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The 1980s saw the advent of “cyberpunk,” a subgenre of science fiction that depicted intersections between the giant network of cyberspace and decadent futuristic cities. Now, some thirty years later, what are the possibilities of cyberpunk thought? The scriptwriter Dai Sato and the critics Sayawaka and Hiroki Azuma discuss this question.
The discussion begins with Sayawaka asking whether cyberpunk has lost its original philosophical depth and is beginning to be formalized. Sayawaka cites the 2017 live-action American film Ghost in the Shell. The discussion also considers the case of foreign video games, where some games exist that contain possibilities for a “post-cyberpunk” genre. For example, Detroit Become Human (Quantic Dream) may embody the evolution of “cyberpunk as social critique” and The Last Night (Odd Tales) may be the evolution of “cyberpunk as image.”
In the second half of the roundtable, the topic turns to the connections between cyberpunk and virtual reality (VR). In film and anime, the rectangular screen has come to play the role of a “window” to another world; but what type of expression is possible in the case of VR, which has no such window? Sato states that theme parks and shopping malls could suggest some answers here. In theme parks and shopping malls, rather than look at reproduced stories through a window, one is immersed using rides and one’s own body. In addition, the time of the story can be manipulated and shortened without using montage technique. Azuma notes that moreover, another intersection between these material experiences and VR is their affinity with the habits of humans who desire “repetition of the same things.” These human traits can also be seen in the behavior of tourists who like to visit places that they have seen before.
Finally, Sayawaka summarizes the reasons why the philosophical themes that cyberpunk used to possess—interrogating humanity and reality—are no longer being updated, postulating that this may be due to the difficulty of creating the fiction of a “separate reality” in light of the development of information technology. Sato states that through various methods such as trying to make people vicariously experience death, which cannot be vicariously experienced, and trying to share strange and frightening things with other people in a deliberately “cute” way, cyberpunk has possibilities that extend beyond the cyberized and VR.