Created by Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the Shell takes place in the future where crime happens not only offline, but also online as well. For over the course of 20 years, the series has spawned spin-offs, movies and tons of merchandise.
And on top of that, it's regarded as a pioneer of cyberpunk, Hollywood has decided to turn this classic anime into a live-action film. And while the film has received a lot of negative comments—mainly focusing on whitewashing many fans of the series really wanted to see Scarlett Johannsson put on the thermoptic bodysuit (invisible suit) and kick some ass as The Major.
But, if you're looking for some more cyberpunk action, then take a look at these 6 anime.
Psycho-Pass takes place in a dystopian 22nd-century Japan where crime has become part of the normal life. To decrease the crime rate, the government created the Sibyl System, a technology that scans a citizen's probability in committing a crime. But, sometimes criminals slip through the system. Thus, it's up to Inspectors along with their latent criminals, called Enforcers to hunt these criminals down.
While Psycho-Pass is an original anime, it origins come from the studio’s interest in making a spiritual successor to Ghost in the Shell (GITS). And although GITS deals with terrorist groups, Psycho-Pass is more about low-level cybernetic criminals, but with a big plot twist.
Released in 1995, Armitage III takes place in the near future and follows Detective Ross Sylibus, who is transferred to Mars. However, during a flight, a famous singer is murdered, but the shooting reveals something much more shocking. It turns out that the singer is a "Third" — a robot that looks and feels like a human. To solve this murder, Sylibus gets a new partner, Armitage, a female cop with a chip on her shoulder. Their investigation uncovers a conspiracy plot that can have them both killed by the Martian government.
While Armitage III came out around the same time as Ghost in the Shell, it was completely overshadowed by GITS's success. Nevertheless, Armitage III and Ghost in the Shell share many similarities. Both series feature a robust and intelligent heroine that is a member of the policing force and have a strong bond with the male lead. At any rate, the most important similarity between the two is their premise, what makes us human and the definition of life.
Released almost a decade earlier, the cyberpunk-style OVA takes place in a non-determined future. While Appleseed has a few adaptations, the overall story follows Deunan Knute, a former soldier, and her partner Briareos Hecatonchires. Both are members of the ESWAT, a counter-terrorism unit, crime response, and special forces branch of Olympus.
Both anime explore the possibility and to some degree the effects of cybernetic and biological engineering. Furthermore, both series depict a world of political corruption and going against the system. Their biggest similarity is that both anime share the same creator, Masume Shirow. So, the chances are that if you like Ghost in the Shell, you will also like Appleseed. Although both anime are a re-interpretation of the original manga.
The sci-fi anime takes place in the future where humans and AutoReiv—robots used for a variety of tasks—coexist peacefully. But, this comes to a halt when a virus gives the machines the power of self-awareness, causing them to commit a series of murders. Tasked to solve these murders is Inspector Re-L Mayer, but her sleuthing leads to something more than a bunch of killings.
From the lead protagonist sharing the same personality to the stunning visual and soundtracks, both Ergo Proxy and Ghost in the Shell share many similarities. Both anime give an accurate representation of the cyberpunk genre and its themes. And although the plots are different, they do deal with topics regarding existentialism.
Serial Experiments Lain
Moving from the cyberpunk genre, the psychological anime Serial Experiments Lain is one of the most intricate anime on this list. The 13-episode series follows Lain, an awkward and introverted 14-year-old girl who like many girls from her school receive a disturbing email from her classmate Chisa Yomoda—"I have only abandoned my body, I still live here"—the same girl who recently committed suicide. Now Lain finds herself in a world where identity, consciousness, and perception take a whole new meaning.
Serial Experiments Lain is less about cyborgs but more about the life we create in the virtual space. Consequently, asking questions on how the human mind and soul work. However, what GITS lacks, Serial picks up, subsequently making it a thought-provoking series questioning our own existence in a world moving towards the internet.
Bubblegum Crisis Universe
The Bubblegum Crisis Universe — Bubblegum Crisis, A.D. Police Files, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, and Parasite Dolls — is a collection of cyberpunk OVAs released between 1987 and 2003. The series involves the adventures of the Knight Sabers, an all-female group of mercenaries who don powered exoskeletons and fight rogue robots. The success of the series spawned several sequels and spin-offs that also deal with police officers investigating out of control robots.
Even though Ghost in the Shell may be the face of cyberpunk, it was series such as Bubblegum Crisis that have transformed the genre. In an age where female empowerment was unheard of, Bubblegum made it a point to feature strong female leads.