Exploring the Shinichirō Watanabe Cinematic Universe
Director Shinichirō Watanabe is well known for his science fiction and fantasy anime worlds filled with memorable characters, creative technology, and wonderous adventures. It appears that three of his critically acclaimed series, Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy, and Carole & Tuesday take place in the same universe, but the truth is much more complicated than that.
Space Dandy exists in the Cowboy Bebop universe
Although the two shows are very different in tone and setting, there is abundant evidence that Space Dandy takes place in the same universe as Cowboy Bebop, although likely at a much later point in time.
Both series use the Woolong as their currency. This fictional, often digital currency is approximately equal in value to the Japanese Yen.
But even more interesting is the Bebop's fridge. In episode 11, a Ganymede rock lobster left in the fridge for over a year mutates into a monster and attacks the crew. In the end, Spike pushes the fridge out of the airlock and it isn't seen again.
That is, until 16 years later when Space Dandy aired. In episode 8, the crew of the Aloha Oe travels to Planet Machinia, a scrap planet filled with old spaceship parts. Almost immediately upon landing Meow discovers an old fridge, and opens it looking for food.
Upon opening it he is immediately attacked by the same blob monster that terrorized the Bebop's crew so many years ago. This evidence can lead us to conclude that Space Dandy takes place in the same universe as Cowboy Bebop, although at a much later date. The greatly advanced technology, presence of aliens, and existence of human colonies throughout the galaxy mean that Space Dandy must take place dozens, if not hundreds, of years after its predecessor.
Seems simple enough. These two series can fit into each other's universes pretty easily, without creating any continuity issues or plot holes. However, Watanabe's newest series, Carole & Tuesday, complicates things a bit.
How does Carole & Tuesday fit in?
Carole & Tuesday is pretty different from the other shows I've talked about so far. For one thing, it's barely science fiction. It takes place on Mars, and AI is commonplace, but the story itself could take place in almost any time period and location. Instead of being about a small crew of eccentric heroes travelling through space and struggling to make a living, it's about two young girls attempting to hit it big as musicians.
Despite this change in basic plot structure, there is abundant evidence that Carole & Tuesday also takes place in Cowboy Bebop's universe. Woolongs are also the currency here (although their value seems to be different):
And most of the action takes place in Alba City, the same Martian city from Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.
But here's where it starts to get complicated. When exactly does Carole & Tuesday take place? In episode 3, Gus says it's been almost "50 years since humanity's migration to Mars." In Cowboy Bebop's timeline, the Lunar hyperspace gate exploded in 2021, causing Earth's residents to move underground or flee for the offworld colonies throughout the solar system. If we assume this is what Gus was talking about, that would place Carole & Tuesday at approximately 2071, around the same time that the events of Cowboy Bebop take place.
But this leads to some continuity errors. The technology in Carole & Tuesday is more advanced than in Cowboy Bebop, including smartphones and cheap multi-purpose robots.
To make things even more confusing, the most recent episode included this:
Is Space Dandy just a fictional show in the Carole & Tuesday universe? This raises all kinds of questions. How could the creators of this show have known about the fridge from Cowboy Bebop?
The only way that all of these series can fit together in one universe is if both Cowboy Bebop and Space Dandy are works of fiction within the world of Carole & Tuesday. This would resolve the discrepancies between technology levels, as Cowboy Bebop could be an alternate history version of present-day (2071) Mars. It would also explain the fridge in Space Dandy, as just a reference to another show. Finally, it would explain why all three have the same currency.
I realize that retconning two great shows into mere works of fiction in another show's universe is supremely unsatisfying, but I can't think of any other way that all this evidence can fit together. On the other hand, as of writing this post there are still eight more episodes of Carole & Tuesday that are yet to air, so we could get new information in the future.
Alternatively, you could just not think about it as much as I have and just enjoy these shows for what they are. If you think I've missed something or you have a better theory, I'd be interested to hear about it. Drop me an email and let me know.