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Altered Carbon: Season 2 Complete Review

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Altered Carbon Season 2 Review

Phew! I just finished Altered Carbon Season 2 and let me tell you, it was quite a ride. There are pros and cons to this season, just like any season, and there’s a lot I want to get out of my brain because I have so many thoughts on the series. So without further ado, here we go: my review of Season 2 of Altered Carbon.

General feeling:

The general feeling of the series is very toned down compared to last season, for better or for worse. It’s warmer and more family-friendly. There is less torture, less nudity, and less shocking gore and violence.

Source Material Bias

My experience of the series was probably biased, and shaped from my familiarity with the source material. I found myself often lighting up upon hearing references to characters and concepts from the books. This led me to enjoy the series more, as I often took a very conscious note of their choices to veer from or stick to the original content. Also, as a result, my review will be very much contrasting the book to the series.

General differences between book and series

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Quell & Vidaura

One of the biggest differences from the books in this season is the choice of Kalogridis and Schapke to create the love story between Quell and Takeshi. In the books, Takeshi’s trainer and the leader of the rebellion were two different people: Quell was the legendary leader of the rebellion, who inspired people to follow her own life philosophy called Quellism. The leader and trainer of the envoys, meanwhile, was someone called Virginia Vidaura. Kovacs has flings with both Vidaura and Sylvie, but not Quell.

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Source: theaquasarah, YouTube

Sex vs. Love

Kovacs has sex with Sylvie (Trepp in the series), but when they do, she switches to the AI copy of Quell. This passion is what triggers the switches in the books. There is no love between Kovacs and Vidaura, or between Kovacs and Sylvie—it’s purely sexual lust, and obviously a certain connection that comes with it.

Many people were turned off by the random, very explicit sex scenes in the books—in particular with Woken Furies. I remember when I read the book it felt like a jarring switch and I was never ready for it, which led me to skim or often just pass over the explicit sex scenes, which often rarely added anything to the actual story.

The complete lack of sex scenes in the second season, except for one very PG-13 one, is perhaps a strong flip to the other side of the coin. And the lack of gratuitous sex mirrors the new emphasis on love in the story, which was virtually non-existent in the books.

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Family Ties

There’s also a stronger emphasis on family ties than on the previous season. Season 1 had the mother and family ties from Kristin Ortega, who then tragically died and gave the story more weight. Season 2 is about Trepp doing all she can to find her brother, and then to protect her wife and her son, who ultimately are saved in the end by her actions. Everything she does is to protect her family. And while one of her family members tragically dies to protect her, none of this carries the same weight as Ortega’s family dying in the first season. It almost feels like going through the motions when she discovers her dead family member. I knew I was supposed to feel something, but because of how stiff and set up it all was, I felt little.

Now let’s look at the characters from Season 2.

Characters

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Poe

I really enjoyed Poe again in this season. Not only is his acting excellent, but he is very well written and is a fun, charming addition to add levity to the more somber moments of the season. His quests to help Takeshi, and to try to remember what he was forgetting, made him incredibly endearing. Even more than before. If that’s even possible.

'Altered Carbon' Season 2 Video Reveals New Cast and ...

Tanaseda Hideki

I really liked Tanaseda Hideki’s character. In the books he is simply a Yakuza leader with a shared past with Takeshi, but in this season he acts as a wise, respectful mentor figure for Takeshi. It was a refreshing take on the character.

Cemetaire

I also liked the fact that they put in Cemetaire! His character really bothered Takeshi in the books, because of his profession making money off the lost stacks of the dead–and he was a good addition here (even if his part was very small). I recognized one of his lines as being taken straight from the book: “I am a simple ferryman plucking souls from my ocean wide.”

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Trepp

I thought it was interesting that they chose to have the character of Trepp, who acts like a Sylvie with her head coils, yet chose Falconer’s mind as the one with the second personality in her stack instead of in Trepp’s mind. I thought having the second mind/personality downloaded through the coils really made sense in the books, and I would have preferred them doing the same thing with Trepp instead of with Falconer. Still, I really enjoyed the mystery of figuring out who was in Quell’s stack, since it obviously couldn’t be Quell as it was in the books. The way that we were introduced to Takeshi in a completely different sleeve than expected made us believe the second personality could really be anybody, and in my view was quite well done.

Joshua Kemp

I also liked that they included Kemp, but his role was so diminished here. I understand that Kemp had his uses in season 2,  but in the books Kemp was a legitimate rebellion leader and very brutal. When you know who he was in the books, his diminished role here really feels a bit like a waste. At least they put in the ascertainment trial, but if you didn’t read the books, know that in the books the trial took hours, but was obviously condensed for the sake of editing.

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Stronghold Takeshi

Another big difference was how they changed Takeshi Kovacs’ double-sleeved clone from an earlier period of his life.

In the books his clone slaughtered the entire team Takeshi was working with in the past. Takeshi was incredibly afraid of his brutal clone, because of the regrets he carried from his past choices in life. The books made it feel like his past mistakes were literally hunting him in the present day.

This version of Takeshi, however, is simply a new person. Almost like a long-time brother, one who wasn’t up to speed with what had happened in the world. It felt incredibly different, and while I loved Will Yun Lee’s performance, I think his character was a bit of a wasted opportunity here. There’s so much more they could have done with him. I will admit that Stronghold Takeshi is a little ruthless in the beginning, but by the end all that is quickly erased as his character does a complete 180.

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Col. Ivan Carrera

Having Carrera as originally the dogged hunter-soldier made him a force to be reckoned with—especially in the scenes where he is brutally interrogating his prisoners. I wasn’t expecting it to then turn into something where Carrera was an old father figure to Takeshi, and go into their complicated history. It gave a more nuanced side to the character, which I actually liked. In the books he’s simply the leader of the Wedge, a military group instead of a small task force, and he does little more than fight one on one with Takeshi.

Additional mentions: Dig 301 and Danica Harlan

Both Dig 301 and Danica Harlan were technically in the books, but they had almost no part worth mentioning whatsoever. And regarding their roles, I thought they were…fine. Dig 301 simply doesn’t have the charm that Poe does, and I personally didn’t find her very interesting at all. I was happily surprised that Danica Harlan was plenty cunning, very much more than she leads on, and in that way I liked her character.

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Angel Fire

Although Sylvie/Quell was able to briefly summon Angel fire, in the books it was unexpected and not understood until afterwards. Similarly to this season, I was incredibly surprised when it happened, as there was no warning this time either. It was incredibly cool to watch Angel Fire on the screen.

Archaeologues

I was also glad they put in a little bit about the archaeologues and deciphering the symbols, like in book 2, even though it was a very small part of the story. It was interesting to see how they changed the portal from the books into the new alien ruin that it is in the season.

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Final Thoughts

If I had to compare this season to the previous season, I would say that it’s not as good as the first half of season 1, but much better than the second half of season 1. The countless naked Reileens attacking an armed Ortega just seemed too over the top and unnecessary, and then the overly dramatic scenes with Lizzie and the confrontations in the end were all new and different from the novel. Reileen, in fact, was never even mentioned in the books—it was all for the TV series. The first season was pure, classic film noir cyberpunk.

Season 2 has none of the bloat or over-dramatic scenes from the first season. It’s all very tight, self-contained narrative with a decent plot and pacing. But barring a few exceptions, nothing really shocks the viewer in this season.

Overall Verdict: 7.5/10

Although a fun and interesting season, after the first couple episodes the season started losing a lot of the Cyberpunk visuals that help make it great. There were no flying cars, or mega-cities, and there were less neon lights as the series moved inside and then into the trees outside. Its excessive violence and gore is toned down, which is great, but so is everything else—less sexuality and greater focus on family, which feels like a more PG-13 kind of season. Nonetheless, the action’s pacing, exciting plot and solid acting performances create an all-around great second season that is well worth watching.

 

Altered Carbon: Season 2 Episode 1 Review (mostly spoiler-free)

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Altered Carbon Season 2 finally released, and knowing that I’m quite busy during the week, as much as I’d like to binge watch the entire season in one sitting, I’m not the young person with tons of free time that I used to be. As such, I’ll be writing my initial thoughts on the first episode of the season (some spoilers!) and provide my review, and then I’ll write another review for the entire season as a whole.

Season 2: Taking cues from books 2 and 3

After the first season I have already caught some similarities or inspirations taken from the novels, but there’s a lot that is different as well, which is fun and refreshing in its own right.

Music Credits

I’ve always been very attentive to the music in the show, so this time I took special notice of musical composer Jeff Russo. He wasn’t credited during the title credits at the beginning of each episode in season 1 (I went back and checked) so it’s nice to see him front and center in Season 2. The music is slightly different, but still mostly the same.

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Jumping right in: Quick exposition and setup

The episode jumps right in with Poe standing in the middle of a dive bar. Without explanation. He also wasted no time explaining to a random bounty hunter (who of course is none too random) that Kovacs’ new goal is to find his long-lost love Quellcrist Falconer.

This is already very different from the books, where the love aspect is almost non-existent. Sure there is some physical chemistry in book 3, but it never goes further than that. So it’s interesting to see this new direction Kalogridis has decided to take.

I really loved the set-up where we don’t know who Kovacs is, thinking it’s Mackie hiding in the shadows somewhere, before the shocking reveal. This was a lovely surprise and even when he revealed who he was, I was still dubious in believing it. This kind of playing-with-the-potential of the stacks universe is exactly what we need in the series.

Poe: Kovacs’ new constant companion

Poe’s survival is then explained away in an off-hand remark that he survived a “vicious attack on his personality” and that while he survived, he was left glitching as a result. This becomes quickly apparent that he will now be the comic relief for the series, which works surprisingly well in my opinion. There’s a reason why everyone loved Poe from the first season.

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Spinning up into a new sleeve, one more time

I really liked the premise that Kovacs was brought back to protect a meth again, in return for being delivered to Quell. Which was why I was really disappointed when the meth was killed anyways right off the bat. What a waste! There was a lot of potential there.

I also found it surprising how hard it was for Kovacs to adapt to his new military-grade sleeve, considering as an envoy he’s supposed to be good at that. The way he summoned his handguns to his hands was a lot of fun to see, however, and is promising for more badass action to come.

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Danica Harlan: Just not the same as the old meths

Unlike the books, the Quellcrist Rebellion is still active in this version of Harlan’s world. It was interesting to be introduced to Danica through her hologram and announcement about a cease-fire with the rebels. It paints quite a stark contrast to the wealthier-looking meths from Season 1 with their heads literally in the clouds. Danica seems a lot more active in governing the people of Harlan’s world, which makes sense. She just doesn’t have the gravitas as the Season 1 Meths.

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Introducing the Yakuza: Classic Grade-A Cyberpunk Material

I really enjoyed our introduction to the Yakuza and their code of respect and conduct. Tanaseda and his grandson Yukito feature in book 3 and although the manner in which we meet them is different, Kalogridis kept true to how their characters were written, and it pays off with a really cool action scene and subsequent meeting between Taneda and Takeshi as they talk about their mutual past.

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The Gore is back, too, if you’re into that

Just like Season 1, the end of the first episode hits you with body trauma in the form of Kovacs stabbing himself in the chest in order to make his sleeve remember where Quellcrist was and help him find a lead. “State-dependent memory,” his hallucination of Quellcrist tells him. This seems like a plot device to me and honestly an unnecessary way to continue the story, but then again, Morgan was pretty gory in his books too, so I guess this isn’t exactly new.

Final Verdict: 8/10

I’d give this first episode a solid 8/10. Because of its neon-rich visuals, solid characters, fun action and a few surprising twists, it’s a great first episode. There’s nothing too deep to dig into here, however, and at times things happen that feel more like plot devices to set up the story, rather than more plausible occurrences. Nonetheless, this doesn’t detract from an otherwise very enjoyable episode, and while Poe’s discussions with Kovacs provide unnecessary exposition for the viewer, he’s still the same charming Poe as the previous season, except even better as his glitches provide a fun comic relief to the series.

Altered Carbon Season 2: Final Trailer and Release Date!

Altered Carbon is Back!

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Well, the wait has finally paid off, folks–Altered Carbon Season 2 is finally almost here! The release date has been announced for February 27th, and all eight episodes for season 2 will drop at the same time in true Netflix fashion. Make sure to keep your calendars open!

Teaser Trailer

Last week on February 4th we were blessed with a new teaser trailer for the new season, which you should check out below!

As you can see there’s a lot to unpack here. You can bet that the first time I saw this teaser trailer I paused the trailer ad nauseum to take in what each still in the trailer was telling us. We hear Anthony Mackie say the following:

“This is a ghost story. Technology has conquered death. But with endless future comes endless past. We are trailed by specters. They cling to us like shadows. But if you chase after your ghost, you just might become one.”–Takeshi Kovacs

What to Expect

In the teaser trailer we definitely see what appears to be preserved ruins of Martian bodies, which would definitely be from book 2 of the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, Broken Angels (for a primer on what happened in that novel, check out my review). We see more little scenes of what looks like Kovacs’ childhood, as well as his connections to Quellcrist Falconer, which is examined considerably in book 3, Woken Furies (which you can also read my review for here). We also see a ship exploding, which could be the one used to go through the portal in book 2, as well as Kovacs fighting an unclear group, and Kovacs in a new sleeve where he can summon handguns to his hands.

Clues from Episode Titles

We also know the names for all eight episodes, which are below:

Ep 201 “Phantom Lady” – written by Laeta Kalogridis, directed by Ciaran Donnelly

Ep 202 “Payment Deferred” – written by Sarah Nicole James, directed by Ciaran Donnelly

Ep 203 “Nightmare Alley” – written by Michael R. Perry, directed by MJ Bassett

Ep 204 “Shadow of a Doubt” – written by Sang Kyu Kim, directed by MJ Bassett

Ep 205 “I Wake up Screaming” – written by Cortney Norris, directed by Jeremy Webb

Ep 206 “Bury Me Dead” – written by Adam Lash & Cori Uchida, directed by Jeremy Webb

Ep 207 “Experiment Perilous” – written by Nevin Densham, directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield

Ep 208 “Broken Angels” – written by Alison Schapker & Elizabeth Padden, directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield

Because of the strong emphasis Season 1 and the trailer has put on Falconer, and the fact that it would be prohibitively expensive to shoot the whole season on Mars or in space, I suspect Season 2 will be taking parts of book 2 (the Martian ruins, Carerra’s Wedge, and Col. Ivan Carerra) and adding them to the plot of book 3 (finding Falconer again). Oh, and it’s set on Harlan’s World, with one main character being Danica Harlan, and that’s definitely from book 3 as well.

The fact that the last episode is called the name of book 2 is very interesting, however. The angels in question referred to spirits of the dead or gone Martians, so I wonder if that will play any part in that final episode.

A New Instagram Grid for a New Season

At around the same time the official Altered Carbon Instagram was scrubbed and refitted with promotional pictures on their grid. Just look at this beauty.

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Altered Carbon Season 2: The Main Trailer

On February 12th, about two weeks before the release of Season Two, we FINALLY got a complete trailer that dropped on YouTube. Let’s check it out below.

So one of the first things I really enjoyed seeing right off the bat was the sky above Harlan’s World. You see, Harlan’s World is where Kovacs was born and raised, where he spent his misfit youth before he joined different military outfits. On this planet, Martians left behind an array of satellites that will automatically shoot lasers to vaporize anything that goes too high in orbit over the world. As a result, it’s very difficult to get anything onto the world from space. The only way to do so is to slip in through small cracks in the defensive satellite network. No one knows why the Martians left them behind or what they were for, all they know is that they’re there and they are still operational.

Harlan’s World and the Satellites of Death

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In one of the first shots of this trailer, we can finally see how Kalogridis envisioned this satellite network of death, here dealing shots of blue lasers.

Your Resleeving is Now Complete

Anthony Mackie as Takeshi Kovacs in Altered Carbon

Mackie’s resleeving this time also looks a lot smoother than Joel Kinnaman’s resleeving. Here we get to know all the cool new military features Mackie’s sleeve will have.

Kumalo Bioware

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In the trailer Poe asks Kovacs what compelled him to return to Harlan’s World, a place he swore he would never return. He seems to respond “I’m still looking for her, and I can’t walk away.” This suggests that he came to Harlan’s World by choice this time.

Another difference here is that it looks like Kovacs will find Falconer, in her original sleeve, here on Harlan’s World. This is very different than in the book, where she was found only in digital form. Unless if in fact what we are seeing is in virtual space?

Colonel Ivan Carrera and Carrera’s Wedge

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We then see Danica Harlan ordering Col. Carrera to find and kill what I’m guessing is Kovacs and Falconer together. This would make sense, since Quell was trying to lead a rebellion against the Harlan family, and perhaps still is here in Season 2. We also hear “the whole planet is going to be hunting you” because, well, it’s literally Harlan’s World.

We are Trailed by Specters. They Cling to Us Like Shadows

Then, at 1:58, we get a very exciting view of…Will Yun Lee as the original Takeshi Kovacs! This refers directly to what happens in book 3, which I won’t spoil if you haven’t read it, but it’s very important indeed.

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So after this trailer I think I have a good idea of what to expect from Season 2. The beginning premise might not be as exciting as season 1, but once you discover the twist, it might become a lot more interesting.

What were your impressions on the Season 2 trailer? Comment below!

 

2019: A Year in Review for Cyberpunk

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A Time to Look Back

We are lucky that the end of the year brings us two weeks of holidays, for Christmas and New Year’s, where we can sit down and take a minute to reflect on what the year has brought us. My last Year in Review, for 2018, described how I learned about and became obsessed with the genre of Cyberpunk. While different from 2018 in that I now know what the term means, 2019 has been a year of incredible growth for me personally and for the genre of Cyberpunk in general. On the first few days of 2019 I wrote the following:

I wonder what 2019 will bring, but one thing I know for sure is that my love for everything Cyberpunk will continue. I will carry on consuming and writing about cyberpunk media, starting off with this new year with watching the newly released Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror, and then hopefully from watching Replicas and then Battle Angel: Alita. I’m also excited to read the newest addition to my cyberpunk library, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, as well as learning more about Philip K Dick–his life, his writing, and his philosophy.

Bandersnatch ended up being a creative new way to watch a series, but the ideas that came with it proved insufficient to warrant writing a review yet.

Replicas ended up being good, but it took me a lot longer to watch it than I expected. Alita: Battle Angel was amazing, as expected, but Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was so boring in the first 30 pages or so that I couldn’t even finish it. So that was a little disappointing.

So Many Great Surprises!

Nonetheless, I was happily surprised by a myriad of interesting new Cyberpunk releases that 2019 brought, many of which were things I could have never in my wildest dreams predicted (like Keanu being in Cyberpunk 2077 or Matrix 4 being announced!)

So now, dear reader, let’s take a look at each month and what cyberpunk news or media production was released.

Replicas

January 2019: Replicas

The year started off lightly with the indie production of Replicas, released on January 11th in the US and featuring Cyberpunk legend Keanu Reeves, who plays a neuroscientist who tries to bring his family back to life via digitizing their consciousness into clone bodies. The movie was pretty good! More of a solving-a-series-of-problems thriller a la Da Vinci Code than action or horror film. I definitely recommend seeing it though, if you haven’t already. You can check out my more in-depth review of it here. The film got very little press coverage or mention, and I think was mostly ignored by the general public due to funding. The cyberpunk genre still hadn’t grown into its own at this point.

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February 2019: Alita: Battle Angel

February 2019 came with the long-awaited GUNNM anime adaptation called Alita: Battle Angel. This movie did pretty well at the box office, and put the Cyberpunk genre back in the spotlight for the general public with its high production value and marketing. Released on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, the movie did an amazing job displaying both Motorball and Parkour in its film, while giving an overall palatable romance between the cyborg Alita and human Hugo.

Love Death and Robots

March, 2019: Love, Death & Robots

As the picture above describes, this was a NSFW (Not Suitable For Work) animated Anthology series of short stories all related loosely to the themes of Love, Death, and Robots. While some stories showed just science-fiction, and others showed just fantasy (like vampires and werewolves), there were a total of six clearly Cyberpunk episodes in this Anthology. They were Sonnie’s Edge, The Witness, Suits, Beyond the Aquila Rift, Zima Blue, and Blind Spot. For my favorites and a more in-depth review of each episode, you can check it out here. This Anthology was very interesting because it made clear, in my mind at least, the different kinds of Cyberpunk sub-genres that exist: Action, Horror, and Mystery/Drama.

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April: Organ-Harvesting and the horrors of the Uyghurs

After seeing a report of this on CNN and then later on the news, I shared the horrors of what sound like basically concentration camps for ethnic Uyghurs who are being targeted by the Chinese government. Very dystopian indeed. This story, sadly, is still developing.

Pokemon Detective Pikachu

May: Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

Despite probably not officially Cyberpunk, I shared my views on how Pokemon Detective Pikachu had some decidedly Cyberpunk themes in it. It was also an all-around fun movie to watch, especially with Ryan Reynolds voicing Pikachu.

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June: Cyberpunk 2077 Trailer with the legendary reveal of Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand

This is the moment where internet fandom went into overdrive. At E3 fans first heard Keanu Reeve’s voice, then saw his digital likeness come on screen during Cyberpunk 2077’s newest official cinematic trailer for their video game due to be released in April of next year. Few will forget the moment when Keanu himself then comes onto the stage to announce the game’s release date, and that fateful fan who yelled “you’re breathtaking!” to which Keanu responds “no, YOU’re breathtaking! You’re ALL breathtaking!” This, along with John Wick 3, officially hailed the beginning of what some are calling the Keanussance. August’s big announcement didn’t help in this regard.

July: …I’ve got nothing.

Keanu and Carrie Anne

August: Matrix 4 announced

This was perhaps the one biggest announcement that I couldn’t have even ever imagined happening in my lifetime. Matrix 4 was officially announced, with many of the actors from the original trilogy returning, including Carrie Anne-Moss and Keanu Reeves himself. Since the original announcement I have been following any further updates as we have been getting them, such as concept artists, hopes and predictions, and October and December updates.

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September: New Gameplay Trailer for Cyberpunk 2077

September brought us a new video of the gameplay we could expect in Cyberpunk 2077, including a deep dive into the locations, classes, and factions we could expect from the videogame. Which class will you be?

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October: Terminator: Dark Fate

Retconning the sequels after T-2 and intended to be a reboot of the franchise, James Cameron returned to produce this sequel, creating a movie that was pretty good in my opinion but lacked any significant wow-factor. It performed alright in the box office, but not well enough to jumpstart the franchise again. Will this be the last Terminator film we will ever see? Time will tell.

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November: Tesla’s Cybertruck

The much-teased Cybertruck was finally introduced by Elon Musk, in a manner that was probably meant to be a big trending epic reveal but ended up being a bit of an embarrassment for Elon as the supposedly bulletproof and shatterproof windows of the Cybertruck broke (twice!) during the live demonstration in the unveiling. Oops! “We’ll fix it in post” Elon tried to nonchalantly say, but the damage was (literally) already done. Nonetheless, it still turned heads and didn’t stop multiple preorders from being submitted, promising that this truck will be the newest hot item to hit the roads. Whether the trend will last, no one knows, but it was worth noting how mainstream Cyberpunk has become considering how similar the visuals and fonts were for the Cybertruck and the Cyberpunk 2077 video game. Elon is clearly a fan.

NeoSkies photo for Alex

December: Expanding the community: Interviewing and collaborating with NeoSkies

The most recent development from the last couple of months is more of a personal development which has been discovering and interacting with other Cyberpunk fans who enjoy the genre and like creating content as much as I do. One such fan has been NeoSkies. It’s been great to follow NeoSkies’ content production online with Instagram, Twitter, etc. and to engage in her surveys and discussions with the Cyberpunk Community around the world. We’re not alone! It was also similarly great for me to have the opportunity to interview NeoSkies on her process and inspiration, as well.

Looking to the Future

So what does the future hold for Cyberpunk? Something very exciting indeed. Just look at all the great content, announcements and surprises we got from 2019! So while it’s impossible to say what surprise announcements or content we will get, what we can do is predict things that are already in the pipeline and have been announced.

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  1. Altered Carbon: Season 2 should arrive to Netflix in February 2020, which will start off our year right
  2. Cyberpunk 2077 will be released in April, which should really kick the Cyberpunk genre into front and center of pop culture, especially considering it’s in the name of the game itself.
  3. Matrix 4 isn’t expected until 2021, but 2020 will bring with it more and more production and casting updates, as well as hopefully story clues, so the production of Matrix 4 will be very fun to watch. Production should begin in February as well.
  4. While not exactly Cyberpunk, Denis Villeneuve did an excellent job with Cyberpunk 2049, so his adaption of the science-fiction classic DUNE will be very exciting to see. There may be some cyberpunk elements present, but it should be a mostly science fiction tale.

So what new Cyberpunk media are you looking forward to seeing/reading/playing in 2020? Let us know in the comments below!

Review: Psycho-Pass

I’ve seen on many blogs online that Psycho-Pass is high up on the list of must-watch cyberpunk pieces, along with Ghost in the Shell in terms of quality. So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with Psycho-pass.

What is Psycho-Pass?

Psycho-Pass is a Japanese cyberpunk anime television series from 2012 about a dystopian future society where omnipresent public sensors constantly scan the mental states of citizens in order to determine their threat to society, which determines not only what freedoms they have but also what careers are best suited for them.

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The story follows Akane Tsunemori (right) in her first assignment with the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation. The series is set in futuristic Japan where a powerful network of psychometrix scanners, called the Sibyl System, actively measure the minds and mentalities of the city’s population using a “cymatic scan” in order to give them their Psycho-Pass. If the coefficient is higher than an acceptable threshold, the individual is pursued, apprehended, and killed if necessary. One of the tools of the PSB’s Criminal Investigation Unit is something called the “Enforcers”, humans (such as Shinya Kogami, left) with higher-than-acceptable crime coefficients who are used as hunting dogs basically to find latent criminals. Both the Enforcers and the Detectives use large handguns called “Dominators” that change their lethality based on the crime coefficients of the targets they are aimed upon, in real time.

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A second season was released in October 2014, with an animated film released in January 2015 and a third season is set to come out in October 2019.

Inspiration

A lot of the inspiration for Psycho-Pass came from various Western films, in particular L.A. Confidential but also from Blade Runner, Minority report, and Gattaca, with the director wanting to explore psychological themes in society’s youth using its dystopian storylines. This is clear as there are a LOT of monologues and long discussions between characters in the anime, which I suppose is pretty common among most animes anyways.

Review:

I liked Psycho-Pass enough to watch it to the end, but I felt it wasn’t as good as other animes I’ve watched like Ghost in the Shell. I liked that its story was more connected than other animes like Cowboy Bebop, and it had a good amount of Cyberpunk visuals. It had some interesting concepts that it explored, such as ethics and morals of delegating who decides whether a criminal is dangerous, and whether that is just. By using a crime-coefficient to judge a person before he or she commits a crime, it definitely felt reminiscent to Minority Report, but streamlined as that judgement is made in the gun itself. I also liked how the series tackles the question of how people would respond to violent crimes if they are not used to the idea of someone being able to do so in a supposedly utopian future where crime doesn’t really exist. But it doesn’t have that “cool” factor of the streets and high-tech of Ghost in the Shell, or of the devil-may-care attitude that Cowboy Bebop had either.

I felt sometimes that the anime could have used more action. It has a high level of detective work and it also has a healthy amount of time invested into developing the relationship between detectives and enforcers, somewhat mirroring different levels of society today. However, the use of the dominators, and the twists and turns the story took the viewer, was very entertaining. Also, the dialogues between characters on the nature of society were worthwhile and interesting as well.

My favorite random scene

There’s one particular scene that I would love to share with you that jumped out of nowhere on me during a not particularly important interaction between the villain, Makishima, and one of his partners. You can watch it here.

makishima physical books

Explained all patronizingly while enjoying some madelines with tea. How sophisticated.

The scene randomly references many different influential works of cyberpunk  (which ones? You’ll have to watch it to find out), and the villain’s love for paper books over datapad e-books because of the feel of turning the pages and the smell of the binding. This inconsequential discussion is one of many different philosophical talks that are sprinkled throughout the season.

So if you like philosophical discussions, you’ll like this series.

Overall, I would give this series 8/10. Its discussions, animation quality, detective work and world building were interesting enough, but its lack of action and sometimes slow pacing bogs it down a little. I also would have liked a little more tech-focused cyberpunk visuals, such as bionic implants or other advanced technologies past simply the dominator gun.

What did you think of the series? Did you like Psycho-Pass? Let me know in the comments below!