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Carole & Tuesday [Episodes 1-12]

On a future Mars, runaway rich girl Tuesday has a chance encounter with streetwise city girl Carole.  Discovering a shared desire to create music, they form an inseparable bond and set off on a journey to make their dreams come true

Carole & Tuesday is the new series from chief director Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo) and the acclaimed studio Bones. The series was commissioned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Bones,  jointly with the 10th anniversary of record label FlyingDog. It originally aired in Japan on Fuji TV from April 10 and October 2 of 2019, with episodes also streaming weekly on Netflix in Japan. The first half of the series began streaming on Netflix worldwide outside Japan from August 30. The second half is due to arrive on December 24, 2019.

With Watanabe at the helm and Mars as the setting, comparisons with his earlier Cowboy Bebop are inevitable. There's certainly similarity in how the well drawn future world is very familiar and relatable, basically looking like the modern world with a few sci-fi bells and whistles- here largely the presence of robots and Artifical Intelligence.  In the current climate of interconnected cinematic universes and mega-expansive franchises, it's tempting to think that the presence of a shared currency (The Woolong) implies this could be taking place in the same universe as Bebop. Fun as it might be to imagine a cameo might be in the offing, it's much more likely a director's trademark, or even an easter egg. Woolongs are also used in Space Dandy- a show tonally very different from both Martian set series.

The fabulous soundtrack is one of Bebop's biggest appeals, but Carole and Tuesday actually shares more similarities with the director's later Kids On The Slope in how the music actually forms a major part of the plot and is performed by the characters in the show itself.

Whereas Bebop uses a show about the future to talk about the past, Carole and Tuesday's future is much more rooted in our present. Mars's Alba City is basically New York. The robotic pets are a sci-fi staple, but Instagram is still around, influencers and video sharing are still a thing, as are TV talent shows. Carole and Tuesday create music the old-fashioned way, while most music in the future is created by A.I. This can be read as a commentary on authentic versus manufactured music.

The story itself is a pretty familiar tale of the musical duo trying to make it against overwhelming odds. If you've seen other rags-to-riches tales, whether based on real people or entirely fictional, it's much the same. Carole and Tuesday through sheer talent, hard work and a not inconsiderable amount of luck make their way from buskers on the street to an act booking real gigs and with their own manager, to competing in a TV talent show.

Their efforts are contrasted with those of a more polished act, model turned singer Angela, who represents the more typical pop star. It's not entirely clear how her story relates to the central duo, but in time their paths do cross.

The series is also a love story. It's not romantic in nature (although shippers can probably find plenty here to argue otherwise) but their relationship is the heart of the show. Both girls find what they've been missing in each other and their friendship builds along with the music. They even go through the cliches you'd find in your average rom-com, from the meet-cute to falling out and getting back together. And you'll be cheering them on all the way through.

The animation and design work is, for the most part, gorgeous to behold- as you would expect from a Bones production. The character designs (by Eisaku Kubonouchi and Tsunnenori Saito) are extremely appealing. There are a handful of characters whose design is a little out of place with the rest, feeling more like refugees from Space Dandy than anything else, but they're relatively rare. A deal with Guitar manufacturer Gibson and keyboard maker Nord ensures that the instruments are authentically depicted too.

The music is of course also a vital part of the show. The production assembled an impressive array of musicians from the US, UK, Japan, Australia and other countries to compose and perform the music in the show. Throughout the series, as well as Carole and Tuesday's own songs we also hear music from Angela and various other in-world artists, covering a variety of styles and genres. There are few things as personal as musical taste, so it'll come down to personal taste whether you enjoy some or all of it.

The music is recorded (with the occasional exception) in English so you'll get the same version whether you watch the anime with the dubbed or subtitled options. Carole's singing voice in all versions comes from American artist Nai Br.XX, while Tuesday's are provided by Japanese singer-songwriter Celeina Ann. The duo are indisputably extremely talented and have a vital chemistry that makes their performances a joy.

With the musical sequences the big draw, the performances are always expertly and fluidly animated. The opening and closing sequences are also superb (a Watanabe trademark) and will have you scrabbling for your remote to stop Netflix from autoplaying the next episode and making you miss your dose of earworm Hold Me Now.

Arguably, this first half of the season drags out the TV talent show for too long. If you're not a fan of The X Factor or American Idol in real life, chances are you'll find that the fictional Mars's Brightest isn't really your thing either. Some of the quirky opponents are amusing enough, but don't really need as much screentime as they get. Devoting nearly half of the episodes to this storyline does feel a bit excessive. Still, this drives the storyline forward through some backstage drama all that leads up to an excellent, emotionally satisfying climax that even might make all that time spent with the insufferable Pyotr worth it. Just about.

Don't expect anything approaching a serious hard-hitting examination of the music biz. There's no struggling with the dark side of fame here, Carole & Tuesday is definitely more of a fairy tale. It may be playing a familiar tune, but Watanabe and his band put their own spin on it.



IN A NUTSHELL: A beautiful series that is as sweet-natured, soulful and melodious as its titular twosome.