Tuesday?
It was a very good first episode and I was very encouraged by what I saw.
Of the many aspects that were a true delight to see in this first episode, the one that most impressed me was how smooth this episode flowed. There was a lot of information thrown at the viewer and it never slowed the show down. There was a fairly large cast of characters introduced with a pretty good amount of depth and personalty given to them all; the futuristic world of Mars with it’s advances and differences from Earth were solidly fleshed out; a number of plot threads where introduced with others teased at; the music performances were very excellent and felt natural in the story. About 5 minutes of onscreen time elapses between Carole and Tuesday meeting for the first time and their finishing their first song together and it didn’t feel like the show rushed things along to make it fit into the first episode because the excellent character writing gave us enough insight into their character and the excellent animation showcased their emotions without the need for lengthy dialogue and the excellent vocal work sold everything. In comparison, I’d just watched Fairly Gone and it’s first episode felt extremely clunky and forced in comparison.
I also love, love, love the world design to Carole & Tuesday, so, I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover a very familiar name working on it. If you watched one of Satelight’s anime shows from the last 10 years and was wowed by the backgrounds, there’s a good chance that Thomas Romain was involved. He worked on Aquarion Evol, Bodacious Space Pirates, Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth – The Animation, AKB0048, and Senki Zesshou Symphogear; though, it was his work as main mechanical and ship designer in Space Dandy that lead Shinichirou Watanabe to picking Thomas Romain and the company he recently helped found – Studio No Border – for the world design in Carole & Tuesday. I do hope this new venture does not spell the end of his involvement with series animated by Satelight, but, the idea of his work showcased in other studios work like Bones is an exciting one.
Not only was the first episode a very good episode, it has convinced me that I want to see Carole & Tuesday succeed as a show. I already like Carole and Tuesday and am very glad they found each other and I hope they hit it big. Angela will probably act as an antagonist in the show, but, I feel bad for her with the circumstances of her upbringing and hope she’ll be able to become a singer that’s true to herself and that she’s proud to be. I want to see the washed-out drunk and the kid that got fired by Angela get a second chance at things by helping Carole and Tuesday.
There was a reason I brought up Shoji Kawamori earlier. For Carole & Tuesday to succeed to the level of being a masterpiece it’s going to need to tell a satisfying character story and it’s going to need to explore it’s SF world and address the themes such a world presents it’s characters. This intersection of music, culture, and science fiction has been repeatedly mined by Shoji Kawamori since the 1980s with works like the Macross franchise, AKB0048, and to a lesser extent the Aquarion franchise to name a few, so, one has an idea of what’s possible. Another work that Carole & Tuesday will need to stand up to, assuming it’s going to explore what humans can do against technology, is the recently completed Lupin III: Part 5. This series made that question a central part of the show and tackled it head on and was a large reason why Lupin III: Part 5 was the best the series has ever been.
It is, of course, way too early to see how the story to Carole & Tuesday will play out over it’s 2 cour run of 24 episodes. The first episode gave the show the best possible start and I suspect the journey will be very interesting, exactly the type of anime that shouldn’t be binged watched but that’s a topic for a different post.
As an aside:
Either I’m paying too much to the details or this in an interesting bit of world building. Unless the colonies on Mars are largely made up of Americans and their descendants, I can’t imagine that a measurement like the fluid ounce is the primary unit of measure for soda.