The Power of Three: Carole and Tuesday

Elsewhere I’ve written about the way Shinichiro Watanabe treats female characters, which is to say for the most part much more fairly than most anime writers and directors. He generally avoids making them adjuncts of the male characters; they are their own people seeking to meet their own needs, wants, and desires. (The exception, Kids on the Slope, is legitimate within the context of the time it is set in.)

And that brings us to Carole and Tuesday.

Wait. The Power of Three. Ichi…ni…san?

STOP. If you haven’t seen it, spoilers may follow. Read on at your own risk.

Sure, if you have seen it: Carole and Tuesday…and Angela. BOOM. Three.

In one way they aren’t a stable trio. There are Carole and Tuesday, who are an Odd Couple, and then there is Angela, who is placed in opposition to them (and, it has to be admitted, joins in against Carole and Tuesday willingly, due to her ambition and/or greed).

But there they are, the three of them: protagonists and antagonist.

What’s interesting about them is that as the story progresses, as it surrounds them and it leads them forward, the three of them each have different plot lines going on all at once.

That’s a blast. One anime, three meta-plots.

Each of the three is a trope, of course. I’ve pointed out elsewhere that Carole is a Gamin, a street-wise urchin, and Tuesday is a Poor Little Rich Girl. Angela, it turns out, is The Toy, the person treated as an object by the people around her. (There’s an old Richard Prior movie literally called The Toy that explores this theme.) Maybe The Puppet is a better name.

The fact they are tropes doesn’t make them unattractive, of course. They’re good characters, and I’ll point out again they aren’t defined by the men in their lives socially speaking. There ARE men in their lives and those men influence them, of course, but those influencing roles could as easily have been women; they aren’t boyfriends or husbands or suitors. There’s no hint of romantic attraction except for Cybelle, who is attracted to Tuesday, but she disappears pretty quickly.

That’s unusual for female characters, and an indication of how honestly Watanabe treats female characters, but it’s not what I’m looking at here.

Carole is easy. Carole’s story is Rags to Riches. She’s an orphan refugee (Rags) who becomes a major star (Riches).

This is disguised by the fact that Carole is the most interesting of the three of them. She is intelligent and dynamic, active and energetic. Of the three of them Carole is my favorite and it’s not even close. She’s unquestionably the best developed of the three as a character. But her story is simple. Rags to Riches.

Those two things may or may not be related. The essential nature of Rags to Riches is that for it to work as a story the user has to like the protagonist. And whatever else Carole is, she is unquestionably enormously likable.

Tuesday’s meta-plot is a little more obscure, partly because she’s the most passive of the three. But the show starts with her running away from a home where she feels regimented and her mother is distant. At the end of the first season she is brought back forcibly and has to be rescued by Carole and Gus.

She has to be rescued from her own home. Think about that.

But as time goes on her brother Spencer comes to stand with/support her, and eventually even her mother Valerie, the cold, anti-immigrant political candidate, come to respect Tuesday’s views.

You know that plot? Sure you do.

I’ve said the names of the meta-plots are fairly self-explanatory, and for the most part I think they are. The worst named is “Comedy,” though. People think comedy means jokes. But as a plot – Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets Girl – what it really means is the Happy Ending.

Tuesday has family. Tuesday loses family. Tuesday gets family.

Boom. Comedy.

The climax of the story is when Angela joins Carole, Tuesday, and the others onstage to perform in the Seven Minute Miracle. That’s what makes them a narrative trio if not a musical one; the three are united in that performance. The antagonist, Angela, changes sides, in essence, resolving the conflict between her and Carole and Tuesday. (It’s an indirect conflict; they are symbols of different musical styles, but it’s conflict anyway.)

Carole and Tuesday and Angela

Game over: Carole (left), Angela (center), and Tuesday (right), together again for the first time.

It also resolves her developmental arc. Angela starts out as an accomplished model, but is a manufactured product as a singer. She uses synthesizers and AIs and the talents of the producer Tao. But she has those things systematically stripped away from her: Tao replaces her with an AI and then is taken away himself; her “mother” Dahlia dies; Angela sinks into a depression so deep she is confined to a hospital bed.

But then she joins Carole and Tuesday, singing without enhancement simply for the love of music. BOOM. Reborn.

Angela’s meta-plot is Rebirth.

I’m going to have more to say about Angela as a symbol – She is a symbol, you know. She represents one end of the debate the show is about – some other time. Right now I want everyone to see her meta-plot is Rebirth.

Damn, that’s pretty. Three main characters, three different plots, all of them completely integrated. Carole and Tuesday just ended and already I want to know what Watanabe is working on next.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

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