In 1989, writer/illustrator Masamune Shirow introduced Major Motoko Kusanagi to readers everywhere in the manga Ghost in the Shell. Nearly 30 years later, after numerous adaptations, sequels, spin-offs, and acclaim, the Major will be realized in live-action for the first time by Scarlett Johansson in Rupert Sanders‘ adaptation. This version will not only test the limits of filmmaking technology in bringing a militarized, life-like cyborg combatant to the big screen, but also encourages the discussion of the philosophical boundary between humans and machines.
It’s this second element that’s at the heart of Shirow’s original story and has been a core part of every adaptation since. Ghost in the Shell is beloved for more than exhilarating action sequences and unforgettable characters; it succeeds far better in getting audiences to think about consciousness, what it means to be human, and whether or not mechanical and computerized augmentations reduce one’s humanity or improve upon it. In short, Ghost in the Shell remains one of the best explorations of cyberpunk and, more specifically, cyborg themes in all media.
But perhaps you’re not ready to dive into such heady material just yet. While Ghost in the Shell certainly looks to be a fun and entertaining action movie, the more intellectual nuances of the story may escape some viewers or be a little out of their comfort zone. However, if the idea of a story that explores the interface of man and machine entices you, I’ve provided a few suggestions to ease your transition into the world of cyborgs.
There are plenty of cyborgs to be found through science-fiction, from Star Wars to Star Trek and beyond, but this list will focus on anime with standout cyborg characters or outright cyborg stories. Sorry, no androids or straight-up robots; cyborgs need to have a human component to them. I’ll also be avoiding sillier series like All Purpose Cat Girl Nuku Nuku or SilverHawks, and outright bonkers characters like the Nazi cyborg Rudol von Stroheim from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, but they’re certainly worthy stories to explore in the sub-genre. But if you’re looking for something approaching the level of Ghost in the Shell, I’ve got you covered!