SPOILERS FOR CYBERPUNK EDGERUNNERS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
When you think of Cyberpunk 2077, you might think of this dystopian, corporation-ruled world where the richest people thrive while it’s every man for himself for everyone else. Guns, cybernetics, and charm could get you anywhere you wanted to as you met characters like Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Silverhand in the cityscapes of Night City. Or, you might just be thinking of the hundreds of bugs and glitches the game had on its release back in 2020.
Nonetheless, forget everything that you know about Cyberpunk 2077 (well, obviously, not everything) and have an open mind about what CD Projekt Red wanted to accomplish with its game that wasn’t achieved back then. Then, watch Studio Trigger’s Cyberpunk Edgerunners, the canonized anime series to Cyberpunk 2077, and go back and see if your views on this franchise has changed. I, for one, definitely feel like Edgerunners is a great, if a bit problematic, follow-up to the game after having my first thoughts completely broken.
Cyberpunk Edgerunners follows David Martinez (KENN/Zach Aguilar), an impoverished street punk, as he’s thrown into the criminal underworld after facing traumatic events that left him in a new position. Under the guidance and friendship of Lucy (Aoi Yūki/Emi Lo), a netrunner with softspoken secrets, David begins to get a new edge on life and joins a gang of edgerunners led by the brutish Maine (Hiroki Tōchi/William C. Stephens) and the stronghand Dorio (Michiko Kaiden/Marie Westbrook). However, as life goes on for David, things begin to take a change as David rises to become one of the best edgerunners in Night City.
Let’s make one thing incredibly clear: this show bumps up the intense, fast-paced action by a TON. One moment, you’ll be watching David and some other characters having a conversation about their plans. In the next, you’ll see a guy’s head get blown off to bits with huge amounts of blood and gore hitting the wall. In the first episode alone, you’ll be seeing a possessed, cybernetic maniac slicing and cutting policemen in half and shooting their brains out in pieces. Hell, Edgerunners even managed to make a motorcycle-limo chase actually innovative and creative as David uses his new skills to escape while avoiding traffic thanks to the world of Cyberpunk.
And while the hyperviolent action in this show is certainly eccentric, the story that Edgerunners creates is compelling as it continues to build the world of Cyberpunk while telling a tale of its own.
While Edgerunners‘ overarching story focuses on the growing tensions into a corpo-war, the show sets it focus on David’s development and evolution from being a tiny dot on the street to a leader with the help of those around him like Lucy, first netrunner Kiwi (Takako Honda/Stephanie Wong), and arms-psycho Rebecca (Tomoyo Kurosawa/Alex Cazares). David’s growth in the show comes naturally given the circumstances that put him into this part of Cyberpunk‘s world and while it feels like there’s a strong focus on him, the show manages to balance the chemistry with all these characters in a way that feels like a disjointed, yet caring family. The clashing personalities, between the lunacy of Rebecca and Pilar (Wataru Takagi/Ian James Corlett) to the more calmer Kiwi and Lucy, consistently keep these characters engaging to watch and to see their personalities and character show out only adds to why this show is a must-watch.
Edgerunners also adds the relationship between David and Lucy into the mix, which manages be one of the more gripping aspects of this show. Even though it does have the ‘pretending relationships’ trope beginning around the second episode, their relationship manages to slowly build up with David and Lucy learning more about each other. David eventually learns Lucy’s secret, being that she wants to get out of Night City and go to the moon, and at this point, you can already tell that their relationship is blossoming into something great. David’s adaptive skills and eager personality and the tranquility, yet inner-excitedness, of Lucy is wonderfully executed in a way that not only meshes well into Cyberpunk‘s world, but manages to keep these two characters memorable. It’s even more heart-breaking when you realize where David inevitably heads thanks to his need for cybernetics (along with the twists and turns that leave Maine’s crew dismantled.)
However, while this show perfect manages to blend the team chemistry and action in a way that perfectly fits within the larger world of Cyberpunk, there are some issues that Edgerunners has when it comes to some of its world-building. While Giancarlo Esposito does a good job with making Faraday into a greedy, yet calm businessman (much like his roles in Breaking Bad and Far Cry 6), it feels like he’s a bit wasted even though his presence looms over most of the episodes. Faraday is played out as that ‘corrupt executive’ trope straight to the point and because the show utilizes its big bad in the second third of the show in this way, the character only feels engaging in that portion of the show. However, he’s still serviceable to the overall plot of the show (along with Kiwi, whose turn feels more impactful on the story that most of Faraday), so I commend him for that.
One other part of world-building that left me wanting more was getting to know the main characters more. Their personalities and contributions to the team chemistry are a feat of their own, but I would’ve loved to see if these characters have different motives or possibly their history together. While we got to see a bit of that from Maine in the early-middle episodes and Lucy and Kiwi later on, I felt like I only loved these characters because of their personality without getting a sense of what really ties them together (besides their main motivation to get all the money they want.)
Overall, Cyberpunk Edgerunners manages to develop a great story with riveting character dynamics and head-busting action sequences all set within the dehumanizing, futuristic reality of the Cyberpunk franchise. I never thought that the world of Cyberpunk 2077 (and the game itself) would be able to redeem itself given the hell it’s gone through for the past few years. Hopefully, I believe that this, along with the upcoming story expansion to Cyberpunk 2077, will initiate a new dawn for the franchise as change is being written in the code.
Cyberpunk Edgerunners is now available to stream on Netflix.