The first time I saw Blade Runner, I thought, "Are they just doing a Ghost in the Shell?" It was not until later I learned that Ghost in the Shell had in fact been doing a Blade Runner on us the whole time. It seems quite fitting, then, that Blade Runner has finally wound up producing a work of anime. My viewing of this short came right off the back of my second time seeing the film, so I was already familiar with the setting. Even without having seen it, this still makes for an excellent way to fill your eyeballs with a concentrated dose of sci fi action. I found Blackout 2022 to be a gorgeous, enthralling short film, well worth the time it takes to watch.
Blackout is simply a treat to look at. It utilizes more animation styles than I can hope to analyze with any degree of authority, but suffice it to say that it looks very impressive. Conspicuous CG is everywhere, but that's not a bad thing! In every instance, 3D models are skillfully implemented to create environments and set pieces--It even looks natural when 2D characters interact with 3D objects! The backgrounds, whether modeled or drawn, are deep and rich with attitude. The streets of Los Angeles as imagined in the original film feel just as dank as before, but the visual callbacks don't stop there. Beginning with slides of expository text mirroring the film, it opens into a wide, sweeping shot of the city, emulating the original flawlessly. From the looks of it, similar layering techniques may have been used to create the landscape, but with 2D assets instead of scale models. I am not a filmmaker by trade, however, so feel free to disregard my perceptions if they are wildly inaccurate.
Overall, character motion feels smooth, and designs are wholly inoffensive, if a bit uninspired. As one might expect from the director of Cowboy Bebop, the fight choreography is impeccable. The characters appear to move with fewer frames per second during the final action scene, but with the amount of money that must have been behind this I can only assume it was intentional. One thing that stood out to me was the lip syncing, which is honestly something that should NOT stand out. This appears to have been animated off of the English voice cast (Is there even a Japanese dub?), which leaves me disappointed that the lip motion is such a poor match for the dialogue.
There are a couple of sequences done in drastically different art styles. The words that come to mind are "surrealist," and "impressionist," but I haven't the fine art knowledge to say if either of those actually apply. Regardless, the distinct visuals help make clear that these scenes are set in the past, and both portray very grim scenarios. To me, the overall visual style looks like a mix between GiTS, Avatar, and Disney's Atlantis. This combined with the production origin of this short really blur the line between anime and western animation, which is nifty to see.
The sonic experience, while vastly overshadowed by the visuals, is nothing to sneeze at. Upon seeing Flying Lotus credited for music at the end, I had to take closer listen, even playing just the audio of the short in my car multiple times. His score alternates between ethereal and eclectic, changing to fit the mood of what's on screen. Lush synth pads evoke the film's OST, while eccentric drum beats highlight the action. I did find myself yearning for a bit more energy in the soundtrack, but what we get is certainly not disappointing. The voice work is unobtrusive, but a bit cheesy, the sound design is solid, and the ending song drives home the major themes of the story.
Being only 15 minutes long, there isn't much time to flesh out a story, but it packs in as much as possible over its run time. A better understanding of this world can obviously be gained by having seen the original film, but the opening text does a decent job of setting the scene as long as you're paying attention. The motivations of the characters are solidly established, and easy to empathize with. After creating an absolutely dismal scenario, it lets loose with a bombastic action sequence which delivers an immense payoff.
For the amount of time one must invest to experience this (For free, on YouTube), the amount of action, intrigue, and plain beautiful animation found within far exceeds what would be found in a typical half hour episode of anime. I have yet to see the new Blade Runner 2049, but you can bet yer biscuits I'm bitin' at the bit to. So who should watch this short? I think a better question would be who should not watch it. Please avoid this film at all costs if you despise excellent, stylized animation, action, sci fi, heavy themes of identity and discrimination, the Blade Runner franchise in general, or yourself.