Are we living in a dystopia?
That seems to be the consensus of early cyberpunk stories.
Akira and Ghost in the Shell were first published as mangas in the 80s, both receiving high praise and critical acclaim. They are often read as reactions to the preceding, and the then current, decades’ technological and scientific advancements, political and social upheaval, and, of course, consumerist ideologies and mega corporations going awry. These events were then used to imagine the future. The techno-futuristic landscapes imagined in Akira and Ghost in the Shell ooze with grimy criminals and bodily transgressions - consequences of unchecked techno-scientific advancements. The hope of an advanced and just society emerging alongside such technology is drenched in corruption, consumerism, and greed instead. The future is neon-colored and bleak.
In these earlier works of cyberpunk fiction, the dystopic setting was always in the ‘near-future.’ But when was the near future? Akira is set in a post-apocalyptic 2019 and Ghost in the Shell in a dystopic 2029. Both films imagine our current decade as a cyber dystopia. This is the reason we chose these films together: we can’t help comparing the films’ setting and plot with our own society. Akira and Ghost in the Shell make us reflect on the dystopic elements of current societies and simultaneously make us speculate on why, exactly, this specific decade was imagined as the perfect setting for post-apocalyptic dystopias.
We are nearing the middle of 2023 and this decade: are we close to living in, or are we currently living in, the techno-dystopias imagined by Katsuhiro Ôtomo and Mamoru Oshii?