By Jo Berry
Science fiction action thriller Altered Carbon – based on the cyberpunk novel by Richard K Morgan – first launched on Netflix with 10 episodes in 2018, was followed by a second season last month, and has now been translated into a slick anime movie – Altered Carbon: Resleeved.
In case you haven’t seen the live action series – and you will be able to follow this anime movie’s far more straightforward plot without much prior knowledge of the show – the Altered Carbon universe is a dystopian future (think Blade Runner but with far more violence and naked bodies) where humans store their consciousness onto discs that are called stacks, meaning their personalities and memories can be loaded into new bodies (known as ‘skins’).
So if you’re bored, want to look younger, or have been killed (but your ‘stack’ remains intact), you can simply order up a new body if you have the money.
It’s a clever concept for a series, as it means that the producers don’t have to keep the same actors on board from season to season – indeed, the lead character, an ex-soldier named Takeshi Kovacs, was played by Joel Kinnaman in season one and Anthony Mackie in season two – and the version of Takeshi in the anime movie can look completely different from the live action versions, too.
There was a 30 year time jump between the two live-action seasons, but Resleeved expands the universe, taking place at another time that is hinted to be before the events of the first season. Takeshi Kovacs finds himself on the planet Latimer, in a new well-built body with silver fox hair and a nicotine habit left over from a previous incarnation.
He seems to be making his living as muscle-for-hire, and is asked to investigate the death of the brother of businessman Mr Taneseda. In return, Taneseda promises that all Takeshi’s previous crimes on Harlan’s World will be absolved.
He seems to be making his living as muscle-for-hire, and is asked to investigate the death of the brother of businessman Mr Taneseda. In return, Taneseda promises that all Takeshi’s crimes on Harlan’s World (where all the previously mentioned season one deaths took place) will be absolved.
This job leads him to young tattoo artist Holly, who works for a Yakuza clan and is being chased by machete-wielding, masked baddies. It turns out she is an essential part of a succession ceremony – in which older Yakuza leader Genzo will ‘real-life die’ (meaning his stack will be destroyed as well as his body so he can’t be resurrected) to make way for his son Shinji’s accession to leader – and it looks like someone wants to kill her before that can take place.
Takeshi must protect her with the help of a CTAC officer named Gena who pops up without much explanation, while also finding out what happened to Taneseda’s brother, who was linked to the same Yakuza clan.
The animators’ budget for red paint must have been astronomical, as the plot involves numerous fists delivered to blood-spurting faces, multiple stabbings, the occasional decapitation and a deliciously gruesome man-sliced-in-half moment, all of which involve copious amounts of animated red stuff to splat across the screen in the course of Takeshi’s quest.
Aside from a little backstory involving Takeshi’s sister Rei and the inclusion of a Artificial Intelligence concierge at the yakuza’s Mizumoto hotel (a nod to the much-loved Poe AI from the series, and voiced by Poe’s Chris Conner), the Yakuza-led story works as a stand alone movie that could be watched by anime fans who have never seen an episode before.
For Altered Carbon fans, meanwhile, Resleeved is fun but not essential viewing. Packed with action, thin on plot but stunning to look at, it has some nice throwbacks to the series to enjoy, and an ending that hints there could be more anime movies to come featuring Takeshi Kovacs’ many adventures…
Altered Carbon: Resleeved is streaming now on Netflix – check out what else is on with our TV Guide.