While there’s scores of television anime we all love and enjoy each year, it’s a regrettable fact that few of their directors are celebrated as “legends”. Don’t get me wrong, a lot are great and deserve to be, but few generate that same level of excitement that Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg’s names do – but one TV anime director who does, is Shinichiro Watanabe.
His 1998 space opera Cowboy Bebop is considered a must-see for anyone interested in anime, and Watanabe’s diverse love of music has become a rich hallmark of his career with works like Samurai Champloo, Kids on the Slope, and even the whacky Space Dandy. With music at the forefront of his latest series Carole & Tuesday, we spoke with Watanabe and co-director Motonobu Hori at October 2019’s MCM London Comic Con about music, the series, and their careers.
AUKN: Carole & Tuesday is the story of two women from different worlds coming together through a love of music, what inspired the story and musical style of the series?
Watanabe: First of all, I tried to imagine the popular music in the era they are living in, but by looking back the last 20-30 years, I realised that the music style hasn’t drastically changed that much. As we can enjoy 1980s music without thinking it’s very old, I thought that 30 years on from now, we could probably enjoy the music that we are enjoying right now. So, I thought about the music that’s an extension to what we have now, then tried to come up with music that is suitable for each character.
AUKN: How do you approach the production of the animation and music in a series like Carole & Tuesday? Is the music created before the animation and narrative, or the music composed to match the show once you’ve created the animation and story?
Watanabe: Music came first. Based on the music that came up, we created the animation afterwards to match.
AUKN: For Carole & Tuesday, Watanabe-san is listed as Chief Director, and Hori-san as Director. Can you clarify the distinction between those two roles?
Watanabe: Please think of me and Hori-san as Co-Directors, but I took on the storyboard and screenplays and checked all of them, and Hori-san took on the production afterwards.
AUKN: Hori-san, was there anything that particularly influenced you to join the anime industry, and how did you start your career?
Hori: Initially, I wanted to be either an illustrator or a manga artist, so I had a part-time job and practised drawing by myself. One day, I realised, “Oh, if I became an animator, I could actually practice my drawing and earn some money”, and that’s why I became an animator, but it seems to have suited me, actually.
But of course, as I’m Japanese I did grow up with Ghibli works by Miyazaki, or Watanabe-san’s works. I actually watched a lot of the “main” anime.
AUKN: What was the first project that you remember working on?
Hori: Because I joined a small animation studio, I didn’t take on a big, major project. It was just like small odd jobs and that.
AUKN: After working as an animator and episode director, what was it like being a co-director for a series for the first time, especially alongside someone as revered as Watanabe-san?
Hori: I always try and get the intent of the directors and what they’re trying to achieve, and try and visualise it as either “This is what I did” with Carole & Tuesday, but also when I was unit or episode director as well.
I worked with Watanabe-san for a year and a half in two years, but Watanabe-san is still very much an enigma – a very interesting guy * laughs *
AUKN: Watanabe-san, you’ve become known for your use of diverse music genres as part of a series’ unique identity. Where did your appreciation for music begin, and do you have a favourite genre?
Watanabe: The reason why I became interested in music was Yellow Magic Orchestra, the band in Japan. I was very influenced by them, even when making animation. They created lots of mega hits, but they never repeated that style, that’s why their albums are different to each other. When I watched that progress, I thought it was extremely cool, and that’s why I wanted to create something different every time I worked on a different project – to not replicate the style again and again.
AUKN: In this post-Your Name era, a number of anime directors are branching out into film. Watanabe-san, have you considered a return to feature film, or do you prefer the TV anime format?
Watanabe: I love films, so I do always want to go back to directing films, but there are timing issues, really. That’s why there are many TV series works, but I would still like to make films.
AUKN: Looking back on Cowboy Bebop, how do you feel about the series still being celebrated globally over 20 years later?
Watanabe: Normally, if 20 years have passed, a lot of works will be forgotten from everyone’s minds, but this work is still loved and celebrated globally. That is an honour, and I really appreciate that.
AUKN: Part of that admiration for Cowboy Bebop has included many attempts to adapt it into live-action format. With Netflix finally producing a series, what are your thoughts on your work being adapted into live-action, and do you have any involvement or input in the project?
Watanabe: I have seen the scripts for Episode 1. I haven’t seen anything else, so I don’t know how it’s going. I haven’t seen any footage as well, so I don’t know how it’s going to be as a live-action series.
AUKN: While Carole & Tuesday has finished broadcasting in Japan, international audiences will have to wait until Christmas Eve for the second half. Could you perhaps offer a teaser of what fans can expect from the second part of the series?
Hori-san: Action after action! * laughs *
Watanabe: A gunfight! No, no, no. * laughs *
Hori: Season 1 depicts the pathway of them being on the brink of achieving their dreams. Season 2 is a bit more on the realistic pathway of how they begin as musicians. So they will meet some musicians on the way, and Angela will go through a lot of life events, and things will evolve from there onwards.
Watanabe: Carole & Tuesday has been progressing towards the final scene in the series, therefore if you stop in the middle and do not watch the final scene, you are missing out very much! I highly recommend that you reach until the very end.
AUKN: Do either of you find the time to watch other TV anime, and if so, do you have any recent favourites?
Hori: This last month after Carole & Tuesday, I finally got some free time, but I still don’t have time to watch anime. There was a Chinese work that was called The Legend of Luo Xiao Hei (Luo Xiao Hei Zhan Ji), and that was amazing.
Watanabe: And I thought the U.S. film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was really interesting. Probably, we have been asked for Japanese anime, but sorry, we’ve been busy, so haven’t really watched many.
About Carole & Tuesday:
Fifty years have passed since mankind began migrating to the new frontier: Mars. It’s an age where most culture is produced by AI, and people are content to be passive consumers.
There’s a girl.
Scrapping a living in the metropolis of Alba City.
She’s working part time while trying to become a musician.
She’s always felt like something is missing.
Her name is Carole.
There’s a girl.
Born to a wealthy family in the provincial town of Hershell City.
She dreams of becoming a musician.
But nobody around her understands.
She feels like the loneliest person in the world.
Her name is Tuesday.
A chance meeting brings them together. They want to sing. They want to make music. Together they feel like they just might have a chance.
The two of them may only create a tiny wave will eventually grow into something larger…
Carole & Tuesday Episodes 1 – 12 are currently streaming on Netflix, with Episodes 13 – 24 launching on the service on 24th December 2019.
Special thanks to Anime UK News writer Arbalest for questions suggestions, and r/Donghua moderator sevgonlernassau for help identifying The Legend of Luo Xiao Hei.