Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction. Themes of cyberpunk often include futuristic elements like artificial intelligence, futuristic cities, and technological advancements. While it isn’t the most popular genre, this list looks at 10 of the best Cyberpunk anime out there.
Cyberpunk can be considered a lost art in anime as a lot of the good Cyberpunk anime aren’t from the modern era. In fact, there isn’t much Cyberpunk anime being released. Alternatively, Cyberpunk is very popular in the comic book world. If your looking for more Cyberpunk, be sure to check out the best Cyberpunk comics out there.
10 Gunslinger Girl
Kicking off the list is Gunslinger Girl, an anime that revolves around themes of military. The anime was released during the fall 2003 season and takes place in Italy. The Social Welfare Agency is an organization that takes young girls from hospitals and gives them a new life with cybernetic enhanced bodies. The girls are then brainwashed to become ruthless killers for the Italian government. While the girls are part artificial, they still have human necessities in the form of love and affection. The story follows a group of girls as they struggle to walk the line of human and creation. Gunslinger Girl is 13 episodes and aired for two seasons.
9 Accel World
Released during the spring 2012 season, Accel World has themes around school life romances. The story follows Haruyuki Arita, an elite gamer at the top of the ladder. However, he is bested by student council vice president Kuroyukihime, a girl whose name is based on “Snow White”. Kuroyukihime shows Haruyuki a program called Brain Burst which allows a player to accelerate their brainwaves. This is done by dueling another player in an augmented reality fighting game. Winning the fight means the player can accelerate their brain more and more, but losing results in being cut-off from Brain Burst. Together Kuroyukihime and Haruyuki adventure into Brain Burst on a quest to reach level 10 and meet the creator. Accel World is 24 episodes and aired for one season.
Texhnolyze is a psychological original anime developed by studio Madhouse. The anime was released during the spring 2003 season and takes place in a fantasy city called Lux. The city is entirely underground and is run by three factions. Organo is an organization that works with criminals to control Texhnolyze. Texnolyze is the name given for prosthetics in the anime.
The second faction is the Salvation Union who are always running into conflict with Organo. The third faction is Racan, a younger group of people using their Texnolyze for personal gain. The story follows Ichise, a fighter with a Texhnolyze arm and leg. Ichise works in Organo where he meets Ran, a girl who is clairvoyant. Together they work to save Lux from civil war. Texhnolyze is 22 episodes and aired for one season.
Madhouse’s second entry on this list is the anime film, Metropolis. This is an adaption of the manga done by Osamu Tezuka, the godfather of manga. Released on May 26, 2001, Metropolis takes place in the city of Metropolis, a technologically advanced city where humans and robots coexist. The story follows Detective Oyaji Hige, known as Shimsali Ban, and his nephew Kenichi Shikishima. Kenichi frees a girl with amnesia named Tima from a laboratory and are on the run from Duke Red, the ruler of Metropolis. Kenichi does everything in his power to protect Tima as the two adventure through Metropolis.
6 Ergo Proxy
Released during the winter 2006 season, Ergo Proxy is a psychological mystery anime. The anime takes place in Romdo, a city encased in a dome. As the last remaining civilization on Earth, life outside the dome ceases to exist. AutoReivs were created inside the dome to assist with ensuring that humanity continues. AutoReivs are humanoid robots, but have a virus called Cogito Virus. This gives them human capabilities such as thinking for themselves and being conscious of the environment around them. Re-I Mayer is tasked with the investigation of the Cogito Virus where she discovers a mythical entity known as Proxies. Ergo Proxy is 23 episodes and aired for one season.
Blame! is a science fiction film released on May 20, 2017. The series also has a six-episode special, but this entry will focus on the film. Blame! takes place in the future with technology that is far advanced than the current times. The world is entirely automated, but an infection has made the automated systems in the city lose control. The Safeguard is a defense system in the city that protects the city. If the Safeguard detects human presence, it sends a Safeguard pack to eliminate the target. Killy the Wanderer is the lead of Blame! and is searching for the Net Terminal Genes so he can restore the city back to its original state.
Released on July 16, 1988, Akira is one of the most popular cyberpunk anime out there. The film starts in 1988 Japan after an explosion has disrupted the city of Tokyo, leading to World War III. The cause of this explosion was because of a young boy with psychic powers. Now in 2019, Tokyo has been restored as Neo-Tokyo, where terrorism and gang violence is at a high.
Shoutarou Kaneda leads the motorcycle gang known as The Capsules. In the gang is Tetsuo Shima who starts to develop psychic abilities after an accident. Akira won a Silver Scream Award at the Amsterdam-based Imagine Film Festival in 1992 and was nominated for Best Anime Feature Award at the American Anime Awards in 2007.
3 Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain tells a psychological supernatural story of Lain Iwakura. Released during the summer 1998 season, Lain is a 14 year old quiet girl that attends school. After receiving an email from a girl who recently committed suicide, Lain doesn’t truly understand where it came from. The answer lies within The Wired. The Wired is a virtual world of communication networks, that we now understand as the internet.
As Lain experiences more cyber mysteries, she struggles to identify the difference between the real world she lives in and The Wired. Her choices affect both worlds, but she slowly loses her identity and forgets who she is. Serial Experiments Lain won the Excellence Prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival in 1998. The anime is 13 episodes and aired for one season.
Released during the fall 2012 season, Psycho-Pass is an original done by Production I.G. studio. The anime takes place during the 22nd century in Japan. A new system known as the Sibyl System is enforced on citizens. This system assesses the level of threat to society each person has and determines it as their Psycho-Pass. A group of people called Inspectors make sure this stays intact, and ex-prisoners called Enforcers work alongside the Inspectors. The story follows Akane Tsunemori, considered to be a model citizen. She joins the police force and investigates the corrupt Sibyl System. Psycho-Pass is 22 episodes and aired for three seasons.
1 Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Rounding out the list as the best Cyberpunk anime, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex stands above the rest. Released during the fall 2002 season, the anime takes place in the distant future. In this world humanity has evolved to do full body transplants into machines. The technology is dangerous in the wrong hands, so Section 9 is an independently operating police unit which focuses on crimes associated with this technology. The anime and Section 9 are led by Motoko Kusanagi. She is tasked with facing “The Laughing Man” a hacker trying to establish a name for himself. He is responsible for multiple crimes in Japan and it is up to Motoko to stop him. The Ghost in the Shell series is made up of sequels, spin-offs, and side stories. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is 26 episodes.