2020 may be the year of Cyberpunk 2077, but developer CD Projekt Red has more than just a video game in the pipeline. Announced during the Night City Wire broadcast, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a collaborative project between famed anime powerhouse Studio Trigger and streaming giant Netflix that will see Night City expand beyond its video game roots, venturing into the territory of animation for a 10-episode series that’ll feature new characters and story set within the game’s grim world of tomorrow.
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners won’t be released until 2022, so what’s a fan of cybernetic enhancements and dystopian future worlds supposed to do until then? Watch some other cyberpunk anime, of course! There’s no shortage of material within that genre, as the last few decades have given birth to not only classic examinations of how technology could impact humanity, but also modern-day masterpieces that have helped to shape the world of entertainment.
Here’s a look at 10 essential anime cyberpunk series to jack into.
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Hints of a more supernatural element are thrown into the mix, multiple plot threads are woven throughout the tale and it all ends on a satisfactory high note. An energetic and youthful exploration of technology that skips the bleaker outlook of many entries on this list, Dennō Coil is Stranger Things by way of Hayao Miyazaki, an overlooked gem that was simply too far ahead of the curve when it was first released in 2007.
Thanks to incredible animation that was years ahead of the curve and a soundtrack that pushed the envelope back when it was released in 1988, Akira nails the attitude of cyberpunk and raised the bar for anime at the time. Akira has the coolness factor of cyberpunk, distilled into one incredible feature-film package of teenage gang violence, psychic warfare and an iconic motorcycle slide that pop culture simply cannot get enough of.
Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell is a feast for the eyes and the soul that questions the core concept of identity, as protagonist Motoko Kusanagi attempts to hunt down the deadly Puppet Master before his plan throws a corrupt world into chaos. Twenty-five years after the original film first rocked cinemas across the globe, Ghost in the Shell’s influence still resonates, questioning everything from life to sexual identity in a post-human future that pursued a technological evolution without ever considering if society was ready for such an upgrade.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex expands on the dark future established in the original film across 52 episodes of espionage, corruption and betrayal.
Tasked with the capture of the elusive cyber-criminal known only as The Laughing Man, Motoko Kusanagi and the rest of the Section 9 task force quickly find themselves in the middle of a dangerous game of cyber-cloak and dagger. While Stand Alone Complex still has a few philosophical aces up its sleeve, the action-packed Ghost in the Shell sequel series focuses more on a world that has evolved to become more dangerous and treacherous in the aftermath of successive world wars, treachery at the highest level, and post-human augmentation run amok.
In an age where the last remnants of humanity hope to survive a world gone mad by huddling inside of the domed city of Romdo, only the AutoReivs can ensure that mankind survives. But when these automatons begin to show signs of independent human behaviour thanks to the Cogito Virus, a dark tale unfolds. Tasked with hunting down these renegades and the mythical Proxy that may be humanity’s salvation, investigator Re-L Mayer’s mission to preserve a fragile balance soon becomes a journey into mystery that questions the very nature of life itself.
Battle Angel Alita
It may come across as an ass-kicking extravaganza wrapped up in a short and sweet OVA package, but Battle Angel Alita has so much more going for it. Beneath the cool cybernetic cells of animation, there’s a tale of heaven being built on top of hell, of the drive to follow your dreams and of the power of love that transcends mortality and technology itself. A vintage slice of excellence, Battle Angel Alita is a bucket list anime that every cyberpunk fan has to see at least once in their lifetime.
Serial Experiments Lain
Everything from the fragile nature of reality to loneliness, the idea of human consciousness to the perception of reality and so much more is packed into a 13-episode run that begs to be watched multiple times so that the weight of all of its various ideas can be processed. Years ahead of the curve, Serial Experiments Lain is a tense psychological horror about the isolating effects of technology that might leave the viewer questioning their very existence by the time they’ve finished watching it.
Set in a future where the very idea of crime has been reduced to a mathematical equation, Psycho Pass is the Minority Report sequel that you never knew you wanted. Unforgivingly gritty in its dark exploration of what a human could be capable of, Psycho Pass ups the ante with heroes who never know how close they are to one day being branded criminals by the very system that has been trusted with control over the fate of humanity.
It is often an exploration into hopelessness within these themes, but those who are emotionally resilient enough to absorb everything that Texhnolyze throws at them will come out the other side of this hauntingly gorgeous series with a new appreciation for the immutable nature of human spirit.
No Guns Life
There’s a cyborg. He is purpose and conviction, unmatched skill and pure willpower as he seeks to right the wrongs of a world that has fallen to crime. Also, he has a gigantic revolver for a head. That’s it, that’s the hook right there, a hard-boiled cyberpunk detective story starring a gumshoe thrust into several mysteries that somehow manages to be an emotional exploration of everything from climate change to poverty, corporate greed to immoral science and so much more.
No Guns Life is a mad slice of creativity from heavyweight anime studio Madhouse, but it’s also one of the most unique uses of the cyberpunk genre: wonderfully insane and surprisingly heartfelt. Plus the main character has a giant gun for a head. I cannot stress this enough.
What anime would you suggest folks should check out in preparation for Cyberpunk: Edgerunners? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
Source: IGN Video Games All