“Blade Runner 2049” is a mere week away from release in the United States, and roughly a month away from release here in Japan. It’s a sequel with a legacy to live up to, and a franchise to uphold.

The spacing between the original “Blade Runner” and the upcoming “Blade Runner 2049” is far from short, which left film director Denis Villeneuve with the critical role of bridging a 30-year time gap. To accomplish that, he called on the creative genius of Shinichiro Watanabe to direct an animated short occurring roughly three years after the original film, and set before the upcoming sequel.

Titled “Blade Runner Black Out 2022,” the animated spinoff is now available for streaming free of charge via Crunchyroll in English, and Sony Japan’s YouTube channel in Japanese.

Last night I had the unique opportunity to attend the Tokyo premiere event for the animated short, where I would get my first taste of Shinichiro Watanabe’s vision of the “Blade Runner” universe.

Before the film started, Shinichiro Watanabe would take the stage to share a few of his thoughts on the animated short, as well as its creation process. There was a lot of interesting points discussed, but possibly one of the most intriguing to me was his belief that watching the film with Japanese or English voices will create a very different atmosphere while watching “Blade Runner Black Out 2022.”  That being said, however, due to regional restrictions, you can only stream the Japanese version inside of Japan, and can only stream the English version from outside of Japan. Go figure.

Ever since I initially found out about the work being done on this “Blade Runner” animated short, I’ve been more than excited. I was counting down the days until its release, which is a rare occurrence for me at any rate. What I’ll get out of the way, first of all, is that the experience from start to finish did not disappoint. Between the clarity of the animation, the constant yet consistent changing of styles, and the incredible score from Los Angeles-raised producer Flying Lotus, there was very little room for error.

Packed within the confines of this 10-minute animated short was a perfectly paced package that made use of everything at its disposal. Clenching tightly onto my desire for more, Shinichiro Watanabe and his team of creatives have pushed out a finished product that feels polished from all angles. Now I simply wait here and hope that maybe someday we could see this animated world expanded upon, utilizing the very same talent that made this short a reality.

If you’re interested in checking out the animated short, it’s available for streaming free of charge in English on Crunchyroll, and in Japanese via Sony Japan’s YouTube channel for those residing in Japan.

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