Come for the Japanese anime references, stay for the plot-changing twist that’s blown viewers’ minds.

Ever since making its TV debut back in 2013, animated sci-fi sitcom Rick and Morty has been taking audiences on a wild ride through infinite realities and alternate dimensions where anything is possible and nothing is what it seems.

Recently, however, eccentric mad scientist Rick and his 14-year-old grandson Morty — inspired by Doc Brown and Marty McFly from the Back to the Future franchise — have taken their adventures to some more familiar settings in a number of animated shorts uploaded to the Adult Swim YouTube channel.

One of these shorts saw them duelling it out as samurai characters in old Japan, and now the duo have travelled to the bustling capital of Tokyo in the present day, with a whole lot of anime and pop culture references thrown into the mix.

Anime fans will spot allusions to classics like Dragon Ball and Akira, while Rick and Morty fans will be picking their jaws up off the floor as the video appears to confirm a fan theory that Rick and Morty are actually the same person.

Take a look at the clip below:

There’s a lot to unpack from that eight-and-a-half-minute-long clip so let’s rewind to the beginning, where Rick arrives at Haneda Airport by plane and meets up with a tattooed yakuza member who offers him coffee milk at the public bathhouse.

Some familiar Tokyo sites are shown here, including Tokyo TowerAsakusa’s Kaminarimon at Sensoji and the world-famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing, where it’s explained that existences are being eliminated as pasts are erased by the Genocider.

Tokyo has almost been wiped out, except for “one place that just keeps on humming” — Kabukicho in Shinjuku. This popular entertainment district, described by Morty as “a city of sex, violence and gambling“, is perfectly rendered in the clip — albeit with more street violence — thanks to director Takashi Sano and Telecom Animation Film (Detective Conan, Lupin III), the studio responsible for the animation.

Artistic interpretation allows for a giant Playboy Bunny to appear in the spot where the giant Godzilla head sits at Kabukicho.

Rick and Morty’s Japanese voice actors, Yohei Tadano and Keisuke Chiba, reprise their roles for this animated clip, and when the two meet up in Kabukicho, there’s an exchange that appears to confirm the fan theory that the two characters are actually one person. 

During this scene, the transparent wall between them effectively melds Morty’s face with Rick’s reflection and as they overlap, Rick promises that the two of them will go on adventures again soon, saying poignantly: “Our time is our own. I won’t let them touch it.” He then bids his grandson farewell with “Catch you later then, Rick Sanchez!” and at this point, Morty looks just as puzzled as us, as this effectively means Rick is saying goodbye to Rick, and therefore, they are the same person.

He then takes off to fight the Genocider, after giving the younger Rick a potion that’ll turn him into Rip Van Winkle once the older Rick is gone. An epic fight scene ensues, playing out like a scene from Dragon Ball as Rick goes Super Saiyan to become “Super Rick”, and culminating in an orbital explosion that looks eerily similar to the one seen in Akira, the 1988 post-apocalyptic animated film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo.

Rick is annihilated, and as the clip ends, Jerry can be heard leaving a message for his dad Rick on the phone with news of his son’s birth, saying “We’ve named him Morty!” The silhouette of a new Rick, presumed to be the old Morty, then picks up his iconic hip flask and replaces it with the empty potion bottle, suggesting it wasn’t just alcohol in the hip flask but a potion to erase old memories and stop him from reverting back to Morty all along.

That’s when we’re reminded of something profound that was mentioned early on in the clip: Existences are predicated on memory and time is a crossover of shared memories. As Morty takes the Rip Van Winkle potion and ages into Rick at the time of Morty’s birth, a new timeline with new memories is created, suggesting this may well be the origin story behind the two title characters as we know them.

Or it could just be yet another entry into the never-ending, cyclical, punch-in-punch-out transient nature of Rick and Morty, who morph in and out of forms all the time as they explore infinite realms of time and space.

Nonetheless, we like the idea of huge plot twists in Rick and Morty occurring in Japan, especially in the backstreets of a brightly lit Kabukicho. Because, as we all know, Kabukicho is the place where all sorts of things can happen.

Source: YouTube/Adult Swim 
Images: YouTube/Adult Swim
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