Carole & Tuesday is an anime defined by good intentions. Set on a far-future Mars, the series focuses on the titular girls’ musical career and sings the heartfelt value of music’s power to change the world—perhaps no surprise, since Watanabe Shinichiro’s work is full of passionate love for the art form. The series saw praise for its well-characterized Black heroine, optimistic outlook and its swing-for-the-fences tale of pushing back against injustice (including a spot in our 2019 recs list). At the same time, it’s received its share of criticism for the way that core optimism lends itself toward over-simplification of fraught issues, as well as its stumbles in portraying Black masculinity and queer and trans characters.
We were able to spend a few minutes with series co-director Hori Motonobu, who made his directorial debut on the series and recently finished Netflix’s Super Crooks, at Otakon 2022. Below is a transcript of our conversation, including Mr. Hori’s answers in Japanese, the translations given in the moment by the interpreter, and Chiaki’s adjusted translation notes from an audio recording of the interview. This transcript has been edited for clarity and flow.
Anime Feminist: What lessons did you learn from co-directing on Carole & Tuesday that you took forward with you when you were working on Super Crooks?
Interpreter: Unfortunately, in the main part of Super Crooks, there weren’t too much that was carried over from Carole & Tuesday, but in the opening there’s a dance scene in there. And that part is heavily influenced—well, that’s actually something I do very well, is dance scenes.
Chiaki Translation: Unfortunately, I didn’t use anything during the actual show, but there’s a dance in the opening. I did that as something I really excel at.
AF: How does making a series for Netflix differ than one that you would be making to air on a television slot? Are there differences, for example, in working conditions or audience considerations during planning stages?
Hori: そうですね…仕事するうえで、僕自身が感じる事はあんまり無かったんですけど、NETFLIX というか、配信の仕事は大体そうなんですよ、こうエピソードの長さが結構自由が効くんですので、そこはなんかやりやすいところはあるんですね、配信の奴は。
Interpreter: I personally didn’t experience too many differences between Netflix and TV anime, but I would say that Netflix—well, this is not just Netflix, but lots of the streaming platforms—but the length of the episode—I could have some freedom in the lengths of the episode when I’m on streaming services. So, that might be a part that’s easier on a streaming platform like Netflix.
Also the other thing is the limit that they put on violence and violence depictions, Netflix is a lot more lenient in terms of violence depictions—slightly more lenient—compared to TV. I didn’t need to put myself on hold too much there.
Chiaki Translation: Thinking about it, I don’t think I felt any differences while working on the show, but while working with Netflix—actually this is with any work done for streaming platforms—there’s a lot of freedom afforded to the length of episode. So in a sense, work meant for streaming is easier in that way.
Aside from that, they don’t really limit the amount of violence depicted in the show, so it was easier there; I didn’t have to hold myself back on violent content.
Interpreter: Actually, I just thought of one right now. One difference is that while making things for TV, we’re actually making the episodes while the anime airs, so the staff gets to see the reaction of the people that see the anime. As opposed to that, for Netflix, you have everything finished first, so in the sense of staff morale, there is a huge difference there.
Chiaki Translation: Oh I thought of one more thing. On TV—and this isn’t necessarily a good thing either—but we’re making the show as it’s airing, so our staff is also making the show as we see our viewers react to the show. That really helps them get hyped up to work on the show.
When streaming on NETFLIX, we turn in the completed show up front, so we have to make the show without any audience feedback. That’s—how should I put it: I think the staff just get more excited about a project when they’re working on a TV show.
AF: When writing Carole & Tuesday, it’s set in a future that’s this very vibrant, diverse cast of characters. Did the production team, in this case or in other series you’ve worked on, take any special considerations or extra research when they decided to write groups of people who might not be depicted as commonly in anime?
Interpreter: So I wouldn’t say it goes as far as research, but then I also—this is something that’s similar in both me and Watanabe-san—but we like to bring in things from other cultures into anime. So in that sense, while I wouldn’t call it as far as research, it’s our personal preference to bring in a wide variety of cultures into the show.
Chiaki Translation: We’re not really doing much research, but it’s more something Watanabe likes. I like that stuff too, but Watanabe just likes different cultures. He enjoys diversity and that might be one of the major reasons behind it.
AF: And do you draw from your experiences with those other cultures or from talking to people from those cultures as you write the story?
Interpreter: The short answer is “probably not.” But this is because both of us are from…to say it…we’re from the boonies. So, in a sense, Watanabe-san doesn’t really say it much, but he isn’t from a place that’s notorious for variety or diversity. It’s more that he has this affection—he has a passion for American music. And I think those, rather than real lived experiences that we have with people from other cultures, I think it’s our passion toward musical cultures from the US or things like that.
Chiaki Translation: Well, this is just me speaking, and I don’t have a lot of experience, but Watanabe doesn’t either.
Watanabe and I both come from rural Japan, and I mean the boonies. So I don’t think Watanabe really has been talking about his life history in interviews either, but I don’t think he had a very great upbringing.
So when you’re talking about the American music Watanabe likes, I think he’s got this deep sense of admiration for this stuff. And I like this stuff too, but I think he’s greatly influenced by these things.
AF: What was the goal with specifically, what you were hoping to achieve with the portrayal of characters like Dahlia and Desmond?
Interpreter: I don’t know. I think I actually like characters like that. I think that’s what it comes from. I like characters like that.
Chiaki Translation: I think Watanabe just likes them, he likes those kinds of characters.
AF: Can you explain a bit more what you mean? Characters who live different sorts of lives, or—what do you mean by “like that”?
Interpreter: This is about a future where you can change your gender as you like. Well, that’s the answer I got from Watanabe-san.
Chiaki Translation: How should I put it, when we were working on the show, I recall Watanabe saying this was, “a world where you can easily change genders” since this was set in the future.
AF: So it’s meant to be an almost…there’s a freedom to it, and there could be different kinds of people who change their gender rather than saying- Let me see, what am I trying to say here.
It’s more about making that part of the world than having to say “we wanted it to be this kind of character who has changed their gender”?
Interpreter: That’s a difficult question you have there.
Chiaki Translation: That’s a very hard question.
Interpreter: I think you’re right. I think, in a sense, it’s about a world where that’s become the norm. It’s not something special.
Chiaki Translation: Yeah, that’s probably what it means, but hold on a second.
I think that’s what it means. I think he meant to depict a world where that kind of thing is perfectly normal.