Altered Carbon: Resleeved is an anime that you can dive into without seeing the live action drama series of Netflix. It is a pretty well made cyberpunk anime with tons and tons of action sequences (all of which are well made), a lot of blood, just a little bit of nudity in the beginning (that too of background characters), and a good pick for a nice time-pass.
Right from the beginning you can see some clear influence of Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell’s environment. Now I know the cyberpunk as a genre has some predefined setting for a world, but not necessarily all of them has to follow the same visuals. For example, the Deus Ex game franchise is one of the best known entries in the cyberpunk world, and its visuals have very little common element with the well known Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell franchises. For some reason, whenever we see a new cyberpunk story, the world seems to be eerily familiar with the later two. The upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 game also has that issue. Now this is not a bad thing, but it would’ve been better if different cyberpunk stories have unique world setting of their own.
Ok, back to the point. Without mentioning the name of this anime, one look at the world portrayed in it and you might think it is from Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell. Even the music played during some parts sounds a lot like Kenji Kawai’s soundtracks for GitS. If it works for you, it’s good. If not, then it won’t be a problem since its not exactly a strong suit of this anime.
The characters can be divided into two types: mains who rarely get hurt, and fill-up side characters who are there to die. No it’s not a spoiler, I’m not saying everyone of the main characters survives till the end. It’s just that you probably even forget the faces of the side characters once they are dead. As for the main ones, there is not much character development to be found here. Actually now that I think about it, no character gets a development except for one (or if you really look into it, two may be).
The story is not its strong point either. There are a few twists which made the story to be “ok”. However, the strong part of this anime is its amazing animation and some freaking good action sequences. This is CGI done right. With breathtaking visuals and good direction of actions scenes (which takes a big part of the anime, but not enough to make it irritating), this anime is a treat for the eye.
Take this as just a time-pass anime with enjoyable elements, and not much brain-works needed while watching it. I would love to see more similar series or movie of this franchise in the future.
Altered Carbon: Resleeved is pretty average by most metrics, but is elevated by what it excels at: its visuals and overall aesthetic. There's one caveat to take into consideration before I start the review proper; this is my first piece of media from the Altered Carbon franchise so if I get anything wrong, am missing information or I misrepresent something, know full well it's because I'm completely ignorant about the franchise. But I do know about anime, so I'll be reviewing it standalone (I've also read that you don't need any prior knowledge to get into it so I guess this approach works anyway).
Being a cyberpunk anime Altered Carbon: Resleeved comes with a lot of the visual and narrative short-hand of a typical cyberpunk work; neon lights filled with sexed up ads, dingy and rainy streets filled with graffiti and trash, the extreme advantages of the rich over the poor because of the hyper-capitalistic society and so on. What sets this one apart from others is its premise. Though bodies can be enhanced with technology, they mostly remain flesh and blood. These bodies are called "skins". But due to technological innovations, one's mind can be digitized and put into a "stack", meaning that as long as the mind survives, you can effectively become immortal if you have the means to do so. This is honestly quite the interesting premise that goes under explored I feel, although this is probably something the main franchise has explored at length. The story chooses to instead focus on is a Yakuza succession story, with a cyberpunk twist. The story follows a Yakuza from a rival clan, Takeshi, tasked to find and protect a tattoo artist Holly alongside Gena, a policewoman who also has business with her. I don't have too much to say about the story since it's pretty straight forward. It isn't really boring though since there's enough intrigue to keep you engaged. I don't have much to say about the main characters either since Takeshi comes off as a "Bad ass punch man who smokes a lot", the villain as "Ambitious scheming successor" and on and on. I don't like to reduce characters this way since there's more going on with them which might be followed up on in any future entry, but for now, they serve their role.
The real meat of this ONA is the artwork, and its atmosphere. The visuals are fully done in 3D in a cel shaded style; typical for anime. Techniques to limit the frame count haven't been used so everything animates quite smoothly. The character designs also work quite well in 3D since facial features are a bit more pronounced allowing for more natural feeling mouth and face movements, all the while allowing for more diverse faces in general. Like I mentioned before, the movie is cel shaded, but an interesting lighting technique is used allowing for shadows to have a softer and more layered look, while keeping the distinctive blocks of shadow that this style is known for. Textures have also been implemented well to give the character designs that extra pop, all resulting in a slick and sexy package. A strange choice to me would be the more realistically rendered effects such as blood and smoke since blood splatter becomes a texture on the characters and environments, but that's a nit pick. What was a little disappointing was the background work, but it's not because it was bad. They were actually done really well, having a more sterile and cleanly lit look to them. The disappointment comes because the first 30 or so minutes are spent in this beautiful and colorful cyberpunk city that feels so lived in it's immersive. The rest of the movie is set in a Yakuza styled hotel which is, while beautiful, is quite boring compared to the previous setting. That seems to be more a story issue though. I don't have too much to say about the fight scenes, they kick ass!
In the end, Altered Carbon: Resleeved is a little by the numbers in terms of story and characters, but you'll care enough about them to watch all the way through. This movie is more about the art on display, and I can say that it succeeds overwhelmingly. Though its strong overall, it's kinda weakened because for the most part, we've been there and done that. There are some genuinely interesting ideas that could have been explored because of the premise, but the movie leaves you to speculate on your own. If you absolutely love Altered Carbon as a franchise, you'll probably be watching this one anyway, but if you're on the fence, I'll nudge you on and say that the art impressed me as an outsider. To outsiders like me, check it out if you have time. To the 3DCG fan, it's a definite must watch. A side note: I'm not sure if this is it's own thing or going to be a longer series since a there's a sequel hook at the end. But as far as first impressions go, its a good one.