Netflix has shown commitment to their adaptation of Altered Carbon, the sci-fi series of books by Richard K Morgan. Chronicling the interstellar exploits of special operator and brooding-type Takeshi Kovacs, two seasons of Altered Carbon are now followed up by Altered Carbon: Resleeved, a brisk animated feature playing out like a novella in the series, rather than a full season’s novel adaptation.
Boasting vibrant visuals and a trademark premise of interesting science-fiction, Resleeved winds up being mostly forgettable, riddled with tropes and too little ambition.
Altered Carbon: Resleeved
Directors: Takeru Nakajima, Yoshiyuki Okada
Release: March 19, 2020 (Netflix)
Thrust immediately into the thick of it, Kovacs awakens on Planet Latimer, a neon-dotted cyberpunk-scape in which the yakuza control the shiny, pink and purple streets. The Mizumotos are, in this case, a clan whose leadership succession ceremony is mere days away. Hired by an outside clan elder to protect Holly, the spunky young tattoo artist crucial to the Mizumotos’ reverential ceremony, Kovacs is swept up in gang warfare and generational squabbles that could play out in any classic Japanese gangster film were it not for all the high-tech rifles and, y’know, downloadable consciousness.
Altered Carbon‘s chief hook, the uploading and downloading of human consciousness from one “sleeve” (read: body) to another is surmised quickly for anyone not in the loop, both through opening narration and not-so-subtle expository dialogue. “A real death…” a character whimpers as they watch a high-tech goon’s digital “stack,” the source of the self, severed from their neck. The big ideas that propel Altered Carbon remain interesting, with the role of true death in the traditions of the yakuza a crucial plot point in Resleeved. Though for the interesting philosophical quandaries life and death pose, we’re not really here for that.
We’re here for high-tech ninjas.
Resleeved‘s computer-generated anime aesthetic can range from “stilted video game cutscene” to “kinetic and visceral,” but generally feels more the former. If there’s no blood being spilled, characters jerk this way and that, spouting dialogue to show how macho/seductive/fill-in-the-blank they are.
Luckily the design of Resleeved‘s world is mostly a plus, with heavily-armored assassins donning traditional Japanese noh masks and other garb for flair. Resleeved is very much a Japanese anime; Netflix defaulted to Japanese language for my viewing, which compliments the yakuza story well. I can’t imagine watching in English or another language would prove detrimental, but Japanese audio just makes sense.
And yet for its occasional flair and sleek visuals, Resleeved just feels routine. It’s sound and fury, signifying nothing but blood and guts. That is OK, were this a game we could sink into, but less exciting as a feature to sit through. It makes a degree of sense, with directors Yoshiyuki Okada and Takeru Nakajima veteran game developers, both in art and animation departments. At a brief 74 minutes it winds up being a minor commitment for those looking for a wallpaper or two for their computer, but otherwise feels more like a flip through a concept artist’s portfolio.