Anime icon Shinicihro Watanabe calls Blade Runner the film that’s had the greatest influence on him.
The upcoming sequel to Ridley Scott’s cyberpunk classic Blade Runner is titled Blade Runner 2049, a reflection of the follow-up being set 30 years after the original, which took place in 2019. But Blade Runner 2049’s title begs the question of what happened in the 30 years between the events of the two films.
Most likely the character dialogue in Blade Runner 2049 will contain various references and allusions to the events that transpired in the three-decade gap. But a more direct explanation is also coming our way in the form of an anime short from Shinichiro Waanabe, the celebrated creator and director of Cowboy Bebop.
Watanabe was approached with a request to create an anime that would bridge the gap between the two Blade Runner films, and it’s a project he jumped at the chance to be part of. “As an anime professional, the film that’s had the greatest influence on me has to be Blade Runner,” he says in the teaser for the short, to be called Blade Runner Black Out 2022. “When I was presented with the opportunity to work on this, I knew it was something I definitely wanted to do.”
That love for the source material is further reflected later in the video when Watanabe talks about his directorial goals for Blade Runner Black Out 2022. “There are two things I want to make sure of when making this anime,” he explains. “One is to treat the original Blade Runner with the utmost respect. The other is to make something that isn’t an imitation.”
Collaborating with Watanabe on the project’s character designs and animation direction is Shuko Murase, an anime veteran whose major credits stretch all the way back to 1988’s Yoroiden Samurai Troopers (also known as Ronin Warriors internationally) and also served as an episode director for Watanabe’s 2004 anime TV series Samurai Champloo.
In the teaser, the clips of Blade Runner Black Out 2022 are primarily character design and pencil test work (fans of old-school production techniques will be happy to see Watanabe flipping papers back and forth rather than clicking through images on a computer monitor). Still, it looks like the finished product will contain the gunplay and fisticuffs that Watanabe handles with his own personal panache.
Unfortunately, the video doesn’t say when we’ll be able to watch Watanabe’s new anime. But given that teaser bills it as “the prelude to Blade Runner 2049, it’s reasonable to expect it’ll be finished at least before the film’s October 27 Japanese release date, if not its October 6 U.S. release.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he wonders if fans will watch Blade Runner Black Out 2022 back-to-back with Bubblegum Crisis 2040 for a double-dose of cyberpunk stories with years in their titles.