Carole & Tuesday, Bebop, and Dandy: Observations on World Building

Spoiler Free: I have been watching Carole and Tuesday lately and couldn’t help but pick up some observations on its world-building and how it compares/contrasts to some of the other works like Cowboy Bebop and Space Dandy set in the same universe. Unfortunately my watch of this show has been a bit slow. Never been too gung-ho on Shoujo as a category but this is a bit more sophisticated version of the typical Shoujo so am managing and it’s started to pick up now.

What’s interesting to me as I watch this though is how differently the common world it shares with Cowboy Bebop is built in both shows, using the same raw materials, to align with each of their drastically divergent stories and atmospheres. Each story would feel out of place in the world of the other.

Carole & Tuesday: ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ Watanabe edition

My first sense when I see Carole and Tuesday is ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ Watanabe edition. And I say that with a lot of love, not to mock it. If you know me, you’ll know I’ve always loved CLAMP so I’m making that comparison because there is a certain typically-shoujo wholesomeness, optimism, visual beauty, and innocence to Cardcaptor Sakura which this also keeps reminding me of for whatever reason. It’s the story of two young girls making music and visually is very beautiful but the story is pretty straightforward unlike some of the mind-bending stuff the guy makes. It’s got the emotions and the soft sentimentality, the “real” characters which I’ve come to expect from Watanabe but seems to also be free of the expectations of effort you get from many of his creations too, where a lot is left to the audience to figure out. Carole and Tuesday is telling me everything very clearly so far and I’m surprised, delighted, and just a very slight bit disappointed too maybe because I’m so used to filling in gaps and dissecting their stuff. Still fairly early in my watch though so let’s see.

Common Universe with Cowboy Bebop and Space Dandy

The show is set in the same general universe as Cowboy Bebop and Space Dandy with the base location being Alba city on Mars for both Carole and Tuesday as well as the Cowboy Bebop movie Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. The currency in both shows is the Woolong, which is the same as Space Dandy as well, thus indicating a common universe again. However, Space Dandy seems set many years in the future from Bebop and is also apparently an anime in the Carole and Tuesday universe. The fridge from Bebop and its blob monster make an appearance in Space Dandy too so that’s all three of them tied in together.

Space Dandy as an anime in the world of Carole and Tuesday

Meow in Space Dandy finds the fridge which Spike chucked out during Toys in the Attic in Cowboy Bebop

World of Carole and Tuesday vs. World of Cowboy Bebop

This is the most direct comparison since both the anime are set in similar time frames i.e. within a few years of humanity’s colonisation of other planets. But like I said, they are two completely different worlds. Cowboy Bebop’s visuals are largely reminiscent of the world we currently inhabit while Carole and Tuesday is a softer version of the current world plus a fair mix of the futuristic. In fact, the colour palettes and generally lighter vibes of Space Dandy and Carole and Tuesday feel more compatible than the absolutely dark and heavy world of Cowboy Bebop. That’s why I feel that Cowboy Bebop and Carole and Tuesday may be “alternate universe” versions of earth’s future (please refer my conspiracy theories below) though actually they don’t need to be connected to each other in any way since both are very different shows.

In alignment with the story it tells, Carole and Tuesday is visually all bright colours, soft edges, the kind of world two girls can make a music career in. There’s quite a bit of innocence in it, unlike Bebop which is more a motif of lost fortunes and an unforgiving world all around. The leaning toward solid primary colour shades of Bebop is replaced by softer hues. Alba City looks radically different in both shows. It’s all hip and pop culture in Carole and Tuesday. We see the monorail running by multiple times but hard to imagine Spike Spiegel doing a river dive from it.

Alba in Bebop looked just like NYC, which has the reputation of a tough city to survive in, with tones of Morocco thrown in-again not a particularly “first world” connection. Carole and Tuesday’s Alba looks more futuristic with the pointed spires on buildings rather than the normal skyscrapers from Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. Apart from the monorail, the river and the bridge on it are also consistent in both depictions but again appear a bit…softer, more romantic.

In Carole and Tuesday, we are given a world with established cities, technology designed for human comfort and not just sustenance, and so it is somewhat believable seeing Carole living by herself in a rather nice apartment (similar to such inexplicably nice apartments we may often see in American sitcoms) even without any parents versus the world of Bebop which is filled with frontier towns, noir cities, shady bars, tumbleweeds, technology focused only on the bare minimum needed for human survival where Edward being knocked around all over the place, surviving however she can from orphanage to a random spaceship, seems like a very plausible reality.

The technology in Carole and Tuesday is also much more “sci-fi” and advanced in general with AI musicians (reminiscent of Macross Plus, another anime by Watanabe), self-operating luggage etc. very different from Bebop where everyday technology seems either unchanged or even to have taken a step back at-times.

Just like in the world-building of Bebop, where there are many familiar aspects like cities which look like dilapidated earth cities, space truckers, amusement parks etc. thrown in to give that sense of continuation of our current world but on other planets, Carole and Tuesday features Instagram and online influencers, reality shows etc. quite similar to our world. There is a lot more reference to earth locations unlike Bebop which just featured Singapore’s Merlion without even naming the city. Alba in Carole and Tuesday feels very much like an Earth city, a fairly hip one, but definitely in a futuristic avatar, while Alba in Bebop is, while far more civilised than the show’s usual locales, still very much a 20th century earth city.

The Woolong in each Universe

The Bebop Woolong is a highly depreciated currency, similar to what the Yen is like. When the show was made, Japan was also going through a period of economic setback which may have influenced its makers. Going with the theme of dystopia and poverty in Bebop, a million Woolongs doesn’t really mean a whole lot in that universe (try buying something in Yens and you’ll know what I mean). However, in the world of Carole and Tuesday, the Woolong seems valued more like the dollar and you can buy a meal for four with 42 Woos, get paid 980 woos for playing a song in the Cydonia Festival which means no need for a part-time job for a bit, and buy an (albeit under-priced but still) AI for 19 Woolongs. Again far less dystopian than a world where bounty hunters put their lives at risk for millions of Woolongs, where Whitney Haggis Matsumoto being worth 19,800 Woolongs was smallest of the small fry, and where a watermelon cost 1000 Woolongs in Mushroom Samba. In the world of Space Dandy, the Woolong is even stronger with one Woolong being worth USD 59.47 apparently since it’s linked to Bitcoins.

Random Conspiracy Theories

The three worlds don’t necessarily need to be connected to each other since there is no continuity to them in any way but what’s the fun in that so here’s me just speculating a couple of theories around this connection. It’s not relevant to the enjoyment of any of these shows, just a bit of musing for fun. Personally, I feel including Space Dandy as a TV show in Carole and Tuesday feels like Watanabe telling the viewer to not take things so seriously-they’re all just TV shows but anyway.

Theory 1: Cowboy Bebop is the “Lost” Future of Carole and Tuesday

The timelines of when exactly Carole and Tuesday takes place are not very clear and no year is given but the official website mentions it’s set 50 years since humanity began migrating to Mars. The timelines for Cowboy Bebop are clear and it occurs in the year 2071 (it’s mentioned in the Bebop “manifesto” and on Meifa’s Dad’s gravestone and I’m sure other places too) so it happens 49 years after the Gate incident in 2022 post which Earth was largely abandoned. Interplanetary colonization would definitely have had to be a reality before this if the gates were already set up and mankind was established enough off-planet to be able to flee.

Mars seems to be the bastion of civilization in Bebop so I always took it to be one of the first planets to be colonized but it could have been done later too. If not later, then Carole and Tuesday could be set a decade or so before the events of Bebop. It’s a more futuristic world to Bebop so seems more fitting for it to come after but this is how the timelines align and people in Carole and Tuesday speak of Earth in ways which feel like the planet has more recency, some characters are even born on Earth before moving to Mars, including Carole who stays in a refugee colony on earth initially, while in Bebop Earth is positioned as more a thing of the distant past. It feels more lived-in than a planet which still has refugee colonies but could be whatever. Also, Alba in Bebop is way more dilapidated than its shiny avatar in Carole and Tuesday, a “has-been” world if you please.

Is the world of Cowboy Bebop therefore one which has resulted post a collapse of the much more regulated and stable world in Carole and Tuesday similar to Japan going through its “lost decade” or economic collapse around the time that Cowboy Bebop was created? The transformation in Japan was definitely not this extreme but stories like that have happened in our world too of great nations collapsing economically and transforming. The two worlds are definitely not the same so the stories decidedly do not take place at the same time in the same universe. Yes, the Bebop crew lives on the edges of society but the whole universe of Cowboy Bebop is much darker, way more dystopian, and dilapidated than that of Carole and Tuesday and, as we have covered already, Alba itself is a completely different city in both. However, given the “frontier town” feels of Bebop I get skeptical of this theory and like the “alternate universe” one better (less depressing too).

Theory 2: Alternate Universes of Earth’s Future

This article has conjectured that the appearance of Space Dandy in Carole and Tuesday means that SD and CB are both TV shows in the Carole and Tuesday universe which I find to be a pretty cool theory. I personally also conjecture if, since Space Dandy plays around so much with the idea of Alternate Universes, Carole and Tuesday and Cowboy Bebop could be alternate universe versions of Earth’s future. Space Dandy could therefore be the future world of Cowboy Bebop where Bounty Hunting slowly morphs into alien hunting and has also ended up as a TV show in its alternate universe…something like that. There’s also an interview where Watanabe has mentioned the fridge from Bebop crossed a wormhole and ended up in the universe of Dandy. It’s a goofball reply and I don’t think he really cared much about any “connectivity” to the universes himself. They’re all just anime and it doesn’t matter what happens when or what is what in which world.

Other Sundry Aspects

For a show which is about music, I am ok with the music for the show but not blown away. It could be my music taste maybe since am not too big on pop in general. Perhaps my favourite track is ‘The Loneliest Girl’ and I hated ‘Round & Laundry.’ The music is by Mocky who I understand is a Canadian artist. The softness of the pop is again very compatible to the softer world-building versus the sad, rough-edged blues, jazz, ballads, and cold rock of Bebop.

Not sure if it was intentional but the “tears they won’t dry” of ‘Loneliest Girl’ reminded me of the lyrics of The Real Folk Blues and Tuesday even quips ‘Whatever happens, happens’ at one point when she decides to stop hiding her identity from her mother. Like I said, it’s still early days for me in my watch and I have high hopes that the show will surprise me as I go forward.

I missed linking this earlier but you can click here for the interview by Watanabe talking more on Carole and Tuesday or check out the show’s website here.

For more articles on Cowboy Bebop, please click here