Blade Runner Spoofed in Three Japanese Commercials (and Generally Loved in Japan)

Blade Run­ner’s vision of a thor­ough­ly Japan­i­fied Los Ange­les in the year 2019 reflects the west­ern eco­nom­ic anx­i­eties of the ear­ly 1980s. And while that once far-flung year may not have come quite yet, Japan — giv­en the burst­ing of its post­war finan­cial bub­ble and the “lost decade” of the 1990s that fol­lowed — looks unlike­ly to own a frac­tion as much of the Unit­ed States as Rid­ley Scot­t’s Philip K. Dick adap­ta­tion (and many oth­er futur­is­tic sto­ries besides) assumed it even­tu­al­ly would. Still, the film’s cul­tur­al proph­esy came true: even dur­ing its eco­nom­ic stag­na­tion, Japan exer­cised more “soft pow­er” than ever before, turn­ing the world to the unique claims of its cul­ture, from the refine­ment of its cui­sine to the hyper­ac­tive exu­ber­ance of its music and ani­ma­tion to the match­less ele­gance of its tra­di­tion­al aes­thet­ics.

Even as Blade Run­ner showed us how much Japan­ese style would one day influ­ence, the style of the film had, for its part, an imme­di­ate influ­ence on Japan. Though famous­ly unap­pre­ci­at­ed by west­ern­ers on its ini­tial release (“a waste of time,” said Siskel and Ebert), its pro­to-cyber­punk sen­si­bil­i­ty won the hearts of Japan­ese view­ers, and Japan­ese cre­ators, right away. The video at the top of the post col­lects three Japan­ese tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials that both spoof and pay homage to Blade Run­ner: the first for the Hon­da Beat, a Japan-only road­ster; the sec­ond (an astute par­o­dy of a par­tic­u­lar­ly mem­o­rable scene) for Meni­con con­tact lens­es; and the third for mobile ser­vice provider J‑Phone.

But the movie’s effect on Japan did­n’t stop at the adver­tis­ing indus­try. The 1987 ani­mat­ed series Bub­blegum Cri­sis, which fol­lows the adven­tures of a cyborg-bat­tling team in the “Mega Tokyo” of 2032, plays so much like a home­grown Blade Run­ner that a fan could cre­ate the sec­ond video above: an ani­mat­ed recre­ation of Blade Run­ner’s trail­er, using all its orig­i­nal sound, with Bub­blegum Cri­sis’ footage. The 1988 video game Snatch­er stars the decid­ed­ly Har­ri­son-For­dian Gillian Seed, a detec­tive in pur­suit of the tit­u­lar killer androids in the “Neo Kobe” of 2044. You can still semuch of what the film inspired, and what inspired in the film, in major Japan­ese cities today. Even Los Ange­les has made strides here and there toward the Blade Run­ner future, though I regret to admit that we still await our tow­er-side geisha.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art of Mak­ing Blade Run­ner: See the Orig­i­nal Sketch­book, Sto­ry­boards, On-Set Polaroids & More

The Blade Run­ner Pro­mo­tion­al Film

Blade Run­ner: The Pil­lar of Sci-Fi Cin­e­ma that Siskel, Ebert, and Stu­dio Execs Orig­i­nal­ly Hat­ed

Philip K. Dick Pre­views Blade Run­ner: “The Impact of the Film is Going to be Over­whelm­ing” (1981)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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