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Cowboy Bebop Director Shinichiro Watanabe Made an Anime Blade Runner Short

That's the spirit!

Blade Runner: Black Out 2022
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  • Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Japan

This post was originally published on Outer Places.

Not that we're complaining, but the world of Blade Runner must have grown more complicated between the original 1982 film and the next month's upcoming sequel. Because so far, the Blade Runner 2049 marketing has been very invested in introducing viewers to the bleak, futuristic world they've built up.

Following the two prequel shorts from Ridley Scott's son Luke Scott, an upcoming third prequel will premiere at the end of the month, although this one's a little different. Instead of live action, it's an anime short from director Shinichiro Watanabe, best known for popular anime shows like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. And it's called Blade Runner: Black Out 2022, which sets it just three years after the original film, which took place in 2019.

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Here's a first look from Sony Pictures Japan, although unless you can fluently read and speak Japanese, you'll be watching this one mostly for the flashy visuals:

Watanabe will write and direct the project, which (according to a translation) tells a story involving a large power outage across the United States' west coast. The director cites the original Blade Runner as a huge contribution to his work, and while there's no further plot details, he promised that his short should pay respect to the original without feeling like an imitation - essentially, what 2049 needs to do if it wants to succeed.

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It might be better to look at Watanabe's Cowboy Bebop work in this case, because that series—which followed two easygoing bounty hunters as they traveled through space to seedy, crime-ridden locales—had some unmistakeable Blade Runner influences. It might be a few cyborgs short of going full cyberpunk, but it more than establishes Watanabe's credentials for a Blade Runner project. Watanabe also worked on The Animatrix in 2003, which certainly helps.

It seems likely that, based on the character art, the short will feature mostly new characters, unless there was an anime Harrison Ford hidden in there somewhere. So while this short won't include a replicant Dave Bautista like the last one, it's a chance to do some extra world-building with new faces, which could be fun.

Hell, if Watanabe wanted to just recreate Bebop heroes Spike and Jet in the Blade Runner universe and make them hunt replicants, that'd probably make for a great story. But otherwise, while this doesn't sound like necessary viewing for the sequel, it's a promising chance to revisit the cool yet existentially depressing world of the films. We'll see when it comes out next week.

The full Black Out 2022 short will premiere on Sony Pictures Japan's YouTube channel on September 26, 2017. Not long after, Blade Runner 2049 comes to theaters on October 6, 2017.

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Featured still from "Blade Runner: Black Out 2022" via Sony Pictures Japan