Prequel short films are a more creative way to advertise a film than trailers, and usually less spoiler-filled as well. Ridley Scott seems particularly enamoured by them, as Prometheus and Alien: Covenant both had them too. Blade Runner 2049 gets three, two directed by Scott’s son, no less.
This one, the first chronologically, was not. It was directed by Shinichiro Watanabe and is properly an anime. It fills in some backstory covered through exposition and design in the actual feature film.
The art itself melds well enough with the Blade Runner aesthetic, and it’s all very professionally done. Taken in a vacuum, it’s a fairly well-done work. But so much of what makes Blade Runner work is suggestion…there’s a reason Rutger Hauer’s “tears in rain” speech is so celebrated, and it’s built entirely at gesturing to events and memories never elaborated upon.
This anime is built on the opposite. It even shows actual offworld events, somewhere the “franchise” (if you can really call Blade Runner that) had pointedly avoided. I don’t really feel like the thematic or character work here was distinct or strong enough to really justify that, and it ended up just feeling disconnected from the series to me, while it does work well enough on its own terms. I give it two and a half EMPs, and a young replicant.