Blade Runner: Black Lotus Directors Want to ‘Go Beyond What’s Already Been Done’

During a panel at the Virtual Crunchyroll Expo, legendary anime directors Shinji Aramaki and Kenji Kamiyama discussed their history with the Blade Runner franchise, how the Black Lotus project got started and how they balance fan expectations with their own desire to tell new stories.

"When it comes to making something like this, one of the difficulties is maintaining the atmosphere of the previous title," Kamiyama admitted when he was asked what it was like to work on Blade Runner. "You want to create something that is recognizably similar, but that also sets the trap of superficially recreating the feeling of the film, which can undercut the amount of impact that the new project can have on the audience," Kamiyama said, adding "So you have to figure out how to keep the same atmosphere, but tell a new story that will still be enjoyable, and contain surprises. You want to go beyond what's been done, in some way."

Shinji Aramaki and Kenji Kamiyama are both long-time veterans of the anime industry, and both got their start in the 1980s, with Aramaki helping to design the original Transformers figures and Kamiyama getting his start as a background artist on the original Ducktales cartoon. Aramaki has worked on everything from Gundam to Digimon during his almost forty year career, and Kamiyama wrote the screenplay for Blood: The Last Vampire and directed the critically acclaimed Eden of the East series. The two are best known for together co-directing Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, a series that is widely regarded as one of the best examples of the cyberpunk genre in anime.

Both Aramaki and Kamiyama expressed their love for the original 1982 Blade Runner movie by Ridley Scott. "I was overwhelmed by how amazing it looked," Aramaki said, adding "And at the same time, the story... That it was this futuristic world, but you could feel the sentimentality in the story... I remember being really moved by that." Kamiyama echoed those sentiments, saying "I remember watching it over and over at home, with that [VHS] copy."

Aramaki revealed that Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo director Shinichiro Watanabe played a key role in getting the Blade Runner: Black Lotus project started. "Watanabe-san said he wanted to work together with me on anime, and asked me to visit him," Aramaki recalled. "I think at the time they were talking about doing just one-off short films, which is what Watanabe-san did with Blackout." Aramaki is referring to Blade Runner: Blackout 2022, an anime short directed by Watanabe that tells the story of the complete information blackout event that is mentioned in the Blade Runner 2049 film. "That was when the offer came from the producer Joseph Chou, for Kamiyama-san and I to work together," Aramaki said. "The first thing we did was meet up as a trio [Aramaki, Kamiyama, and Watanabe,] to decide what to do for the story."

Kamiyama expressed his excitement for the series, stating "That was around the time that Director Aramaki and I were working on Ghost in the Shell 2045, so the offer was to take the same team and make Black Lotus, which took me by surprise. The idea of getting to direct something Blade Runner-related was just... a fantastic feeling."

Blade Runner: Black Lotus will premiere on Crunchyroll and Adult Swim sometime before the end of 2021.

Source: Crunchyroll

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