Must-see (and read) cyberpunk anime.
By Chloi Rad
Since its debut in 1989, Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell has become a staple in the world of cyberpunk, occupying the range of manga, animated film, anime TV series, and video game.
The original 1995 film, while itself rooted in other cyberpunk classics, has become the basis of inspiration for several similar works that have since followed. In 2017, the beloved anime will enter the realm of live action with Rupert Sanders’ Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson — the first trailer for which debuted last weekend.
If you have any interest at all in the new Ghost in the Shell, or if you’re looking for something closer to the original anime, here are 5 anime/manga series you should definitely check out…
Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain, a 13-episode anime series from 1998, is on the trippier end of the cyberpunk spectrum. It follows an awkward teenage girl named Lain Iwakura, who develops a dangerous obsession with a communications network called the Wired after receiving an email from a classmate who recently committed suicide. In the email, the deceased classmate tells Lain that she has merely abandoned her physical body to live on in the Wired, where she has also found God. A bizarre, often eerie exploration of consciousness and perception are at the heart of Lain’s unhealthy descent into cyberspace, as she gets caught up in conspiracies involving unhinged computer scientists and mysterious hacker groups.
Directed by Shuko Murase (most recently known for his work on Gangsta), the 23-episode cyberpunk mystery Ergo Proxy initially has a lot in common with Blade Runner. It’s set in the future, in a domed metropolis (seemingly more utopian than Blade Runner’s neon-laced noir city) where humans and androids peacefully coexist. But a virus has caused androids to become sentient and violent, committing a string of murders that Citizen Intelligence Bureau agent Re-L Mayer is assigned to investigate. While heavy-handed with its philosophical elements (several robots are named after famous thinkers like Derrida and Lacan), Ergo Proxy’s dark, sci-fi style and suspense make for a decent watch for any cyberpunk fan.
The fantastic 1988 animated film adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo’s philosophical cyberpunk thriller Akira is a classic. Otomo directed and wrote the screenplay himself, keeping the movie faithful to the source material, while a memorable soundtrack by Tsutomu Ohashi helped bring the story’s bizarre, psychological drama to life. But while the movie’s praise is definitely deserved, no one should overlook Otomo’s original 6-volume manga from 1982, which is a much longer, complex version of the tale told in the highly condensed film. The manga version of Akira more deeply explores themes of government corruption, the terror of adolescence, and 20th century anxieties in post-war Japan — substantial material for any good sci-fi.
Set in a vast, ever-expanding structure called The City, Tsutomu Nihei’s 10-part cyberpunk manga Blame! is best known for its striking imagery. From its smallest panels to its impressive full-page spreads, Blame!’s chilling, unnaturally large spaces and megastructures — which fall somewhere between the biomechanical gothic of H.R. Giger and cold brutalism — are at the heart of its tale of warring humans and cyborgs. Its story is often criticized for being hard to follow or convoluted, but if you’re just in it for the gorgeous visuals, look no further. In 2017, a film adaptation from Polygon Pictures will debut as a Netflix Original.
1998’s Texhnolyze is a 22-episode dystopian cyberpunk series from the writers and producers of Serial Experiments Lain. While its story is very different — centering around clashes between several radical political groups for control of an underground city called Lux — Texhnolyze shares the same slow, brooding style of Lain, only with a more nihilistic, apocalyptic edge. If you like your sci-fi heavy and miserable, Texhnolyze is probably for you.
Chloi Rad is an Associate Editor for IGN. Follow her on Twitter at @_chloi.
Originally published on Wordpress