LISTENERS – 01 (First Impressions) – The Day After the Music Died

In a world where “Players” pilot “Equipment” and fight “Earless” with music, Echo Rec lives in the sleepy town of Liverchester, which shuns all of that—or at least the grouchy Mayor does. That’s probably due to the massive crater of destruction left by Players ten years ago.

Echo is content to sift through the mountains of junk, looking for treasures he uses to build his own Equipment as a hobby. One day, he finds a sleeping young woman partially buried in the junk with an input jack in her lower back—the mark of a Player.

Echo takes her home—a bar called Oasis run by his big sister Swell—and after being yelled at by the mayor, he takes her upstairs. When he tells her he’s fascinated by her she momentarily thinks he’s coming on to her, but he’s actually geeking out about her status as a Player, even if she doesn’t remember that, or even her name.

When he tells her his dream of building an Equipment that a Player can use to fight the Earless, she wonders why he doesn’t just stand up and live that dream. But Echo doesn’t think that’s possible; for his young age, he’s an old soul and a pragmatic one who, dreams aside, has set limits for himself.

The girl is put off by his lack of ambition, and heads to the train station (where she spends all night outside?) while Echo falls asleep finishing his Equipment (which has the resting form of a VOX amp, prized by professional rockers). The next morning, the Earless attack—giant versions of the black shadow monsters of ICO—Echo races to the station.

The girl has already saved the Mayor’s life, then dives in to a pit of junk Echo trips and falls down. Rather than dying, she hooks the amp into her jack and it transforms into a somewhat retro mech. With the girl and Echo riding on its shoulders controlling it, the mech defeats all of the Earless.

Echo’s dream thus realized in record time, he gives the girl a name—Myuu—and the two jump on a train bound for more interesting places than quiet Liverchester, without any luggage or supplies. The giant “Monument of Admonition” topples, the Mayor somewhat awkwardly reiterates the themes of the show to no one in particular, and one of three sinister Player sisters declares that she’s “found” Myuu, setting up a Player clash next week.

LISTENERS has an interesting setting but a somewhat confusing premise: there’s no concept of music in this world? Like, at all? I’m not sure that was that clearly explained, or even accurately depicted. This wasn’t A Quiet Place territory where any sound would attract monsters. There was music playing on the TV-jukebox thingy at Oasis!

Stylistically speaking I kinda liked the clashing of Eureka Seven futurism with industrial north-of-England dinginess, but in both look and sound I’ll admit I found Echo a bit annoying while his and Myuu’s wardrobes were overly baggy. Dialogue is oftentimes overly hoaky, wholesome, or repetitive. The CGI…looked like CGI, competently rendered but lacking weight and inventiveness and pulling me out of the fantasy rather than in.

I’m also not what you’d call a music buff; it’s always been something in the background to either help me dance or work. I also gave up on Carole & Tuesday when I just couldn’t do it with the sappy English lyrics anymore. But unless I’m missing something, this first episode’s connection to music, and rock-in-roll in particular seemed…tenuous? It’s a good-looking (if a bit gray) and fun enough opening. I just wasn’t convinced I need Listeners in my life.

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! – 12 (Fin) – Such Sweet Sorrow

It wouldn’t be an Eizouken production if it wasn’t completed after an all-nighter, during which Midori, Tsubame and Doumeki modify the ending to omit the dance party, in order to match the only track of music they’re going to get, which has a more somber tone. When their last-minute changes cause them to miss their window for their go-to DVD publisher, Sayaka bails out her creatives by making a deal with the club that got busted by the StuCo.

The dance party is left out as an extra scene to be released when proper music is procured—a necessary sacrifice in order to come in on schedule and under budget. The next day at Comet A (which is held at a very Tokyo Big Sight-looking venue), Tsubame dutifully interacts with customers, until Sayaka deems the time is right for her and Midori to don paper bags, thus increasing word of mouth and social media interest.

Thanks to their genuinely good work and Sayaka’s gift for marketing, the Eizouken sells every last one of their DVDs moments before the chime marking the conclusion of Comet A. Midori, who had to interact less with people and generally took it easy, suddenly has a burst of energy, and suggests the three of them go to her house to watch their finished creation, which for them will be the first time.

The sight of the three comrades gathered beside the warm blue glow of the TV, surrounded by food and drink, Midori safe and content within her hermit crab-like blanket, is just so cozy and beautiful. They slide the DVD into the player just as everyone else who bought one does, and the show begins.

Like Gas Mask Machete Girl and Robot vs. Crab, Shibahama UFO Wars packs an immediate visual punch, with both Midori’s talent for intricate conceptualization and Tsubame’s passion for lyrical motion on full display. The music track wasn’t at all what they expected, but they make it work for the short, and no one outside of the production would ever have suspected otherwise. As people watch, they imagine residential towers like the ones in the short suddenly bursting forth from the ground.

By the time the short ends, Midori has fallen asleep, and Tsubame and Sayaka deem it unnecessary to wake her before heading home. After all, they’re sure she’d say that while it was something they could be proud of, there is always always always room for improvement, and they’ll be working to improve it starting tomorrow, after a well-earned good night’s sleep.

Sure enough, the next morning Midori dashes in and animatedly describes to Tsubame and Sayaka her latest insight into how to improve the short. As she does, the camera pulls out of their studio, past the river to the other shore, and…just keeps going, getting more and more fanciful until an entirely alien world is revealed. Which is only fitting, as Midori might as well not be of our world. ;)

And just like that, we’re no longer privy to the daily goings-on of the Eizouken. They’ll keep at it, but it’s sad we can’t keep watching. At least, not until a second season comes…if it ever comes. I’ll cross my fingers for that, but like Sayaka’s attempt to delay the initial DVD order, it might not work out, and that’s okay. This was a particularly special dozen episodes; a lush and imaginative love letter to anime I almost instantly fell in love with.

It’s been easy-breezy.

Given – 04 and 05 – Roaring to a Stand Still

In a delicious twist, Sato rejects Uecchi’s offer to join the band. Uecchi is utterly befuddled, agitated, and his google-fueled antics put Harkuki and Kaji in hysterics. Perhaps oblivious to the meltdown he has caused, Sato does exactly what he was asked to do and gets a part time job at the live music venue.

When Uecchi finally goes to confront Sato, old friends interrupt and STRONG IMPLY Sato’s guitar belongs to some one very special and very tragically dead…

Thankfully, Uecchi shakes him out of it and demands to hear Sato sing. The following episode is largely dedicated to Uecchi creating a song for Sato to sing and the lead up to their first public gig.

…Also, the episode reveals revealing that Harkuki loves Kaji, that Kaji has a boy friend no one knows about, that Sato is pretty damn good at basket ball, and Uecchi learning that Sato was dating a boy in middle school but that boy may have suddenly killed himself in an extremely tragic way! Appropriate, this last bit of news comes amidst a deafening roar of white noise punctuated by a hard cut to black.

Given remains beautifully rendered, even when it’s being ‘lazy.’ Seriously! The backgrounds and colors and level of unnecessary detail are insane. Episode 5 did take a noticeable dip, but that is to be expected mid season and it didn’t hurt the narrative’s more introspective focus.

I’m really enjoying the idea that Uecchi is the only semi-straight member of the band, yet imperfect knowledge may prevent each member from realizing that. I’m finding it even more interesting to watch Sato, who seems like he’s characterized as having a spectrum disorder in addition to being gay. It makes for some curious takes on his scenes with Uecchi.

Sato strikes me as a sincere representation of a gay male who’s not romantically into the straight male who is pursuing him. He seems aware of that Ueechi may not realize he is even pursuing him, which seems ironically likely since Uecchi resorted to dating advice to get Sato into the band. Now that the sexuality angle is out in the open, we’ll see if Uecchi reconciles with his own obsessive feelings, or if his obsession is purely based in the art of music the way he previously seemed to think it was.

Given – 03 – Rejection!

In a delicious twist, Sato rejects Uecchi’s offer to join the band. Ue is utterly befuddled, agitated, and turns to google for advice on how to win over someone after they’ve rejected you. This goes about as well as you would expect, and Harkuki and Kaji think it’s hilarious!

Meanwhile, Sato does exactly what he was asked to do and gets himself a part time job working at a music events space. When Uecchi goes to confront him there, everything is interrupted when Sato’s old friends recognize him and STRONG IMPLY the guitar over his shoulder belongs to a dead friend.

Sato is a polite, if not slightly stereotypical take on a person with a spectrum disorder. He can not express himself well and the added trauma of death makes him aware that something is wrong. He doesn’t even realize he is already expressing himself, and that Ue is rocked by that expression down to the core.

Alone on the street, Ue grabs Sato and shouts that he wants to hear him sing. Ue needs to hear him sing and Sato agrees. Unseen, Kaiji has heard their exchange and knows their band is in for something special…

Another episode of Given is another episode possibly a hair short of Masterpiece level work. From framing, to color, to writing and emotional candor, if it connected with you before, it will do it again. Why on earth are you not watching it already?

Given – 02 – Insiders x Outsiders

Uenoyama struggles with the idea of being a good teacher. He’s not even sure what Sato wants out of the guitar. Uenoyama is stuck inside his own head, oblivious in class, and unabsorbent of his classmates’ growing curiosity over the nature of his relationship with Sato, even when they ask him about it directly.

Sato struggles with expressing his interests and objectives. He’s not even sure what he wants out of learning guitar. He’s not even sure he has a favorite song, though a melody keeps playing in his head. Sato is often oblivious to Uenoyama’s instruction and questions, but he absorbs the training quickly. Sato has a very keen ear.

These are the early days of training, where Sato’s newness and mystery is exciting. Pretty Harkuki feels a change towards a better, kinder man in Uenoyama but Tough Kaji insists it was already there. To himself, he wonders if Uenoyama’s kindness is something closer to that of a protector, which has broader implications he does not share.

Sato’s transition from outsider to insider begins with the learning the technicalities of music but effectively completes over dinner, when the band reveals they each have part time jobs. Kaji tends bar, delivers items on his bike, and even works security. Harkuki is a hair model in a video channel, and works with Uenoyama at a convenience store. Each boy’s job descriptions are playful but made with care. No matter what job Sato chooses, and he must choose one to support the band, he should consider one that feeds him during his service.

Given is a master class in framing and composition. Above, the criss-crossing shadow connects Uenoyama’s eyes up to his friends, and the sweep of the drum set sends our eyes around to the door. But the rigid green door, which completely encloses Kaji and Harkuki traps them there, stuck behind the drum set.

This fraction of a scene expresses hesitation. It implies Kaji and Harkuki are waiting for their friend to stand and join them emotionally. That waiting shows us they care, and emphasizes the conversation they share outside about Uenoyama comes from their caring.

And It reads equally well for western left right and eastern right left.

Given is also a master class in color, pattern, and skilled integration of 3D rendered backgrounds with traditional animation. It’s subtle at first, but the range of color (especially as it pertains to the the believability of lighting) and consistency of perspective in this show is fantastic. Yet, unlike the space ship in Astra Lost in Space, these 3D elements do not stick out.

Great care was used to control the pallet and soften edges. The over all effect makes Given believable looking, yet also dream like. A perfect aesthetic choice to match its cast introspective, dreamlike state.

This week ends with Uenoyama pressing Sato for direction. There must be a song he wants to play that Uenoyama can teach him. So Sato sings the music that is inside him. It has no title. It is only brief. It brings Uenoyama to tears.

Even though Uenoyama doesn’t officially ask Sato to join the band until after he hears Sato sink the secret song inside his head, the decision has all but been made official during their dinner. Weird, awkward, mysterious, and with much to learn, Sato is the change agent everyone needed. I can’t wait to see — and heard — where this is headed!

Given – 01 – Boys in the Band

Mafuyu Sato lives his life in a dream state. He wakes each day from the same nightmare, fear gripping Sato’s body only as tightly as his grips the neck of his guitar. The guitar he carries but has no idea how to play. He is a mystery.

Ritsuka Uenoyama lives a life of diminishing purpose. He commands great skill with his guitar, but as he sharpened his art, he dulled his passion. He is tired but awake. He lives with with his art-def sister and his father gave him his first guitar. There is no mystery in his life. Only routine.

Sato and Uenoyama meet by chance at Uenoyama’s favorite nap spot, nestled behind the gym. Then Sato witnesses Uenoyama play, and Uenoyama’s bandmates witness Uenoyama in rare form. Slowly, bonds begin to form…

Given is, by miles, the most interesting anime running this season. Given is very good looking, though this is more due to great use of color, lighting and character design than actual animation. Given is also very good sounding.

However, what makes Given sing and shine is solid crafting of characters and storytelling. The nuance of how Uenoyama and Sato are living opposite parts of life makes it special. The choices of how we see that play out, without dialog or other characters telling makes it masterful.

Given does not have the artcraft value of Yuri on Ice but Given nails the depression and challenge of being an artist, and of an artist feeling love, with an equally flawless sincerity. You owe it to yourself to check it out.

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…

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!

Carole & Tuesday – 11 – Plucked from the Jaws of Success

Tuesday’s hand is badly burned, and once bandaged, she cannot play the guitar. As the MC delays by appealing to the boundless ego of Ertegun, Gus tries to find the culprit with the security cams, with no success. We know that it was Cybelle, but everyone in the show has to play catch up, which leads to more interpersonal problems.

What I didn’t know? Whether Cybelle was sicced on Tuesday by either Katie or Dahlia, whether it was egging on her anger or giving her access to the dressing room. When Katie mentions who has motive, Angela suspects her mama. but Dahlia seems too proud for that kind of trickery. Katie has been very shifty the last couple episodes, and her “dumb assistant” act seems almost too practiced.

Whent C&T take the stage, the judges immediately note Tues’ injury and lack of a guitar. Carole passes it off nicely by saying they’e going to show they’re more of a guitar-and-piano duo; which isn’t really lying, since they may well want or have to branch out without either of those instruments at some point.

Carole is also asked about being a refugee and her family. She’s not sure what she’d say if her parents were watching, just “I’m here.” There’s not much of a crowd reaction to her background, so they move on with the song. It’s…fine, again. No ear bleeding thankfully, but the lyrics are reliably trite, sparse, and poorly structured. We see Cybelle is still somewhere in the building, watching on.

Ertegun starts the judge’s review by stating that someone who gets injured just before a performance has no business being a musician, and as harsh as he sounds, he’s not wrong. If Tuesday wants to make the big time, she’s got to learn how to protect herself, speak up, say no, and be a better judge of character. Unable to do all of the above led directly to her burns.

That said, the other judges loved them, and the woman who was introduced as the Simon Cowell of the trio states that the duo “stole her heart.” All the Insta followers in the world can’t keep Pyotr from losing this one, but like GGK he’s a good sport about it, happy he gained even more followers and has a bright future.

The final, then, is set: Carole & Tuesday vs. Angela. This leads Gus, absent any hard evidence, to accuse Dahlia of sabotaging Tuesday, just as Angela initially did. But when the culprit is described as “a slender young woman”, Angela’s suspicions shift immediately to Katie, and she reams her out for doubting her ability.

Katie, who we previously see smelling Angela’s lipstick, is either a very good actor, or legitimately devastated by her favorite artist’s accusations. Thankfully, the cops find Cybelle while she’s trying to flee, all thanks, incidentally, to Roddy spotting her in one of Pyotr’s many video posts. During her perp walk, Cybelle blows up at Tuesday, telling her she got what she deserved.

Like Ertegun, Cybelle isn’t the most tactful here, but she’s right. Though even a firm rejection at the start may have caused Cybelle to go after her, leading someone like her on was playing with fire…or in this, case dry ice. Carole tells her as much outside the hospital, where Tues was told she could play again in a week.

Carole doesn’t hold back in telling Tuesday she needs to not only learn how to handle people better, but also seemed unfocused in their performance, and that perhaps her commitment is less serious because she has a big fancy home to go to if this doesn’t pan out. It’s definitely the most distant these two have been for a while.

But things could always be worse…and they become worse almost immediately after Carole’s shots are fired, as burly goons sent by Tuesday’s family roll up and roughly toss her into the car. Carole gets punched when she tries to interfere, and when she manages to jump onto the fleeing car, the driver switches to manual mode and she’s thrown from it, though she suffers no serious injuries due to good rolling form.

Still, just like that, the duo has been severed, moments after cracks started to form due to their deeply different backgrounds. The timing is horrifically cruel, almost as if it was meant to be. But as we’ve seen, Tuesday is, like a young princess out in the world, not quite equipped to survive in it, and her injured hand was clear for all the millions of viewers to see.

A lot of those viewers are voters, so it behooves Tuesday’s pragmatic mom to put her house in order. I smell a rescue mission in the works.

Carole & Tuesday – 10 – Out of Whack

It’s the semifinals, which means bringing in a new guest judge to replace the AI dog, and it’s none other than DJ Ertegun, whose troubled history with Carole & Tuesday should have precluded him from judging at all, but I guess Mars Brightest doesn’t do much research!

One thing’s for certain: in a a tough competition where personalities can clash and tempers can flare, MB has appallingly bad security. Consider Cybelle, a stalker Tuesday never should have had to interact with again after she lost in the quarterfinals.

And yet here she is, in the green room, getting in Tues’ face and intimidating her with her unpredictable, capable-of-anything, nothing-to-lose vibe. Then Tuesday simply runs after Cybelle…and Carole lets her! So I ask: where the fuck is security???

When GGK dishes out more cosmic prattle and then performs a competently-produced song with like seven words in the repetitive lyrics, Tao finally pays Angela a visit to tell her they’re changing her song at the last minute.

GGK impresses the judges—who it should be said are easily impressed—and Gus and Dahlia continue their juvenile little competition with poor Roddy in the middle acting as a conduit for their barbs. I’m just not getting much out of the friction between these two.

Once again, Angela delivers the best song of the episode, though that’s not a high bar to clear, with a genuinely catchy pop number that honestly wouldn’t be out of place on a Top 40 radio station. The only strange thing is how it ends: the vocals and music just…stop. On a dime. Seems more like an AI production bug than a feature.

Meanwhile, instead of preparing for her performance with Carole, Tuesday has her priorities all out of order, running around the studio like a headless chicken looking for a Cybelle who is clearly not there anymore and furthermore, doesn’t want to be found. Carole wants to give Tuesday a present, but every time one of them shows up in one spot, the other has just left.

Angela ends up beating GGK, and heads to the showers afterwards, leading to a very suspicious scene of Katie Kimura dropping her smile and staring at the phone Angela left on a table. Is there more to Katie than hyper syncophant? God I hope so, because Angela’s path to becoming a pop star has seemed way too easy so far.

As Pyotr performs another mostly meh pop performance, Tuesday returns to the green room to find a present on the table…but not Carole’s present. The chaotic scrawl wishing her a Happy Birthday suggests it’s from Cybele, who must have doubled back after Tues followed her.

As for the contents of that present? My guess is dry ice, judging from the white smoke cloud that surrounds Tuesday as she clutches her hand in pain when Carole enters. Since Tuesday needs that hand to play guitar, a dry ice burn is going to be a big problem.

But all this could have been avoided with someany backstage security procedures. Cybelle’s revenge, if that’s what this is, only happened because the show decided that Mars Brightest is not a professional company of long standing capable of protecting one of the four contestants who were whittled down from a quarter of a million. That seems awfully implausible, but here we are. Better break out the aloe!

Carole & Tuesday – 09 – Blessing of a Goddess

Carole & Tuesday don’t sing on the second day of competition, but Gus has them attend the studio anyway so they can scout the next four contestants. One of those, Cybelle, continues acting extremely stalker-y, brushing Tues’ hair without asking first, and suggestion they form their own duo without Carole. In other odd pairings, Dahlia ends up sitting beside Gus, but nothing much comes of it. As for Angela, she wants to know where the hell Tao is.

Tao is there, but seems content to stand in the shadows rather than engage with anyone. The first pair of contestants performs, starting with GGK, FKA Twigs’ Martian anime counterpart. The song is crisply produced and competently sung, but falls down on generic lyrics. Definitely not ear-bleedingly bad, but thoroughly MEH.

The gender-fluid Mermaid Sisters, on the other hand, had me howling with laughter as they proceeded to sing all manner of profanities in sweet Barbershop harmonies. It’s by far the most English swears I’ve ever heard in an anime, but it ends up disqualifying them, and the competition has to paused when they lash out at the judges, giving GGK the win by default.

Cybelle and Angela are next, with the former telling Tuesday (not asking her) to hold her before she takes the stage. Cybelle then bites Tuesday in the fucking neck, confirming Carole’s insistence that Tuesday extricate herself from this weirdo as soon as possible.

Turns out Tao isn’t interested in Angela or any of the other contestants performing that day; instead, he asks C&T who writes their lyrics. They tell him they do, with no AIs, and he kinda just goes “huh, okay” and leaves without seeing Angela, much to her chagrin.

As intolerable as her character is, Cybelle actually delivers one of the best performances of the entire show thus far. Why is that? Because she’s not singing awful English lyrics; she’s singing awful French lyrics.

I don’t speak French, so if I switch off the subtitles, it just sounds like nice music, which it was. Not earth-shattering, but nice. If only all the songs were performed in French, or Japanese, or any language that could cover up the hack lyrics.

It’s just bad luck Cybelle wasn’t paired with the Mermaid Sisters, Fire Brothers, or OG Bulldog, or she would have advanced. Instead, her first opponent is Angela. And whether or not the entire production is rigged towards her winning, she still puts in IMO the best all-around performance of the competition with the very catchy “Move Mountains” song, showing that she definitely belongs there.

Angela beats Cybelle easily, but Cybelle seeks consolation in Tuesday’s arms, attempting to goad her into making a new duo together. It’s here where Tuesday finally rejects her, and Cybelle storms away in a huff, her shock quickly turning to anger.

This is most definitely not over (she has Tuesday’s contact info, after all), so now in addition to having an extremely tough opponent in Angela to defeat, they’ll have to deal with the consequences of Tuesday not dispatching her earlier. Doubtless hell hath no fury like a Cybelle scorned…

Carole & Tuesday – 08 – Standing Out the Least

On the first day of the Mars Brightest #0049 competition, Angela is introduced to her new manager, the young, eager-to-please Katie Kimura, whose only role throughout the episode seems to be servile minion and target for Angela’s generally mild abuse. There are celebrities far more spoiled and mercurial than Angela.

This also marks the first time Carole & Tuesday are in the same room with Angela, officially bringing their stories together…though Angela breezes right past the duo without talking or even noticing them. Tuesday later learns a valuable lesson about not so carelessly giving her contact info to a stan so obsessed they decided to compete in the same contest and actually made it to the final eight.

With introductions out of the way, we’re treated—or more accurately subjected—to the first four performances. We begin with two really old brothers playing death metal until they literally drop—a joke eliciting perhaps half a chuckle and absolutely nothing more—and Pyotr with a competent but utterly generic pop song with what sounds like auto-tuning, which you’d think wouldn’t be allowed in a singing competition.

Pyotr beats the old dudes, so we move on to the next faceoff: C&T versus “OG Bulldog”, a horribly uncool hardcore gangsta rap cliche who ends up singing opera-style, which…I’m sorry, is just really fucking stupid. Carole & Tuesday follow, and reliably serve up their unique(?) blend of aggressively pedestrian soft rock, forgoing lyrics for half of the song and instead making “oooh-oooh” and “la la laaa” sounds. Real groundbreaking.

When it comes time for the three judges (a female Simon Cowell, a gay dude, an an AI dog) to make their decision, OG Bulldog is essentially disqualified when his mother takes the stage and attests that he was never a gangster or drug dealer, just a timid young man who worked at a drug store. 

The lady Simon tears into C&T, calling them the “most normal”, “plain”, and saying they “stood out the least,” but they didn’t lie about who they were, and they somehow managed not to be worse than whatever “opera rap” is, so they win round one!

It was good to hear one of the judges say what I’ve thought all along about C&T’s amateurish, empty, Diet Coke-sweet music, but then along comes Angela to back it up with some strong negative opinions of her own, and I am here for it! (Katie Kimura also comes by, but as with the rest of the episode, she’s utterly useless.)

‘Granted, she confronts C&T because she identified them as rivals, and despite hating their music, probably realizes the competition could easily come down to the two of them. Last week I suggested that maybe the perennially alone Angela might befriend the same-aged C&T, but rivals will have to do. As the reality TV adage goes, “I’m not here to make friends.”

So, as usual, low marks for the musical numbers and tired reality TV tropes, but decent marks for finally bringing the three heroines together by pitting them against each other.

Carole & Tuesday – 07 – Whatever Happens, Happens!

C&T rebounds nicely this week, thanks in part to a new, more proportionate opportunity for the girls: this time, instead of playing in front of 100,000 people, they join the 200,000 who want to be contestants on the popular Mars Brightest talent competition, a sure way to jump-start their careers.

This week also marks the first real connection between C&T and Angela’s storylines, as Tao has Angela entered as a “special guest” contestant on MB, putting her in competition with the other two protagonists. This could mean the three could be in the same room together, or maybe even talk to each other!

The main issue is Tuesday, or rather Tuesday’s status as a runaway, which she doesn’t realize until they’re already in line for the auditions (which are about as weird and woolly as one would expect from such a large pool of potentials). If her family catches her on camera, she’ll be made, and they’ll come for her. Mind you, Tues doesn’t know her bro already found her, but chose to leave her alone.

This brings us to the best part of this episode, and why it was so much better than last week’s: We don’t actually hear Carole & Tuesday sing anything. This might sound counterintuitive, but the worst element of this show about a musical duo getting their start is their music—their first guerrilla performance at the music hall being the sole exception.

Mind you, just because the songs stink doesn’t mean all the music of C&T is bad. On the contrary, the incidental score is above average, and we get a particularly nice melancholy synth suite that plays along as we watch Angela decline to move back in with her Mama (who was her Papa before gender reassignment).

Instead, Angie chooses to live alone in her sparse, modern place where she can breathe, away both from Mama and all the trappings of her past that threatened to “suffocate” her. Her annoying AI only gets four “ANGELA!s” in before she shuts him up. Somebody needs friends, and I can think of no one better suited than Carole & Tuesday, even if they’re artistic and professional rivals.

As if hearing me say “your songs are bad and you should feel bad,” after auditions Tuesday slides into a slump, brought on in part by learning more of Carole’s story as an Earth refugee and orphan who had to survive on her own.

Tuesday’s family may be loaded (with cash) but she’s also loaded—with all the problems being the daughter of an important politician and little sister of a Harvard elite. She admits she’s a little jealous of Carole’s lifelong independence and self-sufficiency.

In light of her new friend, who has helped her in this new world, Tuesday resolves to hold her head up and stop cowering in front of the cameras. If her mom finds her, so what! She’s going for it, side-by-side with Carole.

After learning that Gus spent all their modest Cydonia earnings (980 Woolong) on gambling (not a good look Gus!), he, or rather Roddy, give them the good news: They’re among the eight contestants for Mars’ Brightest! As we saw, a good portion of the competition were horrendous, but considering there were 200,000 of them to contend with, this feels a bit neat, tidy, and easily done.

But it’s not like they weren’t going to get in, because this means they’ll be facing off against Angela and Tao. Even if I’m not particularly looking forward to hearing what new syrupy-sweet drivel they’ll sing next, I think I can tolerate it for the sake of watching those four characters, who have been kept apart thus far, finally collide.