Netflix's 'Altered Carbon' Series Has Major 'Ghost in the Shell' Vibes


Black Mirror isn’t the only Netflix series that imagines a dystopian world full of disturbing technology with horrifying implications. Altered Carbon, a new sci-fi series based on a 2002 cyberpunk novel of the same novel, will explode onto the streaming service in a 10-episode epic early next year. Netflix released a new trailer/featurette about the series on Tuesday, and it has serious Ghost in the Shell vibes — in more ways than one.

The series is set either 250 or 300 years in the future (the trailer’s YouTube description and official synopsis on the Netflix site disagree), and takes place in a world where human consciousness can be completely stored and recorded in spinal implants known as “stacks” and downloaded into a fresh body, known as a “sleeve,” allowing for effective immortality. The idea of transplanting humans into lifelike machine bodies is similar to Ghost in the Shell’s whole premise, but Altered Carbon adopts a Blade Runner aesthetic and takes the classic manga’s ideas in some different directions.

However, there’s another similarity between Altered Carbon and Ghost in the Machine, only Netflix’s show isn’t like the classic manga or anime, but recent blockbuster starring Scarlett Johansson. The Netflix featurette explains that the main character, Takeshi Kovacs, a soldier in an underground group that wants to put a stop to immortality. As played by Will Yun Lee, Takeshi is an Asian man who is killed, and brought back 250 years later in a new body against his will to solve a murder. The new body is that of Joel Kinnaman, a white actor.

Given that the plot of the original novel involves a planet that had been settled by a Japanese business group and built with European labor, there’s the possibility for this unwanted race-upgrade to explore interesting themes, and “Birth Takeshi,” as Lee’s original version of the character is known, appears to have a pretty substantial role. Still, one can’t help but think of how Ghost in the Shell created an in-fiction rational for Scarlett Johansson playing a traditionally Asian character. In the live-action movie — and just the live-action movie — she was born an Asian child and put into a caucasian-looking cyborg body after her accident. It’s an uncomfortable bit of whitewashing at best, so hopefully, Altered Carbon does something to justify the idea.

Altered Carbon hits Netflix on February 2, 2018.

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