Overview (Light Spoilers Below)
Having successfully earned the right to a contract, Carole and Tuesday begin to launch their music career in earnest.
After a very neatly packaged first half, we’re plunged into a more freeform second half. We follow the slow and steady rise of Carole and Tuesday’s musical fame.
For the most part, the whole of the plot regarding their music career is very standard. They address the travails of trying to capitalize on a big break, navigating through producers, contracts, making an album, and performing live. It turns out to be slow and honest work for them with no real big missteps. All of the drama and character intrigue orbits around their career, rather than occurring directly within it.
Carole got snubbed quite a bit in the first half, but here she receives more of the attention she rightly deserves. All of her subplots focus on ghosts from her past reappearing and her status as a former refugee. These few moments are all compact in scope, but very genuine. Carole is portrayed as one of the more level-headed and straightforward characters. She does remain resilient in the wake of all the chaos surrounding the music industry, but in these small and heartfelt moments she opens up a little. We see her past and the people she met, how all of that shaped who she is, and how she carries it with her into the future. Though brief, these glimpses afford Carole a more well-rounded character.
Tuesday still gets more attention than her bandmate, though the disparity is much smaller than the first half. Of note, she partakes in a short and lackluster romance which fortunately nips itself in the bud. Other than that, most of her story revolves around her mother’s messy political dealings. Hers is a tale of confronting your past and moving past it.
The two girls’ individual stories contrast with each other to form a potent message. Their differences, rather than dividing them, allow them to relate to one another and come together to be something bigger and more positive than they would be by themselves. It is their steadfast relationship that becomes the heart of this show, which all of the other characters gravitate towards.
Though this anime is called “Carole & Tuesday,” I’d say the titular heroines only have about 50-60% of the screentime across the whole season. A lot of attention and detail is put into the large cast of ancillary characters. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.
Most of the supporting cast are other musicians, usually current or former big stars in the business. It is in hearing about their success failures that we, along with Carole and Tuesday, learn what fame and fortune can do to a person. A non-binary superstar whose physical ailments cut their capacity short and how they’re able to cope with that. A former influential singer who fell from grace upon realizing her own naivete. Through their eyes, we ascertain the nature of fame, what forms it can take and what damage it can do.
My favorite example of this is still Ertegun, the pompous EDM DJ. He’s pretentious and short-minded, with all of the humorous, overcompensating practices of a big fish in a small pond. At the same time, he’s completely honest about everything, even if it may be a bit belligerent. He takes a fall himself, but rather than being glad at seeing his ego backfire, I felt sorry for him. Not the kind of sorry one feels for a friend, more like seeing a child trip over his untied shoes. I wanted to see him pull himself together and get back on track in that childish way, and I was not disappointed.
And then there is Angela, the top rookie, and Carole and Tuesday’s big rival. Though at first portrayed as antagonistic, her desire to fight on fair terms still shines through. Like Carole and Tuesday, her story also contains a component of encountering your past and dealing with it. Like Tuesday, her mother’s expectations are hurdles that she can’t quite seem to overcome.
Angela’s character arc is truly more complex than the other characters’, even the protagonists’. There’s the aforementioned weight of dealing with her mother, which ends up becoming unbearably heavy. There’s a brief debacle with a dangerous stalker. And then there is Tao, who appears to be trying to replace Angela, but is partaking in something more subdued.
A lot happens to her throughout these episodes, so much that the narrative space she occupies is greater than anyone else. All of this culminates in her character being so strained that it’s not a surprise to see where she ends up. Angela is in such close proximity to Carole and Tuesday that it makes the contrast incredibly stark. I think that perhaps instead of having Angela there to motivate our heroines, Carole and Tuesday were placed so that Angela could be saved. How all of the characters wind up supporting one another, intentionally or otherwise, is probably this anime’s biggest strength.
One of this show’s few biggest flaws is the notable number of sharp, dramatic turns it takes at the 11th hour.
Tuesday’s mother, Valerie, proves to be such a big obstacle for Tuesday that she ultimately morphs into an antagonist for everybody at the end. This sudden elevation of the threat she poses is drastic with no satisfying justification for it. And since it appears right at the very end, it is made to resolve itself faster than it came about. Valerie is left only as a mere last-minute villain, which also leaves a part of Tuesday’s story shallow.
And then there’s the bevy of events regarding Tao. For so long he was a stubbornly mysterious character, being arduously unraveled at a snail’s pace. It seems it was too slow because he suddenly receives a ton of exposition and motivation right at the end. He does garner a bit more sympathy, but the haste at which his narrative is delivered does him no favors.
I’d say the other big notable flaw is that the world-building can be clumsy at times. This is a future where artificial intelligence has advanced to the point that all music is written by it. Carole and Tuesday’s manmade compositions are supposed to be one of their key traits as a group but this is never expounded upon in the latter half of the show.
The proliferation of AI also extends to the political aspects of this show, and there it also goes unquestioned. Additionally, there some topical political allusions throughout the show that become incredibly obvious at the end. The underlying political messages are kind and empathetic enough, but I also found them heavy-handed and a bit too saccharine. Being politically strident probably wasn’t this show’s main objective, but I think if you’re gonna go in this much you should be a bit more informative.
Lastly, one certainly cannot write a review of this anime without going over the music.
The first half had a nice array of musical styles within the frame of the Mars talent show. The story in the second half focuses more on the established characters, and thus the music follows suit. Apart from a few unique cases, the new songs are sung by either Angela or Carole and Tuesday.
Angela’s calling card was big, sweeping pop/R&B hits, replete with sharp, intense beats and emotionally-charged lyrics. Her songs were one of the highlights of the first half, and here they continue to impress. She maintains the same level of high skill, but the content of her songs change with where she is at in the narrative, providing effective backdrops to her story. Personally, her songs are still my favorites in the show.
Carole and Tuesday’s repertoire had been mostly soft-spoken folksy pop songs, simple in composition to contrast the more layered AI-made songs of their peers. In these latter episodes, they acquire a backup band and can expand further in their instrumentation. The evolution is slow, going from the folksy pop to something more akin to modern pop/R&B fare. Witnessing this change is satisfying as they do still stay somewhat close to their roots, with the core content of their lyrics being the same.
And then there is the final number at the very end. It’s easily the musical zenith of the show, with all of its various vocal strengths brought to full bear. It’s big, epic, and contains the very soul of the anime within it. It’s a great song that ends the story on a very pleasant and comfortable note.
Carole & Tuesday is a feel-good musical adventure with a human heart at its core. In the realm of all entertainment, there are a bunch of better ones; but within the realm of anime, there isn’t much else like this. It’s sufficiently modern and is able to successfully transcend the barrier of culture. If you want an all-around competent musical anime that isn’t about idols, this is probably the best you can do.