Altered Carbon : Resleeved falters right from the Start
Altered Carbon’s inaugural season drew viewers in by successfully exploring the pitfalls and trappings of a world where humanity and technology are so incestuously entwined. Its storytelling was at its best when showcasing the injustices against the ordinary folk carried out by the rich and corrupt.
Unfortunately, much like Season 2 this Anime incarnation falters, stumbles and ultimately fails to bring anything worthwhile to the table outside of some stunning visuals and cool action set pieces. If you can temper your expectations and you enjoy Sci-Fi it’s worth having on in the background as you google how to make homemade hand sanitiser and build a toilet paper fort.
In times like these, we need quality entertainment to take our minds off the insanity of the world. Does Altered Carbon: Re-Sleeved achieve that? It’s a big fat ‘Nope’ from this critic. This is a ‘streaming’ pile of badly plotted drivel and nonsense.
The visual style I worked really well. In fact the shows premise and Anime, in my opinion, could be a match made in heaven for one another. Especially with the cyberpunk aesthetic. Though Manga and Anime aren’t exactly in my wheelhouse I still am a huge fan of Re-Sleeved writer Dai Sato.
His previous credits on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and the awesome Cowboy Bebop (My all-time favourite anime series) shows the man knows how to tell a story. Shame he couldn’t be bothered this time round. Maybe he had his hands tied to a certain degree, prequels are always tough territory to traverse and without that penning in maybe Dai Sato and the team could have delivered a narrative worthy of the animation.
Anyway, back with the good stuff, the action scenes. The action was the most brutal, bloody and visceral the series is yet to showcase. Given the cyberpunk setting, again, for me, this worked. The over the top action is equal measures slick and ferocious throughout and if the plot and character development had been half as strong as the action then perhaps, I would have cared about the outcome. Unfortunately, that’s about all I can say for the highlights of this limp endeavour.
Takeshi Kovacs Adventures in Anime
The set-up is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Altered Carbon. Takeshi Kovacs is hired for a job that he begrudgingly takes on. This time though there’s space-ninjas! Oooooh! Intrigued? No, not really, neither am I.
Let’s start from the beginning, we start out following a ‘young’ (Remember, someone’s ‘sleeve’ appearance doesn’t indicate their age) girl (or sex for that matter) Holly. She’s on the run from a few thugs in suits. The animation is sharp and fun to watch as Holly runs through the streets; desperate to evade her pursuers.
Whilst this is going on Takeshi Kovacs turns up, butt-naked – the man always knows how to make an entrance on having had his consciousness ‘Needlecast’ (Downloaded) into a Sleeve in a nightclub on Planet Latimer. Where he was prior to this we have no idea. Turns out though Takeshi arrived just in the nick of time because the goons chasing Holly just got offed by a Ninja. Holly continues to try to evade capture but she’s cornered by the nameless Ninja who Takeshi manages to fight off.
Probably just me but the timing of Takeshi’s arrival on Latimer seems ridiculously fortunate and coincidental. If he had arrived literally five seconds later poor Holly would have met a grisly end. Typically, you can overlook these sorts of coincidences but Tak was sent here to Latimer with the mission of saving Holly (which we’ll get into in a bit) so why is it just now that he’s arriving? Why not, like a day ago? A week ago?
I know I know… we’re establishing some tension etc but this sort of premise just doesn’t work for me. What if Holly had run in the opposite direction or tripped over? What if she hadn’t entered this club? Anyway, I digress, Holly and Tak have a conversation with Tanaseda (This bloke actually shows up in Season 2 of Altered Carbon – The old guy gangster guy looking after plants).
A New Altered Carbon Mission
Tak is tasked with protecting Holly and finding out how Tanaseda’s younger brother died, it’s a quick little setup and so far I was still enjoying the ride. Holly decides to run from Tak because the plot calls for it but gets herself immediately captured by a CTAC unit under the command of a female named Gena – You can tell she’s important because everyone else is a faceless goon wearing a helmet.
Tak intervenes but before it kicks off the Ninjas are back! We’re treated to a visceral action scene, plenty of blood, gore and over the top violence. As I’ve already mentioned, the action scenes in Re:Sleeved work well enough and sometimes, despite the lack of plot engagement, they even edge on being fun! It’s a real testament to the animators.
After it’s all said and done, unsurprisingly, Gena, Tak and Holly are the only ones left alive. All the Ninja’s are dead as are Gena’s CTAC unit. Now, I know death in AC isn’t really death, barring stack destruction, but Gena really didn’t seem to give a damn that her ‘team’ had all just been gruesomely murdered, she was so nonchalant one has to wonder how this psychopath rose up in the CTAC ranks.
No doubt in the morning prior to this mission these CTAC guys were eating breakfast with one another, talking about their family and kids, reminiscing about the good old days and discussing plans for their days off, little did they know that just a few hours later they’d all be dead and Gena would give zero fucks about any of them. She calls for a ‘clean up’ but come on. This was your team! Stuff like that irks me endlessly.
We’re then dragged along a windy road of rival gang-lords and feuding crime syndicates. It’s around this point, about 25 minutes in, that to be honest, the plot really begins to unravel and my interest started to wane exponentially. There just isn’t anything engaging here; the pacing is all off. Even the characters themselves, despite being animated, appear to want to be elsewhere – They all seem flat and uninterested.
Takeshi gets stuck in and begins to do some detective work, whilst it also turns out that Gena is actually his sister Reileen from season 1… This seemed really unnecessary and dare I say Tak’d on. Yeah that was crap, I know that, but why should I have to try when the creators aren’t?
Let’s fast-forward sum. Turns out that the big bad all along is a guy named Genzo. He’s been having his stack overwrite the person due to succeed him during the succession ceremony. It’s a cool idea, in theory, but I just don’t see how this would work in practicality. Surely any number of people would realise, in a world where Sleeves and Stacks are interchangeable that something was awry? Surely a persons loved ones would realise speech patterns, memories, sense of humour, personality were all completely different?
From Genzo’s standpoint, I get it, he wants ultimate power within the clan. He started it. In his eyes, the clan is his. But, if Genzo is the founder what was the point of the whole ‘succession’ thing in the first place? It’s a story that is reliant on a premise that it itself created. Bit of a chicken and egg scenario.
Try not to think about that too much though because now we’ve got Genzo in a big-ass Mech suit – now, Anime and mech suits kinda go hand in hand but it is a first in Altered Carbon thus far, granted I can’t say I’ve read the books so maybe they’re common place, it’s a tad jarring but either way Genzo is styling and profiling. He kills all the nameless henchman but like all the other deadly combatants he finds that his kryptonite is anyone in the cast that has a name.
Following a brutal, if not needlessly over the top hand to hand showdown between Tak and Genzo, Holly activates the tattoo programme thingy and Genzo dies. Yawn… There’s still about another ten minutes left of this somehow!
One cool little aside, The Wild Geese hotel, where most of the story takes place is run by an AI named Ogai who is voiced by the awesome Chris Conner who plays the AI Poe in season one and two, it’s a nice touch.
You’ll need to Switch off your Brain to Enjoy this!
If you just take it for what it is, switch your brain off and let it run then maybe you can derive some sort of joy and entertainment from it. Problem is, I can’t do that! I find myself digging that little bit deeper, wanting to see more than just the shiny veneer. Unfortunately, doing so ruins the experience. Perhaps, if this had been a mini-series instead of a film (a fairly short film at that) then perhaps the world and characters could have been fleshed out.
There would have been time to examine the characters and there motivations in further detail. As it stands though it’s a shallow affair all round. Apart from the fact that the title tells you this is of course set in the Altered Carbon universe and it has the same tech this could have just been some generic Anime feature length film as none of the strong world building or themes have been carried over from Season 1.
I’m going to do it again! I’m going to do it again! The ‘plot’ of Re-Sleeved feels entirely Tak’d on. They wanted to branch out into Anime regardless of whether the story was engaging or worth telling.
Altered Carbon: Re-Sleeved is a disjointed mess with far few too high points to make it worthwhile for anyone but the staunchest of fans. Without a doubt Satō is a gifted creator which is why it’s sad that this outing really falls short of his previous efforts. I think the world of Altered Carbon is perfect for Anime but for it to succeed it really needs to return to basics. Give us a story worth telling and an engaging cast of characters who we can actually care about.
You can watch this on Netflix.