Ideally, technology complements and improves people’s daily lives. At times, this isn’t the case in both reality and anime. Where some people would treat the latest digital innovations as a shortcut to their goals, others lose sight of their own individuality and purpose.
Humanity’s reliance won’t be going anywhere, and these anime characters show the negative effects of such a reality. This doesn’t mean that the anime are suddenly taking a stance against modernization. Rather, they just warn audiences about the dangers of mechanical overreliance and encourage the forging of a balance.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead.
10 Osomatsu-San – The Matsunos Only Got Lazier When The Riceballs Arrived
On their own, Osomatsu-san‘s Matsuno sextuplets are already some of the laziest bums in anime history. However, they only got worse in Season 3 when they received a pair of helper robots that were specifically designed to help hopeless NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) like themselves.
Rather than accept the robots’ advice and cooperation, the Matsunos bossed and bullied the Riceballs (renamed as Salmon and Plum) so much that they eventually quit their jobs and became NEET AIs. When the Riceballs embarked on a stand-up comedy career, the Matsunos found themselves more helpless than ever before.
9 Odd Taxi – Hajime Tanaka Used His Mobile Game Addiction As Escapism
Odd Taxi has some of the most realistic and sympathetic depictions of social media’s best and worst potentials, and Hajime is the anime’s most extreme instance. After getting scammed online and getting beaten up by just about everyone for it, Hajime retreats to the world of Zoological Garden for comfort.
Though he found the escapist solace he was looking for, Hajime’s life fell further apart the worse his mobile game addiction got. Things exploded when dodging Odakawa’s taxi caused Hajime to drop his phone, which threw him into a downward spiral of bad decisions that included attempted murder. Thankfully, Hajime realizes the futility of his current ways and manages to kick his addiction.
8 Carole & Tuesday – Tao Thought Art Could Be Determined By An AI
Carole & Tuesday takes the debate between pop and indie music to the extreme, where pop music is literally calculated to have the broadest appeal possible through AI. At the forefront of this advancement is the producer Tao, who believes he can turn the former child star Angela Carpenter into a phenomenon through his AI.
Tao, of course, missed the human spirit that makes music such a powerful form of expression. Carole and Tuesday show how it’s really done through their smalltime but heartfelt indie performances, influencing Angela to follow her heart rather than the AI. Tao admitted he was wrong and let Angela express herself through her own lyrics.
7 A Certain Scientific Railgun – Therestina Lifeline Compensated For Her Lack Of Esper Abilities With Power Armor & Unethical Experiments
For all its glitz and glamor, Academy City is little more than a citywide petri dish for some of the most inhuman scientists around. Like many of her fellow scientists, Therestina Lifeline wanted to create a Level 6 Esper. Additionally, it’s heavily implied that she’s a Level 0, further fueling her desire to artificially achieve superpowers.
Her efforts weren’t wasted, since she was able to modify an HsPs-15 powered suit to be as powerful as the strongest known Level 5 Electromaster in A Certain Scientific Railgun, Misaka Mikoto. However, by flattening Academy City’s student body to numbers and variables, Therestina gravely underestimated Misaka’s drive to protect her friends, leading to her defeat.
6 One-Punch Man – Genos’ Upgrades Will Never Be Enough
After a mad cyborg blew up his hometown and left him for dead, Genos was reborn as a cyborg hero whose signature weapons are his mechanical limbs. Despite his rigorous training and undying heroism, Genos loses almost every fight he gets into. Seeing Saitama use one punch to defeat enemies that nearly killed him only made things worse.
Determined to become as powerful as Saitama, Genos dedicated his life to constantly upgrading his body in terms of raw firepower and damage output. This backfired more than once, though, when he failed to defeat his opponents in one hit just as his mentor does. Genos is a real hero, but he handicapped himself by specializing in the wrong departments.
5 Princess Mononoke – Lady Eboshi’s Rapid Industrialization Started A War With The Forest Gods
In her defense, Lady Eboshi is not a villain. She’s the strong-willed leader of Iron Town, a community made by and for refugees and victims of the country’s endless wars. However, in her unwavering drive to protect Iron Town, Lady Eboshi led a scorched earth campaign that saw the ravaging of the environment for resources.
This angered the Forest Spirits, who Lady Eboshi had no problem declaring war on if it meant serving what she believed was the greater good. Given Princess Mononoke’s grey morality, neither side was right or wrong. By the end, Lady Eboshi realized that environmental harmony will benefit Iron Town more than rapid modernization would.
4 Roujin Z – The Ministry Of Public Welfare Ill-Advisedly Delegated Elderly Care To The Z-001 Hospital Beds
Though seemingly well-intentioned, the Ministry of Public Welfare’s solution to Japan’s elderly population outnumbering their caregivers was dehumanizing at best. Their answer to this social crisis was the Z-001 autonomous hospital bed, which can take care of its patients with efficient but cold robotic ease.
Nurse Haruko Mitsuhashi called out the ministry on this, and her fears were proven true when it was revealed that the now-sentient bed was a covert and dangerous military experiment. Roujin Z isn’t just an unsubtle criticism of Japan’s treatment of its senior citizens, but a warning about how the overreliance on technology could lead to destruction.
3 Psycho-Pass – Japanese Society Let The Sibyl System Dictate Their Lives
In Psycho-Pass, Japanese life is micromanaged by the Sibyl System. The system does the thinking and deciding for everybody, determining their role in society from the moment they’re born. Of course, this cold system also determines if someone can be deemed beneficial to society by means of the eponymous Psycho-Pass ratings system.
The dark truth, however, is that Sibyl isn’t some algorithm. It’s a hive mind comprised of the disembodied brains of the kinds of sociopaths and deviants who don’t find anything immoral about ending free will. That said, the fact that Japanese society surrendered its individuality to such an inhuman system makes one wonder who’s truly in the wrong.
2 Serial Experiments Lain – Masami Eiri Was The God Of The Internet & Nowhere Else
As the man responsible for creating Serial Experiment Lain’s version of the internet, Masami Eiri was basically the god of the online world. After he took his own life and uploaded his consciousness into The Wired, Masami effectively achieved immortality and was only a few steps from forcibly uniting the real and cyber worlds.
He reveals this to Lain, who he claims is a software he made who should, therefore, worship him. Lain defies him and correctly points out that beyond The Wired, Masami is just the real god’s (i.e. Lain’s) alternate. Masami violently refuses this and gets killed almost immediately when he confronts Lain in the real world, exposing his powerlessness when outside his digital kingdom.
1 Ghost In The Shell – Major Motoko Kusanagi Needed Her Mechanical Body To Ground Herself Existentially
Ghost in the Shell is the premiere cyberpunk anime and as such, it criticizes mankind’s rapid digitization and warns of the coming dehumanization of the post-human age. As a whole, this futuristic society relies on technology as a crutch not just to enhance their physical capabilities, but to even have an identity.
Maj. Kusanagi is one of the most extreme cases, since she’s a cyborg whose prior or lingering humanity is dubious at best. Since her repairable mechanical body was the only tangible proof of her existence, Maj. Kusanagi developed a fatalistic and nihilistic mindset. She only snapped out of it when she accepted the Puppet Master’s offer to merge their ghosts so that they can find the truth of their existence beyond the physical realm.
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