Cyberpunk is a general term describing a genre of science-fiction. Pioneered in the mid 1970s, and popularized with blockbuster films like Escape from New York and Blade Runner in the early 1980s, the genre typically deals with social questions and issues which originated in the present, that mushroomed into disastrous realities later on.
Elements of CyberpunkEdit
Usually, cyberpunk fiction is set in a near to distant future, typically after a national or civil war, nuclear or environmental disaster, and almost always features a motley variety of heroes and enemies, each with their own convictions, and rich characters. Despite the run-down cities and decrepit backdrops the stories take place in (differentiating theme from the dystopian genre of sci-fi, which is otherwise quite similar) high technology remains prominent. Weapons employed can vary greatly, but popular are old-world projectile-based armaments, such as handguns.
The interpretation of cyberpunk can vary from more entertainment-based approaches like Escape from New York (which built on fears of a US police state, and the mistrust of government starting with the Watergate scandal), to philosophic or thought-provoking, as is the case with Bladerunner (dealing with android crime, Japanese economic supremacy and US social disintrigation).
Cyberpunk and JapanEdit
The genre quickly became popular in Japan, where the futuristic, high tech and neon-lit metropolises depicted in the cyberpunk worlds, were in a way, already becoming reality. In manga and anime, there are plenty of series dedicated to this style of sci-fi, though most critics point to Shirow Masamune's works as being both some of the earliest and best examples. While his first work, Black Magic, was purely sci-fi, the later mangas he penned, such as Appleseed, Dominion, and Ghost in the Shell, are classic examples of cyberpunk.
Japan has since helped popularize the cyberpunk sub-genre of steampunk, which follows the same guidelines, but is generally set in the 1800s, using predominantly steam-powered, analogue technology, and tackles social issues of that era, but in alternate timeframes.