Entertainment

Netflix's 'Carole & Tuesday' Is the Most Tender Example of What It's Like to Start a Band

carole & tuesday
Netflix

If music has ever moved your soul, given you something to believe in, or otherwise touched your heart, Carole & Tuesday is for you. The series, a collaboration between legendary director Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo) and anime studio BONES (My Hero Academia, Fullmetal Alchemist), is an exploration of what music can truly mean to someone and how far you might go to chase a dream. The first 12 episodes are now available to stream on Netflix.

Carole & Tuesday may be set in the distant future on Mars, but it feels like a cozy, intimate tale that might unravel in your hometown -- if you lived in a San Francisco suburb with high-tech gadgets and a cool, futuristic hoverboard. It follows a teenage music enthusiast named Tuesday Simmons as she runs away from her sheltered life as a politician's daughter to pursue her passion. With just her Gibson acoustic guitar and a pink mechanical suitcase, she hops a train to the Martian metropolis Alba City, where she promptly has her luggage stolen but meets the exuberant Carole Stanley. 

Carole has lived a difficult life that's much the opposite of Tuesday's, growing up alone as an orphan, choosing to live the independent life the best way she can. She makes her way by performing on the street with her keyboard and beautiful singing voice. She also strings together several part-time jobs to make ends meet.

When Carole and Tuesday cross paths on what looks like the future analogue to the Golden Gate Bridge, they realize there's a similar sadness in the two of them that relates to their shared love of music. After inviting Tuesday to her home and bonding over their passion for singing and playing instruments, they make the decision to join together as a singer-songwriter duo. The road to stardom is fraught with several frustrating road bumps, of course, and this first half of the 24-episode series, which has already (mostly) aired in Japan, explores potential fame in the music industry and everything that comes with it.

This gorgeously animated, delicate show is rife with the type of personality you'd expect from one of Watanabe's productions, but it's full of surprises, too. Music beats at the heart of every single thread of the series. From the episode titles, which are real-world song names ("True Colors," "Video Killed the Radio Star," etc.), to the girls' influences and favorite musicians (e.g., Tuesday loves Cyndi Lauper), it's packed with more musical nods than a season of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. It’s a fun secondary game to see how many references you can pick up on.

Beyond the main duo, the series' plot threads extends to some other particularly intriguing personalities, such as model Angela Carpenter, who makes a pact with the ominous AI specialist Tao's company to become something of a "puppet" for music made with artificial intelligence -- think Hastune Miku come to life in a host body instead of a hologram. This is a point of contention throughout Carole & Tuesday -- non-AI-created music isn't as in vogue as the latest and greatest manufactured pop sound, and is in fact reviled by some of the big names in the music industry.

carole & tuesday
Netflix

For viewers, it doesn't matter if the music was supposedly created by AI or written by musical prodigies. The soundtrack is a point of excellence in Carole & Tuesday and is all in English (especially a surprise, curse-laden tune from the drag queen trio the Mermaid Sisters in a later episode). Artists Nai Br. XX and Celeina Ann provide the singing voices for Carole and Tuesday, respectively, and they do a fantastic job of conveying the longing, loneliness, and heartbreak the girls tend to express through their music. From the first song they sing together, "The Loneliest Girl," to the opening and ending tunes, the harmonization is superb, the lyrics are touching, and the vibe is heartfelt. There isn't one aspect of this series that feels artificial, even though some of the biggest stars in its universe may be. 

Beyond its musical leads, Carole & Tuesday also employs the talents of a ridiculous lineup of musicians, including Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Alison Wonderland, and Taku Takahashi of J-pop/rap ensemble m-flo. The star power assembled for the show is outstanding, and with the way quality is exuded from every aspect of Carole & Tuesday, it's safe to say the effort that had to go into putting it together was most certainly not wasted. 

One of the biggest delights of the entire show is, undoubtedly, watching the girls refine their music, working on melodies, and figuring out what works best for them as a duo. Seeing the process is a refreshing change of pace from most music shows, where you're watching pop idols who can already sing circles around the "normal" cast members. They're musical equals, imbuing their own personalities in their songs.

carole & tuesday
Netflix

Though the show's set in the future, it never feels so far off that it's alienating, even with all the talk about music created by AIs. Carole still uses Instagram (yes, the real Instagram). You can still lose your job if a rude customer tattles on you for no reason. Society feels slightly different, but so little has actually changed, you never feel as though this is some far-off future that could never come to pass -- and that's part of its charm.

Carole & Tuesday is rife with the same cozy, rustic feelings that series like Watanabe's previous musically inclined show Kids on the Slope or even Madhouse's Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad delivered. The characters are organic, believable, and relatable. The chemistry between Carole and Tuesday is undeniable, and even the characters with ancillary storylines are intriguing enough to make you want to know more about them. 

If you’re looking to sink into a series where the music isn’t so much a part of the narrative as it is the lifeblood, Carole & Tuesday is a fantastic option, whether you’re into pop, country, R&B, or rap. Music is the universal language, and these first 12 episodes of Part 1 are here to share another universal communication: the language of love.

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Brittany Vincent is a contributor to Thrillist.