The future is now in The Art of Blade Runner: Black Lotus

Review by C.J. Bunce

Blade Runner: Black Lotus is yet another anime success story–at least in the eyes of fans.  The first season revisited the futurism of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and it featured fantastic visual effects.  Like many of today’s best series it unfortunately got canceled with only one season available.  The new book The Art of Blade Runner: Black Lotus captures the magic of that first and only season, digging into the creators who made it happen, providing all the interviews, concept artwork, and photographs any fan of the franchise could want.  This look behind the scenes of a major television series focuses on one part of the production process we rarely see in film books: sound.  

The Art of Blade Runner: Black Lotus is a different spin on concept art books.  By way of structure it introduces each character, event, and location chronologically, including a few tidbits from creators tasked with writing, voicing, or otherwise building and fleshing out the specific component.  The concept artwork includes none of the pencil or traditional paint work you see used in development typical films or movies.  Readers will find more final frames here, but it also includes some sketches, pre-viz, and animation tests.  A final section includes some scene storyboards–the closest art in the project to classic artwork development.

Co-directors Shinji Aramaki and Kenji Kamiyama, via interview excerpts and a spliced-in interview toward the back of the book, discuss their approach to scenes and concepts.  Much generalizing is done between characters seen as Asian or American, which will be new to Western readers.  Part of that  is the short time available to present a character in the anime setting, and some is part of Japanese culture.  The directors said they actively paid homage to the film’s concept artist Syd Mead, and the photographs very much support this.  The series has the Blade Runner look because these creators borrowed Mead’s ideas, but they also added some successful updates.

Writer Roland Kelts does not include as much detail and textual information as normally found in franchise art books.  But he digs in more than we’ve probably seen in any other film or series as it relates to sound and lighting–both key to the sci-fi world-building needed for the series.  It’s not something the audience thinks about, but Kelts’ interviews may prompt fans of the series to re-watch it with these sound effects, character musical themes, and scene lighting effects in mind.

Kelts describes the series’ efforts to incorporate a character from Blade Runner 2049 for continuity sake, which ultimately resulted in something more than a cameo.  One of the greatest surprises is the lack of motion capture of real people in creating the look of the characters.  They also don’t match the voice performers.  For an anime series the characters look strikingly like real people, so this component is a success for the series that has not been highlighted by critics.  The directors and writers key in on the biggest task for the film–expanding on what has come before in the franchise while maintaining continuity of story and style.

The first ever Blade Runner animated series hopefully will not be the last.  As reflected in The Art of Blade Runner: Black Lotus, the series mixed the best parts of the original film with a nod to visual visionary Syd Mead, while serving the needs of anime fans.  For every fan of the Blade Runner universe–movie fans, comics readers, Philip K. Dick fans, and sci-fi buffs–order The Art of Blade Runner: Black Lotus now here at Amazon.

Leave a Reply