What’s it about? Tuesday has always been the picture of privilege, until one night she sneaks out and takes the train with only her guitar and a single suitcase. Her destination: Alba City, the biggest city on Mars. Her goal: become a musician. In Alba, she meets Carole, another young woman with the same dream but a very different background. Despite their differences, the two discover they can make beautiful music together.
What a lovely, lovely, lovely first episode.
When Carole & Tuesday, a new project from Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo), was announced, I was thrilled. His projects have been consistently excellent, and the musical premise, setting, and early art promised to play into his particular strengths. Then, when Netflix announced they had the license, my heart sank. How long would it take until the series was released from Netflix jail?
Well, the day has finally come, and watching the first episode felt like sinking into a warm bath after a chilly walk outside. Everything just felt cozy, from Carole’s small-but-comfortable apartment to the warmly lit Martian cities.
Tuesday, on the train and independent for the first time, wanders into a car full of goats, reminiscent of Kiki’s famous crash-landing in the first minutes of Kiki’s Delivery Service. This is, by far, the softest, gentlest Watanabe work, except for maybe Kids on the Slope.
Based on this episode, it looks like the show’s greatest theme will be the relationship between art and authentic human connection. Carole and Tuesday seemingly have nothing in common except for their music, which gives them an immediate and intimate bond.
Carole’s wordless singing and keyboard playing strike Tuesday to her core, and Tuesday manages to change the lonely emotions she perceives into lyrics. A beautiful partnership is born. There’s a paradoxical poignancy to two girls bonding over a song about loneliness, one I imagine was deliberate because (as those of us who follow his work know) found families are one of Watanabe’s greatest narrative preoccupations.
The episode also delivers Watanabe’s signature attention to creating diverse casts. Anime with any Black characters at all are rare, and a Black heroine even rarer, but here is Carole, in all her glory.
The two heroines do follow expectations based on their race—Tuesday is wealthy, spoiled, and blonde; while Carole, orphaned from an early age (and implied to be a refugee), is tougher and more independent. But there’s also Angela, who is also brown-skinned but with a very different story: she’s a former child star trying to cross over into adult roles. Making a value judgement is outside my lane, but it’s worth noting.
Also worth noting is that Angela’s manager has a deep voice and masculine-coded build coupled with feminine presentation and speech patterns (Angela calls her “Mom,” though it’s unclear if this is literal or figurative). There’s room for positive or negative trans representation here, but it’s too early to tell which way it’ll go at this point.
Carole and Tuesday also have multiple voice actors: one each for their speaking voices and one each for their singing voices. Their songs were originally composed and performed in English, even in the Japanese language track.
I ended up going with the dub for this one, since Watanabe shows usually feel most natural in English, so I can’t speak for their Japanese voices. (Our managing editor vouches for the quality of the Japanese version, though.) However, their English voices are quite lovely and mesh well with their vocalists, even though they have different performers. They did cast a Black singer for Carole, though unfortunately they didn’t do the same for her actor.
I really and truly loved the first episode of Carole & Tuesday. It’s beautiful, warm, and down-to-earth… or maybe down-to-Mars? Either way, it’s art about making art, informed by connection and passion without any pretension.
In other words, as soon as I finish typing this sentence, I’m hitting that “Next Episode” button.