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The Groundbreaking Anime Fans Of Altered Carbon Need To Watch

Cyberpunk fans felt like their prayers were answered when Netflix debuted an exciting new science-fiction series, Altered Carbon. The show, which is actually based on a series of books, takes place 360 years in the future in a time when the consciousness of humans can be stored on a "stack" and transferred from body to body ("sleeves" in series parlance). Upon death of the physical body, the stack can be inserted into a new sleeve, meaning some people (namely, the wealthiest) can theoretically live forever, assuming preservation of the stack. 

It's only a shame the show itself couldn't be resleeved. After two seasons and an anime film, the show was cancelled earlier this year. It came as a shock to fans and critics considering Altered Carbon received predominantly positive reviews. Alas, Netflix has its reasons, but since there won't be a season 3 of the show, it's natural that fans will want to look elsewhere to get their cyberpunk fix.

Altered Carbon owes its existence to the likes of Blade Runner and The Matrix, but anime also played a critical role in the show's aesthetic. If you're looking for something similar to Altered Carbon to watch next, might we suggest one of the most influential anime films of all time. 

What is Ghost in the Shell about?

Ghost in the Shell (the original 1995 anime, not the live-action film starring Scarlett Johansson) is a masterpiece of epic proportions that has gone on to influence the works of the Wachowskis and James Cameron. The cyberpunk anime takes place in Japan in the year 2029. The protagonist, Major Motoko Kusanagi, works as a cyborg public-security agent. She's hot on the trail of an entity known as "The Puppet Master," who illegally hacks into the minds of cyborg-human hybrids. In this world, people can upload their psyches onto hard drives that can then be uploaded into different bodies (incredibly similar to the conceit in Altered Carbon). 

As Motoko pursues the criminal, she begins to wonder about her own life and memories. While she ends up cornering her combatant, her pursuit to learn more about her true identity sends her mission in an unforeseen direction. 

The film may be 25 years old, but it turns out to be incredibly prescient in predicting the rise of transhumanism, the idea that mankind will continue to fuse with technology. The film focuses heavily on how our bodies are just shells we could do away with if technology were to advance to the point that it could capture "the ghost in the shell." Both the Altered Carbon show and book series dealt with the same themes, so if you're interesting in watching properties that explore them further, then Ghost in the Shell needs to be next on your viewing list. 

Should you watch Ghost in the Shell?

Anyone who considers themselves a fan of science-fiction needs to watch Ghost in the Shell. It's more than just a solid story; it's an important film that's gone on to influence so many other films and TV shows. To understand cyberpunk in the 21st century, you need to see it for yourself. The subgenre hasn't been nearly has fecund as some others. In English fiction, the cyberpunk aesthetic had its heyday in the '80s and '90s when the publishing industry was inundated with works like William Gibson's landmark Neuromancer and the Takeshi Kovacs series by Richard K. Morgan. Fortunately, the anime world has carried the cyberpunk baton without ever really putting it down.

Critics continue to rave about the film, offering new insights years after the movie came out. For example, Robbie Collin of The Telegraph wrote a stellar review of Ghost in the Shell in 2014, in which he stated, "This is a work of profound and melancholic beauty; every bit as essential in the 21st century as it was in the 20th." Willow Maclay of RogerEbert.com echoed such praise, while adding how essential the movie is to the transgender community and anyone suffering from gender dysphoria, "Oshii's 'Ghost in the Shell' will always strike a chord with those directly affected by bodily displacement. By being brave enough to confront its themes of identity, 'Ghost in the Shell' stands tall as one of the very best films ever made about being an alien in your own skin."

Altered Carbon may not be coming back, but there are plenty of avenues people can take when they want to watch excellent cyberpunk thrillers. Plus, by watching the original Ghost in the Shell now, you can prepare yourself for Netflix's original anime series based on the property. Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 is now available to watch on the streaming service, while 1995's Ghost in the Shell is available for rental or purchase.