Review by C.J. Bunce
Audiences have seen some great animated films in recent years, with movies upping the ante on technology and visual magic, whether in Ferdinand or Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse or Spies in Disguise or Klaus. Netflix’s new anime movie, a sequel to its live-action, futuristic, sci-fi hit Altered Carbon, takes animation and visual effects even further. Altered Carbon: Resleeved is part Blade Runner 2049, part Marvel’s The Punisher (season two), and part Wu Assassins. Live-action action sequences are rarely as thrilling as those choreographed in this film.
As with the live-action Altered Carbon, the inspiration from Syd Mead’s trademark futurism is all over this film, and that world looks just as stunning in anime form. The storyboarding and layouts, the surprise screen angles, wipes, and character movements are like nothing you’ve seen before, and the details are at times life-like and three dimensional. The story and execution is a vast improvement on the second season of the live-action show, which was a really good season of episodes to begin with.
Two years after the end of season two we catch up with Takeshi Kovacs, resleeved and working a job for Mr. Tanaseda, who has him pursuing a girl named Holly, a tattoo artist with cybernetic eyes and pawn of the yakuza, who carries some critical secrets. Working for CTAC is Gena, a badass agent carrying secrets, who clashes with Kovacs early on. It’s two days from an ascension ceremony–the anointing of a new mob boss–and in that time Kovacs must figure out why Mr. Tanaseda has set him on this job. The anime film, available with English subtitles or dubbed, has a new hotel and a new concierge named Ogai (voiced in the dubbed version by Chris Conner, who plays the concierge, Poe, and hotel manager in the live-action series). Ogai is a holographic Japanese man loyal to the new boss, but fond of Holly. Fans of the series will find his hotel to have equally exciting defensive feature’s as Poe’s hotel, The Raven.
Floorboards feature realistic wood grain, reflections make the animation seem tangible, a high-tech floor features an otherworldly koi pond. The exterior sequences are every bit as jaw-dropping and eye-popping as when we first saw Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner. And keep an eye out for the team of red-cloaked assassins, which make the red praetorian guards of Star Wars look rather wimpy by comparison. The ending isn’t as compelling as the earlier acts and certainly not the best part of the film, but it does feature elements that would be difficult in a live-action setting, taking advantage of the anime medium.
The writing from a Dai Satô script, direction by Takeru Nakajima and Yoshiyuki Okada, characterization, dialogue, and voice acting work are all top-notch. It’s simply brilliant anime, and a wondrous marvel of animation magic.
It has some gore, minor nudity, and language. Highly recommended viewing, catch the live-action series first, then watch Altered Carbon: Resleeved, now streaming exclusively on Netflix.