After an unorthodox blitz of micro-teasers, otaku have finally gotten to see ScarJo in action as “the Major” in Ghost in the Shell‘s forthcoming American remake. As is to be expected, these previews have reignited a discussion of how authentically the do-over adheres to source material.
We’ve already offered a beginner’s guide on the franchise for any neophytes wanting to know what this tech thriller is all about before its big release next year. If this buzz has left you curious about the entire phenom of cyberpunk anime–beyond even GitS’ voluminous installments–then consider these choice titles. Each offers a different vision of machine-based malaise, and each will boot some big ideas into your bionic brain.
Battle Angel Alita
Soon to get its own Hollywood remake! When the dystopia this story’s set in is actually called “Scrapyard,” you know times are extra rough. The titular cyborg is salvaged from a dump, with no memories except those that make her a deadly martial artist. Named for the dead cat of the lonely techie who salvaged her, “Alita” makes her way through this awful world by becoming a violent Jill-of-all-trades, working as a bounty hunter, mercenary, and gladiatorial combatant in the high-speed combat sport of Motorball. She and her associates operate in the shadow and refuse of the megalopolis, Tiphares. And after Alita deals with its fat cats, she sets her sights on the even-more-ominously-named city of Necropolis. All throughout, Alita tries to piece together her awful, forgotten past by using the only constant of her existence… battle.
Judging by the outfits in the roll call above, you might think this title refers to candy-colored paint jobs the mech pilots sport. But in fact, “bubblegum crisis” is a colorful metaphor for the limit that anxieties of a troubled future society can stretch to before snapping. The fanciful naming continues, of course, as the ills of this dystopia revolve around cyborgs called “Boomers.” Built by the corrupt Genom conglomerate, the bots often defy their design intents to serve humanity, and cause a real, nasty ruckus. When it becomes clear that Genom is up to even more maleficence, the Sabers must defy the whole institution and clash blades with a company that owns basically everything.
One delightful quirk always worth mentioning: Bubblegum‘s soundtrack is basically a synth MIDI directly lifting melodies from the 80s cult classic, Streets of Fire. Inspiration flows both ways!
Serial Experiments Lain
Another anime that had a profound influence on the Matrix. Small town ennui leads to cyberspace paranoia as a young surbanite, Lain, plugs into the mysterious network known as “the Wired.” Emotionally distant from her peers, and even her family, Lain surfs obsessively, and discovers far more troubling implications when an e-mail arrives in her inbox from a supposedly-dead classmate, Chisa. Turns out, Chisa didn’t actually die, she just shed her mortal coil and uploaded her mind/soul/consciousness to the Wired. What’s more, Chisa claims the cyber world has allowed her to meet directly with the man upstairs. How much of this is true? What’s real? Lain’s search for answers proves more horrific with each click.