Cyberpunk anime is a subgenre of sci-fi anime that flips the sci-fi basis on its head. While both can focus on the blurring line between humanity and technology, a core part of cyberpunk is the punk aspect, which means highlighting the struggle between people and society.
Cyberpunk often casts its heroes as rebels—or even criminals—working outside society's norms to overcome an increasingly totalitarian system. In fact, rebellion is a common element in cyberpunk anime.
Yet, while cyberpunk stories tend to involve survival in bleak worlds that use advanced technologies to grind down their protagonists, they aren't necessarily hopeless stories. Victory is never impossible, though it may be bittersweet.
Here are the best cyberpunk anime series that show how compelling these grimy, dystopian, techy, countercultural narratives can be!
11. The Animatrix
Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Originally aired 2003
9 episodes (1 season)
We're cheating a little by including The Animatrix, which some might consider to be more of an anthology film. However, it's really just a collection of 9 OVAs, which totally fits.
If you're a fan of The Matrix, then you have to see The Animatrix. This collection of cyberpunk anime shorts does a great job of expanding on the world and lore of the classic sci-fi film series.
Is it required viewing to understand everything that happens in the Matrix movies? No, far from it. However, The Animatrix is every bit as groundbreaking and entertaining as the original film was.
10. Bubblegum Crisis
Adventure, Mecha, Sci-Fi
Originally aired 1987 to 1991
8 episodes (1 season)
Don't let this anime's cute name fool you! Bubblegum Crisis takes place in a dark, futuristic Tokyo where rogue robots and wealth disparity run rampant, causing all kinds of societal problems.
It has all the hallmarks of a cyberpunk anime, with megacorporations wielding such immense power that they're essentially untouchable by normal people.
Bubblegum Crisis started life as a collection of OVAs to explore this dark, futuristic world, though the original 13-episode run was cut short to just 8 episodes. This is a deeply entertaining show about rebellion and what happens when systems fail to protect the people.
Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Originally aired 2003
22 episodes (1 season)
Texhnolyze is a cyberpunk anime series produced by Madhouse, the studio that's worked on iconic animes like Trigun, Black Lagoon, Death Note, and Parasyte: The Maxim. Impressive track record, no?
The series centers on prize fighter Ichise, who loses an arm and a leg as punishment for offending a powerful figure in the city of Lux.
His limbs are replaced by Eriko "Doc" Kaneda, but soon he finds himself embroiled in a fight between the competing factions within the city.
Texhnolyze can be pretty dark, but it also manages to be touching at times, which many of the best cyberpunk anime series are.
8. Heavenly Delusion
Adventure, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Originally aired 2023
13 episodes (1 season)
In just 13 episodes, Heavenly Delusion offers some of the most memorable cyberpunk action in modern anime.
Set in post-apocalyptic Japan, it follows Maru and Kiruko as they journey across ruined wastelands and fight both human and inhuman monsters in their search for a place called Heaven.
Meanwhile, a group of children are shown growing up in a comfortable, safe facility where not everything is as it seems.
The two storylines eventually merge to a wonderful climax, resulting in a tense, suspenseful story that feels surprisingly fresh.
7. Ergo Proxy
Originally aired 2006
23 episodes (1 season)
Another post-apocalyptic story about humans living in a broken and ruined world, Ergo Proxy is grungy and doesn't shy away from exploring deep, philosophical themes.
Though the world has been ruined and turned uninhabitable, humans have managed to make homes for themselves in domed cities while living alongside robots called AutoReivs.
However, when a deadly virus and twisted politics threaten the lives of everyone in Romdeau City, it's up to Re-l Mayer and Vincent Law to figure out what's going on and how to put a stop to it.
6. The Big O
Action, Mecha, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Originally aired 1999 to 2003
26 episodes (2 seasons)
The Big O is a mecha sci-fi anime series that takes place 40 years after a mysterious disaster caused everyone in Paradigm City to lose their memories. The story follows Roger Smith, who's called in to negotiate for the city's elite when they become targets of terrorists and criminals.
While The Big O leans heavily on neo-noir influences, it also paves its own way in spectacular fashion. The giant robot battles are fun, but the class divide—which Roger Smith both rails against and participates in—puts this classic anime firmly into cyberpunk territory.
The only downside is that the second season ends on an obvious cliffhanger, which is never resolved because the studio closed down and more episodes were never made.
5. Cyber City Oedo 808
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Originally aired 1990 to 1991
3 episodes (1 season)
Set in the year 2808, Cyber City Oedo 808 is about three career criminals who agree to work for the police in exchange for reduced prison sentences. The world is dark and filled with crime, inequality, and injustice, yet there's always a glimmer of hope for redemption.
With powerful high-tech weaponry and explosive collars around their necks, Sengoku, Gogul, and Benten tackle the underworld they were once part of in this fantastic cyberpunk anime series.
Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Suspense
Originally aired 2012 to 2019
41 episodes (3 seasons)
In the futuristic Japan of Psycho-Pass, crime has been eradicated—not because it's a utopia of peace and freedom, but because everyone is locked up or killed before they even have the opportunity to commit one.
Through constant surveillance, the government uses mental health markers to predict who might commit acts of violence. Police then investigate these potential criminals with the help of former detectives who have become so stressed that they are latent criminals themselves.
The first season of Psycho-Pass is one of the best cyberpunk anime series of all time, and it's still worth watching even if the subsequent seasons take a severe dive in quality.
3. Serial Experiments Lain
Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Supernatural
Originally aired 1998
13 episodes (1 season)
Lain is a shy, withdrawn girl who discovers that she can manipulate the virtual world of the Wired—a virtual world that's connected to the real world. This gives Lain incredible powers, but she slowly loses both her identity and her humanity because of it.
Serial Experiments Lain is highly experimental as it explores the nature of existence in a deep, painful way. Looking for a haunting cyberpunk anime series to dive into? This is the perfect one to pick up.
2. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
Originally aired 2022
10 episodes (1 season)
Set in the world of the Cyberpunk 2077 video game, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is, unsurprisingly, one of the purest examples of cyberpunk in anime. The world is harsh, unfair, and burdened by rampant inequality.
So, David Martinez joins a group of "edgerunners" (i.e. black-market mercenaries) when his mother is left for dead after a car accident. As the show goes on, David slowly becomes more machine than man.
The music, characters, and animation in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners are all top-notch, and the bittersweet ending will stick with you long after you finish the final episode.
1. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Action, Mecha, Sci-Fi
Originally aired 2002 to 2005
52 episodes (2 seasons)
While it isn't quite as good as the original film, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a wonderful exploration of the nature of humanity, the blurring of man and machine, and the tendency for technology to enable the worst in people.
In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the Major and the Section 9 investigation team are after the Laughing Man, a terrorist hacker who threatens to upend the delicate balance in futuristic Tokyo.
Sure, this show might not be as good as the original film, but that's an insanely high bar that very few productions could ever reach. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is really good when judged on its own merits, and it tops our list of greatest cyberpunk anime series.