Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction that takes place in a dystopian future. We commonly see advanced technology, a futuristic lifestyle, and themes like artificial intelligence, high-tech cities, and transportation.
Anime and manga are obsessed with the idea of cyberpunk. They often flirt with different aspects of it, like what kind of technology we will see, how it will affect, and how it will change the lives of people. With time we’ve seen a lot of incarnation of this idea and here is the list of some of the best cyberpunk genre has to offer.
#10 Mardock Scramble
Mardock Scramble is a movie trilogy that came out in 2010-12 and is produced by “GoHands” studio. Our protagonist Rune Balot is a teen prostitute who gets murdered by a casino owner named Shell. But a new law “Scramble 9” that allows people to be revived for the testimony in court, gives Balot a second chance. After reviving in a synthetic body, she sets revenge as her goal. This anime deals with the fragility of life and people can persevere when given second chance. The animation is quality is great with a dark, neon color palette.
Watch Mardock Scramble trilogy here
Texhnolyze aired in 2003 and the show is produced by studio Madhouse. The story of this cyberpunk anime takes place in the falling city of Lux, which is commonly known as “The City” by its people. There are three warring factions, Organo controls Texhnolyze or prosthetics, Salvation Union is trying to disrupt Organo’s business, and Racan who are young people using Texhnolyze for personal reasons. Our protagonist Ichise is a promising fighter but loses his arm and a leg. Fortunately, he survives and also gets new Texhnolyze in that process. He later joins with Ran, a young girl who can see the future and tries to save the city from war.
Texhnolyze is a deep and complex story that may be confusing for some people but it’s a joy ride if you understand the narrative. The animation and sound are great, with a lot of visual storytelling.
Metropolis came out in 2001 and is produced by studio Madhouse. The movie is based on the cyberpunk-themed manga written by Osamu Tezuka, who is also known as the god of manga. Though the story is written from scratch, Tezuka’s art style and key story points from the manga were there.
The story takes place in the city of Metropolis, Our lead Kenichi finds an android girl with no memories and decides to help her. Together they run away while Kenichi tries to protect the girl from people hunting her.
#7 The Animatrix
The Animatrix came out in the year 2003 and was produced by The Wachowskis. Though the movie was produced in America, a lot of directors involved like Shinichiro Watanabe, Mashiro Maeda, and studios like Madhouse, studio 4°C were Japanese. The movie consists of 9 short stories that expand in the world of “The Matrix” trilogy. Matrix is a virtual reality where humans are trapped and machines use humans as a power source. Stories describe how the world of the Matrix was started after the fall of mankind against machines and also different stories about the world inside the Matrix. Most of the stories follow an anime style with both great animation and storytelling.
Watch Animatrix on Amazon Prime Video
#6 Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain aired in 1998 and was produced by Triangle Staff studio. The story of this Japanese cyberpunk anime television series is about Lain Iwakura, who faces some strange incidents after the suicide of a girl from her school. Lain starts to get deeper into the world of “wired”, also known as the internet, and slowly the line between reality and the virtual world starts to blur. The plot is complex and even difficult to describe. The story is philosophical in nature and a lot of events were kept open to interpretation.
Even though the animations look dated, it still conveys the story pretty well. The show focuses less on dialogue and more on visual storytelling.
#5 Ergo Proxy
Ergo Proxy aired in the year 2006 and produced by Manglobe studio. Our protagonist Re-l Mayer lives in the domed city of Romdo where everything is controlled by A.I. “AutoReivs” are the android robots that help humans to survive, but due to a disease known as “Cogito Virus”, AutoReivs starts to gain self-awareness. Re-I is assigned to investigate but everything turns into a bigger mystery. Though a little dark the show has a great philosophical story.
#4 Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop aired in 1998-1999 and also has a movie that came out in 2001. This cyberpunk-themed show was produced by sunrise and was directed by Shinichiro Watanabe. The show follows the story of Spike and his crew on their bounty hunting journeys. The show is more episodic, where every episode has a unique story. The stories are fun, with an array of interesting characters and a vast universe to explore.
What makes Cowboy Bebop a great watch is its amazing animation, which not only holds but beats modern anime, with a mix of cool jazz music.
Psycho-Pass aired in the year 2012 and was produced by Production IG. This cyberpunk psychological thriller show takes in 22nd century Japan where justice is served by the Sibyl System which is an advance A.I. that classifies people based on their crime coefficient. Based on this crime coefficient justice can be served. Our protagonist Akane Tsunemori is a young inspector who is assigned to Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division to apprehend people based on their crime coefficient. While serving as an inspector Akane finds out a dark secret behind Sibyl. The story delves into deep philosophical topics like justice and freedom.
#2 Ghost in The Shell
The manga for Ghost in the Shell came out in 1989 and was authored by Masamune Shirow. Since its debut manga is adapted into several anime movies and shows. Every show and movie explores Shirow’s work in different ways. The plot follows Motoko Kausuanagi, also known as major, who works for Public Security Section 9. In a world of synthetic body parts and increased dependence on technology, criminals have become advanced too, where people can get their body parts hacked and even their memories altered, and it’s the duty of section 9 to deal with bad guys.
The original Ghost in the shell movies from Mamoru Oshii is more of an essence of the story, on the other hand, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is more episodic and slowly introduces the audience to the world. There is also Ghost in the Shell: Arise OVAs, which acts as a prequel to the world of Ghost in the shell. Though none of the adaptations are connected, a lot of themes and characters are shared.
Watch Ghost in The Shell on Netlfix
Akira came out in the year 1988 and was directed and created by Katsuhiro Otomo. The story takes place in the year 2019 in the city of Neo-Tokyo. Our protagonists Kaneda and Tetsuo are part of “The Capsules”, a violent biker gang who rides futuristic bikes and engage in bloody fights. While Tetsuo acquires psychic powers and goes on a course to destroy himself and everything in his path, while Kaneda tries to save him. There is a spectrum of characters, from corrupt revolutionaries to superpowered psychic kids. The story is great and engaging.
Akira is considered not only the best cyberpunk but one of the best anime ever made. While most anime today uses 12 frames per second, Akira boasted 24 frames per second animation. It is a spectacle to watch and looks better than even modern anime titles. For any cyberpunk and anime fan, Akira is a must-watch.