CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 is a divisive game (to say the least). So when it was announced that the world of Cyberpunk was getting an anime, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, it was only right to be sceptical. Despite the sterling track record of the animation studio and the potential inherent with Night City, it was only sensible.
Well, good news! Cyberpunk: Edgerunners absolutely rules.
For fans of 2077, Edgerunners is sure to be a familiar ride back into the dregs of Night City. From the characters to the music to the art, it all sucks you in and then holds on for dear life. That comfortable discomfort will linger on you from the first moment of the first episode to the closing melodies of the final ending song. The people who made this loved Cyberpunk as much as you, and you will feel it in a new way in Edgerunners.
For people who have never played Cyberpunk 2077 before, it is still worth the investment. Edgerunners will teach you the rules of Night City. It will break it down for you and let you understand this beautiful, broken world. You will come to connect to its people, marvel at its technology and most of all, you will be hungry for more. Even without prior knowledge, Edgerunners gives anyone precedent to venture into Night City.
Night City is a cruel place full of selfish people who will always stab you in the back… but Cyberpunk: Edgerunners delivers that truth with a sincere story, a memorable cast of misfits and all while looking absolutely gorgeous. It’s worth the ride: no matter how you come back.
You can find Cyberpunk: Edgerunners exclusively on Netflix.
Story – A Night City Legend
The story of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners focuses on a kid named David. He lives with his mom in one of the less well-off areas of Night City, dragging himself to Arasaka Academy every day. This is in the hopes of fulfilling her dream: that he will prove himself and rise through the ranks. This dream is cut short, however, by the cruel misfortune, that Night City brings.
After a streak of bad luck and bad choices, David finds himself alone, in need of eddies, slowly losing his grip on a world that already didn’t want him. From there, he’ll meet Lucy and David will be whisked away to the underbelly of Night City. Here he’ll begin his journey as an Edgerunner.
Aside from a slight stumble in the final two episodes (where it dips perhaps a tad too much into the absurd), the overarching plot is a great joyride through the highs and lows of a Night City Merc. You will laugh, you will be hurt, you will be in awe, perhaps all of those at the same time. The story is paced well as it doesn’t overstay its welcome. You will likely want more by the time it ends, clawing at the potential that you could spend one more day in this world with these people.
David, Lucy and their Edgerunner crew are a great cast that is fleshed out well for how short a time you actually spend with them. You grow attached to them and their relationships. You want to see them succeed and flourish in this world that will, inevitably, seek to snuff them out.
A large focus of the story is on addiction – more specifically on the idea of cyberpsychosis. If you don’t lay off of your chrome and keep building and augmenting, you will eventually lose your mind to the machines. You’ll lose that small spark of human you have left. Several characters tackle this in many different ways and the way that it is depicted, both in the story and visually in the animation, is excellent. These are the kind of stories that should be told in cyberpunk – moral stories, bodily stories – and Edgerunners succeeds spectacularly.
World – A Bad Teacher
The world of Edgerunners is as pretty as it is voracious. Studio Trigger has done an excellent job of translating the peaks and valleys of Night City to animated splendour. From the sin-laced streets full of vice and disrepair to the unnaturally clean corporate buildings, from the ripper doctors to the mercenaries. They feel tangible and understandable instead of some unknowable, fantasy entity.
Perhaps the biggest strength of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is that it teaches you the rules of Night City succinctly in its short 10-episode run time. Even within the first episode, you learn about the hierarchical structure of suits and those they watch over, the importance of cybernetics and the costs that come with that need, and how one bad day can change everything. Even as someone who has never explored Night City myself as V, I still got it. Edgerunners did a great job of portraying each face of Cyberpunk in an understanding way.
Night City is a place which swallows you. It happens at different times for different people, but at some point, you will be eaten alive one way or another. Special’s special until it isn’t and there are no happy endings in Night City. In 10 episodes, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners taught me that fact, dangled the hope of liberation before me and then painfully reminded me of the truth. I let myself get carried away by it all and despite everything, it was worth that journey.
Art – Dystopia Never Looked so Good
Considering that Studio Trigger was animating Edgerunners, there was very little doubt that it was going to be bad. However, even by their standards, they blew it out of the park with this one.
Trigger is famously (or infamously) known for their work on series like Kill la Kill and films like Promare. Their style has always been loud and free, a perfect fit for the chaos of Cyberpunk 2077’s world.
Through their distinct anime art style, they imbue everything in Edgerunners with a keen memorability. Whether it’s David’s sharp shock of hair or his abrasive yellow jacket, Lucy’s pastel locks or sleek silhouette, or even Becca’s bright tattoos and unbalanced cybernetics, each person is distinct and memorable in a way that couldn’t be achieved in-game. Animation allows Trigger to play with the human form without it being a distraction. Perfect for Cyberpunk.
Specifically, the way that Cybernetics are animated is mesmerising. The special properties of each and how that is conveyed purely through how they are animated quickly become a highlight. Hack attacks become recognisable on sight, weaponised limbs fold back and forth with ease, full body mods become alien and frightening. Even the way that UI from the game is translated to animation is superb.
Perhaps the highlight is David’s Sandevistan, which allows him to slow down time and react with hyper-awareness and speed. Every time it’s activated and you see David’s past actions trailing behind him like an afterimage, you’re starstruck. The Sandevistan has a weight and an impact with every use, mainly just from its animation.
From the blood and gore to the wacky absurdist depictions of cyberpsychosis and netrunning, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners uses its position as an anime to its benefit. It does things that the game could not do, depicting things that could not be achieved any other way. Edgerunners leans into its medium and turns the dials up to 11. It is a masterclass of 2d animation and maybe Trigger’s best work to date.
Sound – The Voices of Night City
Whether it be the music or the vocal performances, neither disappointed in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. Full disclosure that any reference to voice acting will be in pointed at the English Dub of Edgerunners. I have heard good things about the sub and even the Dub in other languages. However the English Dub will be the primary target of praise here.
The voice-acting chops of practically every character here are excellent. Zack Aguilar plays David as both this rebellious kid who truly believes that he’s special and a broken man ruined by what Night City has put him through. Emi Lo as Lucy imbues the character with an edge and a softness that comes out at the perfect moments. The entire main Edgerunners crew all have their spin and essence that comes through beautifully through their voice work – especially the crazed, hot-headed performance of Alex Cazares as Becca – and serves to further your connection to these characters.
They even have the one and only Giancarlo Esposito as the villainous Faraday. He plays the character with such a sinister reverence that it feels like he’s smirking as he reads every single line. That type of energy and flair is present in all of Night City’s denizens.
It isn’t just the voice work, though. Every piece of music or sound effect that ripples through the neon-soaked streets of Night City leaves its mark. The music always perfectly compliments whatever is happening on screen. It manages to punch through scenes of discordance and lay low when it needs to be atmospheric. Special mention has to go to the choice of opening and ending songs, both of which can fill you with hype and energy as an episode begins or mellow you out when you need to reflect on what just happened.
While not something that you may consciously pick up as you are watching Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, the soundscape of Night City will stick with you. I’ve had several of the songs stuck in my head since I watched it, and the performances of the main cast have me longing to go back for one more painful round. Without such a stellar performance of music, sound effects and voice work, Edgerunners wouldn’t have been nearly as special as it is.
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is remarkable in two ways.
For one it is a superb piece of standalone content. It teaches you everything you need to know about this world, its people and the rules that govern them. Whether you have played Cyberpunk 2077 or not, you see it from different eyes. In 10 episodes you will become transfixed and when it ends, you will feel a longing that wasn’t there before. A yearning to go back.
On the other, it is a great companion piece to 2077. I never got around to playing Cyberpunk 2077. I followed it as it was being developed. Yet sometime between the release, the backlash and the disappointment, my interest waned. I’m sure this is the story that has befallen many who once wanted to immerse themselves in CDPR’s world.
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners has reignited that spark. It has made me miss this world and want to go back. It made me want to meet more people like David and Lucy, to see more revolutionary cybernetics, and to try and make my place in this world. Edgerunners has filled me with confidence in Cyberpunk that hasn’t been there in many years.
However, no matter what, it will still have been worth it. On its own, Edgerunners is a masterclass in animation, storytelling and adaptation that pushes the medium. From the characters to the world to its themes, Edgerunner’s Night City will always be there and will always be calling you back.
Whether you have played Cyberpunk 2077 or not, you owe it to yourself to watch Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.