Blade Runner: Black Lotus Review: A Sturdy Bridge Across Worlds

Adult Swim and Crunchyroll have partnered up for lots of great projects such as bringing Mob Psycho 100 to Toonami, and original efforts like Fena: Pirate Princess from over the Spring and Summer seasons. The two companies even forged a deal that will result in a couple of other original anime projects coming down the pipeline such as a new anime based on the Shenmue video game franchise, and most curiously, a new anime set in the world of Blade Runner. This new anime series is sparked from an earlier anime effort for the franchise, "Black Out 2022," but launches in a completely different direction. 

Blade Runner: Black Lotus serves as a bridge between worlds. Not only is it linking anime fans to the Blade Runner films, a franchise that has inspired multiple science fiction projects such as Ghost in the Shell (which series directors Kenji Kamiyama and Shinji Aramaki are intimately familiar with), but it's linking fans of that franchise to anime in general. It's tackling two difficult paths at once, and has to constantly perform a balancing act of evolving the franchise while being sure to appease these multiple fandoms. It's just a matter of figuring out whether or not Black Lotus is successful at this. 

(Photo: Adult Swim / Crunchyroll)

Blade Runner: Black Lotus has a premise that those fans of the franchise might be familiar with as it takes place in 2032 and follows Elle (performed by Jessica Henwick in the English dubbed release, which was the version used for this review), a young woman who awakens with no memories and finds she has access to violent techniques and fighting capabilities. She's on a journey to figure out what happened to her in the past, and soon finds herself wondering whether or not she's a replicant, dealing with strange flashes of memory, and surprisingly soon finds herself in an even worse situation. 

Series directors Kenji Kamiyama and Shinji Aramaki have lots of experience with science fiction anime projects, and the same can be said of CG animated works. The directors both recently collaborated together with SOLA Digital Arts for Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, but thankfully Black Lotus seems to avoid much of the same pitfalls that fans might have seen with that series. Character design seems tighter, and the series has really nailed the Blade Runner visual motifs and style. 

The characteristically moody lightning and setting design really pops in the CG animation, and it's the same for many of the characters as well. They seem perfectly designed as not only characters that would exist within this world, but are given enough personality to make them distinctly "anime" feeling without going overboard. For example, Elle herself looks great and has a distinct look right off the bat. It goes even further when she's fighting with a katana, but never seems to break the immersion of such a cold yet intriguing personality of this world set by its design. 

(Photo: Adult Swim / Crunchyroll)

The series sounds great as well as not only is there a great opening theme, but the score, and voice performances are up to par as well. In the first three episodes available to watch for the review, there are admittedly some rougher performances, and some moments where the animation style doesn't completely hold up. With that being said, it's also few and far in-between as the series often makes sure to focus back on either Elle, or one of the other main stories such as Samira Wiley's Alani. 

When the series is firing on all cylinders, Blade Runner: Black Lotus is a fantastic experience. It's fit for someone who isn't familiar with the Blade Runner films. It's also fit for someone who's a major fan (with even inclusions such as the famous Voight-Kampff Test) and was looking for a door into the world of anime. It's even fit for anime fans wanting a new dimension of experience from some of the other Fall offerings. Chances are, there's something for everyone to enjoy with this. 

Whether it's the cool audio and visual presentation, fight scenes, or the main story pulling you forward, there's bound to be something that catches your eye in Blade Runner: Black Lotus. There's just a feeling of modernity running throughout that makes it seem like Black Lotus is the future the Blade Runner franchise should be seeking out further. It's another great example of the quality Adult Swim and Crunchyroll can help to produce when working together, and something we should keep an eye on. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Blade Runner: Black Lotus debuts on Saturday, November 13th on Adult Swim (English dub) and streaming with Crunchyroll (in Japanese audio).