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10 best cyberpunk anime (Image via Production I.G, Studio Trigger)

10 best cyberpunk anime you can't afford to miss

Cyberpunk anime takes viewers into futuristic worlds filled with advanced technology, cyborgs, hackers, corporate corruption, and the clash between lowlifes and elite computer programmers. These thought-provoking shows raise complex questions about the relationship between humanity and machines.

The cyberpunk genre first emerged in literature during the 1980s as a subgenre of science fiction focused on the dangers of uncontrolled technological advancement. Classic novels like William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? explored artificial intelligence, virtual reality, genetic engineering, and multinational corporations dominating society.

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These themes and ideas soon made their way to manga, anime, and live-action Japanese films, each putting its own distinctive spin on the genre. In this list, we will explore some of the best cyberpunk anime series that transport us to futuristic worlds.

Disclaimer: This article reflects the writer's opinion and is not ranked in any particular order.


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Cyberworlds unleashed: 10 must-watch cyberpunk anime

1. Akira

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Akira (Image via Tokyo Movie Shinsha)

No list of classic cyberpunk anime is complete without mentioning Akira. Set in Neo-Tokyo in 2019, this 1988 film depicts a dystopian city filled with political strife, anti-government protests, and gang violence.

The visually stunning movie centers around Shotaro Kaneda, the leader of a biker gang whose world is disrupted when his friend Tetsuo develops powerful telekinetic abilities after a motorcycle accident.

Akira’s iconic animation and philosophical themes introduced many Western viewers to the cyberpunk genre. The acclaimed film had a profound influence on countless science fiction works to follow. Akira examines the dangers of unchecked power and technology at a breakneck pace, leading up to an unforgettable climax.

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2. Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell (Image via Production I.G)
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One of the most philosophically complex cyberpunk anime stories, Ghost in the Shell, focuses on Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg Public Security Section 9 agent on the hunt for an elusive hacker called the Puppet Master. Set in mid-21st century Japan, this 1995 anime film questions what it means to be human in an era when many individuals possess cybernetic body parts or enhancements.

Directed by Mamoru Oshii, Ghost in the Shell won praise for its stunning visual invention, spoofing of genre tropes, and thematic depth. The franchise also encompasses a manga, a TV series, video games, and a live-action film. However, the initial movie remains the best entry point into this seminal cyberpunk world.


3. Serial Experiments Lain

Serial Experiments Lain (Image via Triangle Staff)
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Serial Experiments Lain delves deep into questions of identity, consciousness, and perception through the lens of advanced communication technology.

The show follows Lain Iwakura, an isolated 14-year-old middle school girl who becomes obsessed with connecting to the virtual world of the Wired after receiving an email from a dead classmate telling her that God lurks within cyberspace.

Directed by Ryūtarō Nakamura in 1998, Lain pioneered a weird retro aesthetic that resonates strongly with internet subcultures to come. Its innovative visuals, fragmented narrative, and mixing of reality, fantasy, and science fiction make this cyberpunk anime ideal for viewers who enjoy challenging, genre-bending works.


4. Bubblegum Crisis

Bubblegum Crisis (Image via AIC)
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For those seeking a more lighthearted, female-centered cyberpunk story, Bubblegum Crisis offers the perfect balance between mecha action, cyborg mayhem, and relatable characters. Set in 2032 Tokyo, the 1987 series depicts four young women donning robotic power suits to battle rogue Boomer robots capable of causing serious harm.

Blending mecha and magical girl genres with cyberpunk tropes, Bubblegum Crisis brims with energy and appeals to viewers who enjoyed Power Rangers or Totally Spies. Despite the silly name, it explores meaningful themes related to corporate greed versus public good entertainingly thanks to its charismatic leads. This classic cyberpunk anime gave the medium some of its first action heroines.


5. Ergo Proxy

Ergo Proxy (Image via Manglobe)
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An experimental psychological thriller series, the 2006 anime Ergo Proxy unfolds on a post-apocalyptic Earth where humans and androids called AutoReivs struggle to coexist in domed cities following an ecological disaster. Investigator Re-l Mayer teams up with the mysterious Ergo Proxy on a quest to uncover the truth about the Proxies, immortal beings worshipped as gods.

Layering philosophy, science fiction, and noir, Ergo Proxy keeps viewers asking questions while reveling in stylish imagery and moments of intensity that rival Akira or Ghost in the Shell. For patient viewers who enjoy complex stories and dynamic characters over action, Ergo Proxy delivers a uniquely surreal cyberpunk vision.


6. Appleseed

Appleseed (Image via Digital Frontier)
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For cyberpunk anime fans craving more mecha action, Appleseed offers a compelling post-World War III vision focused on the tensions between humans and bioroids (artificial humans). Co-directed by Shinji Aramaki in 2004, the CGI film takes place in the utopian city of Olympus, where war veteran Deunan and her bioroid partner Briareos strive to keep the peace.

Visually spectacular while exploring thought-provoking themes about progress versus preservation with two engaging leads, Appleseed spawned a franchise with a legion of devoted fans drawn to Aramaki’s detailed mechanical designs. The film doubles as an excellent entry point for viewers new to cyberpunk anime or 3D animation.


7. Texhnolyze

Texhnolyze (Image via Madhouse)
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One of the most nihilistic entries on the list, Texhnolyze, depicts a subterranean city called Lux ruled by warring factions and Texhnolyzed fighters. Recalling gritty noir classics, the 2003 anime follows solemn prize fighter Ichise as he loses limbs only to gain new purpose after being fitted with prosthetics.

This visually distinctive cyberpunk anime series offers one of the medium’s more depressing visions of technology’s impact on humanity. While Texhnolyze’s gratuitous violence and bleak tone won’t appeal to some, fans of dystopian stories will discover an enthralling portrayal of society pushed to its utter limits in the name of survival. The memorable ending sequence alone makes it worth watching.


8. Armitage III

Armitage III (Image via AIC)
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For 90s cyberpunk anime fans, Armitage III remains a hugely influential cyberpunk franchise best known for the gorgeous gynoids (female robots) that capture the hearts of viewers and characters alike.

Set on a future Mars where tensions run high between humans and third-generation androids indistinguishable from people, this four-part original video animation follows tough-as-nails police officer Ross Syllabus as he teams up with an amnesic gynoid named Naomi Armitage to investigate a string of gruesome murders.

Released in 1995, Armitage III enthralls with its detailed Martian world-building, thought-provoking themes, and explosive action organized by director Hiroyuki Ochi. Later entries in this cyberpunk anime franchise never quite captured the initial magic, despite pushing the genre forward.


9. Psycho-Pass

Psycho-Pass (Image via Production I.G)
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For viewers craving cyberpunk tales with procedural or crime drama hooks, Psycho-Pass expertly blends science fiction and police stories.

Set in a dystopian future version of Japan where a person’s likelihood of committing crimes can be quantified and monitored through a special system called Psycho-Pass, the 2012 anime focuses on police force members hunting down dangerous criminals.

Helmed by directors Naoyoshi Shiotani and Katsuyuki Motohiro, this beautifully animated cyberpunk anime show unfolds like a well-plotted thriller while exploring provocative themes related to criminal justice systems and fate through a memorable set of complex characters that keep audiences engaged across multiple seasons.


10. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (Image via Studio Trigger)
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A recent cyberpunk anime sensation, Netflix’s Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, stunned audiences with its vividly realized vision of the dark future depicted in the video game Cyberpunk 2077.

Set in the sprawling metropolis of Night City, brimming with violence, crime, and extreme body augmentation, the 2022 series chronicles a street kid named David Martinez who strives to become an edge runner, a mercenary outlaw also known as a cyberpunk.

Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi with music from Akira Yamaoka, Edgerunners impresses with slick animation, impactful characters, and forceful action. Despite its depressing outlook on technology and humanity, the anime manages to find hope in human connection.

For many, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners ranks as the crown jewel of recent cyberpunk anime thanks to its emotional core, anchored by David and his friends.


Conclusion

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As this list demonstrates, cyberpunk anime remains one of the most intellectually thrilling, visually spectacular, and thought-provoking genres, with decades of classic works to discover for both long-time fans and newcomers.

Whether you crave experimental masterpieces like Serial Experiments Lain, smash-hit franchises like Ghost in the Shell, or recent award-winners such as Psycho-Pass, the category has something exhilarating for all tastes. Just beware of falling too far down the rabbit hole like many devoted fans hypnotized by Cyperpunk’s dark visions of the future.

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Edited by
Dev Sharma
 
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