Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is another example of a videogame adaptation done right. We've already seen how the success of properties like Arcane and Sonic have begun resurrecting hope in the long-dead idea that videogames could be adapted into movie and television properties, and now this hope is exponentially skyrocketing after Edgerunners. An anime series of only ten episodes, it tells a story of a boy with big dreams caught in the brutal world of Cyberpunk: 2077's Night City, a metropolis ruled by technocracy, corporations, and hyper-modern cultural insanity. David Martinez, our main protagonist, ultimately rises to become a legend within the city after his mother's tragic passing, though encounters a tragic end as he tries to rescue his love in life. It sounds akin to a soap opera, doesn't it? Let's examine the good and bad about Edgerunners!
First off, this show contains a good deal of gore, suggestive content, and the like. Night City is an adult setting, a world run by brutality, spite, and capitalistic greed, so I wouldn't recommend younger audiences for this. But if you can stomach some rather dark imagery, you're in for a delight. In fact, one of my few criticisms here is the short length of this series, only ten episodes- which seems a painfully short time. Many characters feel as though they're on the cusp of being fully developed, but ultimately are only seen for short moments of time before they're killed off. A big example of these are Rebecca and Maine, two major characters that help David throughout his journey in Night City that meet brutal fates. Only small glimpses are given into their pasts, and as interesting as they are, I cannot help but feel the audience would care significantly more about them should they have been actually developed with backstories that we know of. Still, it does work in the style of the show, which itself is structured in such a way to remind the audience that ultimately; your past or your victories don't matter in Night City, everyone dies at the whims of corporate power.
On that note, our protagonists David and Lucy seem a believable couple, which is especially rare given that anime often exaggerates human emotion for the sake of entertainment. Subsequently, they face a very realistic end considering it's a practical theme of Night City that no one can walk away after shaking the halls of power, which David exactly did. Every major character in this show is developed to an extent and despite the rather short length, I found myself wondering where the show would take us with every episode's closure. There's the lovable Rebecca (who seems to captivate a great deal of the fandom), Maine, the gang leader as I mentioned, Dorio, his wife and tough strongwoman who keeps the gang together, and Lucy herself, an Arasaka expat who manages to escape their facility to live a life of her own. Arasaka- for context- is the primary antagonistic faction in Cyberpunk; a massive Japanese megacorporation that essentially rules most of the world with their immense power and behind the scenes manipulations. They, alongside Militech, are the major powerbrokers in Night City. Frankly- I could think of few other videogames better primed for anime adaptations than one about a hyper-modern bordering on sci-fi society with themes of government and corporate overreach that are very poignant to our world today. Studio Trigger handled these themes very well whilst also making a show that focused and developed our characters in an excellent format.
Of course, we cannot have a story without a superb villain, and Edgerunners delivers. Our primary antagonists are of course, Arasaka, and a ruthless crimelord named 'Faraday' who seeks to climb the corporate ladder and become a powerful Corporate Warlord in his own right, betraying David's crew to reach such levels of status. Faraday is your typical ruthless businessman type, playing people akin to pawns in a chessgame and using them as stepping stones to achieve greatness in the dog-eat-dog world of this cruel city. However- the most notable aspect of him is his English dub voice actor- none other than Giancarlo Esposito. I swear, whether its Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Star Wars, Far Cry, or beyond; it seems he plays the same role in every piece of media. Not that I'm complaining, his acting skills were once again superb in Edgerunners and portrayed a cruel, detached individual who sought power for power's sake in the end. But the other major antagonist is of great note too; Adam Smasher, who is essentially a Darth Vader type figure in the Cyberpunk universe; a metallic monster working for Arasaka and is arguably their greatest military asset. The story ends with Smasher demolishing David's crew, exterminating him with little effort and cementing his place as a top dog, which is what he was meant to convey in the game, but apparently did not. I don't know, I never played it personally. Finally, I think any Edgerunners review is remiss without stark mention of the amazing visuals and action-packed setpieces laced into every scene. There is so much going on in every fighting scene and it's amazing to watch all the pieces cinematographically land together to create an epic crescendo of violence and high-octane mayhem. The main battle against the Militech Army when David receives his endgame upgrades is something out of a Hollywood movie, but with the exaggerated madness and explosive insanity only an anime can really portray. Studio Trigger's animes are known for their zany artstyle and how they incorporate the impossible and amazing into every scene and shot, so honestly this is not surprising for me, and this is why they're among my favorite anime studios.
In the end, Edgerunners is a great means to get into anime if you're a beginner, or if you're already a seasoned watcher of the genre, it's an excellent and short gem to check out. Honestly, with the stellar visuals, epic story, and amazing action setpieces created by Studio Trigger, I would honestly consider it for anime of the year. More reviews coming soon, enjoy your lives dear readers!