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Shinichiro Watanabe On Creating The Future Worlds Of Carole & Tuesday And Cowboy Bebop - Exclusive Interview

Shinichiro Watanabe is a legend in the world of anime. Best known as the creator of "Cowboy Bebop," he has directing credits including for such shows as "Samurai Champloo," "Kids on the Slope," "Space Dandy," and "Terror in Resonance," as well as short films "The Animatrix" and "Blade Runner." 

His most recent anime series, "Carole & Tuesday," premiered in 2019 and streamed on Netflix internationally; it is now set for its first-ever physical release on Blu-ray in the United States from Sentai Filmworks. Set on Mars in seemingly the same universe as "Cowboy Bebop," the show follows two teenage girls who team up to make music together, find organic stardom in an industry overrun by A.I. algorithms, and use their art to make a difference in a dangerous political environment.

Looper got the opportunity to interview Watanabe via translated emails ahead of the "Carole & Tuesday" home video release. The director told us about some of the many inspirations that led to the creation of sci-fi series like "Carole & Tuesday" and "Cowboy Bebop," and he offered up hints as to what future anime projects his fans can look forward to (as well as one older project he seriously wants to make more of if given the chance).

Music and politics in Carole & Tuesday

"Carole & Tuesday" takes place in a world where almost all music is made using A.I., making the main characters stand out for actually writing their music themselves. In the years since the show's release, A.I. art programs have been in the news a lot. What your thoughts are on that?

When I heard news of it, I thought, "The future that I imagined has arrived." But actually, if you look at A.I. art, there are a lot of crazy and distorted images, and I feel like that future is still quite far away.

Many of your anime express an interest in American pop culture. "Carole & Tuesday" also seemed to be commenting on American politics, particularly in regard to the mistreatment of immigrants. How closely do you follow American politics?

I habitually check newscasts and documentaries, but that's more because I'm interested in it than it is for my works. As for "Carole & Tuesday," I always intended to make it a coming-of-age story where the two titular girls are focused entirely on themselves and their friends at first, but then, by the end, they learn to give more thought to societal issues.

How did you get artists like Thundercat and Denzel Curry to take part in the "Carole & Tuesday" soundtrack?

I liked their music and made an offer, and since they liked the anime I made as well, we were able to proceed with no problems.

Shinichiro Watanabe crafts diverse casts

Both "Cowboy Bebop" and "Carole & Tuesday" have a number of trans or non-binary characters. How do you handle such portrayals?

Ever since I saw the 1982 movie "Blade Runner," I have wanted a future in which lots of ethnicities, races, and genders all lived together. But that sort of future has yet to become reality, so I thought I would at least make it come true in my anime world.

If you could make more of any of your various anime from over the years, whether for a movie or another season, what would you want to return to?

I think I could keep making more "Space Dandy" forever. I'd make so much of it, up to a season 50 or something, that people would get angry and say, "That's too much! Stop it already!"

"Cowboy Bebop" had a live-action adaptation on Netflix last year, which was canceled after one season. How do you feel about this adaptation? Why do you think it wasn't as successful as it could have been?

Whenever I make an original anime that's based on a manga, I like it when the original creator tells me, "Do as you see fit." So seeing as I was the original creator in this case, I told the live-action staff they could do as they please. I don't regret that at all.

What's next for Shinichiro Watanabe

Your latest project was a short film titled "A Girl Meets a Boy and a Robot," which screened at film festivals this year and is going to be part of an anthology film called "TAISU." What can you tell us about making this short?

When the offer first came, I was asked to make a short film that would become part of a bigger compilation film. So I decided to create something that would be difficult to produce as a TV series, with visuals that seem like they're from a picture book and a story that's like a realistic fable. I've already finished my segment, so I hope the full movie version will be made available to the public soon.

Can you give us any hints as to what you are working on next?

Next, I plan to do an action show set in the near future. Please look forward to it!

"Carole and Tuesday" is now available on Blu-ray.