• Anime like “Real Drive” and “Den-noh Coil” explore the darker side of virtual reality technology, highlighting the potential problems and mysteries that arise.
  • “Robotics;Notes” and “Sword Art Online” delve into the concept of augmented reality and virtual reality MMORPGs, with both series taking darker turns in their exploration of these technologies.
  • “Ghost in the Shell” and “Serial Experiments Lain” examine the profound implications of virtual reality and cybernetic enhancements, raising questions about humanity and the nature of existence.



Virtual reality is a common concept that is often explored frequently in science fiction. Video games are the most obvious implementation, but many different applications for virtual reality are explored in both fiction and the real world.

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Virtual reality is used fairly often in science fiction media, and anime is no different. A good deal of anime that get involved with future technology often touch on virtual or augmented reality in some way, with some interpretations being darker than others. Here are some anime that explore the darker side of technology like virtual reality.

7 Real Drive

Real Drive

In the year 2061, human society and civilization have become completely synchronized with a massive network called the Meta-Real Network, usually referred to as the Metal. As the Metal grew into a sea of information, the virtual world and reality began to merge, creating aberrations. To investigate these aberrations, cyber diver Masamichi Haru braves the sea that is the Metal, searching for the answer.

Real Drive is a sci-fi anime created by Masamune Shirow, the legendary creator behind the Ghost in the Shell franchise. While the technological aspects are not as cyberpunk as the 1995 classic, it still provides an incredibly interesting look at virtual reality and the problems it represents.

6 Den-noh Coil

Den-noh Dennou Coil anime

In the nearby future of 2026, virtual reality glasses known as Den-noh Megane have become all the rage, allowing its wearer to impose artifacts in the Den-noh world on the real world. Yuko “Yasako” Okonogi moves to Daikoku City, a city with the best technological infrastructure. She soon joins a group of kids in exploring cases surrounding the corruption of the virtual world, and as she continues to explore these mysteries she realizes that she is missing memories of her previous time in this city.

At first,Den-noh Coil starts as a sort of slice-of-life style anime with very little stakes. However, over time the story begins to delve into the various mysteries behind the virtual world the series is set in, and the story takes dark turns at times.

5 Robotics;Notes


Akiho Senomiya’s dream is to create a real giant robot in the image of her favorite anime, Gunvarrel. However, the only other club member is her childhood friend, Kaito Yashio, who is only interested in playing games with his PokeCom. As Kaito is roped into helping Akiho build her robot, he becomes wrapped up in a conspiracy involving an AI he can only see in augmented reality.

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Robotics;Notes is an anime based on a visual novel from the same company that created the legendary Steins;Gate, though it is focused on different elements of science fiction. While the series might seem to be more focused on robots, the core of this series’ story involves augmented reality.

4 Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online is a brand-new virtual reality MMORPG utilizing the NerveGear, a virtual reality headset that stimulates all five of the user’s senses. On launch day, a large number of players log in, only to discover that they are unable to log out. They are told that they must beat all 100 floors of Aincrad to be free and that dying in the game or removing the headset forcefully means dying in real life.

Sword Art Online is an incredibly popular anime series that has spawned several series, all based around virtual reality MMOs. While the idea behind its main premise isn’t exactly original, its exploration of these concepts is quite dark.

3 .hack//Sign


After a catastrophic event that involves a virus attacking and locking off access to the internet, a virtual reality MMORPG known as The World is launched, allowing players to delve into a fantasy world where they can make their character however they want. A player named Tsukasa wakes up one day and discovers that he has been trapped within the game, with no way of making it out. As he searches for the reason why he is stuck in the game, he starts to learn of the secret mysteries behind The World.

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.hack//Sign is a part of the .hack multimedia project and is a direct precursor to the .hack video games. The series focuses less on the fantasy world of the game and more on the mystery of Tsukasa’s current identity and why he ended up this way.

2 Ghost In The Shell

Motoko in Ghost In The Shell

In the future, cybernetic technology has become incredibly commonplace. Most humans have undergone some kind of cyberization, with the most extreme examples leaving some cyborgs with no human parts except for their brains. As a high-ranking member of Public Security Section 9, Major Motoko Kusanagi encounters a bizarre case that causes her to question the depth of her humanity.

Ghost in the Shell is a sci-fi series that explores many aspects of science fiction, including cybernetic enhancements and digitization. Virtual reality is touched on when some of the characters discuss leaving the physical world behind and becoming a being of pure information, existing only in the world of data.

1 Serial Experiments Lain


Lain Iwakura is a reserved and quiet girl who one day receives a bizarre message from her former classmate Chisa Yomoda, who claims that she gave up her physical body so that she could exist in the Wired, a virtual world where God exists. Intrigued by the message, Lain decides to attempt to access the world herself.

Serial Experiments Lainis a sci-fi horror series that explores the concept of virtual reality in many thought-provoking ways. Surreal, strange, and experimental, the series was almost certainly ahead of its time in both concept and execution.

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