Cyberpunk: Edgerunners keeps the video game adaptation resurgence going with an anime to show for it. Studio Trigger (Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia, Star Wars: Visions) has a large narrative gap to fill after Cyberpunk 2077’s controversial launch in 2020. Except the anime comes at a better time for new fans to tap into Mike Pondsmith’s rich sci-fi universe. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners doesn’t just exercise every thrill, pound of cybernetic flesh and capitalist intrigue players saw in 2077, the show takes this into overdrive across a limited ten episode season that keeps Night City’s lights on until 2077.
I give Studio Trigger credit for showing no creative limits to crafting Cyberpunk: Edgerunners for Netflix. The series—like its streaming platform—puts a foot over the edge of an R rating. The show falls into a void of sex, drugs, profanity that’s 55 years ahead of its time and even body horror. These grisly details are unapologetically blended in with the video game’s own sense of humour.
I use “unapologetically” strongly as CDPR intended with Cyberpunk 2077 (turbulent development cycle and all). But Studio Trigger gets a chance to add colour back to Cyberpunk with even more over-the-top depictions of humans and machines. While the anime format feels like a near-perfect platform to reflect Night City’s ivory towers and stolen vehicles. This is Studio Trigger at their best—beautifully recreating Night City with room to expand Cyberpunk through new characters and perspectives.
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners more importantly stands on its own as a companion to 2077 (for some), but I was most surprised at how anybody can start their visit into Night City with Studio Trigger’s anime. Edgerunners embraces its pacing across those ten episodes. Terms like eddies, zeroing, cyberpsycho, and chooms are used interchangeably with matching anime visuals to comprehend it all. Witty humour and unfiltered exchanges are also tossed out by an impressive voice cast. While I highly recommend viewers start with the Japanese dub before being surprised by a few English stars. Studio Trigger and writers never leave audiences behind as each episode quickly ramps up the stakes.
I won’t spoil what makes Edgerunners equally fun and tragic to watch. Studio Trigger captures CDPR’s own focus to tell a story with human heart. Edgerunners, in fact, doesn’t show people passing through Night City. But rather Night City—at its lowest point—passing through people and transforming them. David Martinez (Kenn/Zach Aguilar), isn’t like V from 2077, but starts the show as a young boy getting by with his family in Night City.
“Edgerunners embraces its pacing across those ten episodes. Terms like eddies, zeroing, cyberpsycho, and chooms are used interchangeably with matching anime visuals to comprehend it all.”
One crossfire later, David quickly spirals into a Cyberpunk quest of his own making. There’s no surprise in seeing David go through changes. Edgerunners keeps viewers as close to David as possible for all the augmentations that set him loose on Night City’s underworld. Ten episodes are more than enough to develop David in a number of surprising ways. Jaws are expected to drop halfway through as Studio Trigger flips the narrative.
In many ways, Edgerunners recreates a similar journey in 2077 through David. His personality and carefree behaviour escalate with the stakes. Here, Studio Trigger doesn’t play anything safe once David falls in with a typical street gang. But fans of Wanted (2008) will have plenty of fun seeing David train and grow along with some eccentric characters. Kiwi (Takako Honda/Stephanie Wong), Rebecca (Tomoyo Kurosawa/Alex Cazares) and Pilar (Wataru Takagi/Ian James Corlett) each have their own clichéd traits. But the crew feel right at home out of an anime production.
Edgerunners finds its real charm through Maine (Hiroki Tōchi/William C. Stephens), the gang’s huge leader who takes David under his wing. The series’ first half shows David’s own coming-of-age as he’s guided by Maine. Like Cyberpunk’s side quests, the crew are thrown into lots of bloody danger, but Studio Trigger does an eloquent job of stitching each gig towards a mystery.
Edgerunners continues to reward viewers with well-paced action and a plot that keeps ramping up. The grisly fight sequences deliver on all the anime gore veterans can expect. Newcomers stomaching all of the visuals can still appreciate killer without filler in every episode. There are no prisoners taken when David, Maine and the crew fight cyber psychos, rival gangs and the cops. Edgerunners doesn’t stray from the action that fuels its main video game. It’s an even bigger joy to see Cyberpunk’s fight scenes with an added techno twist. In very unique ways, I saw technology turn against characters for some tense and hard-to-watch sequences. Though there are still some outrageous scenes filled with blasting lead throughout.
Without spoilers, Edgerunners even shocks by killing off characters in the most unexpected ways. Studio Trigger channels a bit of The Suicide Squad and The Departed for some heavy-hitting moments. Edgerunners doesn’t just use each death for shock factor since the following episodes deal with the consequences and push its story to emotional depths. Studio Trigger and its writers break past narrative tropes to tell its most unique crime story yet.
Lucy (Aoi Yūki/Emi Lo) is Edgerunners’ most compelling character next to David. The jaded “netrunner” serves as the crew’s hacker and lookout. She also brings David deeper into every part of Night City. I was thrown off by Lucy’s development and opposite growth with David. Studio Trigger adds a convincing push and pull tension between the two. While their own story arc carries Edgerunners through two completely different tones halfway.
“Edgerunners works because of how it elevates the game’s moving parts. This makes fan service an effortless part of the show.”
Like Cyberpunk 2077, the series pauses all chaos for some sentimental moments. By the last shot, viewers are awarded and gutted from investing in its two leads. But I leave it to audiences to ride through Edgerunners’ own thoughtful, yet satirical take on humanity. David’s own innocence from the first episode is tested and viewers are constantly reminded as he goes deeper into the rabbit hole.
Edgerunners works because of how it elevates the game’s moving parts. This makes fan service an effortless part of the show. Studio Trigger will reward players with a handful of cameos. But it’s an attention to detail that folds the Trauma Team, on-screen text chats and other game mechanics into Edgerunners’ narrative. Cyberpunk 2077 is paid with respect by a compelling story that realises CDPR’s vision.
Shady megacorporation Arasaka isn’t just a looming Easter egg over Edgerunners, but it plays into the universe’s capitalism like a plague over Night City’s denizens. Money is the root of all evil in this show. While Edgerunners somehow manages to use this theme to every advantage for action, heartbreak and lots of tension from characters. Out of a serialised format, Studio Trigger makes a lasting impression on technology’s commercialization and possibilities.
“With the foundation set, Edgerunners marks an unforgettable first binge for video games.”
I’m more surprised by Edgerunners’ ability to add corporate intrigue. Faraday (Kazuhiko Inoue/Giancarlo Esposito) fits the trope of a well-suited corrupt Monopoly Man. But he manages to orchestrate more chaos for David’s crew as they take on increasingly dangerous jobs. Arasaka’s own lore ties neatly into Cyberpunk 2077 as players trudge forward, but Edgerunners only sweetens the deal for veterans with a bitter aftertaste from Arasaka.
There are many ways Cyberpunk: Edgerunners could have been delivered. 2077’s small DLC only proves just how much further the game could go post-launch. While some challenges might come up from packing over 45 hours of world-building game content into a two-hour film. Mike Pondsmith still gets credit for popularizing (not creating) the “cyberpunk” genre, which explores a cutting-edge turn of the century for the criminal underworld.
The 1988 RPG is more than honoured as much as the game in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. While fans are safely nestled into the same brand of world building across ten well-paced episodes. Studio Trigger doesn’t stop pulling viewers deeper into Night City, but also takes the time to craft an entertainingly chaotic adaptation that only works best in anime.
It’s rare for a show like Edgerunners or Arcane to offer a cure for bad video game adaptations, but Studio Trigger has pulled this feat off by taking Cyberpunk 2077’s scale, elements and existence very seriously here. The result is a highly rewatchable blueprint for other games. TV and anime pacing breaks the two-hour narrative confines in movies. While video games like Cyberpunk 2077 no longer have to be mediocre when they can be just as creative. With the foundation set, Edgerunners marks an unforgettable first binge for video games.
Did I also mention it’s a perfect show?