Blade Runner: Black Lotus–Animated series gets look and feel of Syd Mead’s original tech noir just right

Review by C.J. Bunce

I’d wager even story creator Philip K. Dick would be impressed with the futurism and dark beauty of Adult Swim and Crunchyroll’s new Japanese and American half-hour animated series Blade Runner: Black Lotus Is the mysterious drifter Elle a young woman with amnesia or a new type of replicant that can fool the Voight-Kampff test?  What does it mean to be an android or cyborg with feelings and memories?  Those are the questions asked in the first five episodes of the excellent new series, now streaming on Adult Swim and the Adult Swim app.

Directed by Shinji Aramaki and Kenji Kamayama and created by Shinichirō Watanabe, Blade Runner: Black Lotus (previewed this summer here at borg) blends components of Sleeping Beauty, Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game, the original Total Recall, and Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle.  It’s a well-paced journey that surpasses the tech noir and cyberpunk of Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 and James Cameron’s similarly plotted Alita: Battle Angel.

Elle, a CGI motion capture creation with the look of Lost Girl’s Anna Silk and voiced by Iron Fist’s Jessica Henwick and Arisa Shida, is a badass heroine with amped up defense skills, matched only by the cool, Misty Knight quality of a detective named Alani Davis (Samira Wiley and Takako Honda), pursuing Elle for the murder of a senator in this version of 2030 Los Angeles.  The bad guys look great, too, drawn like Powers Boothe and Paul Newman, with a younger new tech visionary that looks like Crispin Glover.  And Davis’s chief is drawn a bit like Michael Ironside, adding to the fun.

The series fully captures the essence of Syd Mead’s vision for the original Blade Runner, exploring a character similar to the star of Titan Comics’ Blade Runner tie-in series.  Other sci-fi tropes sneak in that were themselves inspired by Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, like Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall, The Matrix and Cowboy Bebop. 

The neon on black, the sounds, the special effects, the gorgeous vehicles, and the tech noir plot blend for a perfect addition to the Blade Runner canon.  Catch the first two episodes free on the Adult Swim app, with the next three episodes available for a fee or free on demand with a cable plan that includes the network.  New episodes air Sundays on Adult Swim.

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