Cyberpunk anime were a great deal back in the ’90s, especially if you consider masterpieces such as Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop and Serial Experiments Lain.
The combination of criminals, dystopian societies and advanced tech marry perfectly with the premises of many anime in that era.
If you are like us, you love some vintage animations and cool action. Not all of them were perfect if you consider the myriad of low-quality OVAs produced, but still, there are a lot of gems!
Let’s take a leap into the past and see what are the best ’90s cyberpunk anime to watch today.
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It’s hard to find productions with a higher rate of gore and violence than Genocyber.
This is a story with a cyberpunk heart, in which large private corporations threaten the newly found peace among the nations of the world.
The Genocyber is a terrifying war machine that combines the strength of two sisters with psychic powers. A robot capable of destroying our planet.
Genocyber isn’t beloved by the general public, but it is known to all admirers of splatter. This anime features bloody scenes with a very high rate of violence, often considered gratuitous.
But except from this asect, this anime is quite terrible in every other aspect, characters and plot included.
Consider watching it if you’re in the mood for some trash.
17. 8 Man After
The 8 Man manga, originating in 1963, unfortunately lost its fame over time, but it remains profoundly significant in the cyborg/cyberpunk scene.
Alongside Cyborg 009, it stands as one of the pioneering series in the animanga world to explore the concept of cyborgs and cyberpunk.
The early 1960s saw the adaptation of an animated series, and 8 Man After, the series under discussion in this list, serves as a sequel released several years later, specifically in 1993.
While you can watch it as a standalone, we recommend immersing yourself in this fictional universe first. Despite its age, this series represents the very origins of the genre.
The central character is Detective Hazama Itsuru, who, after narrowly escaping death, transforms into the formidable cyborg known as 8 Man.
16. A.D. Police
AD Police serves as a spin-off of Bubblegum Crisis, initially released as a manga and later adapted into a three-episode OAV in 1990.
We recommend this series if you’re already a fan of the original, as it provides a unique and alternative perspective on the events.
Ff you’re not familiar with the original series, there may be limited reasons to watch it aside from its brief duration.
Across its three episodes, AD Police shifts its focus to the AD Police force, setting the action a few years before the Knight Sabers make their debut.
The protagonist of the series is Leon McNichol, a young officer contending with progressively complex cases.
15. Roujin Z
Roujin Z is a 1991 anime movie featuring a script written by Katsuhiro Otomo, the renowned author of Akira and with a collaboration on the art direction from Satoshi Kon.
With such notable names behind its production, the movie undoubtedly deserves attention, complemented by its intriguing and visionary plot.
The narrative unfolds when an elderly invalid is selected as a test subject for an unprecedented scientific experiment.
He is connected to the robotic bed Z-001, directly linked to his brain waves. But the experiment takes an unforeseen turn, transforming the old man’s innermost and darkest desires into a startling reality.
Roujin Z isn’t that good of a movie per se but it’s something we recommend for culture and if you want to understand the evolution of Japanese cyberpunk.
After all, it’s still one of the movies by the father of Akira, so why don’t you give it a try?
Spriggan is a 1998 movie produced by Hirotsugu Kawasaki and once again featuring the involvement of Katsuhiro Otomo, based on the manga of the same name.
For those seeking a more modern animation style, an animated reboot was released in 2022, but this choice comes at the expense of the beautiful vintage atmosphere that the original movie has.
In terms of its merits, Spriggan is famous for its significant emphasis on religious and social themes, blending them seamlessly with classic cyberpunk elements that contribute to the iconic nature of the genre.
The narrative kicks off with the discovery of an archaeological artifact, leading to the demise of its uncoverers due to an unidentified explosion.
The Spriggans, an elite cadre of fighters affiliated with Arcam, a Japanese multinational corporation, are tasked with the responsibility of either locating these artifacts or eliminating them.
At the forefront of the story is Yu Ominae, a high school student and Spriggan possessing extraordinary fighting abilities, assigned to confront the enigma surrounding the mysterious artifact.
13. New Dominion Tank Police
New Dominion Tank Police is the second series of 3 adapted in 1993 from Dominion, a manga crafted by Masamune Shirow.
Produced by J.C.Staff, this series is situated between the other two, and its narrative is intricately connected, demanding context for a comprehensive viewing experience.
We recommend it only if you’ve already watched the first series (highly recommended for Cyberpunk enthusiasts), as it may not make much sense otherwise.
New Port stands as a perfect exemplification of unbridled urban development, plagued by rampant pollution and crime.
In a desperate bid to tackle these issues, the government institutes a specialized task force known as the Tank Police.
At the helm of this force is the protagonist, squad leader Leona Ozaki, who alongside her uniquely customized tank Bonaparte engages in combat alongside her comrades in the relentless battle against the city’s challenges.
12. Armitage III
Armitage III originated as a 4-episode OAV series in 1995, directed by Hiroyuki Ochi.
It later evolved into a movie titled Armitage III: Poly-Matrix in 1997, faithfully consolidating the original series into a single comprehensive product.
Both the OAV series and the movie are good products, providing viewers with the flexibility to choose between them.
Additionally, we recommend delving into Armitage III: Dual-Matrix, released in 2002, as it serves as a direct sequel to the narrative.
Mars is on the brink of merging with Earth to create a unified colony when a series of particularly gruesome crimes involving cyborgs sparks a human uprising.
Hot on the trail of the maniac responsible are the two detectives, Armitage and Ross, who quickly uncover that a conspiracy larger than anticipated is at the root of it all.
11. Silent Möbius
Silent Möbius originated in 1988 as a Sci-Fi manga written by Kia Asamiya. Renowned for its amalgamation of various genres and cultures, this series incorporates elements of Cyberpunk, spirituality, magic, and more.
You can find both 2 animated movies and an anime series about it, but we recommend the movies. This is because the series due to low feedback was canceled after 1 season, leaving the story untold.
Japan, 1999. Gigelf Liqueur, with the assistance of the Mages’ Guild, initiates a plan to open a gate between Earth and the demonic world of Nemesis.
Fast forward to Tokyo in 2027 where for the past 4 years, the Attacked Mystificated Police has been established, tasked with preventing and combating demonic presences that threaten the city.
Katsumi, Kiddy, Nami, Lebia, Yuki, and Rally constitute the 6 young policewomen with special powers comprising this unique police squad.
10. Casshan: Robot Hunter
Casshan: Robot Hunter is a 4-episode OVA released in 1993, based on the 1973 series Casshan. Over time, there have been several reboots and live-action adaptations on this subject.
This series is particularly interesting as it combines classic Sci-Fi/Cyberpunk themes and premises with elements typical of superhero works, creating an inspired mix.
In this fictional universe, humanity has lost dominion over the Earth to a lineage of robots created by humans themselves.
But in the face of oppression Casshan, a human/machine hybrid, emerges as the savior, bringing new hope to humankind.
This anime is one of the weirdest you will ever watch and one of the most ’90s OVAs ever.
This isn’t always a compliment, as the show feels super dated and even the fanservice isn’t relatable anymore.
Fun fact: the series is now officially dubbed as Casshern and not Casshan.
9. Cyber City Oedo 808
Cyber City Oedo 808 is a 3-episode OVA series set in a criminal cyberpunk world. It’s packed with action and breathtaking plot twists, all delivered at an intense pace due to its short duration.
This quality makes this mini-series perfect if you wish for a short but intense rush of adrenaline that will leave a lasting impact on you.
Taking place in the year 2808, the story follows 3 inmates sentenced to 295 to 375 years in prison who are given a chance to reduce their sentences by cooperating with the police.
This agreement is offered by the head of the cyber police, Hasegawa, and for each successful mission they complete, they earn a sentence reduction.
The special feature and strength of Cyber City Oedo 808 lie in its ability to immerse the viewer in the minds of the protagonists, who are nothing but desperate men unwilling to relinquish their one chance at freedom.
And this is even if it means resorting to brutal violence.
8. Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040
Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 serves as a spiritual sequel within a parallel fictional universe to the original Bubblegum Crisis series, which debuted in 1987.
This underrated Sci-Fi/mecha series distinguishes itself by offering retrofuturistic atmospheres and narrative choices that stand apart from the usual conventions in the genre.
Following a mysterious earthquake that isolates Tokyo, Genom rises to become a significant social force by providing Boomers, cyborgs crucial for the city’s reconstruction.
Despite the benefits, some Boomers occasionally malfunction, posing a severe threat. To address this issue, the AD Police is established.
The protagonist, Linna Yamazaki, arrives in Tokyo intending to join the AD Police, but her journey takes unexpected turns as not everything unfolds according to plan.
The dark atmosphere is all there and you won’t be disappointed if you are looking for the usually grim cyberpunk setting.
Memories is an experimental anime movie released in 1995, and it’s safe to say it’s one of the most intriguing and distinctive movies you can find.
It’s indeed a truly unique creation, not only in the realm of cyberpunk anime but in the entire anime industry.
It incorporates dreamlike, dark, and even macabre themes and atmospheres, all intricately woven into the backdrop of space.
Trust us when we say that we aim to reveal as little as possible to preserve the full experience. All we can do is encourage you to explore it if you’re looking for something outside the ordinary and not for everyone.
The film is divided into three distinct stories, each with its own plot:
The 1st episode recounts the adventure of four astronauts who respond to an SOS and become trapped in a dream-like journey.
In the 2nd episode, an employee of a pharmaceutical industry accidentally ingests an untested product, leading to strange consequences.
And last, the 3rd episode offers a glimpse of a fictional world perpetually at war, set in a creepy dystopian landscape.
6. Battle Angel Alita
Battle Angel Alita is a cyberpunk classic that started as a manga in 1990 and has since been extended through various adaptations and sequels, including an ongoing manga.
In 1993, a 2-episode OAV series was created, which, experienced limited success. The story was later revitalized with a movie employing a hybrid live-action and CGI technique.
While we recommend the 1993 OAV for its vintage appeal and inclusion in this list, we must note that the optimal way to immerse yourself in this captivating world is through the manga.
The story unfolds in a dystopian future within Scrapyard, a place where only the fortunate can lead affluent lives.
In this desolate setting, scientist and bounty hunter Daisuke Ido discovers the remnants of a cyborg amidst the garbage. He chooses to rename her Alita and, over time, develops a strong attachment to her.
But as always trouble is never far away…
5. Mobile Police Patlabor 2: The Movie
Patlabor stands as one of the most exemplary instances of real robots in the mecha genre (if not the best) and a showcase of how to execute a multimedia project seamlessly.
This extensive project comprises a diverse range of products, including a manga series, 2 OAV series, an anime series, three animated movies, video games, and action figures.
Out of necessity, we have included only the second movie of three in this list, but you may well consider the whole trilogy in it as it’s one big story.
The narrative unfolds three years following the events of the first movie, where Izumi and Shinohara are engaged in testing new Labor in a facility operated by the metropolitan police.
But a series of perilous events quickly transpires, compelling the reunion of the former members of Section 2 as the only means to address the emerging threats.
Patlabor 2 is another example of the cyberpunk genius of Mamoru Oshii, who contributed to most of the works mentioned in this article.
Trigun is an iconic action anime set in a post-apocalyptic world that has inspired other series in this subgenre for years. It was released in 1998 and consists of 26 episodes.
Still today, this anime remains one of the best choices you can make if you’re looking for action, plot twists, Sci-Fi and characters written to the limits of perfection.
Another remarkable aspect is its pacing, initially composed of self-contained episodes that gradually coalesce to construct a progressively intricate narrative.
The story revolves around Vash the Stampede, an infamous outlaw who leaves a trail of destruction in every town and village he visits.
To put an end to the chaos and save their failing insurance companies, two agents are sent to apprehend him. But upon encountering Vash, they discover that he is actually a kind and generous individual.
3. Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop isn’t considered cyberpunk by all fans because it’s more of a Space Western with a mix of cyberpunk and noir elements.
That said, we think it deserves to be counted as one for this reason!
It was, is and will be for a long time one of the best choices you can make if you are looking for an adventure, Sci-Fi, drama, and even tear-jerking series.
Set in a not-too-distant future where inter-spatial travel is the norm and Mars is a vital part of human life, the show follows a group of bounty hunters, or cowboys, as they chase down intergalactic outlaws.
Meet Spike Spiegel, a bounty hunter, in the year 2071, and witness Spike’s many talents and abilities in hand-to-hand combat and martial arts, garnering a reputation as one of the strongest fighters in the universe.
He chases criminals with his partner, Jet Black, and together they team up with a con artist, a child hacker, and a Welsh Corgi to form a bizarre family.
All of these characters create a perfect mosaic of regrets, personal stories and struggles that are quite relatable for the viewer.
But when an old enemy comes back into Spike’s life, he must now choose between his past and his newfound family.
2. Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain is an avant-garde animation masterpiece that graced audiences with its release in 1998, spanning 13 episodes.
The main character is considered a cyberpunk icon and the entire show features the dark side of consciousness and how it can integrate with technology.
The story starts with the tragic suicide of Chisa Yomoda, a high school girl.
This event seems to elicit a little reaction from those around her until some of her classmates start receiving messages claiming that Chisa is still alive and has found freedom in the Wired, a virtual world.
One of the recipients of these messages is Lain Iwakura, a quiet and introverted 14-year-old girl who embarks on an investigation into this event.
1. Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell is a cyberpunk masterpiece that originated with an animated movie released in 1995, adapted from the manga of the same name. Over time, it has been transposed into numerous adaptations.
Often regarded as one of the pioneers of modern cyberpunk, it has left an indelible mark on the genre, significantly influencing modern series like Ergo Proxy, Psycho-Pass, and many others.
If you are a fan of cyberpunk and its futuristic settings that hide a lot of crime and corruption, there is no way you can miss it.
This movie follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, a member of Public Security Section 9, in the year 2029, and an incredibly skilled agent and fighter.
She is tasked with investigating a case involving a powerful hacker, the Puppet Master, who leaves victims without memories. But as she delves deeper into the case, things get more complicated with other factions getting involved.
Along the way, Motoko is forced to confront some deep philosophical questions about her existence. As she learns more about the Puppet Master, she realizes that they hold the answers she’s been searching for.