In 2022, an EMP detonation has caused a global blackout that has massive, destructive implications all over the world. Directed by Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo's Shinichiro Watanabe, Blade Runner: Black Out 2022 is a new and highly-anticipated animated short which serves as a prologue for the upcoming feature film Blade Runner 2049.
The skies are pitched black, darkness has fallen across the land, and the only form of light comes from countless flames; always burning fiercely with no sign of dying down. Amid the blaze lies a figure shrouded in shadows, traversing the fires unfazed, unmoved. In their hand lies a small round figure, otherwise unrecognizable from the sheer dimness of the scene. They move closer to the flames. It’s a man. He is still covered in shadows, but a red light can be seen from his left eye. Before anymore can be perceived, the scene cuts to a city, with the camera panning across the metropolis.
The city: Los Angeles, and despite the infinite amount of lights and vehicles in the area, it looks the opposite; dark and barren, almost lifeless.
Blade Runner: Black Out 2022 is an animated short directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, as part of a three-short series detailing key events that take place between the original Blade Runner film, and the 2017 sequel, Blade Runner 2049. Black Out occurs three years after the first film, where the powerful Tyrell Corporation have manufactured and released ‘Series 8’ Replicants (androids), all purpose-built with a natural lifespan. However, the desire for autonomy rises amongst Replicants, leading to the Human Supremacy movement. Their aim: Find and kill these Replicants. Despite being artificial humans, the Replicants are the ones in danger and on the run, especially given that their identities are all registered for the public to find. The short specifically follows two Replicants, Iggy and Trixie, as they attempt to wipe out the registry. What entails is as action-packed and thoughtful as what you would expect from the Blade Runner franchise in a 15-minute short.
The original Blade Runner is considered one of the most influential science-fiction films ever made, delving into the implications of technology on the environment and society through the guise of an action plot on the surface. In Black Out, these implications are prominent here through the sheer imagery alone; the city of Los Angeles coming off more like a corporation than a city of people; it has control over atmosphere, giving this general sense of omnipresence and paranoia whenever the city is shown. This, along with a near complete absence of natural life makes the setting look more like a wasteland despite the obvious advances in technology present. The humans in Los Angeles are also shown to have no sense of care or empathy for Replicants at all, further emphasizing how the Replicants appear more relatable and “human” than our own species. One of the humans working alongside Iggy and Trixie reflects on this, stating how humans are stupid and selfish creatures compared to Replicants.
Identity is another prime theme feature in Black Out in regard to Replicants in general. In one of Iggy’s flashback, Replicants were shown to have been used as pawn soldiers to fight each other on opposing sides, identified through labels on the eye. Iggy intends to destroy this sense of purpose from his own identity by destroying the registry; the one thing that separates him from humans in the public eye. Trixie also wishes to be seen as a human, but in this short, she’s fighting her own little dilemma. She, like Pris from the original, were created purely for entertainment, highlighted here in the first scene Trixie appears in. This is further emphasized as her appearance then is strikingly similar to the doll she carries with her. It is not until later where she ditches the doll to fight alongside Iggy where she asserts herself as more than a lifeless toy. This defining moment could have used more time for better focus and overall progression, but it is a worthwhile attempt with a 15-minute duration. Her short exploration was to me, similar to Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell, a franchise inspired by the complex themes, visuals and unconventional plot of the original film.
Perhaps the best part of Black Out is the production side; it looks incredible. Despite being animation, the short carries on the same unique visual style and neo-noir tone from the live-action, whilst also bearing similarities to other cyberpunk anime like Ergo Proxy. The blend of different animation styles works wonderfully here and never feels out of place. The fight scenes here were technically sound matched with incredibly fluid animation. Watanabe’s direction during the action scenes is also stellar, but then again this is the same guy who directed anime the likes of Cowboy Bebop and Terror in Resonance. The short also manages to pay homage to these two shows with some scenes as well. The soundtrack is also noteworthy, being a nice blend of Blade Runner’s eerie melodies and jazz-inspired themes from Bebop. Never stands out but compliments many scenes very well. The ending song, “Almost Human” is a great tune to end the short off with, further adding to the overall aesthetic along with nearly every other technical aspect. It is rare to find a show that able to depict a specific atmosphere and mood that both brings viewers out of their comfort zone, yet keeps them intrigued with what they’re watching, and Black Out is a great example of this.
Blade Runner: Black Out 2022 exceeds expectations for what it is able to do in 15 minutes. There are some issues with the story and pacing, and I would have liked to see more in the way of characters despite adequate background knowledge was given on them, but at the end of the day those complaints should not stop you from watching this. I’m still amazed at how it manages to be so thoughtful and use symbolism reminiscent of the original film. And even if the thematic part of it does not interest you, the action scenes and overall presentation is worth seeing as well. As a fan of the franchise I am satisfied with this entry and look forward to how it relates to Blade Runner 2049.
The fact that this shoft anime film exists is somewhat of a small miricle.
It all begins with Ridley Scott's 1982, cult classic sci-fi film, Blade Runner. A film derived loosely from Philip K. Dick's novel titled "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". It explores philosophical issues related to the over-arching theme of the impacts that technology has on society, i.e. designing robots (Replicants) that are visually the same as humans, and progressing them to a point where they themselves believe that they are human.
And now, thirty-five years later, writor, editor and director Denis Villeneuve continues the saga not only with a sequel
to the original Blade Runner, but also three short films dedicated to the story that occurs between the original and the upcoming sequel (Blade Runner 2049).
In the opening sequence of the Blade Runner: Black Out 2022, before the anime begins, Villeneuve says:
"I decided to ask a couple of artists, that I respect, to create three short stories that dramatise some key events that occured after 2019, when the first 'Blade Runner' takes place... I am honored that Watanabe, whose work I deeply admire, agreed to create this short anime for you."
Now that you've got some background of this whole situation, let's begin with the review.
The anime itself is very short with a runtime of around fifteen minutes including the credits. I never thought I'd be giving such a short piece, such a high rating. It is extremely difficult to convey a story in such a short time, but I believe that this team has pulled it off superbly!
I believe that the two factors that contribute to the success of this anime are the art and sound. Fans of the original Blade Runner will be pleased to know that the dark and brooding atmosphere that the film is known for, is well 'Replicated' (sorry, not sorry) in the anime. The environments are meticulously detailed; the sense of paranoia and suffocation from the elements in the background is ever present. The sheer lack of natural beauty and the looming presense of an entirely corporate society creates tension and emphasizes the environments themselves. The animation is shared between various styles which switch up at a moments notice. It is this genius ability to depict a certain mood with the style of art, that other anime really tend to lack. While other anime may find themselves stuck to one format or style of art/animation, Black Out is able to fluidly and flexibly change to match the mood the director is trying to evoke in the audience. Good examples of this technique can be found in shows such as FLCL and Mob Psycho 100. The animation is incredibly fluid in parts, almost mesmerizing (as expected of Watanabe's direction).
I also want to appreciate that the title cards in between sequences use the same typeface and colors as those used in the original Blade Runner. It's a nice touch.
Following this, the sound is utterly fantastic. Once again, fans of the original Blade Runner are going to be pleased. It is as if they have simply reprised the OST from the original for this anime, but obviously, it is much more than that. The background music reflects the dreamy and grimy-ethereal aethestic of the dystopian future in which the anime is set. There is a contrast between the hard-hitting and deep orchestral pieces (the opening piece in particular, which mirrors the opening to the original almost to a tee - not to mention the visuals), the fast-paced jazzy tunes one might associate with Cowboy Bebop and the futuristic electronic beats full of washed out sounds and synthesizers. Also, it would be a crime not to mention the powerful song that begins to play as the credits roll. "Almost Human", very aptly named. It's a fantastic way to close out the anime, and adds an extra layer of depth to the finale (once you've seen it).
In regards to story and character, I believe that they rely heavily on these points that I've made about the art and sound. The show, technically, is character-driven, and the characters that have been presented are a trio, Iggy, Ren and the most important, Trixie. For the sake of a spoiler-free review, I can't really go into them, as this is such a short film that pretty much any information beyond their names could potentially spoil the show. To simplify, I think that the characters were well portrayed for the short amount of screentime they were allowed. Each character's background was given a small, yet efficient, look. Such efficiency was key in allowing the viewer to make a connection to the characters in such a short time - it also gives them purpose and feeling more than just plot devices. There is some very blatant Biblical symbolism towards the end, it works well with the scene and adds some extra depth to the action at the time - this form of symbolism is also found in the original film. There are several other one-shot background characters. Upon re-watching a few times, it is nice to see that the dialogue they are given actually does help establish setting in this world set three years after the original Blade Runner.
Lastly, was my enjoyment. I was really hyped up for this anime and I think that my hype was well-founded. I enjoyed watching this anime and I enjoyed it the next three times over as well. It appears to be a perfect gateway for people who have not yet been introduced to anime, as it is set in the universe of one of the most recognizeable cult films in movie history.
'Blade Runner: Black Out 2022' is a fantastic anime! Well worth a watch or two! My final verdict is an overall 9/10. My only gripe is that due to the length of the film, the true issues that come bundled with the Blade Runner universe weren't fully fleshed out (they were definitely addressed and explored, but certainly left something to be desired. I guess we'll get our fill when Blade Runner 2049 comes out). In some ways, it might be said that the length of this short was symbolic in the fact that life is fickle and fleeting - that in only 15 minutes, so much can change - and we are but transient members of society simply coming and going. In reality, if that's the only negative thing I have to say about the show, then I am very pleased. Although, I can imagine that a viewer who hasn't seen the original could be a little confused and likely a little dissatisfied with the result.
Thank you for reading my review! This is the first review I have ever written, and I decided that I'd try to go all out for the sake of the first review on an anime that might affect the future of the anime industry itself.
This coming October will see the release of probably one of the most anticipated sequel release in recent memory,Blade Runner 2049.It's been 35 years since the original and the fans had quite the wait to once again delve into the mastercraft world that Ridley Scott built and who else could do it better than probably the best director of this generation Denis Villeneuve.Before the film is released 3 prequel shorts are being released to let the viewers know what awaits them and the final short which is an anime is directed by one of my most favorite director Shinichiro Watanabe.
First of all lets get this
out of the way,it's a Watanabe work.Of Course it's gonna look absolutely gorgeous.This short takes place 3 years after the main events of the original.I'd like to delve into the plot but it's only 15 minutes so,I can't say anything without spoiling it.It took me 3-4 minutes to get into the plot because I haven't watched Blade Runner in more than 2 years.A nice reminder though to revisit the original.This is a very short and compact thought provoking work jammed with breathtaking action sequences.Specially the scene towards the end was brilliantly well choreographed.The original Blade Runner is one of the most though provoking work I've seen across any medium of entertainment and is probably just beaten out by 2001:A Space Odyssey and End of Evangelion.The animation is gorgeous.Watanabe masterfully jumps back and forth between different animation styles.The CG is a bit off though.There's a lot of easter eggs for the fans of the classic.Specially towards the end there's a certain symbolism that was a reminiscent of the original's brilliant ending.Watch out for an absolutely brilliant ending track.I've been listening to it all night.
I know that I am coming across as a fanboy of the classic 1982's Blade Runner but it's because I am one.It's one of my all time favorite film heck it's one of the greatest film ever made.If you have not watched this masterpiece than I implore you go and watch it now and then watch all three short pieces.The shorts are nothing short of brilliant.
To explain Blackout 2022 I best start out this quick review explaining what Blade Runner actually is. Blade Runner is a 1982 Hollywood science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott. Set in 2019 it depicts a dystopian Los Angeles under the influence of the Tyrell Corporation, who manufacture advanced human-like androids known as replicants. These androids were designed to work in the off-world colonies although a number have escaped back to earth illegally. Those that do so are hunted and ‘retired’ by a special police force known as blade runners.
Blackout 2022 serves as a bridge between the original 1982 movie and the upcoming Blade
Runner 2049 movie, depicting a significant event that occurred during the time between the two movies, and sets up the premise for the latter. Following two replicants Blackout 2022 briefly depicts the challenges and discrimination that replicants face and the lengths they’re willing to go in order to save themselves. Due to its short running time the episode isn’t able to go into much characterization, but it does enough to inform the viewer about the world of Blade Runner and provide them an understanding of who replicants are and their interaction with humans.
Directed by Shinichirou Watanabe, the episode is a visual treat! The animation for the characters is crisp, the action sequences are fluid and artistic, while the environments are well detailed, especially the final scene which depicts the famous symbolism of Los Angeles in the original film. Overall it perfectly replicates (yes I went there, deal with it) the dark gritty environment of the original film. The soundtrack complements the episode well with electronic ambient tracks that capture the eerie futuristic feel of dystopian Los Angeles.
Overall Blackout 2022 is short and sweet as it does so much in such a small amount of time. Fans of the original film will appreciate how the episode respects and replicates the dystopian environment of Los Angeles, while those who haven’t seen the film will enjoy the brief world-building that the episode provides. Even if you’re not a fan of Blade Runner you should still watch this just for the beautiful visuals and soundtrack.