(Pokémon) Tears in Rain: The Rights of Non-Human Sentient Life within the Blade Runner and Pokémon Franchises

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference presentation/ephemera


Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019) is the first live-action film adaptation of the Pokémon franchise. Visually however the film is most heavily influenced by Ridley Scott’s seminal film Blade Runner (1982). I argue that the connections between Detective Pikachu (and the wider Pokémon franchise) and the Blade Runner franchise runs deeper than just an aesthetic influence. Scott’s film and Denis Villeneuve’s 2017 sequel Blade Runner 2049 take place in a cyberpunk vision of a future where humanity relies on genetically engineered slave-labour to colonise outer space. There are two case-studies I examine in this paper. Firstly, I examine the rights and social status of non-human lifeforms within both franchises. In Blade Runner, Replicants are sentient beings who have no rights and can be summarily retired/executed if they rebel against their prescribed role in society. Pokémon however are (mostly) natural creatures who are clearly sentient despite their limited vocabulary. Pokémon are made to battle against each other at the orders of human trainers. Detective Pikachu takes place in Rhyme City; where Pokémon battles are explicitly banned. Rather than avoiding the ethical questions raised by the Pokémon’s core premise; this story-choice highlights those concerns. The second case study is a dual analysis of Roy Batty, the sympathetic antagonist of Blade Runner and Mewtwo, the genetically engineered Pokémon. Both characters are the voice of critique of humanity’s treatment of Replicants/Pokémon. Comparing the portrayal of non-human sentient life in Blade Runner and Pokémon illuminates ethical and philosophical questions about the Pokémon franchise that are underexplored in existing academic literature.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 3 Dec 2022
EventCultural Studies Association of Australasia Annual Conference 2022: CSAA 30th Anniversary Conference - RMIT, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 1 Dec 20223 Dec 2022


ConferenceCultural Studies Association of Australasia Annual Conference 2022


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