One of Blade Runner 2049‘s short film spinoffs is an anime — and it’s hardly surprising. After The Animatrix and Kill Bill, Western audiences are becoming more accepting of anime tie-ins. But that’s not the only reason.
Japan loves Blade Runner. Like, a lot. And it has for a long time. It shows up all through their creations, with some instances more obvious than others. And now, the sequel film is returning the favor.
Hard Suits and Resembles
The eight-episode OVA Bubblegum Crisis is legendary in the anime world for referencing Blade Runner. Starring rocker/biker/robot fighter Priss Asagiri, it takes place in a cyberpunk future where Tokyo has been divided in two by disparities in wealth… and, you know, a big earthquake. Priss is one of four Knight Sabers, a team of girls who fight the injustices of the corporation known as Genom.
Their main job? Taking out Genom’s Boomers: humanoid robots gone bad, but originally meant to serve humanity. Sound a little familiar? As a bonus, Boomers operate a bit like Terminators.
And if you need more than plot and setting similarities, there are other nods thrown. Asagiri’s band is called Priss and the Replicants, for example. (Incidentally, the series also references the rock fairy tale Streets of Fire, especially in the opening scene. That’s a lot of 80s love!)
More recent shows still carry on the tradition. 2005’s SoltyRei also touches on the themes, featuring artificially-augmented humans known as Resembles.
Blade Runner Black Out 2022
Japan’s admiration has come full circle with Shinichi Watanabe’s short film. The Cowboy Bebop director tackles a major event in the world’s history: a blackout caused by Replicants to make a statement to the humans of the world.
But these aren’t the original film’s Nexus 6 Replicant. Now we’re working with Nexus 8 — and with their arrival comes human anger, and the start of a Replicant Registry. Two of these units, Iggy and Trixie, team up with a human admirer of Trixie’s to start the blackout.
What does this achieve? Chaos. The end of Tyrell Corporation. And a spot for Niander Wallace, played by Jared Leto in Blade Runner 2049 and his own short film, to show off his version of Replicants several years later.
Black Out sees Trixie musing to Iggy about her humanity. Will she be human after the blackout? Will she get to go to Heaven like a real human? Her admirer praises her innocence and perfection, calling her “more human than human,” as the slogan goes. But Iggy is more cynical. And by the time Wallace’s new creations are on the scene, there’s a whole new pool of problems.
Black Out is a beautiful and necessary addition to the Blade Runner 2049 short film series. Plus, it’s a chance for the anime industry to finally be part of the film that inspired it so much.