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EP. REVIEW: Blade Runner: Black Lotus




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dm
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2021 1:51 pm Reply with quote
I can't argue with the reviewer's ambivalence at all.

This is being competently done, but so far it hasn't done much to engage the viewer. There's no hook to distinguish this from any other bit of cyberpunk.

We could be watching Battle Angel Alita --- and if we were, the 60-odd minutes we've spent so far would have shown us some characters we cared about, we'd have a stronger sense of "Detective Dude"'s tragic back-story, we'd probably be more involved in Elle's sense of mystery about herself, and we'd have a stronger bond to some of the side-characters like Doc Badger.

And, we wouldn't mind so much that we were seeing a retread, since Alita came from a time when all those tropes were new.
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Beatdigga



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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2021 3:16 pm Reply with quote
I don't know if I said it in another post, but I think this show had the really bad luck of debuting a few weeks after Arcane raised the bar for CG shows. Through no fault of its own, the show was completely eclipsed in the animation sphere by a much higher quality production and one that seems to genuinely move CG forward.
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dm
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2021 6:36 pm Reply with quote
Oh, but I did like resurrecting the old Voight-Kampff test equipment from the original series. And I sort-of like the Aztec-y motifs in the apartment design, again paying homage to Deckard's old apartment.

The reviewer got the "analog tech" part of the design aesthetic right.
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Wyvern



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2021 12:10 am Reply with quote
Seconding the praise for the "analog tech" (and Grant's pointing it out.) I really appreciate that they're not trying to "update" Blade Runner's world to account for technological advances in real life. Instead it's consistent with what folks in 1983 thought the 21st century would look like, and that helps it stand out. While this show takes place a few years from now, the original movie took place in 2019, so unless the writers felt like retconning the first movie completely, there's no way they can sell Blade Runner to the audience as a prediction of the future.

So instead the show is fully committing to showing us an alternate present, where we've colonized other planets and perfected robots, but computers look like they're from the 80's and there doesn't seem to be an internet. And that's much more engaging than if the writers had tried to give everyone a smartphone.
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Redbeard 101
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2021 12:25 am Reply with quote
Beatdigga wrote:
I don't know if I said it in another post, but I think this show had the really bad luck of debuting a few weeks after Arcane raised the bar for CG shows. Through no fault of its own, the show was completely eclipsed in the animation sphere by a much higher quality production and one that seems to genuinely move CG forward.


I hadn't even considered that myself. Which is ironic as I opted to put Black Lotus on hold after episode 2 and start watching Arcane. I have to agree with the previous sentiment it's lacking a bit of a bigger hook. Something to snag you and keep you interested. By the end of episode 2 I found myself thinking that it's a really cool looking animated adaptation of the Blade Runner universe, but I just wasn't caring too much about the story and characters thus far.
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enurtsol



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2021 1:00 am Reply with quote
dm wrote:

we'd probably be more involved in Elle's sense of mystery about herself, and we'd have a stronger bond to some of the side-characters like Doc Badger.


Well, she did try to pay him for it even though she doesn't have money.......... Anime exclamation


Incidentally, they actually started working on this a long 3 years ago. From Elle's voice actress herself:
Quote:
I started working on Blade Runner… I’m going to say like two and a half to three years ago.

We were going for awhile, because you don’t record an episode once. With Blood of Zeus, I came in and I smashed it all in a session. And then I went for one pickup session and that was it. With Blade Runner, I would meet them solidly every sort of five months and we would rerecord lines and we would go back and add new lines and we’d add voices and effects. It was a constant evolution as we all kind of made it together.

Because we re-record so much, that only lasted for the first few sessions and then, and then after that, it’s like, okay, we’re jumping back to Episode 1 and actually I’m going to pop in and change Episode 5 and Episode 2 needs these new lines, but yeah, for that first run of recording, to not read ahead was very helpful. It was the closest I’ve ever come to method acting.


Also, this is an interesting technical point from a professional (compared to, say, fan-dubbers):
Quote:
Speaking of the voice, when you’re doing voice work, of course, you’re not just providing, you know, the dialogue — you’re also providing essentially sound effects. What was the process of voicing a fight scene like?

So there’s two different ways that you can do it. And it’s up to each actor. First is what they call chasing picture. And so if it’s a five-minute fight scene or whatever, they would just play it. And you would try and add noises while you’re watching it. Everything is, you know, half a second delayed, and then they just move the whole audio track half a second earlier to match it in. That’s one way of doing it.

The other way is they play you the clip in advance and they play it to you again. And the longer my fights got as the series went on, the more I leaned towards this, which is I would then go, okay. So I would literally learn the choreography, like, “Okay, it’s an upper-cut and then I’m running, it’s Superman punch, I’m turning around, it’s an elbow, okay. Then I get hit…”

I would learn the choreography, and then in the booth, I would be doing it so that I knew exactly what kind of sound it would be, because the struggle is to make sure that every sound sounds different. When you get punched, it doesn’t sound like when you’re punching someone else, it’s an exhale versus an inhale, or an inhale versus an exhale, and you don’t want everything to just go like [grunting noises]. It’s coming from different parts of the body.

It got to the stage where I’d provided so many fight scenes that I actually had to stop them and say to Wes Gleason, our voice director and [directors Shinji Aramaki and Kenji Kamiyama], “What other noises can I make in this fight? I can’t keep doing [grunt noise] anymore. I can’t. Can I use a different consonant?” I just kept trying to find different sounds to make throughout the show.

It’s interesting that you shifted to learning the choreography later on in the process, because if I’d been in your shoes, I would have thought, oh, that’s the more complicated one. I’ll try that initially, and then eventually shift to what sounds like a slightly easier way, which is just mimicking what you see on screen.

Ah, but the fights would get longer and longer. And so if it was a short fight, I would still chase picture, but it got to the stage where it was so long that, you know, you start half a second late and then it becomes so complicated, the choreography, that you’re a second late and then you’re two seconds late. And so you can’t move the whole track like this. You have to chop it up. And it just makes the sound engineer’s life a little bit more difficult. But I would flip flop back and forth between the two plans.
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jdnation



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PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:30 pm Reply with quote
Finally watched the first 3 episodes.

I do like that they are keeping the Blade Runner aesthetics.

I do find the call-backs a little tiresome. Dennis Vellineuve's 2049 film smartly avoided much of that. Yes, we've all seen the Geisha girl advertisement etc. So that's just a nit-pick.

On the CG - I'll say that the environments and props all look pretty good, even with the fact that the production is certainly not aiming for photorealism. So 100 points to the background and environment and lighting artists.

But as usual the characters and rigging is several steps behind. The plastic doll look is not working well. At least in Ghost in the Shell is was better as they went more directly cartoony. But here it clashes with the excellent environments and stands out too much. The hair is terrible. It doesn't have any physics and is like a Lego wig. It doesn't move with gravity when they bend down. Even stylized anime video games put some effort into it. The choice or lack-of good textures and shading for skin and hair for some ultra clean look clashing with more detailed backgrounds, that while it works in 2D, or even highly stylized cell shaded characters, utterly fails here.

And for all the mo-capping they are doing, the bodies are stiff at the shoulders. And there is the very annoying thing where the actors are overacting their body movements to compensate for the stiffness which I always find annoying. CG anime like this also then thinks it's better to keep doing wide shots so you can see all the CG people moving and stuff so gone is the use of well thought out camera angles and framing of scenes and cuts that plague these things because they want you to see all the mo-cap work. Well, at least the fight scenes are good. It's neat that Elle can do all this choreographed kung-fu and being all artsy about it as some replicants, but I don't like the fact that the female cop can also do it. Would've preferred is she were a more hard-boiled detective like Deckard or Joe in terms of fighting style. Just use your gun.

So while Black Lotus is a step up in terms of CG TV anime. It's still a disappointment, and looks cheap overall due to the character models to the point where I wish they'd have just poured that into a regular 2D production. At the end of the day I still wish we got an anime in the style of the Shinichiro Watanabe short made for the 2049 movie which was excellent in every department.

Story-wise, it's... okay so far? I suspect that Elle is a replicant and that he just lied to her about the results of the test out of sympathy and that's just telegraphing the tragedy to come. But the intriguing part is wondering whether her memories are real or not.

Also this is the first time we've seen politicians of any sort in Blade Runner's universe? I'm kind of disappointed that they just turn out to be the same typical bureaucrat suit-wearing trope compared to the way Wallace and other characters are presented and designed and clothed in the films, which at least try to reimagine these roles into some new future fashionable style that is familiar but different. Here it's just Blah!

Background music is okay so far. Nothing remarkable yet, no good pieces on par with the films, and the pop music op/ed is fine but not doing anything much.

Well, I'm still tuning in to see where it goes, if only as an experiment in anime collaborations on western film franchises.
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Takkun4343



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2021 5:43 pm Reply with quote
Little fun fact about episode 4: unlike most anime - and probably due to it being an American co-pro that feels more American than Japanese - Blade Runner: Black Lotus has production codes. And episode 4's production code, "101", suggests that it was produced first. Being Elle's backstory (or lack thereof), it makes sense they'd do this first, and if not for it being framed as Elle's remembery coming back and the subsequent solidification of her end goal for the rest of the series, it could easily be watched before the first episode, albeit at the loss of the mystery behind Elle's past/lack thereof. (As if there was any mystery to begin with, even Blade Runner newbies could tell she's a replicant without watching even a minute of it, purely because of her protagonist status.)

Quote:
Even the revelation about the police leader at the end feels like a non-event. A big-city cop that's in on the corruption might matter more if we, well, knew who this character was. But we've spent no time with him, so the sudden “shock” of him being in on it means next to nothing for the audience.

Personally, my issue with the reveal that the chief was part of the hunt was that I didn't recognize his face. And if I did, that's because he looks like a younger version of the Senator that's already been crossed off of Elle's sh*t list. I'd argue the intent of this reveal was less "oh no, this guy we've never met before was part of the hunt!" and more "oh crap, even the big boss of the LAPD partakes in this sort of thing". Then again, corrupt police officials is so old a hat, the shock of the reveal is pretty miniscule no matter what the intent was.
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jdnation



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2021 6:23 pm Reply with quote
M'eh the moment they were obviously hiding his face is the moment [Edit: removed snark. Errinundra.] the audience knows he was one of the guys there. It was so obviously spelt out that the length of time it takes to show what the audience already figured out seconds into the scene only makes it hilarious.

I too noticed what Takkun4343 pointed out that the episode code at the end was 101 and I was confused as to why the number jumped backwards so thanks to his explanation we could probably figure out that it's likely the Japanese side wanted to lead with this one, and that the story plays out similar to 'Oldboy' where a character wakes up not knowing where the heck they are or what's going on and has to piece back the story. So we'd at least constantly be moving forwards, but here they are dragging out some mystery which isn't really all that interesting. Her going out there to find out and take revenge knowing she's a replicant is better, alongside the only hook being who the guy is that obviously reprogrammed her or something and is likely also using her for his own ends, and at this point I'm just guessing he's the guy talking to Wallace.

As the reviewer point out, we already know how this turns out, making going through this whole story completely void of tension, had it run first in Oldboy fashion it'd play better. That said, the reason they most likely chose not to go with it as Episode 1 is that the producers likely wanted to kick off the series in a more familiar Blade Runner setting, in the city, showing off all the CG sets and the Geisha girl we've seen a hundred times, least anyone tuning in wonder whether this had anything to do with Blade Runner or not. It also doesn't help that the desert scenery looks so drab for a CG show, and while the city environments are great, the desert is devoid of it. Even Dennis Villeneue managed to make deserted Las Vegas look and feel amazing. The episode also continues to demonstrate the poor CG decisions, the plastic people stand out especially in this dirty environment. The hair physics don't have any physics, her wet hair doesn't behave like heavy sticky wet hair by the pool, and how many years ago was she put there? Was that an implanted memory memory? Because her body is very clean for someone who's supposedly been lying there for awhile, so I'm hoping they are doing something smart with that.

There are also other issues I have with it, like her waking up and talking out loud to herself about not remembering who that guy was, only to then repeat the same conversation again with somebody else a moment later regarding their memories. It's redundant. [Edit: removed snark. Errinundra.]

[Avoid commenting on an anime's audience. They're reading this thread, you know. Errinundra.]
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enurtsol



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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2021 3:04 am Reply with quote
jdnation wrote:

I too noticed what Takkun4343 pointed out that the episode code at the end was 101 and I was confused as to why the number jumped backwards so thanks to his explanation we could probably figure out that it's likely the Japanese side wanted to lead with this one,


Production codes don't mean anything. Or it could mean any number of things. But what it is not is just one meaning.

Productions codes could mean at least any one of these:

1.) It is the intended sequence of episodes.

Or

2.) It's the order the episodes are finished. Not all episodes are finished at the same pace. Also, some episodes are worked on concurrently, with some finishing ahead of others - depending on the difficulty of animating that episode, or the quality of the team that's animating it, etc.

Or

3.) It's the order that the storyboards were done, even when storyboards don't correspond to the sequence of episodes. Ex: some staff begin with the storyboards for the first episode and the last episode (because they know where they want to begin and where they want to end), and then fill in the episodes in between. Some finish a storyboard as the 4th earliest, even though they intend that to be Episode #9. Some finish Episode #6 first, since it's the turning point of the season. Some storyboards are finished earlier because the staff have more clarity in what they want to do in it.

Etc. etc.

Again, production codes don't mean anything, or it could mean any number of things. It's up to the staff how to name them.
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jdnation



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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2021 3:28 pm Reply with quote
Thanks Enurtsol for the info. It'd be interesting to learn the behind-the-scenes stuff for the decision making. I do feel that the series would've played out better if this episode led first, even though it would eschew the typical Blade Runner opening style. But with some editing they could've still made it tense and ended with her arrival in the city and show off the visuals in contrast to the desert which would hook you in for the next episode. That way there'd always be forward momentum.

Quote:
Avoid commenting on an anime's audience. They're reading this thread, you know. Errinundra


Sorry, I was not commenting about the audience so much as sarcastically criticising the production for treating the audience as 'dumb' with redundancy and overly obvious cinematic tells.
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