Andy Lee Chaisiri
While Western audiences constantly look to science fiction to get a feel for what the future might look like, anime is often overlooked when they pull out their crystal balls. This is a shame because the talented forces behind one of the world's most popular artforms have an extremely distinctive outlook on what is to come.
From robot pocket cat children's shows to battling it out on Mars with the Judeo-Christian god, Japan's authors and artists have looked to the future with awe, hope, nuclear world wars, horrible space aliens, and giant, highly destructive mecha (that also make for very marketable toys). It's often bleak, terrifying or just strange, but it's always awesome. Here's a timeline of what humanity has to look forward to, if the anime-masters are correct.
Humans will discover that they are not alone in the galaxy. Unfortunately for humans, their neighbors are horrible space bugs bent on their destruction, so humans take the most logical course of action; build gigantic mecha to fight them in awesome space battles that warp time and space itself.
Neo-Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympics, the first such event since the end of World War 3. Unknown to the public, the massive construction effort of the Neo-Tokyo stadium is really a front for the military to build an underground facility for researching the psychic 'Akira' whose awakening had triggered World War 3 to begin with.
2020: Ghost in the Shell
In the aftermath of World War 3, the Southern states of the US will secede from the union, rename themselves the American Empire and invade Latin America, while the Northern states join with Russia to form the Ameri-Soviet Union. Many humans will have cyberbrains and other technological body enhancements which make them to be vulnerable to hacker attacks.
2020: Bubblegum Crisis
The first 'boomers' -- advanced androids that can pass for human and hulk out into metal monsters -- are built. The scientist who created them is then assassinated and his research is stolen by people with an interest in building an army of horrible metal monsters of their own. Monsters, be they metal or flesh, will continue to plague humanity.
2022: Sword Art Online
The total virtual reality MMORPG 'Sword Art Online' that engages all five senses will be launched, but players that log-in find themselves trapped in a digital fantasy world where if they die in the game they die for real. The lines between reality and simulation blur and the danger of not knowing which world is which becomes a legitimate threat.
2022: Cowboy Bebop
The lunar gate used for hyperspace travel across the solar system (Did I mention we will build a lunar gate?) explodes, destroying the Moon. Earth is gradually abandoned as Moon fragments continually bombard the surface.
2031: Blue Gender Humans
Humans that have undergone cryogenic stasis for a mysterious disease will awaken to a world where humanity has been driven from the Earth by powerful insectoid monsters. Of course, humanity does the reasonable thing and fights them with moderately-sized mecha, piloted by the re-awakened.
2045: U.C. Gundam
Mankind will be unified by a world government and looks towards the stars with the completion of their first space colony. Terrorists respond to the Earth Federation Prime Minister's message of peace and hope for a better tomorrow by blowing him up on live television during his uplifting broadcast. Peace and hope do not ensue.
2059: Macross Frontier
Humanity will launch an ambitious frontier fleet to explore the center of the galaxy but are (surprise!) met by hostile space bugs known as the vajra. Humanity engages them in awesome space duels with fighters that transform into humanoid battle mecha.
There's time travel now! A debt-ridden family will send the cat robot Doraemon back in time to "present day" (2005) to find their ancestor, a dorky elementary school kid named Nobita, and make sure he becomes a successful person so his descendants in 2112 don't have to live with debt. Cuteness ripples through time.
2307: Mobile Suit Gundam 00
Fossil fuels will be completely used up. The Middle East will descends into poverty and violence. Solar power becomes the primary source of energy for the human civilization. A mysterious group of good-looking youngsters piloting mobile suits called 'Gundam' come out of nowhere and declare war on all of Earth's major military powers. Many awesome giant mecha battles ensue across the Earth and space to remind us how terrible war is. War persists.
24th century: Bastard!!
The evil wizard Dark Schneider will lead his army of monsters across a fantasy world of other monsters and magic that is actually Earth in the far future after the Judeo-Christian god had passed judgement upon humanity and decided an awesome fantasy world of magic and monsters was how he'd rather see Earth.
2447: Battle Angel Alita
Disputes between solar system governments will be settled by awesome tournament combat with cyborgs and Godzilla monsters. Dates are no longer rendered as B.C. and A.D. but as E.S. (Era Sputnik) with 1 E.S. being 1957, when the satellite Sputnik was launched.
2500's: Megazone 23
Humanity will believe that it's living in the 1980's, but in reality Earth has been reduced to an uninhabitable husk by war and abandoned. The remnants of humanity are inside space colonies run by supercomputers creating an elaborate simulation to keep humans unaware and content.
12,090: Vampire Hunter D
9500 years later, a lot has changed. Earth has long been ruled by vampires but their numbers will have dwindled and humanity will again be on the rise. Wreckage from the vampire vs alien wars is strewn across the Earth as humans get by with largely 19th-century vehicles augmented by the occasional super science technology.
The human race will go extinct. All life on Earth will eventually die, but from the grace of the Phoenix, life springs anew. Evolution takes its course across billions of years until the form of man walks the Earth once more. But in a few millennia humanity once again walks the path of self-destruction. This cycle of death and rebirth continues for all eternity under the watchful gaze of the Phoenix who ponders how perhaps, one-day, humanity will find another way.
VISUAL EDITING: Rhett Jones