Entering the year of 2020, we’re already set to face another dividing election following the one from four years ago and in that short time we’ve seen our fair share of despair and controversy from all corners of society. We’ve seen many of our heroes pass away, entire states and continents burn for days on end, seen many celebrities and people of power exposed for their heinous actions to others, and the list goes on and on and yet, the anime Carole & Tuesday creates a world reflecting that of our own, expecting me to have hope. I was livid at the series’ saccharine ending in a story involving political corruption, illegal immigration, and even the manufacturing of “authentic” pop and after sitting on it for a couple days, I think I need to be able to accept such a happy ending when the real world won’t give me one.
This article contains spoilers for Carole & Tuesday, which is available for streaming on Netflix. Its all on there and you should definitely watch it.
Carole & Tuesday is a 2019 anime directed by anime legend Shinichiro Watanabe, chief director of classics Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, and the team from the animation studio Bones who have also worked on popular anime like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and My Hero Academia. The series tells the story of two young women starting a band on Mars 50 years after its been terraformed and immigration to the planet has begun. The titular characters meet after the guitar playing Tuesday has ran away from home and finds the orphaned Carole playing piano on street, after a brief stint with the police the two decide to move in together and make music. The two decide they want to become famous so they can live out their dreams of following in their heroes footsteps and do so by entering a competition style television show where they meet their main rival for the series. Angela, a child actress and model moving out of her career and acting to start her own singing career, and its this rivalry that flows through the show and works as a presentation of the fight of authentic music writing and creation against the manufactured AI based method to produce music.
Running parallel to the main narrative are several stories starring the supporting cast such as the famed DJ Ertegun losing his friends and ambition after he’s swindled out of his millions, an obsessed fan and rival trying to monopolize Tuesday’s attention, but the biggest one involves Tuesday’s mother, Valerie Simmons, running for the presidency of Mars with an adviser named Jerry. The two are using AI to help decide what platforms to use for the campaign to counter their political opponent, and this leads to several controversial stances such as closing off trade relations with Earth and the aggressive deportation of refugees and illegal immigrants on Mars, parallels to the current U.S. administration. Valerie’s son Spencer is responsible for returning Tuesday home, but while searching for her, he becomes involved with a journalist trying to expose Valerie and Jerry’s shading dealing, some of which involve manufacturing a terrorist attack with the blame placed on refugees.
Carole and Tuesday are pretty uninvolved with the political side plot until the end of the series when one of Carole’s childhood friend and refugee is arrested for songs that criticize the administration’s stances and subsequently is deported off planet. This action causes other musicians to take note as their freedom of speech is threatened. This causes them to start a protest led by the popular Carole and Tuesday, the musicians, new and old, live-stream a protest song on New Years, ahead of the election, to show solidarity, though its not really known if this action achieves anything as its the last scene of the series, but we are continuously told at the beginning of every episode that this was a world changing event. The conclusion to this thread is that Spencer tells his mother that the journalist will be releasing his findings of Jerry’s actions to the public and she decides to resign from the race as her conscience tells her she’s been doing this wrong, she makes a public statement, Jerry is arrested, and Mars has a happy ending.
Carole & Tuesday isn’t telling us that everything will turn out alright, but rather that we have to do all we can, persevere, and do our damnedest and hope for the best. Considering that prior to the conclusion we saw supposed terrorist attacks on weather factories that put Mars into an unexpected winter season, Carole’s friend and rapper Ezekiel is arrested and deported, and her estranged father is unable to stay on Mars to find and reconnect with his daughter, it feels a little odd to believe that the Trump stand-ins would just give up and be punished considering that the real world has shown us that facts and evidence seemingly don’t matter as we have an impeached president potentially running for a second term. There’s certainly a disconnect in not just how Watanabe views the U.S. and his portrayal of it compared to what is actually happening, but I don’t think that that this is unintentional, because in light of the struggles that we face, what is most important is that we press on and take matters into our own hands. We’ve seen that from YouTubers raising millions of dollars to plant trees, models selling their photos to help fund the firefighting effort in Australia, and a Twitch streamer helping to donate hundreds of thousands to Mermaids, a charity that provides support for transgender children.
The show is still excellent even if you find yourself at odds with the ending of the series like I initially did. All the songs performed on the show were written specially for it, with excellent performances from the two lead singers Nai Br.XX and Celeina Ann. The show touches on several other themes such as the Martian atmosphere causing people to transition gender if they’re not born on the planet and several supporting characters dealing with alcoholism and drug abuse. Though if I’m asked to recommend any one song, I will stand by Ezekiel’s Crash The Server performance, as it is central to his deportation story and the catalyst for the third act of the show, and is just a stand out performance by Denzel Curry as well as excellent production by Flying Lotus.
Carole & Tuesday is currently streaming exclusively on Netflix in English, Japanese, and several more languages. The show was initially released in two halves on the platform with the first half releasing on August 30, 2019 and the second half on December 24, 2019.