Carole & Tuesday – 13 – Army of Two Steps Back

I’m not sure why every episode of Carole & Tuesday needs to begin by reminding us about the “Miraculous Seven Minutes” that haven’t happened yet, as if we forgot. We get it: they’ll set it into motion! It will change Mars forever! Shut up about it, would ya?!

For now, all C&T get for not winning, but also not quite losing, Mars Brightest is a lot of notoriety, not all of it welcome. They muddle through talk shows and interviews, while Angela, owner of a new contract with a 20 million Woolong singing bonus, has already released her first single.

It features such stirring slogans as “breaking chains”, “keep moving”, “taking control”, “today’s a new day”, and “find my heaven,” collections of words no one has ever thought to put together before! New day, same crappy lyrics.

C&T’s new fame is earning them zero Woolongs but plenty of headaches. At a laundromat, Tuesday is surrounded by brusque gents, and is only saved further harassment by the intervention of a fellow clothes-washer who is probably Carole’s long-lost father (or at least, we’re supposed to wonder if that’s who he is).

When Gus and Dahlia cross paths, they’re all smiles and passive aggression, but Angela cuts through the crap: C&T better get their heads out of the clouds and start making hits soon, or else she’s going to leave them in the dust come Mars Grammy time. Heck, she’ll probably leave them in the dust anyway, but like Mars Brightest, she still wants a fair fight.

There’s nothing fair about the contract meeting at Brightest Records, the studio run by Catherine. As Tuesday’s suddenly very Trump-like mom starts talking about deporting illegal immigrants (which makes one ask the uncomfortable, what exactly is Carole’s official immigration status?) Gus rejects Cathy’s offer without consulting the girls, taking money out pockets and food out of their mouths without any guarantee of alternate sources of income.

Daddy Gus has simply decided, unilaterally, that C&T are going to be an indie group, selling their songs online to “boost their commercial value” and make their negotiating position better. And the girls just…allow it. It’s baffling; they’re just not developed enough as a group to be turning down reasonable offers; not when it’s really past time they started, you know, earning money to “live” and “eat”.

And don’t get me started on Gus dragging them to the rougher side of town to play an impromptu concert no one there asked for, all to lure out a “genius producer” who loves swinging a goddamned ax around. But hey, I guess it will all work out. Those Miraculous Seven Minutes are coming, or so they say! I just don’t know if I’m going to make it there…

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Carole & Tuesday – 12 – Setting the Stage to Stardom

As a dejected Carole tells Gus and Roddy what just happened, Tuesday is briefly scolded by her mother upon returning to her mansion. Her mom couldn’t give to shits about her beyond how her actions reflect on her, and she basically says as much before locking her daughter in her room for a week.

You’d think for a politician worried about the scandal of a runaway daughter, subjecting that daughter to solitary confinement might not be the best look! Anyway, what follows is an effective montage of the two girls suddenly ripped apart becoming more and more morose. They are both The Loneliest Girl all over again.

Gus, who had a similar falling-out with a loved one that in hindsight he believes he could have salvaged, offers some sage advice to Carole about not letting things fester too long without making amends. Carole, eating her feelings in the form of a double Whopper, is way ahead of him: She needs Tues, and she thinks Tues needs her. Gus agrees, which means it’s time to plan the rescue mission—which, yes, may technically involve kidnapping!

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s only non-robot visitor is Spencer, who is as supportive as Gus about getting the duo back together, and letting his sister pursue her dreams. He reveals to her he saw her in the club, and while he admits he never thought his sis was capable of running away to the big city or getting into music, he can relate (having once pursued music but gave up, likely under pressure from mom).

I like Spencer. He’s a good brother! He didn’t give in to their domineering mother when it mattered most. Mom’s too self-involved and distracted by politics and toy boys to realize her hold on him is not as strong as she thinks. And while he couldn’t make it, he can tell she’s got what it takes, and so will do everything to free her from her gilded prison.

That night—the night before the finals, as Carole, Gus, Roddy take the train to Tuesday’s district—Angela is at the Artience Lab with Tao, asking him why the AI lyrics seem to be almost reading her mind. His answer is that, well, the lab itself has been reading her mind all along, as well as her body. It’s been listening and watching and writing, and perhaps even drawn out words from her subconscious she’d never be able to draw out alone.

In this regard, Angela is not a solo act, despite appearing alone on stage. Tao is her collaborator, since he’s the one who developed the AI. After getting into singing to please Dahlia, she can’t sing the final song to her Mama, so she asks Tao to indulge her and look at her and only her throughout the performance.

Tao agrees, but only this once. Like Carole and Tuesday, there’s nothing overtly or explicitly romantic in play here, but it’s also not like there’s nothing there.

The next morning, the rescue attempt, in which Spencer aids Carole, Gus and Roddy without even knowing it by unlocing her door and holding back a security robot so she can run away in her very inappropriate-for-running fancy shoes. They also catch a bit of luck when a driver in a car that’s faster than the cops recognizes them and offers them a ride to the station.

Gus and Roddy are arrested, but the mission is complete: Carole & Tuesday are on their way to their destiny. On the train, Carole apologizes to Tues for the things she said, and the two make it clear to each other that they want nothing more than to by each other’s side. Carole also finally manages to give Tues her birthday gift: a shiny acoustic guitar pin.

When the two return to Alba City, the grandeur of the first episode in which Tuesday arrives for the first time returns, only now she’s not alone and unknown, but running hand-in-hand with her new bestie as the throngs of people recognize and cheer them on. The only problem is, they’re very late; the season finale of Mars Brightest has already started, and as promised, Tao is in the back of the hall, his gaze locked on Angela.

Angie takes that gaze and runs with it, turning in another lovely performance. The vocals are good, but as usual I’m just not that impressed with the lyrics. She sings two identical verses without any change, which makes me wonder, are they that deep and sophisticated as to make Angela believe the AI was reading her mind? I don’t know, but as usual I have to grade on a curve and for this show, it’s a damn good song, well performed.

The judges agree, and are ready to crown Angela a winner until the sudden belated appearance of Carole & Tuesday. Catherine whips out the rulebook and states that any performers not present at the start of the show will be disqualified. Despite this, Carole, Tuesday, Benito, the crowd, and even Angela all compel her to allow them to perform anyway.

Since they had no time to write or practice a new song, they go with their very first song, Loneliest Girl, the song that marked the beginning of their friendship, the end of their loneliness, made them a viral sensation (thanks to Roddy) and put them on the road to musical greatness.

While we’ve heard the song a few times throughout the series, it’s never been performed so powerfully as this time, and with both this and Angela’s finals performance, Mars Brightest finally sounds and feels like a genuine reality TV competition, breaking through the walls of mere imitation.

That’s carried forward with the deliberation of the judges afterwards. Even DJ Ertegun is moved to tears! Catherine initially holds her “rules are rules” ground, but allows an exception that satisfies everyone from the crowd, to Angela (who wanted a fair-and-square fight) to Gus and Roddy (still stuck in jail): Angela is the official winner, but both acts will be permitted to make their pro debuts.

They earned it, and Angela is cordial in congratulating them. She, Carole and Tuesday have come a long way, and many challenges remain. Will their continued chilly rivalry curdle into outright hostility? Will Cybelle break out of prison and finish what she started? Will Tues’ mom take harsher measures, despite the blowback from the duo’s growing legion of fans? We’ll find out in the second half of the series. I’ll be on board!

Fuuka – 11

Ay Caramba was that a jumbled mess of an episode, full of people being selfish and awful, other people being pushed and pulled around like ragdolls, people saying things no normal people would ever say out loud, and peppered with seemingly even more superfluous fanservice than usual.

First up, Fuuka, who leaves the band she forced everyone into to begin with to sign a contract with a studio. You know she’s leaving the band because it’s too painful to be around Yuu, and I know that too, but Yuu doesn’t, because he’s an idiot.

This isn’t about pursuing her dreams. You can tell because throughout this episode she’s sad and saying out loud “I AM MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE HERE,” as if trying in vain to convince herself.

As for the other girl whose feelings for him Yuu is totally unaware, Koyuki surprises him when he’s moping in the dark his bedroom, presumably a few days later. When Koyuki learns why he’s blue, she tells him it’s for the best, how she wants to be on stage with him, no matter how much he sucks at bass, then opens her blouse and pounces on him.

Yuu is just not feelin’ it, and Koyuki starts to sob, talking about how she knew she wasn’t the one, how she knew about the feelings he doesn’t know he has, and how he needs to “be honest with himself” before leaving the site of her almost comically brief and awkward attempt at seduction. I feel bad for Koyuki, not because she was rejected so utterly, but that she likes a schlub like Yuu in the first place.

Yuu isn’t just a schlub: he’s also a deeply selfish, destructive person. Mind you, it feels like only a few days have passed, but all the other members of the band have already moved on to other things; Fuuka was the now-absent glue that held them together. Without her, Nachi goes back to focusing on track, Mikasa prepares to move back home and be the finance bro his dad wants him to be, and the talented Sara instantly finds another band to play in.

The wound of the short-lived The Fallen Moon (ugh) is healing nicely for everyone…except Yuu. The band was, apparently, all he had, so he tears it back open, writing a song that “contains all his feelings” (ARRGH) and delivers them to the members one by one in person, totally ignoring their firm yet polite attempts to decline.

Mikasa’s egregiously soapy-yet-oddly robotic monologue to Yuu borders on self-parody:

Sorry, Yuu…I’d moved out of my family’s home as a rebellion against my father, but that’s over now too. I’ve decided to listen to my father. He’s literally promised me a happy future! So I won’t have to suffer or stress myself out chasing pointless dreams anymore!

Who talks like that? Who wrote this drivel??

Yuu doesn’t give a shit what you’re up to now. HE wants the band back together, and he knows if they just hear his song, they’ll come running back to Denny’s. And of course, one by one, the rubes prove Yuu right.

“You’re absolutely right Yuu! How silly of us to move on with our own lives after the most talented, charismatic member of our band quit. Let’s re-form the band on the recommendation of the least talented and charismatic member!” What are these people, lemmings?

The only one he’s not able to immediately bring back is the one who he let leave in the first place without a word of complaint, saying at the time, “if it’s her decision, there’s nothing we can do.” Moping in the dark, getting jumped by Tama-chan, and pouring his feelings into a song have changed him. Now he wants the band back, Fuuka included. Everyone has to do what he says, dammit!

It’s tricky, though, because Fuuka, perhaps not ready to face the band she started then abandoned, is using her mom to screen visitors to her house. She mopes much like Yuu mopes, clutching his feelings-song in her hands, insisting she’s on the right path despite all outward evidence to the contrary, to say nothing of the turmoil in her head.

The insinuation is that, like Yuu had been doing until now, Fuuka isn’t being honest with herself. So go ahead, pursue your dreams as far as your talents will take you…but only until Yuu incessantly hounds you to return to the band. You’re done with the band when he TELLS you you’re done.

I don’t like this show anymore!

Fuuka – 10

Fuuka still hasn’t written the lyrics. Everyone’s hounding her, but it isn’t until Yuu tries to offer some friendly help when she momentarily snaps. She’s sick of feeling the way she feels about Yuu, and seeing him flirt with Koyuki.

Of course, Koyuki isn’t satisfied either, because it’s not as if she and Yuu are really a couple. There something in between, something that just isn’t cutting it, and she can’t go on. So yeah, Yuu’s making precisely no one happy right now.

Fuuka eventually does finish the lyrics, and they’re apparently awesome. Yuu seems to think so. But whether Yuu’s calling her on the phone and being nice, smiling at her, or praising her awesome lyrics, Fuuka continues to feel like shit.

The night of their big gig we get a little slice of all the band members’ lives. Fuuka perches precariously from her roof, but we don’t see her family. Yuu’s sisters promise they’ll be there. Nachi’s grandma sparks some flint for good luck or something. And Makoto? Makoto’s getting disowned by his asshole father for daring to be in a useless band. I wish I cared…but I don’t!

Fuuka’s pink alpaca strap falls off right in the middle of the street, and everything seems to be pointing to Fuuka getting clobbered by the classic “anime truck doing 70 mph in the middle of downtown,” with Fuuka either buying it or ending up in the hospital, probably with a ruined voice on the eve of her big break.

Instead, she avoids the truck (she is pretty athletic), and leaves the alpaca strap behind, which is like a symbol for her attempting to be move beyond the torturous slog of pining for Yuu, something I’m still not quite sure why she’s doing in the first place.

So The Fallen Moon (uuuuuuggggghhhh) performs their Hedgehogs (I’m sick of capitalizing it) cover for the millionth time, followed by a slower number, and then Fuuka’s big number. Throughout the gig, there’s more than one person singing, even though Fuuka is the only one singing, which is weird.

Also, because apparently there wasn’t enough animated material in this episode, we cut to a slow pan of the classic “impossibly starry city sky” again and again. Honestly, the episode went to that sky almost as much as the band goes to Denny’s!

The gig complete (and a huge success), Fuuka finally decides she’ll do that solo contract after all. Mind you, this is the band’s second public performance, and she’s leaving the band. The band Mikasa got disowned to stay in. Nice.

Really though, Fuuka is making the right choice. Even though everyone in the band is pretty good, the offer with the cash wasn’t for the band, it was for her. And you gotta look out for number one. I’m not sure where this is going, but this is actually a mildly intriguing development.

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Hanayamata – 12 (Fin)

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In a word, Hanayamata’s finale rocked. The Hanairo Festival was strongly built up throughout the show, and when it came time to finally deliver, it didn’t disappoint. We finally see the end product of Naru meeting Hana, deciding to expand her world, and ends up shining just like the fairy tale heroines she adored as a kid.

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It’s not Naru who realizes she’s shining, but her friends, when Machi messes up in their pre-festival practice and Naru has a series of embarrassing but heartfelt monologues. It’s okay if they’re not the best Yosakoi there, as long as everyone gives it their all and has fun. After all, Hana will be dancing with them within their hearts.

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…And, as it turns out, in person, as well! That’s right, Hana isn’t out of Japan long; when the others stop by to give their completed CD to her Dad, the opportunity finally arises for Hana to tell her parents what she really wants. I can understand why she didn’t say anything—she didn’t want to inconvenience her folks whom she loves so dearly.

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It’s great then than Naru, by delivering that CD, unwittingly sets things into motion that eventually leads to Hana’s return, right in the middle of the rest of the club’s performance. I could nitpick about the likelihood of Hana being able to run that much and then dance in perfect harmony with the others right after a transpacific flight—but I don’t really care how that happened, I’m just glad it did.

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I loved the tension that built as the time to take the stage grew nearer, and my heart sunk when I saw how much traffic Hana and her dad were sitting in. But when it became clear Hana’s intention was to suit up and join them on the stage, that heightened the tension even more. And kudos to Hana’s valiant police escort!

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Their performance, which includes and expands upon both the OP theme and dancing animation therein. With the fireworks “blooming” behind them, the initially skeptical (and somewhat pitying) crowd gradually buys in as they realize these girls are giving it their all and kicking ass up there. Hana’s inclusion couldn’t have been better timed, and the elation and pride felt by the club members as the dance marks an emotional high point for the show.

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What’s also great is that the crowd watching them consists of everyone’s loved ones, most of whom had little to no knowledge of their daughters’ “activities.” That includes Naru’s parents (her dad cries with joy at the sight of her), Tami’s dad (who cracks a grin), Hana’s Dad (shooting Mom pictures with his phone of Hana as happy as they’ve ever seen her), and, surprisingly, Yaya’s former band mates, there to support her. The day goes so well, even Sari and Sea Monk end up hiting it off.

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With their first major performance a great success and Hana deciding to be selfish and stay in Japan with her friends, Machi immediately starts planning for their next gig: their school’s cultural festival. The club and the friendships that have been forged in these twelve episodes seems destined not only to endure for some time, but inspire more to join them. I took a chance on a show about five girls dancing, and I don’t regret it!

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Hanayamata – 11

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In the end, the dream of the five-girl yosakoi club with Hana N. Fontainestand at it’s core performing at Hanairo wasn’t undone by poor planning, or infighting, or stage fright, but a simple but devastating case of horrendous timing on the part of Hana’s mom, who has come to take Hana with her back to the states so they can be a family again. Mind you, that’s another dream of Hana’s, one she’d had before she even met Naru and the others, and strong enough that it wins out.

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For the record, I can’t fault Hana for her choice, but I can fault her mom; it simply isn’t fair to abandon your kid due to work, then change your mind just when she’s already found a new form of happiness with her friends in the yosakoi club. Her mom assumes the only thing in the world that matter to Hana is being together with her mom and dad. It’s a classic case of a parent who simply isn’t there a lot assuming time has stood still in her absence, when that’s far from the case.

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That doesn’t mean Hana is totally absolved of all blame for her predicament, since she never breathes a word about her friends, the club, or how important the festival means to her to her folks. She simply goes along with the plans that are made for her without speaking up until it’s far too late, when she shows up at Naru’s window regretting not saying anything. Perhaps she was worried she’d come off as ungrateful of her mom returning, and that that might even lead to her mom leaving again.

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Both are understandable emotions for a child who yearns for her family to be whole again. Even if she’s hardly been there; even if she chose her job before her family once before, her mom is still her mom. I just wish she’d said something, anything; she may have been able to delay things at least so that she could participate in the festival, and it’s disappointing that she didn’t even try.

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But hey, that’s life, and in the end, she sticks with her choice and is indeed out of there. After leaving a tear-jerking letter for her friends, Yaya (ever the tsundere) leads them on a desperate rush to Narita to see her off, and they’re just able to give her a proper farewell.

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Thus, even with everything almost to the point as we’ve seen it each week in the OP (they wrote and recorded the lyrics), Hanayamata will be missing their integral “Ha”, the one who brought everyone else together, on the eve of their biggest triumph.

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