Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is the polar opposite of its videogame namesake

The utterly captivating Edgerunners deserves to be talked about more.

by Jian Ern

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners has been released on Netflix for a little over three weeks now and we never got the chance to talk about it. Let’s take a long look back at whether or not this show deserves all the attention it’s getting and if it warrants viewing.

In Cyberpunk 2077, V’s rise in the underbelly of the criminal world is told in a 5-minute cutscene. In the anime adaptation, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, our main protagonist David Martinez takes about five episodes to fully transition from being the goodie-two-shoes boy to a cyberpunk willing to do anything to survive. With the extra time, Studio Trigger has enough time to flesh out Night City and the crippled state of its inhabitants. This 10-episode anime shows us that there could potentially be a firm foundation on which writers could possibly build for the future of Cyberpunk.

What’s Night City without a colourful array of dodgy characters? | Screenshot: Netflix

David Martinez’s story takes place in Night City, where many who have played tabletop and video games have familiarised themselves with. The world and its characters were created by legendary visionary Mike Pondsmith and the anime adaptation is the brainchild of CD Projekt Red and animated by a Japanese animation company, Studio Trigger. The expressiveness of its characters is a hallmark for this studio as their previous works such as Kill la Kill and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann have so evidently showcased. There is nothing but top-class fluidity and artwork on display throughout the entire Cyberpunk: Edgerunners’ 10-episode run.

A never before seen cast steals the spotlight in this show with none of the characters from the original video games making an appearance here. The world, however, is just as rich and vibrant as it ever was, coupled with several unexpected cameos. The show is an action-packed, high-speed, neon rollercoaster thrill ride that is unafraid to place characters in traumatic situations in order to set up their development arc as seen in the very first episode. It dials up that fast-paced nature to 11 with its nonstop display of guns galore, teenage angst, nudity, and true cyberpunk culture.

David is a child genius who attends the prestigious school of Arasaka. Supported by the medical first-responder wages of his mother, he is spurred on by her to climb the Arasaka corporate ladder in hopes of making it big in the world. But when he is left to fend for himself, the terrifying world of Night City goes on full display not just because of its grossly enhanced cybernut junkies, but also because of one of the earliest villains David has to encounter, capitalism.

David’s life turns upside down after meeting Lucy. | Screenshot: Netflix

When David gets expelled from his prestigious school and his home, he gets targeted by debt collectors, and with no money to pay, he often has to break into his own home just to have a bed to sleep on at night. This goes to show that flying cars, neon lights, and colourful clothes can’t hide the crippling effects of poverty in the hyper-capitalistic Night City. Seeing this world through his eyes truly gives you the most dismal and hopeless perspective of David’s world and that makes it easier for us to root for our protagonist knowing how beaten down he is by everything that happened in the first episode.

David’s storyline is mostly focused on the criminal elements of Night City. He starts off his criminal activities when he meets Lucy who steals chips off of Arasaka employees who are usually very rich. It seems apparent that her ethics won’t allow her to steal from the poor, which is a rare sight in this criminal cesspool of lowlife scumbags. He is introduced to Maine, a cyber-enhanced man, and the leader of his new-found crew. After a few escapades, they get on the wrong side of town with two of the most influential powers in the city, Megacorps and the fixer Faraday.

Rebecca is one of Edgerunners’ most memorable characters. | Screenshot: Netflix

The developer of Cyberpunk 2077 and author of The Witcher Ronin manga veered off from the main game’s direction and instead chose to revolve the anime around Night City to much greater results from a narrative standpoint. Cyberpunk is most immersive and entertaining when showcasing the dangerous, hostile, and boots-on-the-ground life as seen in the underworld through David. Street gangs and mercenaries commit dastardly and illegal activities on behalf of fixers, who are also serving the City’s capitalistic ruler, Megacorps. Our main protagonist’s rise to the top of the food chain in this grim and bleak world (despite all the neon lights) serves as a thrilling and immersive experience that will keep you captivated for hours.

With this new focus on the City rather than its characters, there comes a major drawback of the show. The characters we love are gone too fast. Some die while others are just not mentioned or expounded upon. Many of those characters were worth investing more time into extending their roles in the narrative but were dropped in order to show more sides and happenings of Night City. Thankfully, David and Lucy get a satisfying development arc and growth that leads to a heart-obliterating finale.

Cyberpunk’s focus has been and always will be on Night City rather than specific people living in it. Edgeruners was able to portray accurately the life and moments of one mercenary through many other characters who are all ultimately just trying to survive another day and live their lives to the fullest. What happens to them is more of a consequence of living in Night City’s“ and it’s every man for himself” mentality rather than something within their control.

Lucy will undoubtedly become a fan favourite. | Screenshot: Netflix

Although we at Potions tried to bring attention to this sleeper hit, the show was just too poorly marketed by its developers. The muted hype leading to its premiere could have potentially caused the show to be categorised as an underrated anime, which is disappointing since we really wanted this show to blow up the internet.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is more immersive, captivating, and engaging compared to its video game counterpart in various areas and presents the audience with an easily likeable main character to support and cheer for. The aesthetic decisions lift the mood in an otherwise completely grim world (again despite colourful neon lights) and serve at times to take our attention away from the broken dreams of its inhabitants in the background; It retains the art style of its source material by keeping various aspects such as the language, in-game call system, fonts, and colours consistent. The animation is world-class: dynamic, fluid, extravagant, gorgeous, and colourful. Just as Night City deserves to be.

  • 9/10
    Cyberpunk: Edgerunners - 9/10

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

If you haven’t watched it yet, now is the perfect time to go back and binge this incredible series.

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