Carole & Tuesday Review: Is Shinichiro Watanabe’s Latest Worth the Hype?

Carole & Tuesday Review: Is Shinichiro Watanabe's Latest Worth the Hype?

There’s no shortage of highly anticipated anime projects this season – One Punch Man 2, Attack on Titan Season 3 Part 2, Kimetsu no Yaiba and the Fruits Basket reboot, to name but a few. But for me, there’s one project that towers over the rest: the latest TV anime from the legendary director Shinichiro Watanabe, Carole & Tuesday. Yet, I couldn’t help but walk away from the first couple episodes of the show slightly disappointed.

Carole & Tuesday is an interesting mix of two trends that have persisted throughout Watanabe’s career. The early portion of his career was dominated by such science fiction projects as Macross Plus and Cowboy Bebop at Studio Sunrise, and the director would, of course, go back to revisit the genre with both seasons of Space Dandy.

But Watanabe would shift away from the science fiction genre following Samurai Champloo, moving on to focus on more contemporary and realistic productions instead. This would then culminate in Shinichiro Watanabe, the wunderkind of science fiction, directing the anime adaptation of Kids on the Slope in 2012 – originally a melodramatic slice-of-life manga by Yuki Kodama with heavy yaoi undertones.

Melodramatic realism would again return in the 2015 project Terror in Resonance, and for a while, it seemed as though Watanabe might be done with science fiction altogether.

Yet, Carole & Tuesday seems to mark a compromise between these two contradictory halves of Watanabe’s career, as the show tells the very melodramatic tale of two girls and their fated meeting – but this time set in the future, on Mars.

Thomas Romain's New "Studio No Border" to Develop World of Carole & Tuesday

This bizarre mix of elements means that this story feels like one only Watanabe could tell. This is truly his show, through and through; it’s not simply got his name attached to it, like was the case with Space Dandy.

The consequences of this are wide and far-reaching. Firstly, the direction of Watanabe in collaboration with Thomas Romain’s ‘Studio no Border’ makes for one of the best looking and well-designed anime of the season. All of the locales are unique and eye-catching, as the show sketches the setting of Alba City as a sort of near future-San Francisco, all navigated by Tuesday’s futuristic hoverboard.

Character designs are also great, sticking closer to realism which gives the show a more serious aesthetic. Of course, that includes the fact that the show features a black protagonist – an excellent move that more accurately conveys the reality of humanity’s probable future than most other anime.

However, Watanabe’s direction on sound design, unfortunately, isn’t one that particularly enthralls me. Watanabe has always played close attention to sound design and music across his career, and the result has always been shows that are just as sonically captivating as they are visually. That’s part of the reason why Watanabe’s involvement on Kids on the Slope as director was so incredible – he was able to bring life to the music, which forms such an integral part of that particular story, despite the subject matter being seemingly quite alien to his previous projects.

Flying Lotus, Thundercat, ☆Taku Takahashi, & More Join 'Carole & Tuesday' Composer Lineup

I can’t however, say the same for Carole & Tuesday. Watanabe’s choice to tie the sound design of this show so close to western singer-songwriters, most notably to such figures as Cyndi Lauper, simply isn’t something that captivates me on a sonic level. I can’t help but feel bored and even a little bit annoyed when the protagonists Carole and Tuesday start singing a fairly run of the mill English pop song.

After all, I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to actively avoid the western mainstream by immersing myself in anime, and in particular in Watanabe’s works. The jazz soundscape of Kids in the Slope and lo-fi beats of Samurai Champloo are simply more entertaining for me than the type of music that the protagonists of Carole & Tuesday are so captivated by.

I also thought that this show would be much more interesting on a sonic level given the impressive list of musical collaborators Watanabe recruited for this project. But it doesn’t really matter how good your collaborators are if you’re working together to make something that’s ultimately not very interesting. Hence why I can’t help but feel a little bit disappointed.

That being said, I’m fully aware that this is entirely down to my own tastes. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the show, either via social media or via our Discord, linked below. Carole & Tuesday is available for streaming via Netflix, however, it’s locked to Japan for the time being.

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