Netflix's Altered Carbon is an inconsistent title.
The first season of the live action cyberpunk show was excellent, but the second was a disappointing mess. Based on a trilogy by author Richard K. Morgan, the story of the Altered Carbon series is centered around mercenary/action hero Takeshi Kovacs. Set centuries from now, humanity is made immortal with technology capable of storing a person’s soul/mind into a small disc called a “stack,” which is placed in the neck/spine upon birth. Basically, that means body swapping is normal, and for the series' purposes, the show can have different actors play the same character. In the first season, Takeshi was portrayed perfectly by Joel Kinnaman as well as Will Yun Lee. The second saw him being portrayed by Anthony Mackie, who really did the best with what he was given.
Needless to say, I found the recently released Netflix Original’s second season to be a disappointment: I waited a couple years for the series to come back, and what I got was not what I wanted. Then, less than a month later, there came a prequel/self-contained story starring Kovacs, this time in a feature-film, 3D anime format. The film titled ‘Altered Carbon: Resleeved’ was directed by Takeru Nakajima and Yoshiyuki Okada.
Set before the events of the first season, ‘Resleeved’ puts Kovacs on a planet called ‘Latimer’ where he is hired to solve the murder of a Yakuza big-cheese, as well as protect a young tattoo artist. This film’s original voice acting was done in Japanese, but I opted to watch with the English dub enabled. Portrayed by voice actor Ray Chase, this Kovacs is written in alignment to the source material's vision: a snarky and intimidating dude with a few soft spots, and Chase portrays him in perfect manly-man anime dub fashion. This personality was not there in the second season of the mainline show (one of the biggest weaknesses it had), and I was happy to see the book-faithful Kovacs return. Among other voice actors, Chris Conner returns from the main series. While Conner portrayed the Edgar Allan Poe themed hotel AI in the show, here he played an entirely different AI named ‘Ogai’ although he still brought as much levity to the film as he did in the show.
Now, the aspects that mattered the most to me while I was watching were the animation, the characters and the writing as a whole. I am not a huge anime fan; there is only one series I have ever followed religiously in both the manga and anime formats it is under, but I knew going in that an anime artstyle can be very hit or miss when in a 3D format. I was thus highly skeptical of the format watching the trailer. However, when I finally sat down and watch the movie, I was pleasantly surprised. Done in a unique cel-shaded manner, the animation for this film is great. At first jarring coming from either the 2D animation or live-action I am used to, I got into it fairly quickly, and it surprisingly fits within the existing ‘Carbon’ cyberpunk world. Characters are as well drawn as the urban environments. One thing in particular that absolutely blew me away was the action. I haven’t ever witnessed the detail animation can afford to action scenes until this. I found it often surpassing that of its live-action counterparts in how over-the top and crunchingly brutal it was, something that I never thought could be done in the format.
Then there's the characters and overall story. It would be a crime to mention just Kovacs and Yogai, as the other leads deserve recognition. Brittany Cox as the tattooist Holly and Elizabeth Maxwell as future-cop Gena do excellent jobs; none of them pulled me out of the experience I was immersed in, and that goes double for all the other supporting characters, mostly consisting of Yakuza muscle. So, the only real sticking point I have with this movie is the direction the story takes as it nears its end. It starts very strong, bringing back our series protagonist and introducing his new conflict. However, once it nears its climax, it just loses all its steam. As soon as the mystery is brought to its head, you’re left asking “is that it?” feeling vaguely unfulfilled. I definitely wanted more, in a negative rather than positive manner.
To give my verdict, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Altered Carbon: Resleeved’. While I was skeptical at first, I dove right in, and I had a ton of fun with it. Although it did leave something to be desired as mentioned, it was much more satisfying and coherent than the second season of the main show. One can only hope this leaves the door open for more animated films set in the Altered Carbon universe because if they are like this installment or possibly even better, then I will devour all of them.
Edited by Hannah Alleyne, Joelle Conway