Nowadays, punk components are becoming more and more prevalent in people’s lives, and “steampunk insects” and “cyberpunk” can be seen everywhere. It would appear that the world would not be at all fashionable without the illumination of neon lights. The living environment of cyberpunk writings is characterised by vivid dystopian and dismal colours, and it is situated in the liminal region between reality and virtual reality. A unique example of appealing to young people’s aesthetics is the poorly used cyberpunk, which appears to have lost the original punk spirit. The mechanical prostheses beneath neon lights, the perilous world where AI governs humans, and the emergence and uprising of lone hackers are typically what draw new friends to cyberpunk. Indeed, the images’ quality is exceptional, and it makes sense to draw in viewers.
However, if you examine it, you could notice something odd: why do all cyberpunk works contain some Japanese elements? If you see these images too frequently, people will start to ask why there aren’t more Japanese influences in the creation of the cyberpunk worldview. For instance, the mechanical girl unexpectedly pulls out a samurai sword, and the hacker seeks a stall to eat ramen after fleeing from death. If we were to compare cyberpunk to a unique flavour of chowder. Neon lights, haze, mind control, artificial intelligence, urban jungle, mechanical prosthetics, virtual reality, and the deprivation of people by large corporations are all necessary ingredients, and the strange Japanese and Asian components appear to have evolved into an indispensable flavouring agent. What was the origin of this “recipe”? This goes back to the early days of cyberpunk.
Why cyberpunk is popular in JapanThere are a variety of reasons why cyberpunk, a branch of science fiction that focuses on cutting-edge technology in a dystopian future, has become more well-known in Japan.
One explanation is that science fiction literature and media have a long history in Japan, and cyberpunk concepts and aesthetics fit in well with this legacy. Themes of cyberpunk literature including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the nexus of technology and society have been frequently explored in Japanese science fiction.
Japan also has a reputation as a pioneer in the creation and uptake of cutting-edge technologies and is home to a number of significant technological firms. As the genre frequently depicts a future in which technology plays a crucial part in society, this has probably contributed to the appeal of cyberpunk in Japan.
Last but not least, Japan’s distinct culture and aesthetic sensibilities have influenced how cyberpunk is portrayed in Japanese media. As a result, the cyberpunk genre has given rise to a new subgenre known as “Japanese cyberpunk,” which fuses traditional cyberpunk themes with aspects of Japanese society and aesthetics.
Overall, the country’s long history of science fiction, its position as a technological pioneer, and its distinctive cultural influences are all to blame for the success of cyberpunk in Japan.
- The 1980s’ global cultural influence
In the cyberpunk universe, the belief that technology would eventually fully rule humans by implanting ideas and abilities within them is an endless one. And strange Japan skillfully injected its own cultural will into the development of cyberpunk.
YMO, a group of three artists made up of Hosono Harutomi, Takahashi Yukihiro, and Sakamoto Ryuichi, was extremely popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They combined punk music, which they inherited from the UK, with electronic music and psychedelic movements. The expression of the original idea of “music magic of the yellow race” has shaken the musical communities in both Europe and America. The technology boom that had just started in Japan at that time served as a significant source of inspiration for the establishment of YMO. Robotics, bionic technology, and computer fervour have sparked a distinct technocracy in the country. Through music, comics, movies, and other media, this atmosphere was exported to Europe and the US, creating a cultural conflict separate from the economic and technological conflict between the US and Japan. William Gibson displayed his acquaintance with Japanese culture and dread of Japanese technology in his works. Gibson has drawn a lot of influence from YMO music and Japanese culture. In 1988, the board game “Cyberpunk” was released, incorporating many of William Gibson’s concepts and visuals. The original IP for “Cyberpunk 2077” is a board game world view showing the fall of the US government, the emergence of big corporations, and the complete infiltration of the US by the Japanese business Arasaka.
Takemura’s reference to Chiba, Japan, as his hometown in “Cyberpunk 2077” is a nod to the opening chapter of “Neuromancer,” “Sad Chiba City,” from that book. The sea estuary of Tokyo is called Chiba City, and in the 1980s, it was here that Japan’s foreign trade was most developed and its technological industry was most concentrated. It may have inspired writers to envisage Japanese-style gloomy night cities and technological jungles because it frequently made worldwide headlines, but it later mysteriously became a “sacred place” for cyberpunk lovers.
- A Dystopian Mood Emerges
Cyberpunk portrays the decadent situation of “high-tech and low life” following the over-development of technology in the future world in order to reflect on the evil side of technology and its relationship with humans. Instead of a blatant denial of and antagonism to technology, this type of dystopian thinking includes a strong sense of ambiguity and sadness. From form to substance to subject, cyberpunk has a very cohesive sci-fi aesthetic system.
A growing number of cyberpunk films depict humans as artificial creations that robots “plant” like potatoes, fully objectifying and enslaving them. The majority of people are unaware of the reality of the world because of the maternal world’s flawless illusion. Like us, they work and navigate life in small steps. The matrix’s faults, that is, the fact that a few people have learned its secrets and begun to rebel against this virtual reality, prove that no matter how perfect the machine is, it will eventually fail.
It conveys that the machine has learned both the true, good, and beautiful aspects of human nature as well as the false, bad, and ugly aspects. It is conceivable for human civilisation and machine civilization to come to an understanding when the two polar opposites of human nature are merged.
At that time, the post-Cold War era was about to engulf the Western world. Strong pessimism and dystopian feelings were cultivated in the soil of public fear and anxiety as a result of the economic crisis and the Cold War’s aftermath. The emergence of Japan as a whole has caused the West to reconsider the ancient Eastern civilisation. According to American cyberpunk novelist Anna Lee Newitz (Annalee Newitz), “Since the late 1970s, an important concept has emerged in Western science fiction works, namely, Japan represents the future, that is, Japan’s weird culture represents an unpredictable future.”
The construction of the cyberpunk world is frequently full of many interesting oppositions because of the strong opposition between Eastern and Western cultures: the opposition between individuals and totalitarian organisations, the opposition between outdated and cutting-edge technology, the opposition between flesh and steel and iron, and so on. “High Tech Low Life” is the epicentre of cyberpunk. The cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling once said, “Treat people like rats, and all measures against rats can be imposed on people equally.” As a result, the themes of technology and individualism have always been central to game bopunk stories.
This is precisely how cyberpunk is appealing. It enables us to reflect on the past and the present and carefully consider how we feel about the advancement of technology. However, it doesn’t provide a clear solution; rather, it just offers a range of options, leaving you free to make your own decision at any time.
- Coming soon is the heyday of Japanese online.
The work of Japanese animators played a significant role in the dawning of the golden age of Japanese online. The Japanese culture of the 1980s, particularly the Japanese technological sector, gave these “human nature” artists many opportunities for growth.
With a total investment of 100 billion yen, Japan announced the start of the fifth-generation computer’s development in October 1981, claiming it would mark a significant turning point in the history of human computers. The American media referred to this tragedy as “Pearl Harbour in the technological world” at the time, and it inevitably caused thousands of waves in Japan. The success of Japan in a number of fields, including robots, bionics, and semiconductors, suggests that a society where high technology rules and there is panic and bewilderment is not far off. Robots, AI, and big business will all be here soon, and they will all be watching everything. The Japanese cultural milieu was rife with dreams of all kinds at the time. Then, when mixed with the Japanese culture’s propensity for surprise and death, a number of extremely ferocious Japanese cyberpunks emerged.
The “The Sinking of Japan” by Sakyo Komatsu, published in 1973, threw open the door to the creative devastation of technology and the shadow of nuclear war. The animated movie “Akira” with universal appeal was released in 1988. Katsuhiro Otomo’s philosophical speculation and profound concerns about the exponential growth of technology were represented in the concept of the post-nuclear metropolis and the dominance of technology over human nature.
“Ghost in the Shell” started as a serial in 1989, and the geek director Oshii Mamoru brought it to the big screen in 1995. This well-known book covers a range of subjects, including electronic brains, mechanical prosthesis, artificial intelligence, and souls. One could argue that nothing that could be considered cyberpunk is overlooked. It has realised the peak of Japanese cyberpunk and has grown into an indisputable benchmark for the genre when combined with ethereal and enigmatic Japanese-style music, writing, and screen emotions.
These odd expressions that successfully incorporated wasteland fear, electronic fear, and centralization panic into animation works were a great success in that unique period and later evolved into the original classics of cyberpunk moving towards games and films. This peculiar expressions were accompanied by the rapid development of Japanese animation.
These over-inflated three-dimensional urban characteristics, whether in the horizontal or vertical direction, the disordered and excessive expansion, the fine-grained division of labour and organisation, and the economic and cultural separation between people, are further spectacle in the cyberpunk source of inspiration for the city.
- Visual Colourful Conceptual
The cyberpunk-inspired cities are primarily depicted in cold tones, integrating features like dampness (rainfall), modernity (air vehicles), artificial landscapes (various architectural designs, tall structures), city lights (neon ads), and LED display. All of these factors combine to make Japan the cyberpunk setting that the creators most long for.
Tokyo is small, densely populated, and surrounded by enormous skyscrapers, making it look like a modern machine operating at top speed. However, Tokyo’s urban construction adheres to the design standards of hard, industrial, and mechanical, giving it the appearance of an urban steel jungle. while the busy crowd weaves through the urban jungle, a sensation is created. People will naturally feel under strain as a result of such visual impacts, which also fit the fundamental ethos of cyberpunk virtually.
The creation of the cyberpunk world is more in line with Japan at night. The neon colours and tightly packed signboard lights on the streets of Tokyo at night transform the city into an entirely different universe. The city feels airtight because to the constant flow of people, the convoluted streets, and the numerous neon signs, and it appears like people live in a metropolis that was constructed from signs.
The government maintains tight rules on the design of Japanese-style signboards that are put in the city. After the designer has created the name and information for the brand, he must also follow government requirements about the colour matching of the signboard’s saturation and the brightness of the light box. Adjustment. With the help of such laws, multiple billboards can continue to advertise on the street while maintaining the qualities of their particular brands, and they can all be distinguished by their consistent brightness.
Of course, the most fascinating aspect of cyberpunk is the trademark neon lights. In the urban environment, where every square foot of land is expensive, the little and intuitive store sign lights, flickering and merging in the dense urban jungle, seem to be the true cyberpunk world. The neon lights that arose in the filthy bars and sex businesses on the sidewalk over time became the emblem of the shady city. It used to be the most opulent lighting imaginable. When modelling a cyberpunk environment, androgynous lighting is frequently used, which is typically coupled with phrases like “psychedelic” and “nothingness.” This is due to the fact that two-color lighting is entirely an optical illusion manufactured by technology and is not present in nature where it can be seen with the naked eye. Therefore, pink, blue, and purple are popular colour choices in science fiction movies. Neon lights are incredibly busy and crowded, especially at night. They intertwine and render each other until they consume the entire original black and leave their own colours. The discrepancy between the old and modern ages is satisfied by neon.
- Oriental Shadows
The conflict between nations and the expansion of globalisation, two intrinsically incompatible phenomena, have often become cultural hotbeds when we look back at the subcultural circle after World War II. The Cold War’s Iron Curtain and U.S.-Soviet competition for hegemony contributed to the creation of several works of science fiction, spy drama, and ideology in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of them were passed down and are still in use today despite losing much of their original meaning. There was a sense of fear in the European and American cultural circles about the failure of technological competition and Japan’s dominance of the global economy at that time, and the rise of Japan’s economy, technology, and multinational corporations in the 1980s also provided such a contradictory and bizarre “cultural impetus.” Particularly during that time, the US economy was experiencing stagflation, and Japanese multinational corporations had a significant presence in many facets of the automotive, home appliance, and electronics industries. This psychological breakdown effect is amplified by the pervasive “Japanese tax”.
A kind of carnival and alienation psychology that technology will erupt in an all-around fashion is strongly ingrained in the minds of Japanese innovators. People started viewing everything through the lens of technological advancement, which led to predictions and anxieties about artificial intelligence (AI), robots, and electronic biology.
Due to the way these two feelings are interwoven, cyberpunk is able to win over both its technological rivals and the general public. These themes—high technology, low living, and people being ruled by society and technology—have emerged as the unmistakable legacies of the era of technological expansion. The Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, China, is the most prevalent Asian element in cyberpunk besides Japanese ones. Under the influence of international technological rivalry, the idea of people being hemmed in by buildings, trapped by neon lights, and living in squalorous nooks of a busy city has been further developed. A “projector” has sprung from the Kowloon Walled City.
The alienation of Orientalism from a Western perspective, the intense fear of unchecked human high technology, and the social apathy brought on by the massive city are all characteristics of Japanese cyberpunk. According to authors from the West, Japan will unavoidably take this course in the future. And many Japanese people appear to agree. Unfortunately, technological advancements are not as terrifying as the fall of an economic bubble, which is truly dreadful.
The future cities portrayed in cyberpunk science fiction films serve more as a “mirror” than as prophecies or direct allusions to the present-day cities. The source of this cultural success can be found in the society’s idea of the city and its own future as reflected in this mirror, which has sparked immense resonance. Actually, consider it from a different perspective. The time quadrant we are in is made up of a number of factors, including post-epidemic, Sino-US technical competition, globalisation of the entertainment industry, and the transformation of new energy. Actually, it’s a fantastic centre for culture.