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What even is Japanese Cyberpunk?

Japanese Cyberpunk imagines technologically advanced yet dystopic cities, bathed in neon lights and holographical imagery, but reeking of exhaust fumes, corruption, and anti-government sentiments. The cyber-industrial landscape teems with overpopulation and criminal activity, and the ever-present threat of bodily mutilation, a grotesque metamorphosis between flesh and metal, looms in the periphery, promising post-human nightmares.

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Cyberpunk falls under the umbrella of science fiction. Cyberpunk is often described as “high tech, low life,” and rightly so. We enter these techno-futuristic, dystopic cities where technological and scientific advancements occur alongside oppression, corruption, and societal collapse. But why do we separate between cyberpunk and Japanese cyberpunk? The answer is simple: Japanese cyberpunk is produced in Japan. Yup, that’s it.

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Author and curator Jasper Sharp, who specializes in Japanese cinema, questions whether the distinction is necessary and writes: “While English-language pundits have been quick to carve out a specific sub-genre of made-in-Japan cyberpunk, the Japanese themselves seem to count many of the works within it as belonging simply within the wider field of sci-fi. Tellingly, there is no Japanese-language page linked to the Wikipedia entry for ‘Japanese cyberpunk’, nor any acknowledgement of the country’s own contribution in the Japanese-language entry for ‘cyberpunk’ itself.”

Some food for thought.

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