Anime and Blade Runner
Blade Runner, a very interesting sci series now that I can’t help but love. If there one one singular piece of American fiction that has affected a lot of anime from the 1980’s and onwards, it’s Blade Runner. This film that eventually became a cultural icon, flopped in the west when it came out. Even if it became huge later, it didn’t work back then for a lot of reasons, but you can see so many of its effects on anime from the obvious Bubblegum Crisis whose main character is literally named after a character in Blade Runner amongst other things or Ghost in the Shell. Those are only two out of so many that I could list. There was something about the aesthetic and the ideas of Blade Runner that just appealed to everyone who created some anime that a lot of people wanted to make their own.
So that leads to the actual Blade Runner anime series. Well, we should talk about Blade Runner: Black Out first. A little piece of anime directed by Shinichiro Watanabe that came out around the time Blade Runner 2049 came out to give out a short backstory of the world between the og film and that one. Very cool, a little short. I should talk about it in more detail eventually. But now, an actual Blade Runner anime series came out. One directed by Kenji Kamiyama who is famous for Stand Alone Complex, Moribito, and a few other series and Shinji Aramaki who…tries his best with a few series like Appleseed. They’ve made Re:Cyborg that I didn’t enjoy at all, so I was a bit cautious when this one started to air weekly on Toonami. Somewhat justified I think.
Black Lotus’ World
Black Lotus is a series that takes place in 2032, ten years after Black Out. A girl who knows nothing about herself at all because of Amnesia but with a data storage device, wakes up in the desert. Why? We don’t know for now but it plays into the story of Black Lotus itself. LIke all over Blade Runner series, Elle makes her way into L.A. and that is where some questions start acquiring answers. Mainly from the data storage device she carries with her and the apartment complex she was told to go to. A mysterious man named Joseph, who drinks a lot, helps her unlock the data device and slowly her memories come back. She was the only survivor of slaughtered replicents and she recognizes some of those faces on the television.
This is the world of Blade Runner and like the original movie itself, it is full of great and wonderful sort of long lasting shots of Blade Runner LA. There have been no changes or major technological advances, it is still the retro future that was in the original Blade Runner series and has a lot of the cool and long pandering shots in it. So the atmosphere of Blade Runner is there, but it can feel so very taxing and exhausting because it is trying so hard to replicate a live action sort of style in cg compared to the world of anime where everything moves at a more efficient pace. But I kind of enjoy the unique feel present here because honestly, we don’t get enough cyberpunk anime anymore let alone ones that let us indulge in the world itself.
There are a lot of moving pieces in Black Lotus and Elle is one of them. A very large moving piece that can cause a lot of tension by literally murdering people involved in the killing of the her replicent friends. The first one, the murder of a senator, Senator Bannister to be specific, at a replicent fighting ring, was the first step which took people by surprise. She then kills the L.A. police chief Grant and his wife and eventually a start of the real center of the conspiracy, Niander Wallace Sr. who made the replicants in the first place for this self release of murdering things that humans consider less then themselves and honestly, ’m here for it. I honestly wish that it didn’t seem so easy for her to kill people. I think that is a part of the story and it might be a different story if she didn’t just have magic martial arts skills. So who is to say what is wrong?
More Characters and Chess Games
So let’s talk about some side characters. The first one I want to mention is Alani Davis, an LAPD recruit who actually is well trained and has an excellent intuition, but is constantly pushed to the side by Police Chief Grant even if Davis could actually save lives if people did listen to her. She does investigate the case between Elle and everyone else, but is constantly shafted by the narrative. Then there is Marlowe, the not so good Blade Runner who has no qualms of killing replicants because he sees them as less than human. The opposite of Joseph who cares way too much and is secretly a larger player in the game we originally thought.
Which comes into the central point of Black Lotus for me, the obvious Go game between Niander Wallace Sr. and Niander Wallace Jr. As those of us who watched 2049 already, we know that Niander Wallace Jr is still alive and kicking and his company now owns the former Tyrel stock in which he is creating his real world. This is the start of that and the conspiracy of them all. The themes of black and white with everything Sr. and Jr. say to each other with Jr’s foreshadowing. The show is called Black Lotus for a reason. Guess who that is? Or whether there will be a Light Lotus. What I’m saying is that this series is not subtle at all in showing or sharing any of its ideas at all.
With all that these ideas set into motion, I think there is a reason why Elle was able to move in and kill so many people in cool shots and other things. While it didn’t cause as much materials in regards to the drama of the series or Elle finishing all the things so easily with only minimal resistance. It was all a part of Jr’s plot all along. For everything that has happened, Elle has been under Elle’s programming all along to carry out his goals. For all the self autonomy Elle thinks she has, she clearly has never had any in the first place. That one moment in the end when Elle is actually able to take out Jr’s eyes is the one sense of resistance she has and the entire series was building up until then. In my mind, it was worth it. I think I’m the only one.
The Challenges of Making a Blade Runner Anime
Blade Runner is a franchise now. Since 2049 came out, 2099 is a television series in production, and there are two anime series, which means Blade Runner is no longer a stand alone special project anymore. So is the way of the 21st century where original ideas are brought to die. But that also means a lot more challenges for what to expect for this Blade Runner anime. The original film was innovative at its time and 2049 is pretty innovative too in a way that understands Blade Runner. Black Lotus feels like another cyberpunk anime series. Considering that these are at a premium these days, that is novel but it means Black Lotus is doing a lot of things that have been done before.
Maybe that is a fault for some people because they want something special. Especially when it indulges in the world of Blade Runner perhaps a bit too much while capturing the slow moving atmosphere of the original series too. Some shots from cities to flying cars are taken straight out of the movie itself. One that probably doesn’t work for a 12 episode anime series because it may feel like it’s dragging its feet all the time. I think that Black Lotus would have been a better 90 minute anime film instead of a 12 episode anime series. It could have had all the atmosphere while telling its story about these characters finding autonomy from the system itself.
With that in mind, I think that Black Lotus did succeed for the most part. Its approach was a bit different than the others. We know that Blade Runner is a tv series and that Elle was a replicant since the beginning even if she tries to deny it. Also, she is cool and knows how to fight in anime styled situations while dealing with some enemies that are very well trained to fight against her. That is what made it work for me even when it didn’t for other people that watched it on Toonami at the same time. I don’t know ,but it really did click for me unlike a lot of people it seems and I think that happens a lot in the opposite direction. It’s a good time. If you want to know more, you can read my episodic reviews of Blade Runner: Black Lotus.