Cyberpunk Edgerunners is a piece of media you don’t often see nowadays. It’s a new anime acting as a spin-off adaptation for the CD Project Red video game Cyberpunk 2077 in partnership with Netflix. The game’s launch was, divisive, to say the least, but the anime is proving to not only be more memorable than the game but outright one of the best anime to come out this year.
Perhaps that’s to be expected considering it was made by Studio Trigger and directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, the madman behind Kill La Kill, Promare, and Gurren Lagan. Edgerunners takes the style, and balls-to-the-walls action of these past projects and drags it into the dark sleazy underbelly of the Cyberpunk world. It’s violent, grim, poignant at times, and all around a wild ride.
The degree of life becomes the measure
The story of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners follows David Martinez, a high school drop without any direction in life. After his mother dies, everything changes when he meets a mysterious woman named Lucy, and ends up joining a group of criminals known as cyberpunks. This is where David’s life as an “Edgerunner” begins.
At only 10 episodes, the anime is short but the impact of each really pierces the soul. The anime moves at a brisk but steady pace, doing a good job at introducing the world of Night City and its many inhabitants and future technology without feeling overwhelmed or bogged down in unnecessary lore. Just looking at the detailed backgrounds you can see just how much is going on even if it’s just some dude going balls deep into the VR.
Being a Trigger Production, Edgerunners is packed with bombastic action scenes and setpieces but these are also set between a number of introspective slower scenes. The anime does a good job of showing just how harsh living in Night City can be between the constant crime, complete disregard for the affably low, and oppressive control of mega-corporations. You learn to understand what each character wants out of such a seedy hellhole: their goals, weakness, connections, and how these all lead to their inevitable downfall.
A Great Running On The Edge
Speaking of the characters, they are the heart of anime. David serves as a great lead, going from a well-meaning punk to a top edge runner trying to protect his friends as the world breaks down in front of him. Our lead heroine Lucy is also pretty interesting. She starts as the typical sultry femme fatale however the anime then goes further to show her insecurities and surprisingly genuine goal of going to the moon (because Trigger can’t have one series without space).
Outside of the two leads the rest of the crew are a lot of fun. Special mention has to go to Maine, the big bulky leader of the group and cool mentor to David as well as the trigger-happy tyke-bomb Rebecca. At this point, you’ve probably seen Rebecca pop up around social media and I can assure you she’s just as psychologically adorable as fans make her out to be.
These guys play off each other perfectly and within a couple of episodes, you can completely buy that they’re a real team and enjoy being around each other. They go to the bar, pull jobs in synch, and have some incredibly witty banter. You want to see more of them and when bad things start happening to each of them, you really feel it in how the others react.
Replicating Night City
As you’d expect from the guys that did Kill La Kill, the backgrounds are beautiful and the action scenes are top-notch. David has the ability to move at high speeds for short bursts of time and uses it to great effect to attack enemies. The sci-fi technology in general leads to highly creative weapons, camera angles, and fight scenes very reminiscent of The Matrix or Ghost in The Shell.
This is enhanced by the series’ great use of blood. Fatality rates are high in Night City with characters dying left and right, some very abruptly and in explicitly gruesome detail. Throughout the anime you see heads come off, metal skulls smashed to bits, and every gory detail in between. Like all good uses of violence, however, it never feels explorative. The violence shows just how dangerous being a cyberpunk is and how most of these characters will live short lives as a result. As you grow more concerned, you genuinely start worrying about who’s gonna be next and what fate they might meet.
The best thing that I can say about Cyberpunk Edgerunners, is that I completely forgot that this was from a game. It felt like its own standalone piece taking you into a fascinating world of crimes, hacking, and a very punk attitude but also one with a lot of heart, of people struggling against the bad hand they’ve been dealt and breaking free in the most self-destructive way possible.
Studio Trigger continues to be one of the most innovative anime studios in the industry, balancing out humanity, action and spectacular visuals, and world-building. Seriously, even the space stuff felt better planned this time around. If you’re a fan of their previous shows, this is one of their best, and if you just like good action/thriller anime, you’ll find yourself plugged in.
It also made me want to try to game out. That’s something I doubt many people wanted to do after the game’s disastrous launch so it succeeded on that front as well.
The animation is some of Trigger’s best
Characters are memorable and well developed
The world-building is easy to understand but still incredibly rich
Cyberpunk Edgerunners is available on Netflix.
The original video game Cyberpunk 2077 is available for PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One.