When cyberpunk and anime combine, it can be a beautiful thing for fans of the high tech and low life genre.There are two main subgenres of the Japanese cyberpunk domain; live-action films, and manga and anime. In this article, we will focus on the latter. So, here are the 5 best Japanese cyberpunk anime to watch right now.
5. Megazone 23 (1985)
Directed by: Noboru Ishiguro, Ichiro Itano, Kenichi Yatagai, Shinji Aramaki
Written by: Hiroyuki Hoshiyama, Emu Arii
Megazone 23 is a four-part Japanese cyberpunk anime that follows the story of Shogo Yahagi, a biker whose ownership of a government experimental prototype bike sends him on a journey of discovery and revelations about his inhabited city.
The story is set around 500 years in the future, where humanity has fled the Earth due to its uninhabitable state and, consequently, live on massive colony spaceships called Megazones. The government are involved in an attempt to hack the civic computer in order to utilize the city’s AI (called EVE) and brainwash their inhabitants.
Shogo finds himself embroiled in the midst of the government’s plan, as his experimental bike provides him with information that he should not have. As the government learn of this, they decide to eliminate him, along with the benevolent city artificial intelligence.
Megazone 23 has had a lasting impression on the futuristic sci-fi genre, and many cite it as a major influence for The Matrix. One thing is for certain, Megazone 23 is one the best Japanese cyberpunk anime series around.
4. Akira (1988)
Directed by: Katsuhiro Otomo
Produced by: Ryohei Suzuki, Shunzo Kato
Akira is well-known in the West as it was the first Japanese anime to be published by Marvel Comics in the US. The anime was released in 1988 and is based on the manga of the same name that ran from 1982 to 1990.
Akira is set in a dystopian Neo-Tokyo city and follows the story of Kaneda and his contemporaries as they try to stop Tetsuo from ravaging their city. Tetsuo, who is a childhood friend of Kaneda, wants to awaken a mysterious figure with strong psychic abilities called “Akira”.
The anime was well received upon its release and was lauded for its special effects and artwork, among other things. The color is vibrant, the skyscapes are glowing, and the futuristic settings are imaginative.
Akira is a pioneer of the Japanese cyberpunk genre and is often cited as an influence for many forms of cyberpunk media. This is one of the best Japanese cyberpunk anime around, and one you have to try if you are new to the genre.
3. Genocyber (1994)
Directed by: Koichi Ohata
Written by: Tony Takezaki, Sho Aikawa
Genocyber is a five-part anime series based on the 1993 manga series of the same name. Before continuing, it should be noted that Genocyber is not for younger audiences or the faint-hearted. The anime is notoriously and gruesomely graphic, to the extent that it received some criticism for its level of violence. That being said, it is still a thoroughly enjoyable and hard-hitting anime.
The story begins in Hong Kong in the near future, at a time when countries around the world are beginning to form a global coalition government. The protagonist, Elaine, is the object of desire of a mad scientist, who wants to fuse the psychic abilities of Elaine and her sister to create the ultimate biological weapon called “Genocyber”.
The funding of this research project is provided by a powerful Japanese conglomerate called the Kuryu Group, who leave many-a-corpse in their trail as they ruthlessly hunt for the Elaine by deploying cyborg agents to find her.
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Genocyber
is far more than just a platform to showcase gruesome and bloody violence. The plot is engaging, whacky and exhilarating all at once, and this all makes for Genocyber easily being one of the best Japanese cyberpunk anime to ever be created.
2. Mardock Scramble (2010)
Directed by: Susumu Kudo
Written by: Tow Ubukata
Mardock Scramble is a Japanese cyberpunk anime film trilogy that is based on a series of novels of the same name. The story takes place in Mardock City, a futuristic metropolis full with advanced cybernetics and artificial intelligence.
The plot follows Rune Balot, a prostitute who fell victim to her casino-manager customer, Shell Septinous. Shell attempted to murder Rune in an explosion, before she was rescued by Dr Easter, a freelancer who performs the life-saving procedure by transforming Rune into a cyborg.
After Rune is installed with the advanced cybernetics, she is accompanied by an AI mouse that helps her adapt to her new life. Rune also undergoes procedures to help defend herself from Shell, who will stop at nothing to avoid her testifying against him.
Mardock Scramble is one of the lesser known anime in this list, but it is well worth checking out. In my opinion, it is not only one of the best Japanese cyberpunk anime around, but also one of the best anime to have been produced in any genre.
1. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Directed by: Masamune Shirow
Written by: Mamoru Oshii
If you’ve been a fan of cyberpunk media for any amount of time, you’ve probably come across Ghost in the Shell already. This anime is based on the manga series of the same name, created by Masamune Shirow in 1991.
Ghost in the Shell has become a huge media franchise in Japan and has produced several sequels and spinoffs. This 1995 Japanese cyberpunk anime was directed by Mamoru Oshii and is considered by many to be the greatest anime of all time.
Set in 2029, the plot follows the story of Motoko Kusanagi, an assault team-leader for the Public Security Section 9. As are many in this technologically advanced dystopian world, Kusanagi is heavily augmented and is classified as a synthetic “fully-body prosthesis” due to her replacement cybernetic parts.
Ghost in the Shell touches on some profound themes throughout its course, including sexuality, gender identity, and self-identity in a world with advanced technology. If you haven’t seen Ghost in the Shell
yet, you need to. It is certainly one of the best (if not the best) Japanese cyberpunk anime you can watch.
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If you enjoyed reading this list of the best Japanese cyberpunk anime, you may also like our review of some great cyberpunk games to play right now.
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