In the neon-drenched landscapes of the digital age, where the boundaries between humanity and technology blur into a mesmerizing dance of light and shadows, cyberpunk anime emerges as a captivating genre that pushes the limits of imagination. With a fusion of dystopian futures, hacking intrigue, and a distinctly gritty aesthetic, these animated tales have carved their mark into the hearts of anime fans worldwide. As we dive headfirst into the electrifying realm where megacorporations clash with hackers and androids question their own existence, join us on a journey through the top 20 best cyberpunk anime of all time, where innovation meets rebellion in a symphony of bytes and code.
Best Cyberpunk Anime
Texhnolyze is a 2003 anime that is a profound and haunting example of the cyberpunk anime genre. Set in the subterranean city of Lux, the series portrays a bleak future where technology, societal decay, and existential introspection intertwine. The story follows Ichise, a prizefighter who becomes entangled in a web of power struggles between factions controlling the city’s technological advancements. What sets Texhnolyze apart as a remarkable cyberpunk anime is its unflinching exploration of humanity’s relationship with technology. The series immerses viewers in a world where technology has permeated every aspect of life, blurring the lines between human and machine. The citizens of Lux grapple with physical and psychological transformations, reflecting the core cyberpunk theme of the fusion of flesh and metal. The series tackles complex themes such as identity, control, and the loss of agency in the face of overpowering technology. It raises questions about the ethical implications of advancements and the potential dehumanizing effects.
19. Cybernetics Guardian
Released in 1989, Cybernetics Guardian revolves around a future society where cybernetic technology is widespread. The story follows a cop named Alex, who, after being injured in a battle with a powerful cyborg criminal, undergoes cybernetic enhancements to become more powerful. However, he struggles with the loss of his humanity as he becomes increasingly machine-like. The anime delves into the ethical and personal dilemmas that arise when individuals merge with technology. This theme is further highlighted by the challenges Alex faces in maintaining his identity as he becomes more mechanized. The anime’s visuals embrace the genre’s characteristic aesthetics, with a futuristic cityscape filled with neon lights and towering skyscrapers. The juxtaposition of technological advancement and societal decay reinforces the cyberpunk atmosphere. The action sequences involving cybernetic combat contribute to the genre’s dynamic energy.
18. Under the Dog
Aired in 2016, Under the Dog offers a gripping narrative that intertwines espionage, action, and cyberpunk elements. Set in a dystopian future where terrorism is a persistent threat, the story follows Anthea Kallenberg, a genetically enhanced girl with extraordinary abilities. Recruited into a covert military organization, she becomes entangled in a complex mission to thwart a terrorist plot that could plunge the world into chaos. The series delves into themes of bioengineering and the ethical implications of exploiting individuals for the sake of power and control. The anime’s visual style seamlessly blends high-tech urban landscapes with a palpable sense of unease, capturing the genre’s signature atmosphere. The cityscape’s neon-lit streets, towering skyscrapers, and juxtaposition of grandeur and decay contribute to the aesthetic appeal.
17. Mardock Scramble
One of the best cyberpunk anime, the story of Mardock Scramble revolves around Rune Balot, a prostitute who survives a brutal assault only to be resurrected by an enigmatic scientist named Dr. Easter. Empowered with advanced cybernetic enhancements, Rune sets out on a quest to confront her past and take down the ruthless Shell Septinos, a crime lord entangled in a world of cyberspace and corruption. Mardock Scramble explores the consequences of technological augmentation and the ethical dilemmas it raises. The narrative delves into questions of agency, humanity, and the blurred boundaries between organic and artificial. Rune’s transformation from a victim to a formidable presence reflects the genre’s fascination with the intersection of human and machine. The anime’s visual design captures the grittiness and neon-lit atmosphere characteristic of cyberpunk settings. These visual elements align with the genre’s aesthetic, enhancing the overall experience.
See also: Top 10 Most Famous Cyberpunk Anime Girls
16. Blade Runner: Black Lotus
Aired from 2021 to 2022, Blade Runner: Black Lotus is a cyberpunk anime series that is set in L.A. It happens ten years into the aftermath of Blade Runner: Black Out 2022, but before 2036: Nexus Dawn. The series focuses on Elle, a young woman with no memories who embarks on a journey of self-discovery. The series brilliantly captures the cyberpunk essence through its portrayal of a world dominated by advanced technology and societal decay. The neo-noir aesthetics, dark ambiance, and intricate narrative mirror the genre’s core attributes. By exploring themes of identity and the moral implications of artificial intelligence, the series continues the legacy of the franchise. It also offers a fresh perspective on its enduring themes.
15. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
Taking place in the universe of CD Projekt’s Cyberpunk 2077, “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners,” released in 2022, follows the journey of David Martinez, a young individual whose life is altered by a tragic event, pushing him onto the path of becoming an “edge-runner.” As a prized mercenary, David embarks on perilous missions alongside his spirited team, putting both his life and body at stake. With its sleek aesthetics and surprisingly intense action, Edgerunners serves as an excellent entry for newcomers to the cyberpunk genre. Its captivating world is augmented by a fitting musical backdrop, seamlessly complementing the depiction of a deeply unsettling future.
At number fourteen on this cyberpunk anime list, Psycho-Pass is a superb 2012 cyberpunk anime that thrusts viewers into a future where society is meticulously controlled by a technological system that measures one’s mental state and predicts criminal intent. Set in the utopian city of Tokyo, the narrative revolves around Akane Tsunemori, a newly appointed enforcer in the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division. Together with her colleagues, she grapples with a series of complex cases that unveil the dark underbelly of a society striving for order and perfection. “Psycho-Pass” is one of the best noir anime, it is an incisive exploration of the consequences of a technology-driven society. The Sibyl System, capable of scanning individuals’ psyches to assess their criminal tendencies, mirrors the genre’s concern with the ethical implications of technological control over human lives. The series delves into themes of free will and the moral dilemmas surrounding pre-emptive justice—a quintessential cyberpunk discourse.
13. Armitage III
The 1995 miniseries Armitage III is a cyberpunk anime that unfolds in a futuristic world where humans and robots coexist. The focus of the story revolves around Ross Sylibus, a detective, and Naomi Armitage, a representative of the latest “class III” android line. These models possess human-like appearances, behaviors, and emotions. Together, they investigate a series of murders that reveal a deeper conspiracy involving the evolving relationship between humans and robots. The anime’s blend of advanced technology, intrigue, and ethical questions captures the essence of cyberpunk. By exploring themes of identity and the blurred lines between humanity and AI, Armitage III creates a compelling narrative.
12. Battle Angel Alita
The 1993 OVA Battle Angel Alita delves into a cyberpunk realm marked by technology, ethics, and existential quests. Set against a post-apocalyptic backdrop, society clings to life in Scrapyard City beneath Tiphares. Dr. Ido rebuilds the discarded cyborg Alita, sparking an exploration of her enigmatic past. The anime excels in portraying cyberpunk’s core. That is – blending advanced tech with societal decline, echoing in Alita’s journey of self-discovery amid machinery dominance. Ethical complexities of technology, particularly cyborgs’ fusion of boundaries, are woven in. The narrative mirrors corporate power struggles as Tiphares oversees Scrapyard. Visually, neon-lit cityscapes and cybernetic combat energize the story. Alita is a cyberpunk anime girl who navigates emotions and identity. This anime stands out for its complex female lead. With its narrative potency and intricate characters, Battle Angel Alita holds a well-deserved position on distinguished lists. For fans of the 2019 adaptation, the anime offers even more depth and resonance.
11. Dennou Coil
One of the best cyberpunk anime ever, Dennou Coil is a 2007 anime that transports viewers to a world where virtual reality intertwines with everyday life. The story centers on children using augmented reality glasses to explore a hidden digital layer, uncovering mysteries and encountering supernatural phenomena. The anime’s brilliance lies in its seamless fusion of advanced technology with human experiences, epitomizing the cyberpunk spirit. Through its captivating narrative, it delves into the implications of merging digital and physical realms. The intricate characters and thought-provoking scenarios contribute to its status as a cyberpunk anime that resonates with the genre’s essence.
10. Burst Angel
Taking the tenth spot on this cyberpunk anime list, Burst Angel is a 2004 cyberpunk anime that centers on a group of four skilled female mercenaries named Jo, Meg, Sei, and Amy, in a near-future Tokyo. They combat crime while confronting cybernetic threats and a city steeped in technology. The anime melds action and mystery, as it unfolds in a world where advanced machinery and criminal undertakings collide. Its combination of strong characters and thrilling battles captures the essence of cyberpunk, creating an engaging and visually captivating experience.
9. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, airing from 2002 to 2005, revolves around a cybercrime-fighting team led by Major Motoko Kusanagi. In a futuristic world where minds and machines intertwine, they tackle high-tech mysteries and philosophical questions. The anime’s blend of intricate cases, advanced tech, and explorations of human identity captures the essence of cyberpunk.See also: 20 Best Cyberpunk Movies: Dystopian Gems
8. Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain is a 1998 anime that delves into the enigmatic and surreal landscape of the cyberpunk genre with a unique and haunting narrative. Set in a near-future world, the series follows an emo anime character named Lain Iwakura, a teenage girl who becomes increasingly drawn into the digital realm after receiving an email from a classmate who committed suicide. As Lain navigates the blurring boundaries between reality and the virtual world known as the Wired, the story explores themes of identity, consciousness, and the implications of a hyper-connected society. The series probes into the existential questions of selfhood, and the nature of reality. Lain’s transformation from a shy and introverted girl into a figure with a complex digital existence mirrors the genre’s exploration of human-machine integration. The anime’s visual style and narrative structure contribute to its unique atmosphere. The use of glitch effects, surreal imagery, and fragmented storytelling blurs the lines between reality and hallucination. The haunting soundtrack enhances this atmosphere, creating an unsettling mood that aligns with the genre’s characteristics.
Paprika from 2006, takes us into a world where dreams and reality blur through a device that lets therapists enter their patients’ minds. As chaos erupts when the technology is stolen, a brilliant therapist named Paprika races to restore order. The film’s vivid visuals and exploration of the subconscious seamlessly blend with cyberpunk themes. It delves into the consequences of technology on our innermost thoughts, unveiling a surreal and mesmerizing narrative.
6. Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop is a masterpiece that embarks on a genre-defying journey that weaves together the intricacies of space opera, noir, and cyberpunk. Set in a futuristic universe, it follows a group of eclectic bounty hunters aboard the spaceship Bebop as they traverse the galaxy in pursuit of criminals and their pasts. Each episode introduces a distinct storyline, often intertwining elements of crime, morality, and the human condition. As the crew grapples with their personal demons, the overarching narrative unveils a tapestry of interconnected destinies. While Cowboy Bebop doesn’t fully adhere to the traditional cyberpunk cityscape, it artfully incorporates elements such as technology’s impact on society and the exploration of individuality within a technologically advanced world. This fusion results in a unique take on the cyberpunk ethos, expanding its boundaries beyond Earth’s urban sprawl.
5. Ergo Proxy
Ergo Proxy is a 2006 anime that unfolds an enigmatic and thought-provoking narrative within a cyberpunk-infused dystopian future. Set in a domed city called Rondeau, where humans live in controlled environments to escape a desolate wasteland, the story follows Re-L Mayer, an investigator, as she delves into a series of murders. Her quest unveils layers of conspiracy and hidden truths that challenge the very fabric of reality. Through the interactions between humans, androids, and the mysterious Proxy beings, the show probes the blurred lines between creator and creation. The anime’s narrative depth is matched by its visual and auditory artistry. The meticulously designed cityscapes and character aesthetics immerse viewers in a world that is both alluring and disconcerting. The use of shadows, neon lights, and oppressive architecture embodies the genre’s gritty aesthetics.
4. Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion is a monumental anime, based on the post-apocalyptic manga. It is set in a world under threat from enigmatic beings known as Angels. It follows a group of teenagers piloting giant mechs, known as Evas, to fend off these entities. Beneath the intense battles lies a narrative of personal struggles, psychological turmoil, and intricate relationships. The anime’s cyberpunk essence arises from its portrayal of a dystopian future merged with themes of technological marvels. The use of advanced mechs against otherworldly threats embodies cyberpunk’s fusion of human and machine. The setting, a cityscape tainted by both destruction and high-tech architecture, exemplifies cyberpunk’s visual aesthetics. The intertwining of human emotions and the colossal mechs adds complexity to the narrative, aligning with the genre’s multifaceted characters. As the characters grapple with inner demons and confront moral dilemmas, Neon Genesis Evangelion captures the genre’s trademark psychological depth.
Taking the third spot on this cyberpunk anime list, Genocyber is a 1994 OVA (Original Video Animation) series. Set in a dystopian future, the narrative revolves around a shadowy organization’s creation of the Genocyber, a devastating bioweapon born from the fusion of human and cybernetic elements. The series delves into ethical quandaries surrounding scientific experimentation and the consequences of blurring the line between humanity and technology. It’s important to note that due to its graphic content and horror elements, Genocyber may not be suitable for all audiences. Seriously, it’s a series that we wouldn’t readily suggest to anime enthusiasts who are more sensitive to graphic content.
2. Cyber City Oedo 808
Cyber City Oedo 808 is a cyberpunk anime OVA series that aired in 1990. Set in a futuristic Tokyo (formerly known as Oedo), the show follows three skilled criminals who are given the chance to reduce their sentences by working as cyber cops. Each episode presents a self-contained story, typically involving cybernetic criminals, hackers, and high-tech threats that menace the city. Cyber City Oedo 808 is one of the best action anime movies, It stands out for its unique blend of suspense, dark humor, and intricate storytelling. The series immerses viewers in a dystopian future where technology has both empowered and trapped society. The protagonists, Sengoku, Gogol, and Benten, are criminals with diverse skills, ranging from hacking to combat. Their morally ambiguous backgrounds create a complex dynamic, highlighting the anti-heroic nature common in cyberpunk narratives. In each episode, the series explores various facets of cyberpunk themes, from rogue AI to virtual reality crime.
Our top pick for this cyberpunk anime list, the famous 1988 movie Akira unfolds in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, following two friends, Kaneda and Tetsuo, entangled in a government experiment gone awry. Amidst political unrest, their lives spiral into a collision of psychic powers and societal breakdown. The anime dives into themes of power, identity, and technological distortion. By exploring the potential dystopia of scientific advancement and its impact on individuals, Akira captures the core essence of cyberpunk.