Character Analysis: Angela Carpenter

One of the cool things about Carole and Tuesday is that the three major characters are all tropes. So are a whole bunch of the others; it’s almost like Shinichiro Watanabe was giving us a master class in how to breathe life into tropes.

So we have Carole, who is a Gamin, and Tuesday, who is a Poor Little Rich Girl. Interestingly, because they are good people at the start of the story, their character development is pretty minimal. Yes, they go from being nobodies to being stars, but in terms of personality and character they don’t need to go anywhere. Heck, Carole doesn’t even buy herself nice clothes!

The character who develops is their antagonist, Angela.

She’s a trope, too: she’s The Toy, but that’s not what matters. What matters is she’s the one with a development arc. She’s one who suffers and comes out changed at the end.

Angela Carpenter

Angela, Tao at right.

You know, that works. If the protagonists don’t change but the antagonist does, then the nature of the relationship between them changes as well. That gives the series the dynamic sense it needs. It’s a bassackwards er, I mean an unusual way of getting a dynamic. Usually it’s the protagonist who grows and changes, because we’re supposed to empathize for the protagonist. But changing the antagonist gets the job done.

So, why Angela?

Okay, we’ve got to take a couple giant steps back here to make sense out of this stuff. Let’s start with this: Shinichiro Watanabe is a man who likes his music.

I’m understating this by a LOT. Think about it: this is a guy who’s made six series. Two of them, Carole and Tuesday and Kids on the Slope, are explicitly about music. He’s worked with the brilliant composer Yoko Kanno on three (Kids, Cowboy Bebop, Terror in Resonance). He uses records, typically 45s, to introduce episodes several times. He himself was the musical director for Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fugiko Mine.

So, in Carole and Tuesday, the series, not the characters, he’s created a conflict in the arena of music, and he’s done it in two ways. First, Carole and Tuesday, the characters, not the series, and a bunch of others, including Angela, compete on a TV show called “Mars’ Brightest.” Any resemblance to “American Idol” is strictly coincidental. Yeah, um, no, it’s not.

More importantly, Carole and Tuesday represent, if you like, “pure” music. They sing without any electronic enhancement; Carole plays keyboards and Tuesday guitar, and that’s it, just them and their instruments. They hook up with the producer Tobe, who hates the synthetic direction music has taken, in their world and ours, but he’s willing to work with them because their sound is “pure.” They make records the old-fashioned way: They play their songs again and again until they are perfect.

Angela is totally the opposite. She is hooked up with the producer Tao, who only needs her as input for his computers. Angela is auto-tuned and AI-ed; no one (including Angela) knows who or what she actually sounds like. Tao’s computers determine what she sounds like. How much of the performance is Angela? Very little.

That’s not a bogus position. Music has been heading that way since the Beatles made Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (If you prefer, you can blame The Beach Boys and Pet Sounds.) Look it up. Before Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds musicians went into studios and played, like Carole and Tuesday. After, songs were pieced together, overdubbed and processed, like Angela.

But as the end of the series rolls into sight, events conspire to teach Angela a lesson. A BIG lesson. Tao shows her the AI he has created from her. He doesn’t need her at all any more! BOOM. His music – the music with Angela’s face on it even though it’s not Angela – is now totally inhuman. He steals her talent, such as it is.

After he has cut her off at the knees artistically Tao is arrested and Angela has no musical support – or identity – anymore. None whatsoever. She doesn’t even own rights to the AI Angela.

Then her adoptive mother and agent, Dahlia, dies. No only is Angela’s musical identity gone, so is her social identity (Daughter. Client. Either and both.).

Angela is devastated, of course. As big a snob and jerk as she’s been up to this point – and brother, she is a serious snob and a hard core jerk – it’s hard not to feel for her. She’s been a snob and a jerk because she didn’t know any better. But now she is alone, looking herself in the face, trying to figure out who Angela is and not getting it. We see her in the hospital, suffering from a near breakdown…because, after all, she’s been broken down. Who is Angela? Who can Angela be without Dahlia and Tao?

At the end of the series she comes out, without AI or autotune or enhancement, to sing with Carole and Tuesday.

BOOM. She’s turned from the dark side, embraced pure music instead of artifice, gone from antagonist to protagonist. She’s not a manufactured commodity any more. She can be ANGELA.

It’s a transcendent moment and sells the series.

It’s also a statement. Through most of the series Angela is a symbol of everything that’s wrong with music, the artifice, the soul-stifling technology, the digital sterility of it all. But in the end she abandons the bullshit for what is right, for one person and one voice singing from their soul.

That, my friends, is character development.

That, my friends, is also an example of a character who symbolizes the creator’s point. Watanabe is trying to tell us something about music and what he thinks about music, and it’s not just through Carole and Tuesday. It’s through Angela, too.

I’m not sure if I can think of other examples of characters sending us messages from their creators in anime off the top of my head, but I can think of some from old movies. Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon. Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. The Little Barber in The Great Dictator. Oh. Got an anime example. Momotaro, but that’s propaganda anyway. But each of them reveals the position the creator wants us to see.

And so does Angela Carpenter. That’s what she does.

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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