Japanese cyberpunk refers to a genre of underground film produced in Japan starting in the 1980s. It bears some resemblance to the 'low life high-tech' cyberpunk as understood in the West, however differs in its representation of industrial and metallic imagery and an incomprehensible narrative. The origins of the genre can be traced back to the 1982 film Burst City, before the genre was primarily defined by the 1989 film Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
Japanese cyberpunk also refers to a subgenre of manga and anime works with cyberpunk themes. This subgenre began in 1982 with the debut of the manga series Akira, with its 1988 anime film adaptation later popularizing the subgenre. Akira inspired a wave of Japanese cyberpunk works, including manga and anime series such as Ghost in the Shell, Battle Angel Alita, Cowboy Bebop, and Serial Experiments Lain. Cyberpunk anime and manga have been influential on global popular culture, inspiring numerous works in animation, comics, film, music, television and video games.
Japanese Cyberpunk generally involves the characters, especially the protagonist, going through monstrous, incomprehensible metamorphoses in an industrial setting. Many of these films have scenes that fall into the experimental film genre; they often involve purely abstract or visual sequences that may or may not relate to the characters and plot. Recurring themes include: mutation, technology, dehumanization, repression and sexual deviance.
Burst City, since its release in 1982, has had a strong effect on the underground Japanese film scene. This starred Shigeru Izumiya, who would, four years later, go on to direct his own Cyberpunk film, Death Powder, in 1986. The Phantom of Regular Size was Tetsuo: The Iron Man's precursor, a 1986 short by Shinya Tsukamoto. He himself expanded this a feature-length film three years later, in 1989.
Some defining films in the genre include:
Related films include:
Japanese cyberpunk also refers to a subgenre of manga and anime works with cyberpunk themes. This subgenre began in 1982 with the debut of the manga series Akira, with its 1988 anime film adaptation later popularizing the subgenre. Akira inspired a wave of Japanese cyberpunk works, including manga and anime series such as Ghost in the Shell, Battle Angel Alita, Cowboy Bebop, and Serial Experiments Lain.
Cyberpunk themes are widely visible in anime and manga. In Japan, where cosplay is popular and not only teenagers display such fashion styles, cyberpunk has been accepted and its influence is widespread. William Gibson's Neuromancer, whose influence dominated the early cyberpunk movement, was also set in Chiba, one of Japan's largest industrial areas.
Cyberpunk anime and manga draw upon a futuristic vision which has elements in common with western science fiction and therefore have received wide international acceptance outside Japan. "The conceptualization involved in cyberpunk is more of forging ahead, looking at the new global culture. It is a culture that does not exist right now, so the Japanese concept of a cyberpunk future, seems just as valid as a Western one, especially as Western cyberpunk often incorporates many Japanese elements." William Gibson is now a frequent visitor to Japan, and he came to see that many of his visions of Japan have become a reality:
Modern Japan simply was cyberpunk. The Japanese themselves knew it and delighted in it. I remember my first glimpse of Shibuya, when one of the young Tokyo journalists who had taken me there, his face drenched with the light of a thousand media-suns—all that towering, animated crawl of commercial information—said, "You see? You see? It is Blade Runner town." And it was. It so evidently was.
Akira (1982 manga) and its 1988 anime film adaptation have influenced numerous works in animation, comics, film, music, television and video games. Akira has been cited as a major influence on Hollywood films such as The Matrix, Dark City, Chronicle, Looper, Midnight Special, and Inception, television shows such as Stranger Things, and video games such as Hideo Kojima's Snatcher and Metal Gear Solid, Valve's Half-Life series and Dontnod Entertainment's Remember Me. John Gaeta cited Akira as artistic inspiration for the bullet time effect in The Matrix films. Akira has also been credited with influencing the Star Wars franchise, including the prequel film trilogy and the Clone Wars film and television series. Akira has also influenced the work of musicians such as Kanye West, who paid homage to Akira in the "Stronger" music video, and Lupe Fiasco, whose album Tetsuo & Youth is named after Tetsuo Shima. The popular bike from the film, Kaneda's Motorbike, appears in Steven Spielberg's film Ready Player One, and CD Projekt's video game Cyberpunk 2077. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided video game developer Eidos Montréal also paid homage to the film's poster.
Ghost in the Shell (1989) influenced a number of prominent filmmakers. The Wachowskis, creators of The Matrix (1999) and its sequels, showed the 1995 anime film adaptation of Ghost in the Shell to producer Joel Silver, saying, "We wanna do that for real." The Matrix series took several concepts from the film, including the Matrix digital rain, which was inspired by the opening credits of Ghost in the Shell, and the way characters access the Matrix through holes in the back of their necks. Other parallels have been drawn to James Cameron's Avatar, Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and Jonathan Mostow's Surrogates. Ghost in the Shell also influenced video games such as Deus Ex and the Metal Gear Solid series.
The original video animation Megazone 23 (1985), with its concept of a simulated reality, has a number of similarities to The Matrix, Dark City, and Existenz. Battle Angel Alita (1990) has had a notable influence on filmmaker James Cameron, who was planning to adapt it into a film since 2000. It was an influence on his TV series Dark Angel, and he is the producer of the 2018 film adaptation Alita: Battle Angel. Comic book artist André Lima Araújo cited cyberpunk manga and anime such as Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop as a major influence on his work, which includes Marvel comics such as Age of Ultron, Avengers A.I., Spider-Verse and The Inhumans.
964 Pinocchio (ピノキオ√964) (also known as Screams of Blasphemy)is a 1991 Japanese cyberpunk film from filmmaker Shozin Fukui. It deals with the theme of brain-modified sex slaves as well as mental breakdowns in a hallucinogenic thrill ride.Appleseed (1988 film)
Appleseed (Japanese: アップルシード, Hepburn: Appurushīdo) is a Japanese cyberpunk-style OVA adaptation of the manga of the same name created by Masamune Shirow. The anime takes place in a non-determined future. The anime, produced by Gainax and animated by Artland, departs greatly from the manga's storyline, sharing only the characters and setting.Battle Angel Alita
Gunnm (Japanese: 銃夢, Hepburn: Ganmu, literally "gun dream"), also known as Battle Angel Alita in its English translated versions, is a Japanese cyberpunk manga series created by Yukito Kishiro and originally published in Shueisha's Business Jump magazine from 1990 to 1995. The first two of the comic's nine volumes were adapted in 1993 into a two-part anime original video animation titled Battle Angel for North American release by ADV Films and the UK and Australian release by Manga Entertainment. Manga Entertainment also dubbed Battle Angel Alita into English. A live-action film adaptation titled Alita: Battle Angel was released on February 14, 2019.
The series is set in the post-apocalyptic future and focuses on Alita, a female cyborg who has lost all memories and is found in a junkyard by a cybernetics doctor who rebuilds and takes care of her. She discovers that there is one thing she remembers, the legendary cyborg martial art Panzer Kunst, which leads to her becoming a Hunter Warrior or bounty hunter. The story traces Alita's attempts to rediscover her past and the characters whose lives she impacts on her journey. The manga series is continued in Battle Angel Alita: Last Order and Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle.Computer Hearts
Computer Hearts is a 2015 Canadian short film that was directed by Turner Stewart and Dionne Copland. The film premiered on July 12, 2015 at the CinemaFantastique Film Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia, where it won the Audience Choice Award.The short received attention in the underground horror community for its Japanese cyberpunk influence and erotically grotesque make-up effects designed by Michelle Grady.Cyberpunk
Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a futuristic setting that tends to focus on a "combination of lowlife and high tech" featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, such as artificial intelligence and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.Much of cyberpunk is rooted in the New Wave science fiction movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when writers like Philip K. Dick, Roger Zelazny, John Brunner, J. G. Ballard, Philip José Farmer and Harlan Ellison examined the impact of drug culture, technology and the sexual revolution while avoiding the utopian tendencies of earlier science fiction. Released in 1984, William Gibson's influential debut novel Neuromancer would help solidify cyberpunk as a genre, drawing influence from punk subculture and early hacker culture. Other influential cyberpunk writers included Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker. The Japanese cyberpunk subgenre began in 1982 with the debut of Katsuhiro Otomo's manga series Akira, with its 1988 anime film adaptation later popularizing the subgenre.
Early films in the genre include Ridley Scott's 1982 film Blade Runner, one of several of Philip K. Dick's works that have been adapted into films. The films Johnny Mnemonic (1995) and New Rose Hotel (1998), both based upon short stories by William Gibson, flopped commercially and critically. The Matrix trilogy (1999-2003) were some of the most successful cyberpunk films. More recent additions to this genre of filmmaking include Blade Runner 2049 (2017), sequel to the original 1982 film, as well as Upgrade (2018), Alita: Battle Angel (2019) based on the 1990s Japanese manga Battle Angel Alita, and the 2018 Netflix TV series Altered Carbon.Death Machine
Death Machine is a 1994 British-Japanese cyberpunk horror film written and directed by Stephen Norrington. It stars Brad Dourif, Ely Pouget, William Hootkins, John Sharian, and Richard Brake. Rachel Weisz, still early in her career at the time of the film's release, appears in a brief supporting role. The film was the directorial debut of Norrington, who had previously worked as a special effects artist on films such as Lifeforce, Aliens, Hardware, The Witches, and Split Second.
The film garnered controversy for both its violent content and Dourif's character. These factors resulted in the film being banned in some countries, including Sri Lanka, Iran, China, Malaysia, Iraq, New Zealand, and Australia. Despite the controversy, the film received mixed reviews. Many critics praised the special effects, production design, and cinematography, but criticized the acting and plot.Death Powder
Death Powder (デスパウダー, Desu Paudā) is a 1986 science fiction/horror film written and directed by Japanese poet/folk singer Shigeru Izumiya. It is credited as being the first core film of the Japanese cyberpunk subgenre that emerged during the 1980s, predating both Katsuhiro Otomo's anime film adaptation of Akira and Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Izumiya also stars in the film, alongside Rikako Murakami and Takichi Inukai, as a group of scientists that have stolen a cybernetic android.Megazone 23
Megazone 23 (メガゾーン23, Megazōn Tsū Surī) is a four-part Japanese cyberpunk original video animation created by AIC, written by Hiroyuki Hoshiyama and Emu Arii, and directed by Noboru Ishiguro, Ichiro Itano, Kenichi Yatagai and Shinji Aramaki. The series debuted in 1985. It was originally titled Omega Zone 23 (オメガゾーン23, Omega Zōn Tsū Surī) but the title was changed just before release.The story follows Shogo Yahagi, a delinquent motorcyclist whose possession of a government prototype bike leads him to discover the truth about the city. Released on the VHS, Betamax, Laserdisc and VHD formats, the first part was a major commercial success upon release in 1985, selling over 216,000 copies in Japan, mostly to video rental stores. At a price of ¥7,800, the first part grossed approximately ¥1.7 billion ($21.3 million) from video sales in Japan. The film's concept of a simulated reality has drawn comparisons to later films including Dark City (1998), The Matrix (1999) and Existenz (1999).Nanohex
Nanohex is a Macedonian industrial/dark ambient/drone solo project by Macedonian musician Bojan Nikolov formed in 2003 (formerly of Vinterthrone, also of Machinesaw). Nanohex has released music on SkullLine, Industrial Culture Records, Keep It Frozen, Hibakusha Records and few other labels. Nanohex has also collaborated with Japanese cyberpunk author Kenji Siratori.Opera film
An opera film is a recording of an opera on film.Psydoll
Psydoll are a Japanese cyberpunk band. They formed in Tokyo in 1997 and incorporate Industrial and Electropop with cyberpunk imagery, musical and lyrical content. In 2003 came to the UK to play at the Beyond the Veil gothic music festival in Leeds and gained some recognition amongst the UK industrial and gothic underground. Later that year they returned for a mini-tour of Scotland and Northern England. Leeds based Label Planet Ghost Music, recognized the talent and signed them for their first release outside Japan. I, Psydoll is a collection of their previous two albums plus a bonus track. They then returned to the UK in 2005 for another mini-tour supporting amongst others Amen.Rubber's Lover
Rubber's Lover (ラバーズ・ラバー) is cult filmmaker Shozin Fukui's 1996 follow-up to 964 Pinocchio. Like its predecessor, it is an underground Japanese cyberpunk film, with tense atmosphere, alarming visuals and graphic violence.
Often interpreted as a semi-prequel to 964 Pinocchio, Rubber's Lover details a clandestine group of scientists who conduct psychic experiments on human guinea pigs they take from the streets. Using brain-altering drugs, sensory deprivation and computer interfaces, they subject their patients to gruesome scientific tortures that often end in brutal death. After continued failure, they pursue one last project - which yields dangerous results.
Rubber's Lover can best be defined as Japanese cyberpunk and industrial noir, in the same vein as Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Filmed in stark black and white, located in a setting of grim urban steel, steeped in machine aesthetic, driven by a kinetic style and empowered by a grinding metallic soundtrack, it draws on nightmarish horror and generates heavy fetishcore themes.Salvage (The X-Files)
"Salvage" is the ninth episode of the eighth season of the American science fiction television series The X-Files. It premiered on the Fox network on January 14, 2001. The episode was written by Jeffrey Bell and directed by Rod Hardy. "Salvage" is a "Monster-of-the-Week" story, unconnected to the series' wider mythology. The episode received a Nielsen rating of 7.1 and was viewed by 11.7 million viewers. Overall, the episode received largely negative reviews from critics.
The series centers on FBI special agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and her new partner John Doggett (Robert Patrick)—following the alien abduction of her former partner, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny)—who work on cases linked to the paranormal, called X-Files. In this episode, Doggett and Scully encounter a dead man who is still living—only somewhat changed. What they discover is a man made of metal, enacting vengeance on those he believes created him.
"Salvage" was loosely based on Tetsuo: The Iron Man, a 1989 Japanese cyberpunk film by cult-film director Shinya Tsukamoto. Written by Jeffrey Bell before Robert Patrick was cast as agent Doggett, the film coincidentally echoes the plot of the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which Patrick starred in. Indeed, the episode contains an explicit reference to Patrick's role, written in homage. The episode contained several elaborate special effects sequences, most notably in the teaser, wherein a man stops a car with his body.Shozin Fukui
Shozin Fukui (福居ショウジン, Fukui Shōjin) is a Japanese film director and screenwriter. He has produced two experimental shorts (Gerorisuto, and Caterpillar) and two full-length films (964 Pinocchio, and Rubber's Lover). These four movies were widely available, having been issued on DVD by Unearthed Films. However, these releases have since gone out of print. He has released four more films since then (Onne, Den-Sen, The Hiding and 『S-94』). These are almost completely unknown outside Japan.
964 Pinocchio and Rubber's Lover are considered important, core films of the Japanese cyberpunk genre.964 Pinocchio is often compared to Shinya Tsukamoto's cyberpunk classic Tetsuo: The Iron Man; Fukui worked on the crew for Tetsuo. Many fans and critics consider Fukui's aesthetic to be sufficiently divergent from Tsukamoto's for his films to stand on their own, even considering the extremely deep similarities.