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Shinichiro Watanabe Looked To Blade Runner For Cowboy Bebop's Diversity - Exclusive

One of the many ways the works of Shinichiro Watanabe stand out from other anime is their diversity. His most famous anime, "Cowboy Bebop," is set in a post-national sci-fi future where most of humanity has left Earth and, as such, outer space has become a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. Watanabe's most recent series, "Carole & Tuesday," is set on Mars in the same universe as "Cowboy Bebop" and features a similarly diverse cast, with additional emphasis on queer characters and storylines addressing the struggles of immigrants and refugees.

Looper got the opportunity to exclusively interview Shinichiro Watanabe via translated emails ahead of the "Carole & Tuesday" home video release. We asked him about his approach to handling trans and non-binary characters, such as Gren in "Cowboy Bebop" and Dahlia and Desmond in "Carole & Tuesday," and he answered by addressing the root inspiration for his whole approach to diversity: Ridley Scott's 1982 film "Blade Runner."

How Blade Runner led to Cowboy Bebop

"Ever since I saw the 1982 movie 'Blade Runner,' I have wanted a future in which lots of ethnicities, races, and genders all lived together," Shinichiro Watanabe said regarding gender representation. "But that sort of future has yet to become reality, so I thought I would at least make it come true in my anime world."

"Blade Runner" takes place in a futuristic version of Los Angeles with many Japanese cultural elements, a cultural fusion inspired by predictions of Japan's economic ascendancy in the '80s. "Cowboy Bebop" presents a similar East-meets-West cultural fusion, though coming from the somewhat different perspective of a Japanese creator rather than that of a British filmmaker making an American movie. 

Watanabe is such a fan of "Blade Runner" that he directed an anime short set in the film's universe, titled "Blade Runner Black Out 2022," and was credited as a creative producer on the "Blade Runner: Black Lotus" anime series.

"Carole & Tuesday" is now available on Blu-ray.