Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to the classic science fiction film, will release globally on October 6th. To link the original film with the new one, three shorter pieces were developed; the last of these was created by Shinichiro Watanabe, the great anime director, and explains events in 2022, just three years after those in the first film. Action-packed and thoughtful, it’s a smart companion piece to include with the upcoming film, and one that should help a generation unaware of Blade Runner immediately understand the nature of the franchise.
Iggy, an AWOL soldier, is one of the Nexus-8, replicants (androids) that unlike previous models, have a typical, human lifespan. They continue to question their existence, though, as with previous models, and in light of violence committed upon replicants by humans (and by humans against each other using replicants), several hatch a schemed to plunge humanity into the dark ages. Iggy is joined in the venture by Trixie, a replicant he rescued, and her boyfriend, a human with access to an EMP missile.
I’ve been waiting for this short with as much anticipation as Blade Runner 2049 itself. Watanabe is perhaps my favorite director, having developed some of my favorite series – Cowboy Bebop, Kids on the Slope, and Zankyou no Terror among them. And there are glimpses of those series in this piece, including questions about what terrorism means and if it’s ever good (ZnT), and an homage to Julia (Cowboy Bebop – see below). Watanabe also previously directed “Kid’s Story” and “A Detective’s Story,” which I remember fondly from The Animatrix (and remember as both being superior to the Matrix sequels), so he’s delved into this exact territory before. He was the perfect selection to bring thoughtful storytelling to a short – something vital in a series that asks those thoughtful questions of what it means to be human – what it means to be perfect.
The animation is mostly wonderful, too. Watanabe moves back and forth between different different styles, and he cranks up the action with a good budget for 10 minutes of footage. Explosions are animated well, and the fight with Trixie is top notch. He does, however, struggle with CGI, which looks off (not purposely); the writing is also a little off and feels, well, every 1980’s and very Blade Runner – which indeed might be on purpose.
Regardless, the whole of Blade Runner Black Out 2022 is amazing and both a great entry point for those unfamiliar with Blade Runner and a good reminder and piece of fan service (and in particular a portion involving Gaff) for those who are already fans. It’s more than worth ten minutes of your time. And let’s hope that it’s a vision of things to come, a great forerunner for 2049, and not as with The Matrix Reloaded – the best part of the sequel.
Blade Runner Black Out 2022 is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.