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Blade Runner 2049’s new anime short explains a crucial moment in replicant history

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The final Blade Runner 2049 short prequel film is out and, much like the first two shorts accompanying the feature, Blade Runner 2022: Lights Out” plays an integral role in explaining an important part of Blade Runner history.

The third short film prequel, an anime from Cowboy Bebop director Shinichirô Watanabe, can be watched on Crunchyroll.

[Warning: The following will contain spoilers for Blade Runner 2022: Lights Out and possibly Blade Runner 2049.]

Blade Runner 2022: Lights Out tells the important tale of an “EMP detonation [which] caused a global blackout that had massive, destructive implications all over the world,” according to an official timeline of events from Warner Bros. Although the EMP detonation is the most explosive (pardon the pun) scene in the short, it’s not the most important.

The short illustrates the cost of a war between machine and man, following the discontinuation of the Nexus 6 model and the integration of the more advanced Nexus 8 line. It’s with the launch of the Nexus 8 models that a war breaks out, with humans capturing and torturing replicants, killing them in the name of specie supremacy. Humans angry with the existence of replicants used a Replicant Registry to hunt down various models and kill them.

While this is going on, we’re introduced to a replicant angel named Trixie and her bodyguard of sorts, Cygnus (or Iggy). Trixie plays an important role in the inevitable EMP detonation, but not the only role. We’re also introduced to one of the human catalysts who helps the band of rogue replicants exact their revenge on those who have abused them. It’s in the red light district and the Doll House (where Trixie brings her customers) that we meet the unnamed human who works with nuclear weapons and can help them launch an EMP attack over the city of Los Angeles. In doing so, the replicants will be able to launch the city into a state of pure blackness, bringing upon “a darkness that the humans have never known,” according to Iggy.

While the unnamed human can get them access to the weapon they need, it’s up to Trixie and Iggy to ensure that the archive center where replicant information is stored is wiped out, giving them the freedom from government structure and prying, hateful eyes they’ve been searching for.

Trixie and Iggy’s plan works. The EMP is detonated over Los Angeles and it’s a remarkable feat of directorial work from Watanabe. What comes next is the most important part, however, because it confirms the explosion in 2022 led to the replicant prohibition.

The prohibition of replicants and the blackout of 2022 is also what brings us right into the first Blade Runner 2049 short, Blade Runner 2036: Nexus. It’s in Nexus that we meet Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace. Wallace created the Nexus 9 in 2036, a new line of replicants that Wallace promised to be far more obedient and controllable than the Nexus 8 models.

Wallace’s decision to build the replicants came with immediate backlash, but thanks to his role solving major issues the city was facing after the EMP detonation, he has some leverage in political conversations. In the Wallace-centric short, Wallace proves just how obedient his replicant can be via a gruesome test that both disgusts and intrigues those in the room. We know from Warner Bros.’ timeline that it’s in 2036, the replicant prohibition is repealed.

The third short film, which takes place in 2048, focuses on one of the older replicants, Sapper (Dave Bautista). Sapper gets a brief shoutout in Blade Runner 2022: Lights Out, but his appearance in his own short film represents the world coming full circle: replicants are in hiding and humans hate them for their very existence.

Blade Runner 2049 will be released on Oct. 6. It’s one of the first films where paying attention to the marketing that accompanies it is crucial to better understanding the movie.