Recommendation: It’s not the most inventive animation or action plot, yet it’s fun enough, light enough, and does try some interesting animation techniques. 6.5/10
IMDB Synopsis: On the planet Latimer, Takeshi Kovacs must protect a tattooist while investigating the death of a yakuza boss alongside a no-nonsense CTAC.
To the uninitiated, the world of Altered Carbon (a hit show on Netflix based on a novel) is part ultra-futuristic urban (lots of neon and lifelike holograms), part dystopian (extreme classism; poverty), and fantastical (humanity has achieved immortality by digitizing consciousness). It’s the kind of high-concept sci-fi that is done entertaining enough for a mass market to enjoy. Essentially, if you die, your consciousness can be put into a new body, or sleeve, and voila, you’re back in business. At least, if you’re wealthy. Altered Carbon: Resleeved takes the opportunity after season 1 of the show to build out the world further, while exploring new visual mediums, in this case, anime.
Set on the fictional world of Latimer—basically neo-Tokyo—the opening act is a lot. But it sets the table while laying out the blueprint for the violence, incredible choreography, and smooth art direction the movie takes. Bright eyed teen Holly Togram (Brittany Cox) is on the run from Yazkuza-like gangsters, who get killed by unknown ninjas (also hunting Holly), who are then thwarted by our true protagonist Takeshi Kovac (Ray Chase) who has been sent in a new sleeve (hence the title) and dubbed Ken. Holly escapes Ken, only to meet Gena (Elizabeth Maxwell) a CTAC agent. Ken and Gena must then fight off a gang of ninjas to deliver Holly back to the Yakuza-like Mizumoto Syndicate. Whew.
The film slows down in the second act, literally, with scene after scene of exposition. Holly is the Mizumoto tattooist, the only one who can complete a complex tattoo as part of a ritual to hand over power in the syndicate. It’s not well hidden that Mizumoto boss Shinji (Kaiji Tang) wants to off her to stay in power. The only bit that redeems the second act from laborious expositions about honor and dynastic power are the gorgeous fight sequences where Ken and Gena fight increasingly powerful (and cool looking) futuristic ninjas and samurai. Through the simple-yet-convoluted storyline, Shinji is really the founder of the Mizumoto Syndicate and has been sneaking into each new boss’s sleeve. Again, Cohesive storytelling is not what most folks are here for.
Plotting out exactly like a predictable video game, the third act sees Shinji as a final, more powerful boss, resplendent in his samurai modeled power armor. Of course, as this film bridges Altered Carbon season 1 and the in-production season 2, Ken/Takeshi has to live, and triumphs over Shinji in a very heroic climactic battle.
Altered Carbon: Resleeved is a spinoff that fantastically builds out more of the fictional world, while being coherent enough to follow for those not versed in the tv series. For most, it’ll serve as a quick (74 minutes!) serving of choreographed—inventively so—violence while making sure to pay homage to its source material, and anime at large (which is big for Western audiences). Is it the most groundbreaking work of recent modern anime? Of course not. But it’s satisfying enough to watch (might even make you check out the Netflix series), even if ultimately forgettable. But maybe mindless, visually appealing entertainment isn’t the worst thing in these times.
MVP: The animators and visual artists. While the 3D animation is a bit jarring at first, you get used to it and the creative animation blends well with the impressive fight choreography.
Director: Takeru Nakajima and Yoshiyuki Okada
Studio: Netflix // Release date: March 19, 2020