Shinichiro Watanabe’s signature anime style is on display in Blade Runner Blackout 2022.

Well that was quick.

Earlier this month we found out that Shinichiro Watanabe, the anime director behind Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Space Dandy, was working on an anime that would help bridge the narrative gap between the original Blade Runner and its upcoming sequel, Blade Runner 2049. Now, not quite two weeks later, the short, titled Blade Runner Black Out 2022, is finished and free-to-watch in YouTube.

As indicated by its title, the anime takes place in 2022, three years after the events of the first Blade Runner. It opens with on-screen text explaining that a new type of Replicant (the Blade Runner franchise’s human-like sentient machines) has been introduced, but that that there’s also been a growing backlash against them, with human supremacists using the Replicant Registration database to track down and exterminate Replicants.

This brings us to Trixie, a sex worker Replicant who’s being confronted by three armed men in a dark, rainy alleyway. Before she becomes the victim of their violent and carnal urges, however, she’s rescued by Iggy, an escaped military-use Replicant, who dispatches her antagonists in a very messy way.

Following this chance encounter, Trixie decides to throw her lot in with a plot by Iggy and his comrades to destroy the Replicant Registration data centers and launch an EMP attack against humanity, as part of a ploy to allow Replicants to fully blend in with the human population. The opportunity gels neatly with Trixie’s recent remunerations on the nature of her existence, as she’s come to question whether she’s anything more to her than just a doll with consciousness, if it’s possible for her to become human, and what happens to Replicants when they “die.”

When the time comes for the attack, Trixie shows off some impressive combat skills, considering that up until the events of the video she’s been essentially just a robot prostitute. But Watanabe only has so much time to work with, and wisely decided that rather than spend precious minutes showing how Trixie became such a capable combatant, audiences would be more satisfied if that time was used to show her turning a truck’s side-view mirror into a deadly weapon and using martial arts to defeat gun-wielding opponents in close quarters.

The fight choreography is heavily reminiscent of Watanabe’s work in Cowboy Bebop, with a rhythm to the strikes and a palpable weight as they hit the target. Speaking of rhythm, while there’s none of the full-blown jazz of Bebop or Watanabe’s 2012 TV series Kids on the Slope, there is a jazzy beat to much of the music’s percussion arrangement.

At times, though, Blade Runner Black Out 2022 also seems to take influences from other anime creators. A scene of Iggy and Trixie driving down a highway at night, with their faces intermittently illuminate by the streetlight, feels a bit like a similar sequence in director Mamoru Oshii’s Patlabor 2, and some of the abstract art in flashbacks brings to mind Final Fantasy character designer Yoshitaka Amano’s intricate line work.

At roughly 15 minutes in length, Blade Runner Black Out 2022 is generously long for a free-to-watch anime from one of the industry’s most respected creators. The Japanese-dialogue version above, released through Sony Pictures Japan’s official YouTube channel, sadly lacks subtitles. However, an English-dialogue version is not only mentioned in the credits, but is already complete, with a leaked version briefly uploaded to YouTube before being taken down following a complaint from U.S.-based anime streaming service Crunchyroll. That would suggest that Blade Runner Black Out 2022 will be available for viewing on Crunchyroll in the near future, likely before Blade Runner 2049’s October 3 world premiere in Los Angeles.

Source: YouTube/SonyPicturesJapan via IT Media
Images: YouTube/SonyPicturesJapan

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