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Blade Runner: Black Lotus Imperfectly Marries Cyberpunk Appeal and Anime: Review

Adult Swim and Crunchyroll partner for a derivative but slick CG cyberpunk anime

Blade Runner Black Lotus Review
Blade Runner: Black Lotus (Adult Swim)
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    The Pitch: Fifteen years before the events of Blade Runner 2049, a young woman named Elle (voiced by Jessica Henwick) wakes up in a self-driving car on its way back to Los Angeles from the desert. She doesn’t remember who or what she is, or why she was out in the desert in the first place; her only clue is a mysterious piece of tech she can’t unlock and a tattoo of a black lotus flower on her shoulder. To solve the mystery of her identity, she’ll have to enter the seedy, neon-lit underbelly of LA’s cyberpunk dystopia and track down the people responsible.

    Finally, Actual Blade Running: When Denis Villeneuve’s critically-acclaimed, but financially disastrous Blade Runner 2049 was released in 2017, it was accompanied by a series of short films that fleshed out the events leading up to the long-awaited sequel. One of them was Black Out, an animated short courtesy of Cowboy Bebop director Shinichiro Watanabe, which showed the vivid potential of anime to realize Scott’s bleak cyberpunk dystopia.

    News of a Watanabe-produced anime series soon followed, and it’s finally here in Blade Runner: Black Lotus, though it ditches Black Out‘s evocative traditional hand-drawn style for slick, CG animation.

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    Cyberpunk and anime go hand in hand, as Akira and Ghost in the Shell and a starship full of others can attest; unfortunately, this also means that some of Blade Runner‘s magic gets lost in the early moments of Black Lotus. As a protagonist, Elle is a bit of a blank slate, derivative of a dozen brain-scrambled anime heroines before her. It doesn’t help, of course, that the 3D approach brings a certain plasticity to the character designs; there’s a blankness to their expressions and textures that’s off-putting and doesn’t seem to match the care put into the rest of the environments and props. You get used to it after a while, but it hardly matches the standards set by other animated sci-fi wonders like Love, Death, and Robots.

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