Watch the New Anime Prequel to Blade Runner 2049, by Famed Japanese Animator Shinichiro Watanabe

The run-up to Blade Run­ner 2049, befit­ting what now looks like the cin­e­mat­ic event of the decade, has con­sist­ed of not just mar­ket­ing hype (though it does include plen­ty of that) but gen­uine artis­tic mate­r­i­al as well. Last month we fea­tured Nexus: 2036, the first of three short “pre­quels” to Denis Vil­leneu­ve’s upcom­ing Blade Run­ner sequel. That one and its fol­low up 2048: Nowhere to Run, both direct­ed by Luke Scott (son of Blade Run­ner direc­tor Rid­ley Scott), use live action to fill in some of the sto­ry between the 2019 of the first movie and the 2049 of the sec­ond. The just-released third short, Black Out 2022, from Cow­boy Bebop direc­tor Shinichirō Watan­abe, brings the Blade Run­ner uni­verse into the realm of Japan­ese ani­ma­tion.

Blade Run­ner was def­i­nite­ly the movie that influ­enced me the most as an ani­me direc­tor,” says Watan­abe in the pre­view of his pre­quel down below. He and oth­er Japan­ese view­ers under­stood the film’s pow­er long before most any­one in the West (with the notable excep­tion of Philip K. Dick, author of its source mate­r­i­al), and Japan­ese artists began pay­ing trib­ute to it almost imme­di­ate­ly.

In a sense, Blade Run­ner took ani­me form thir­ty years ago: Kat­suhi­to Akiya­ma’s ani­mat­ed series Bub­blegum Cri­sis, the sto­ry of arti­fi­cial humans (called “booomers” instead of repli­cants) run amok and the advanced police team (called “Knight Sabers” instead of “Blade Run­ners”) who hunt them down in a Tokyo of the future rebuilt after a dis­as­trous earth­quake, could hard­ly wear its influ­ence more open­ly.

Filled with visu­al, son­ic, and the­mat­ic ref­er­ences to the orig­i­nal Blade Run­ner while tak­ing the sto­ry in new direc­tions — and also intro­duc­ing two new repli­cant char­ac­ters — Watan­abe’s Black Out 2022–view­able up top–depicts the events lead­ing up to the det­o­na­tion of an elec­tro­mag­net­ic pulse that destroys the elec­tron­ics and machin­ery on which human­i­ty has become so reliant. Human­i­ty blames the repli­cants, and so begins a peri­od of pro­hi­bi­tion on repli­cant pro­duc­tion, only brought to an end by the efforts of Nian­der Wal­lace, the char­ac­ter so eeri­ly played by Jared Leto in Nexus: 2036Blade Run­ner 2049 will pick things up 26 years after the EMP attack. What shape will Los Ange­les be in then? What shape will the cat-and-mouse game between repli­cants and Blade Run­ners take there? We’ll find out, and sure­ly in no small amount of detail, next month.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jared Leto Stars in a New Pre­quel to Blade Run­ner 2049: Watch It Free Online

Blade Run­ner 2049’s New Mak­ing-Of Fea­turette Gives You a Sneak Peek Inside the Long-Await­ed Sequel

The Offi­cial Trail­er for Rid­ley Scott’s Long-Await­ed Blade Run­ner Sequel Is Final­ly Out

Watch an Ani­mat­ed Ver­sion of Rid­ley Scott’s Blade Run­ner Made of 12,597 Water­col­or Paint­ings

Watch Tears In the Rain: A Blade Run­ner Short Film–A New, Unof­fi­cial Pre­quel to the Rid­ley Scott Film

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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