Anime Runner

Confession time: I’m not a big fan of Blade Runner. Ignoring a sex scene that may or may not qualify as rape, the movie’s also way too slow and the antagonist’s closing speech doesn’t resonate personally. It’s possible that I’d need to re-watch it, it’s definitely been a while, but while I respect the movie for its impact on film culture, as far as Phillip K. Dick film adaptations go, give me Minority Report.

I mention this in light of some news from Kotaku about an anime short-film called Blade Runner Blackout 2022. Chances are that it’ll have debuted on YouTube by the time this piece goes live, but I figured I’d share my thoughts anyway. And to be perfectly honest, I was debating if I should write this on Infinite Rainy Day, or if it should be an exclusive on my personal blog because “general film culture”. But I decided to go for here in the end, albeit a bit late. That half of my week was gone because of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah didn’t help much.

Here’s what I know about Blade Runner Blackout 2022: for one, it takes place several years after the events of the original film, presumably as a tie-in to the upcoming Blade Runner 2049. The short will, as indicated by the title, take place during a blackout. My guess is that it'll play out as a small-scale thriller, akin to a science-fiction version of a Hitchcockian classic. That alone shows promise, as Hitchcock once made a movie about two guys hosting a party in a room where they’d buried a man, called it Rope and, despite initial dissatisfaction, crafted a classic. Small-scale thrillers, when done well, have real potential.

And two, and this needs emphasizing, the choice of director is particularly-inspired: Shinichirō Watanabe. Watanabe’s one of anime's greatest living auteurs, right up there with Hayao Miyazaki, on the directing front. His style of collage-esque, cinematic directing has brought classics like Cowboy Bebop and Kids on the Slope to life, and even when a project is a mess (see Terror in Resonance) he still leaves a mark. So Watanabe directing anything, let-alone a Blade Runner spin-off, is a big deal, not to mention exciting.

I’m especially excited because of the potential this has for cross-market appeal. Remember how disappointing the live-action Ghost in the Shell was, despite looking faithful to the source material on the surface? Part of that was a misunderstanding of what made the original material work, as well as a lack of anything new to offer. Blade Runner being adapted into anime, by Watanabe-san no-less, could have the opposite effect; after all, not only has it inspired other classic anime, like the aforementioned Ghost in the Shell, but it’s being helmed by a legend in the anime world. Even if the end-result is disappointing, it’ll make a mark by the sheer fact of talent involved.

And honestly, I think that’s great. The West has long damned anime as “bizarre”, not taking into account the nuances of the medium and its ability to tell serious and complex stories. Anime fans know this, but the West has still to fully understand the gravitas of Eastern storytelling. Factor in that both West and East have a tendency to cross-pollinate their ideas-one could argue that Blade Runner has had more of an impact on Japan than here-and there’s real potential for enhancing the legacy of a classic film.

Besides, wouldn’t it be great if the anime adaptation of a Hollywood film outdid the Hollywood adaptation of an anime film? A sort of twist on expectations? We frequently say that anime adaptations, like video game adaptations, are doomed to fail because Hollywood doesn’t understand what made them work, so why not have that claim shattered? Why not have the anime show Hollywood “how it’s done”? Wouldn't that be neat?

Really, I want this Tweet that was sent to me recently to become invalid:
“When I think Blade Runner and anime, I think Ghost in the Shell.”
Think about the implications of that: Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell have become so closely-connected, as the former inspired the latter, that they’re practically cross-cultural companion pieces. Wouldn’t it be great if Blade Runner Blackout 2022 became another link in the discourse? Wouldn’t it be great to point the above Tweeter, who happens to be a huge Blade Runner fan, to some franchise media in anime form, if only to encourage conversation? I certainly think so!

And yes, there's always a chance that this’ll be a failure. Not only is film that unpredictable, in that something can go wrong at any point during production, but Shinichirō Watanabe’s directorial prowess is notorious for going off-the-rails when not backed by a guiding hand in the writing department (see the aforementioned Terror in Residence). Not to mention, he's not the most-inspired writer, as evidenced by his solo scripting credit in Cowboy Bebop. But I'm still hopeful. It could go both ways, but we’ll know for sure come September 26th.


  1. The short was really good TvT... it was, well, short to say the least; yet it expanded upon the Blade Runner world without feeling superficial, as well as overflowing with style inspired from BR as well as invented on its own. 2017 GITS can't even dream to compare lol

    1. I guess I have something to look forward to, then!


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