I haven’t watched a huge amount of anime in recent years, less so any of the titles that Netflix have put out as of late. However, due to a friend’s recommendation and the fact that the Cyperpunk genre in general is relevant to my interests, I decided to check it out. In reference to some of the talking points to come, I must also just mention that I watched the English language dub of the show, and on that note, be warned as this is spoiler country ahead.
An Edgerunner is a mercenary outlaw also known as a Cyberpunk, the people who skirt the edge of legality hence the term Edgerunner.
Cyberpunk Edgerunners follows the character of David, a normal guy (relatively unmodded by comparison to his peers and the world around him) trying to eke out an existence in the body modification-obsessed Night City. The show’s 10 episode run means things are pretty fast-paced as David gets his hands on a military grade ‘Sandevistan’ implant he finds amongst his mother’s possessions after she passes away in the first episode.
With the help of a Ripperdoc – basically a back-alley doctor, the ‘big bad Sandy’ as he puts it is (painfully) implanted into David. The Sandevistan implant gives David immense speed but it also attracts the attention of Edgerunner mercenary Maine and his crew.
Needless to say, devices like the Sandevistan implant take a toll on the human body – a fact which the Ripperdoc warns David of, (including the inevitability of Cyberpsychosis) but David, believing himself to be special (reinforced in his mind by having a higher tolerance for using the implant), believes he is exempt of this, and basically uses this as a bargaining chip for allowing him to keep the implant and join Maine’s crew.
Edgerunners is essentially split into two (albeit) uneven parts. The first part spanning across episodes 1 – 6 follows David’s initiation into Maine’s crew and gradual rise in the ranks as a bona fide Edgerunner and essential part of the team. At this stage, David hasn’t gotten any new chrome (cyberware) beyond the Sandy but lives long enough to witness the team being dismantled from within as Maine Succumbs to Cyberpyschosis.
Up until this point, Edgerunners is a lot of (almost carefree) fun but after a lot of death and chaos ensues, it’s clear that from episode 7 onwards, a lot has changed and that quite some time has passed as a heavily-chromed David has become the de facto leader of the pack. David’s leadership gives the remaining episodes quite a different, almost melancholic tone and by this time viewers are so invested in this portrayal of Night City and its fantastic showrunners that it makes it all the more tragic by the time it reaches the inevitable, bloody, conclusion. There’s a reason why the internet is ablaze with Edgerunners posts and memes of how people will never recover from the show, but man what a ride.
The final few episodes go pretty hard, and it’s easy for me to draw comparisons between Edgerunners and other anime like Dead leaves and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann as they all feature a similar, highly stylized visual treatment when it comes to violence. Given that Night City and it’s denizens take place in a futuristic world, it’s also clear that movies like Ghost in the Shell and Akira may have also had an impact on the creation of the show, and in fact, there are certain scenes that appear to be directly inspired by the latter, such as the example pictured below.
The typical cyberpunk tropes such as the brain/machine interface is also prominent in Edgerunners, again an aspect that has transitioned over from other films such as The Matrix, which in turn borrowed many aspects from Ghost in the Shell.
Characters like Lucy and Kiwi are Netrunners who use the brain/machine interface to deep dive into the internet and corporate systems looking to extract info to sell to Fixers (well-connected fencers, smugglers, and information brokers who apply their trade on the black market). This process in itself also appears to be extremely taxing on the body as one is required to be submerged in an ice bath to do so.
As Cyberpunk 2077’s lead designer confirmed, “This is the reason V gets into the bathtub. Because her body has to be cooled because you become sort of a CPU. You become a CPU that’s running this whole thing through your body. You have to be cooled down because otherwise you fry.”
Speaking of Fixers, Giancarlo Esposito’s portrayal of the slimy Militech Fixer Faraday, solidifies his position as the actor who plays the bad guy you love to hate. In Edgerunners, Faraday has a business agreement with Maine and his crew, oftentimes tasking them with corporate espionage jobs against rival company Arasaka. Faraday is definitely not to be trusted and his cool and calm voice and demeanor belies his true motives. Still, Esposito should really consider doing audiobooks or something with that voice.
Circling back to Lucy, both she and Rebecca have proven to be hugely popular with fans, the latter also causing a bit of controversy due to her loli-like appearance. Initially CDPR were against the idea stating that she “didn’t fit in with the Cyberpunk aesthetic” but Studio Trigger weren’t taking any shit insisting that “the loli stays”. In fact, it can be argued that Rebecca is perhaps the personification of the Cyberpunk aesthetic – sure, a lot of the characters portrayed are these huge, hulking, cybernetically enhanced people but not only is Rebecca basically fully modded by cyberware, but there’s no way to determine just how old she is (though she’s most likely younger than Kiwi having referred to the veteran Netrunner as an old hag), having almost completely relinquished herself of any semblance of her past, human life – a true embodiment of the post-human world of Cyberpunk 2077, if you ask me.
While Lucy is a little melancholic (with a small dose of crazy at times) with a dream of visiting the moon, Rebecca is the exact opposite, fully embracing her role as a bad-ass gun-toting psycho, oftentimes to comedic effect.
And finally, going back to what I said earlier – There’s a reason why the internet is ablaze with Edgerunners posts and memes of how people will never recover from the show, it must be said that Adam Smasher (a full-borg mercenary), is perhaps one of the cruelest villains to ever grace an anime series, with the possible exception of Shou Tucker. I mean, he looks and sounds awesome but man, what an asshole.
Cyberpunk Edgerunners is a fantastic show and it’s been a long while since I last devoured an anime series like I did with this one. Will there be a second season? Should they make a second season? Well, they could but the bar’s been set really high here and I don’t think they’d be able make another story with this particular group of characters (nor should they, frankly speaking). No, if Studio Trigger are smart they will capitalize on the fact that the Cyberpunk series is open to endless possibilities with countless new stories to tell. All in all, Edgerunners is highly recommended for anime and Cyberpunk fans alike, choom.