Takeshi Kovacs is back and hired to protect a Yakuza’s tattoo artist.
Taking place a year after Season 1, Holly Togram (Ayaka Asai) is being chased by a number of Yakuza members and ninjas before she finds herself saved by a recently resleeved Takeshi Kovacs (Tatsuhisa Suzuki). It’s revealed that Holly is a sacred tattoo artist to the Mizumoto syndicate, a Yakuza group. Takeshi has been awakened by Tanaseda Hideki (Kenji Yamauchi), a Yakuza boss from Harlan’s World (setting of the first and second season of Altered Carbon), who wants Takeshi to protect Holly and investigate the death of Tanaseda’s younger brother who was involved in the Mizumoto syndicate. It’s revealed that the Mizumoto group was founded by Tanaseda’s father. Genzo (Kouji Ishii), the current head of the group, explains that he is preparing to die permanently. The only way that the Mizumoto syndicate preserves its honor is by having the stacks belonging to their leaders destroyed permanently when they have finished their time and their successor takes over. Holly is the only one who can apply the sacred tattoos to the new head, Shinji (Kanehira Yamamoto). Complicating everything is that undercover CTAC agent Gena (Rina Satou) is investigating the syndicate and she has a history with Takeshi.
When I first saw this, since it wasn’t part of the current Netflix series, I was hoping that this film might just be another story from the same universe unrelated to Takeshi Kovacs. There are a lot of things we know about the people who live in the Altered Carbon society which would make for interesting stories besides just “action/mystery.” Instead, it’s basically season 1.5 of the series, so if you like the series, you’ll like this.
The art style of the film is similar to the Netflix Anime Kengan Ashura, which is 3D animation with heavy shading and lines, but it’s a lot cleaner due to being a film. The character designs are more distinctly Eastern than much of the live-action series, which correlates with the fact that the story involves a Yakuza and has a Japanese production team. Since the future is more culturally integrated, it is interesting to see a planet which stresses connections to their heritage.
The plot is actually pretty compelling, more in line with the first season of the series, while the action sequences are more science-fiction and intense like the second season. The voice acting is better in the sub than the dub, so unlike some of Netflix’s other anime, I am going to say it makes a difference. Also, while Poe is unfortunately not in this series, he’s replaced by the Ogai (Jouji Nakata) AI, who is also extremely entertaining.
The element of the movie that I liked the most was the concept that Honor requires mortality. In the series, we see that many of the characters who are wealthy and powerful live for hundreds of years (potentially longer, but they haven’t had the technology long enough). Naturally, without the fear of actual death, these people start to devolve morally, viewing things like fidelity as pointless because eventually all emotional connections start to fade. Thus, the Yakuza, who rely on a sense of intrinsic honor to justify their practices, have to have leaders that die.
Overall, if you liked Altered Carbon, you’ll like this. You don’t need to be super familiar with the series to watch it, so if you haven’t seen it, you can still give this a try.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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