In recent years, anime contents have been gaining momentum, which have been enjoyed through a variety of online platforms. They have been also divided into more detailed categories including classic genres and newly-born subgenres.
Cyberpunk is an important genre for anime fans that has long been the focus of attention. It is considered a subgenre of science fiction that has become popular and established since the 1980s. Cyberpunk is derived from the word cybernetics, and cyborgs and information science are depicted in anime based on physiology, mechanical engineering, systems engineering, and information engineering. There you find bizarre stories, crimes and other anti-social behavior, a civilization of an era ago and futuristic technology.
Some classic anime series and movies, such as Akira and Ghost in the Shell, are already world famous. In addition, there are many more fine quality pieces categorized as cyberpunk. For both anime starters and experienced watchers, I’d like to introduce 15 best cyberpunk anime of all time. All of the cyberpunk anime series and movies listed below are worth watching.
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15. Akudama Drive
Recently, the number of original anime created from scratch has been decreasing, but Akudama Drive (アクダマドライブ) is a cool modern cyberpunk anime series that was created as an original animation based on no manga or novel. Consisting of 12 episodes, it was made by Pierrot in 2020, which is the famous studio for other finest works such as Naruto and Tokyo Ghoul.
The story takes place in a world where everything is highly encouraged to be electronic. The country of Kansai has been overrun by “Akudama,” criminals who disturb public order. Ordinary Person, a 20-year-old female civilian, gets caught up with the super S-class Akudama, who are asked to help a murderer on the verge of execution escape from prison.
14. Dimension W
Dimension W is an action cyberpunk anime series that was broadcast in 2016. It was by two modern anime studios: Studio 3Hz, which is also known for Celestial Method and Orange, which is also famous for Trigun Stampede. Dimension W is based on Yuji Iwahara’s same-titled manga series which was serialized on Young Gangan (later on Monthly Big Gangan) between 2011 and 2019.
The development of “Coils” that can draw unlimited energy from a fourth dimension called “W” has brought humanity to the pinnacle of prosperity. Set in the futuristic city of Central 47, this is the story of Kyoma Mabuchi, a Collector who collects illegal coils and sometimes takes on illegal coil criminals, and his partner, a female android named Mira.
Studio: Studio 3Hz/Orange
13. Ergo Proxy
Ergo Proxy is an original anime series created from scratch by Manglobe, the anime studio that is also famous for a world’s favorite Samurai Champloo (2004-2005). The suspenseful anime, mixed with cyberpunk and psychological thriller, aired with 23 episodes in 2006. It includes themes of philosophy and psychology.
Ergo Proxy is set in a world after the collapse of prehistoric civilization, where people live in a dome city Romdeau, a “paradise without emotional needs” under a completely controlled system. People live as exemplary, obedient good citizens with robots called AutoReivs. Re-l Mayer, a young female career agent working for Romdeau’s Intelligence Bureau, is investigating the outbreak of a virus that has caused AutoReivs to lose control, as well as a series of mysterious slayings of citizens.
12. Summer Wars
Summer Wars (サマーウォーズ) is not necessarily classified as cyberpunk, but it takes place primarily in cyberspace. The science fiction anime movie, released in 2009, is known as his first original full-length film of Mamoru Hosoda, who is also famous for Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! (2000) and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006). Belle, his recent film released in 2021, also has the theme of a giant Internet virtual world.
Kenji, a high school sophomore living in Tokyo, uses his mathematical genius to solve a code written in an e-mail sent to him by accident. This causes catastrophic damage to OZ, the largest virtual world on the Internet where people from all over the world gather. Summer Wars depicts the world-shaking cyber-terrorism that took place on the Internet, and the real-life connections of a large rural family who stand up against it, as well as their virtual connections with people around the world via the Internet.
11. Coil – A Circle of Children
A large anime studio Madhouse released Coil – A Circle of Children (電脳コイル), which is also known as Den-noh Coil, in 2007. The 26-episode science fiction is the first anime series directed by Mitsuo Iso, who was involved in the production of the Mobile Suit Gundam series, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Some Studio Ghibli movies in the past. As a popular anime series among both kids and adults, Coil – A Circle of Children has been highly rated worldwide.
In the mid-2020s, cybernetic technology is in widespread use. Augmented reality technology called “Dennou Glasses (cyber glasses)” allows information from the cyber world to be superimposed on the real world and manipulated. Yuko Okonogi, a.k.a. Yasako, moves to Daikoku City, a provincial city with a long history but equipped with the latest cyber infrastructure, just before her last summer vacation as an elementary school student. At her new school, Yasako meets a group of children with rich personalities and experiences a series of strange happenings in the cyber space.
Blame! is based on the same-titled sci-fi manga published between 1997 and 2003, which is the first long-running serialized work by Tsutomu Nihei, who is also known for his recent works Knights of Sidonia (2009-2015) and Kaina of the Great Snow Sea (2023). The first anime of Blame! was released as an original net animation titled Blame! Ver. 0.11 in 2003, followed by an anime movie made by Polygon Pictures in 2017. In addition, there are a couple of short animated films: Blame! Prologue and Blame!: The Ancient Terminal City.
The sphere of human existence has been replaced by network space, and an ideal world has been constructed in which events in virtual space are reflected in the real world. The City, which had been under control, is now in chaos due to an anomaly that occurred long ago. The Netsphere collapses, and the killing by autonomous machines unfolds. Killy, the protagonist, wanders through thousands of floors of the Megastructure, searching for humans with the normal Net Terminal Gene.
Released: 2003 (Blame! Ver. 0.11)/2017 (Blame!)
Episodes: 6 (Blame! Ver. 0.11)
Studio: Group TAC (Blame! Ver. 0.11)/Polygon Pictures (Blame!)
9. Eden of the East
Although often overshadowed by the living legend, Ghost in the Shell, Eden of the East (東のエデン) is a famous anime series made by Production I.G and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, who also created Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Eden of the East is not your typical cyberpunk anime, but it presents a suspenseful mystery story about a mysterious cell phone. There are some connections to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex in the setting. After 11 episodes of the anime series aired, two anime movies, The King of Eden and Paradise Lost, were released in 2009 and 2010.
Eden of the East revolves around a 22-year-old girl Saki Morimi and an unidentified mystery man Akira Takizawa. On a graduation trip to the U.S., Saki gets into trouble in front of the White House and is saved by a Japanese man. The man’s name is Akira Takizawa, and he has lost his memory. He was also completely naked, clutching a pistol and a cell phone charged with 8.2 billion yen in electronic money. Who is Akira Takizawa and what is the identity of the mysterious cell phone? What were his lost memories?
Released (Movies): 2009 (The King of Eden)/2010 (Paradise Lost)
Studio: Production I.G
8. Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain is one of the most well-known cyberpunk anime series all over the world, also categorized as psychological horror. Made by Triangle Staff, it was broadcasted with 13 episodes in 1998. At the same time, its video game was developed for PlayStation by Pioneer LDC in the same year. The collective unconscious in the online age is the main theme of the anime, which also has a psycho-horror aspect. The real world and the virtual world are blended together, and the mood is that of the 1990s.
The story takes place in the modern age, when NAVI, a computer network terminal for communication, has become widespread. It revolves around Lain Iwakura, a shy 14-year-old junior high school girl. After receiving an e-mail from Chisa Yomoda, a classmate who recently committed suicide, Lain begins to have strange experiences as if she were seeing and hearing hallucinations. The ambiguous world in which the real world and the virtual world called Wired seem to blend together is depicted in a psychological horror style with a consistently gloomy atmosphere throughout the anime.
Studio: Triangle Staff
As one of the most popular modern cyberpunk anime series, Psycho-Pass has been watched by lots of fans around the world since its first season started airing in 2012. It was followed by the second season in 2014 and the third season in 2019. The popular franchise also includes several anime movies: Psycho-Pass: The Movie in 2015; Psycho-Pass: Sinners of the System, the trilogy consisting of Case 1: Crime and Punishment, Case 2: First Guardian and Case 3: On the Other Side of Love and Hate; Psycho-Pass 3: First Inspector in 2020 and Psycho-Pass: Providence in 2023. The story of Psycho-Pass is mainly written by Gen Urobuchi, who is also famous for Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011) and Fate/Zero (2011-2012).
The story takes place in a fictional world where a crime prediction system called “Psycho-Pass” exists. This system measures an individual’s mental state to determine their likelihood of committing a crime. The protagonist, Shinya Kogami, is an elite Inspector in the Public Safety Bureau, meets a 20-year-old fresh Inspector Akane Tsunemori. The story depicts them and their comrades solving mysteries while questioning the true nature of the system and human essence. They also face their past traumas and emotional scars.
Aired: 2012-2013 (Season 1)/2014 (Season 4)/2019 (Season 3)
Episodes: 22 (Season 1)/11 (Season 4)/8 (Season 3)
Released (Movies): 2015 (Psycho-Pass: The Movie)/2019 (Psycho-Pass: Sinners of the System)/2020 (Psycho-Pass 3: First Inspector)/2023 (Psycho-Pass: Providence)
Studio: Production I.G (Season 2 made by Tatsunoko Production)
Metropolis (メトロポリス) is a well-received work among international hardcore fans, released in 2001. The sci-fi animation is adapted from the same named manga written by Osamu Tezuka in 1949, who is known as “the God of Manga”. The classic manga is known as one of Tezuka’s early science fiction trilogy along with The Lost World (1948) and The World to Come (1951). The screenplay of the animated film is written by the renowned director Katsuhiro Otomo.
Metropolis is set in unknown future. A private detective, Shunsaku Ban, and his assistant, Kenichi Shikishima, come to Metropolis, a huge, ultra-modern city-state where humans and robots live together, in pursuit of a certain case. They are looking for Dr. Laughton, an internationally wanted man who is in trouble for developing artificial humans using living organisms. Kenichi then meets a mysterious girl named Tima, who seems to have lost her memory. The film depicts how mankind at the height of civilization is struck back by the power of overdeveloped science.
Released (Movie): 2001
5. Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop (カウボーイビバップ), one of the most popular anime series among international fans, is exactly classified into space western, but it is sometimes categorized as cyberpunk its 1990s cyberpunk vibe. It is composed of 26 episodes that are collected in the only season. The first and final anime movie Cowboy Bebop: The Movie showed in 2001. For its popularity worldwide, its American live-action television series was made by Tomorrow Studios, Midnight Radio and Sunrise Inc. in 2021.
An accident in a space experiment forces human beings to emigrate from Earth to an exoplanet, ironically ushering in the space age, a long-held dream. The anarchic situation seriously worsens public order, and a cowboy (bounty hunter) system is instituted, modeled after the American frontier. Spike Spiegel, a 27 years old Martian-born skilled cowboy, and his partner, Jet Black, a 36 years old Ganymedean, travel aboard the rickety spaceship “Bebop”. While welcoming new crew members, they get caught up in all sorts of mayhem on their journey.
Released (Movie): 2001
Every authentic anime fan who likes cyberpunk should watch Paprika (パプリカ), which has been highly acclaimed around the world. It was the last theatrical work of Satoshi Kon, who passed away in 2010, and is definitely one of his masterpieces. He is also famous for Tokyo Godfathers (2003) and Perfect Blue (1997). The science fiction and psychological thriller anime movie released in 2006 is based on Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel published in 1993.
In the near future, PT (psychotherapy) technology to treat mental illness by monitoring dreams and actually intervening in dreams has been developed. Doctor Atsuko Chiba, a psychotherapist who is highly respected at the Institute of Psychiatry, uses a revolutionary technology device called DC Mini, which allows her to share other people’s dreams, to infiltrate patients’ dreams in the form of another persona, Paprika, to find out the causes of their nightmares and provide other treatments. When the DC Mini is stolen, Paprika as a dream detective is forced to fight against the dream terrorists who make people have nightmares.
3. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
Regarded as one of the best cyberpunk anime in recent years, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (サイバーパンク エッジランナーズ) has been well received by many fans all over the world since it was distributed on Netflix in September, 2022. It was made as a spin-off anime series derived from Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt’s action role-playing video game released in 2020, presenting a prequel to the game.
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is set in Night City, a dystopian city controlled by giant corporations such as the Japanese-owned Arasaka Corporation. David Martinez, a young boy from a poor family, discovers a military piece of cyberware “Sandevistan” that belonged to his mother who died in an accident. David puts on the cyberware, knowing the risk of becoming a cyberpsycho in exchange for powerful combat abilities. David meets Lucyna “Lucy” Kushinada, a young netrunner, and Maine, the head of a criminal gang. They set him on the path to becoming an Edgerunner who takes on a variety of jobs.
Studio: Studio Trigger/CD Projekt Red
No matter what anyone says, I have to admit that Akira is one of the best animated films of all time. Categorized as cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic and thriller, Akira is based on Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga series published between 1982 and 1990. The fact that it was directed by the manga artist himself led to the creation of this wonderful animation. If you want to enjoy the whole story of Akira, it is recommended to read six volumes of the original manga since the adapted anime was completed before the manga finished.
Akira is set in Neo Tokyo, the new capital of Japan in 2019 after World War III. Shotaro Kaneda, a juvenile delinquent, spends his days riding his motorcycle on the loose with Tetsuo Shima and his other friends. One day, an accident awakens Tetsuo’s abilities and he is tormented by visual and auditory hallucinations of a strange boy and begins to wield his powers in a fit of rage. They then become embroiled in a case concerning the “Numbers,” children with faces like old men who are being used as experimental subjects in a top-secret military research project.
Released (Movie): 1988
Studio: Tokyo Movie Shinsha (which is currently known as TMS Entertainment)
1. Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell (攻殻機動隊), which has reigned as the absolute king of cyberpunk anime ever since the first anime movie was released in 1995, is the best cyberpunk anime of all time. The whole series is based on the legendary manga series written by Masamune Shirow in 1991. The first film and the following movie Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence was made bu the director Mamoru Oshii. And then, the first television anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, also known as S.A.C. Series, began in 2002, directed by Kenji Kamiyama. The movie series and the S.A.C. series were followed by a new movie series Ghost in the Shell: Arise, which contains four parts released in 2013 and 2014. A brand new animation series Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 started on Netflix in 2020.
Ghost in the Shell is set in Japan in the 21st century, where science and technology, including cyborgs and cybernetics, have become dramatically advanced after the Third Nuclear War, and the Fourth Non-Nuclear War, which Asia won. An era has arrived in which many people have direct access to the Internet via their brains. The story depicts the activities of the Public Security Section 9 (a.k.a. “Ghost in the Shell”), an anti-cybercrime intelligence division under the Ministry of Home Affairs. They detect crimes such as terrorism, assassination, and corruption in advance and minimizes their damage in a society where flesh-and-blood humans, cyborgs, androids are all mixed together. The main character, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is a female cyborg with a prosthetic body except for part of her brain and spinal cord, and is the field commander of Public Security Section 9.
Released (Movies): 1995 (Ghost in the Shell)/2004 (Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence)/2013-2014 (Ghost in the Shell: Arise)/2015 (Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie)/2021 (Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045
Aired: 2002-2003 (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex)/2004-2005 (Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG)/2006 (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society)/2015 (Arise – Alternative Architecture)/2020-2022 (Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045)
Episodes: 26 (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex)/26 (Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG)/1 (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society)/10 (Arise – Alternative Architecture)/24 (Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045)
Studio: Production I.G./Production I.G. and Sola Digital Arts (Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045)
I selected some of the best anime series and movies categorized as cyberpunk for both old and new anime fans. Enjoy the cool and retro world of cyberpunk!
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