Japanese anime are known for having the kind of elegance and freakishness that western animation could never achieve. As the novelist William Gibson mentioned in Time International, ‘Modern Japan simply was cyberpunk. And the Japanese themselves knew it and delighted in it.’ For the ones not familiar with the term, ‘cyberpunk’ is a science-fiction genre featured in anime and manga, as well as literature, movies and video games. Set in a dystopian future where high-class technology and artificial intelligence replace the organic, it emphasizes the loss of the human factor in a cybernetic space. Whoever might think Japanese anime is all about the kawaii cult, here are the top five shows that will make you change your mind.
Ergo Proxy (2006)
If you are looking for an eye candy series that is not only visually stunning but also has an enriching dark plot and entertaining soundtrack, then Ergo Proxy is definitely for you. Phillip Brophy’s introduction to 100 Anime in 2005 about the way the audience ‘will encounter a different gravity, an unlikely atmosphere, an unexpected moisture’ perfectly fits the series. Produced by studio Manglobe and having Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’ as a theme song, it takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where humans are trapped into an utopian dome that advocates harmony but abnegates any spiritual manifestation. The rise of Autoreivs (robots) infected by ‘Cogito-Virus’ searching for their raison d’être makes the line between cyborg and human become blurry. Re-l and Vincent Law, the main protagonists, scale the dome’s walls and go after what could be the salvation of mankind. Heavy in philosophical content and highly focused on concept and character development rather than plot, this is a masterpiece series that each anime fan should watch.
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Defined by critics as being the best anime series ever made, Cowboy Bebop is a classical show that needs no introduction and delivers on all levels. It doesn’t perfectly fit the cyberpunk subgenre – one could never classify Bandai Visual’s best known series as only being a science-fiction artwork. Spiced up with fine humor, spy action, tragedy and comedy, Cowboy Bebop is a hybrid. Consider it an eccentric anime version of Quentin Tarantino’s work, and you’ll get a grasp of it. It follows the space adventures of three bounty hunter anti-heroes: Spike Spiegel, Jet Black and Faye Valentine. Despite the simplicity of the plot, the blend of character building, funky soundtrack and visual art make it unique. If storyline and visuals don’t seem attractive, Yoko Kanno’s stunning mix of jazz, blues and heavy metal will definitely convince the audience.
Psycho Pass (2012)
Another example of Japanese genius is highly toned up in this anime series. Set in a futuristic Japan where an intelligent device called psycho-pass is able to identify the crime coefficient in each of us, it follows the story of a freshman police officer and her team of Enforcers chasing criminals. If Ghost in the Shell and Ergo Proxy emphasize the human-machine interaction and accept the presence of a potential soul in the cyborg, Psycho Pass is all about the way technology decides human fate. Bringing deus ex machina to a whole new level, The Sybil System, a postmodern version of the ancient Greek prophet, aims for an idyllic linear society in which extremes must be punished. Not only does it raise existential questions but also features a superb criminal-detective mind game. For the fans of Sherlock Holmes, this could be an animated version.
Serial Experiments Lain (1998)
Last but not least, for the ones who appreciate David Lynch’s bizarre and disturbing productions, the winner of the Excellence Prize in the 1998 Japan Media Arts Festival should be on the list. The lack of structure and dialogue engage the viewers to a surreal visual experience. Heavy in symbolism and always leaving room for interpretation, it might be a little difficult to digest at first. The story is a mind-warping trip that follows a teenager’s struggle once she is trapped into The Weird, an alternative cybernetic reality. Despite being a challenge on all levels even for a movie junkie, the way it captures the essence of Japanese postmodern society is exquisite. Consumerism, mass suicide, human-animalization, alienation and the hopeless depth of loneliness are only a few of the topics Chiaki J. Konaka covers in her work.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.