Cyberpunk Edgerunners is a medium you don’t see often these days. This is a new anime acting as a spin-off adaptation of the Cyberpunk 2077 Project Red CD video game in partnership with Netflix. The game’s launch was divisive to say the least, but the anime proves to be not only more memorable than the game, but downright one of the best anime to release 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 wall-crawling action of those past projects and drags them into the dark and sordid 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 student with no direction in life. After his mother’s death, 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 “Edgerunner” begins.
At just 10 episodes, the anime is short but the impact of each truly pierces the soul. The anime moves at a fast but steady pace, doing a good job of introducing the world of Night City and its many inhabitants and future technology without feeling overwhelmed or mired in unnecessary lore. Just by looking at the detailed backgrounds, you can see everything going on, even if it’s just a dude diving deep into VR.
As a Trigger production, Edgerunners is full of action scenes and explosive set pieces, but these also sit between a number of slower, introspective scenes. The anime does a good job of showing how hard life in Night City can be between the constant crime, the total disregard for the blandly low and oppressive control of the mega-corporations. You get to understand what each character wants from such a seedy hellhole: their goals, their weaknesses, their connections, and how it all leads to their inevitable downfall.
A great race on the edge
Speaking of the characters, they are the core of the anime. David is a great track, growing from a well-meaning punk to a high-profile racer trying to protect his friends as the world crumbles before him. Our main heroine Lucy is also very interesting. She starts out as the typical sultry femme fatale, but the anime then goes deeper to show her insecurities and surprisingly genuine goal of going to the moon (because Trigger can’t have a series without a space).
Apart from the two heads, the rest of the crew is great fun. Special mention has to go to Maine, the big bulky leader of the group and cool mentor to David as well as trigger bomb Rebecca. By this point you’ve probably seen Rebecca pop up on social media and I can assure you she’s as psychologically adorable as fans make her out to be.
These guys play each other perfectly and within a few episodes you can completely buy that they are a real team and enjoying being with each other. They go to the bar, work in sync, and have incredibly witty banter. You want to see more and when bad things start to happen to each of them, you really feel it in how the others react.
Reproduction of the night city
As you’d expect from the guys who made Kill La Kill, the backgrounds are gorgeous and the action scenes are top-notch. David has the ability to move at high speed for short periods of time and uses it to good effect to attack enemies. Sci-fi technology in general leads to very creative weapons, camera angles, and fight scenes that are very reminiscent of The Matrix or Ghost in The Shell.
This is reinforced by the series’ extensive use of blood. Death 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 coming off, metal skulls shattered into pieces, and every gory detail in between. Like all good uses of violence, however, it never feels exploratory. The violence shows how dangerous it is to be a cyberpunk and how most of these characters will live short lives as a result. As you worry, you really start to worry about who will be next and what fate they might meet.
The best thing I can say about Cyberpunk Edgerunners is that I completely forgot it was from a game. It felt like its own standalone piece took you into a fascinating world of crime, hacking and a very punk attitude but also with a lot of heart, of people fighting against the wrong hand they were dealt and breaking free in the most self-destructive way possible.
Studio Trigger continues to be one of the most innovative animation studios in the industry, balancing 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 love good action/thriller anime, you’ll find yourself hooked.
It also made me want to try acting. It’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 one of the best in Trigger
The characters are memorable and well developed
World-building is easy to understand but still incredibly rich
Cyberpunk Edgerunners is available on Netflix.
The original Cyberpunk 2077 video game is available for PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One.