Science fiction or sci-fi is generally described as a work of fiction that centers around imagined or actual science’s impact on society. Many of the most successful works take place in the not-so distant future or in a world that is slightly different from our own.
Machines or beings from other worlds are also a common motif. They tend to have superior knowledge or abilities to human beings. Their arrival or presence usually indicate that something drastic is about to happen to the current civilization.
The three anime below are great shows, but more than that, they are also archetypes upon which many contemporary works draw inspiration from. These are perfect picks to get you situated in the sci-fi genre and lead you to a whole array of shows to choose from.
Akira Synopsis - From Anime News Network
A top-secret child with amazing powers of the minds breaks free from custody and accidentally gets a motorcycle gang involved in the project. The incident triggers psychic powers within one of the members, Tetsuo, and he is taken by the army and experimented on.
His mind has been warped and is now on the path of war, exacting revenge on the society that once called him weak.
- Movie, July 16, 1988
Why Should You Watch Akira?
Akira is one of the first films that altered people’s perception of what anime was and what it was capable of. The intense action, the dense story, the development (and breakdown) of characters, and the overall presentation was ahead of its time.
This movie was able to frighten some of its viewers during Tetsuo’s mind-bending scenes. That’s not something that typical anime shows were capable of.
It threw you into the middle of a nation’s tipping point. People were ready to revolt against the suffocating grip of the government, while others are praising the impending return of their messiah, “Akira”.
No punches were held when it came to violence and gore. You saw the flesh being torn off of people as bullets ripped through them. You were forced to watch machine parts fuse with man. Then, you sat through the transformation of a person into a misshapen clump of ever growing flesh ready to burst.
It clearly wasn’t aiming to please a wide audience demographic.
Instead, it was going to tell a specific story. It wants you to feel uncomfortable. You are going to have to question whether something like this could actually happen. An intricate design is laid out and your only role is to strap in and endure the ride. We’ll happily oblige.
2. Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop Synopsis - From Anime News Network
Cowboy Bebop Blu Ray Trailer
- 26 episodes
- April 3, 1988 - April 24, 1999
Why Should You Watch Cowboy Bebop?
Whereas Akira focused on a nation’s collapse and person’s ability to destroy society, Cowboy Bebop focused on the vastness of space and the hope that a person could create a better future for themselves.
The motley crew you follow is seeking out bounties in hopes of getting some extra scratch. This is just on the surface. What each of them are actually doing is trying to escape their past. Essentially this is what the plot and character interactions revolve around.
As strong as that narrative is, Cowboy Bebop goes the extra mile by adding some additional flare to its presentation. The bebop music (a style of jazz), how the show completely changes its episode structure on a whim, the deep philosophical thoughts, and Spike’s cocky attitude all keep you glued to the screen with no expectations.
You’re just there enjoying everything that is thrown your way. Never sure of what’s coming next, but always building a sympathetic relationship toward these characters that are doing their damndest to fight against fate.
3. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Ghost in the Shell: SAC Synopsis - From Anime News Network
The boundary of technology and humanity has been stretched beyond imagination with lives being led in both the electronic and physical worlds. With the melding of man and machine, a new cybernetic level of existence is being created —an existence that continues to redefine mankind.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex OP
- Episodes: 26
- October 1, 2002 - March 25, 2003
Why Should You Watch Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex?
So, we’ve covered psychic powers destroying society and a crew of bounty hunters flying through space. What’s left to talk about from the sci-fi genre?
That’s right! Cyborgs.
First off, the animation alone should draw you into this series. It does an excellent job of portraying a futuristic world saturated with machines where cyborgs and humans are able to live out “normal” lives. But, the show does so much more than that.
What it does best is bring up inquiries about what is humanity. The advanced technology, the immoral actions taken by government officials, and the motivations of criminals start to flesh out a string of questions concerning the fusion and distinction between machine and man.
The term “ghost” is used in this series to refer to a human’s consciousness. That is a loaded topic on its own. But, it becomes a different beast entirely when you combine that with themes that include artificial intelligence as part of evolution, the ability of machines to develop a “ghost”, and the notion that original thoughts and feelings may no longer be possible.
This take on the future will entertain you as much as it will confuse you and push you to seek your own answers to these provocative questions.
As I mentioned earlier, these three anime are archetypes of the entire genre. There is plenty of action, adventure, and suspense to keep you entertained. But, they also accomplish what most science fiction works strive for: questioning the future with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Bring these shows under your belt and get ready to take on the vast selection of sci-fi anime that you have available at your fingertips.