English Title: Cyberpunk – Edgerunners
Japanese Title: サイバーパンク エッジランナーズ
Director(s): Hiroyuki Imaishi
Screenwriter(s): Bartosz Sztybor, Masahiko Otsuka & Yoshiki Usa
Studio: Studio Trigger, CD Projekt Released: 2022
Runtime: 10 episodes, ~25m each.
Starring: Kenn, Aoi Yuki, Hiroki Tochi, Takako Honda
My Verdict: Somewhat predictable. Tries too hard to look cool at times. Good voice acting (Japanese). Not bad but nothing great. Overhyped.
● This is a series set in the fictional universe of the video game Cyberpunk 2077. I have not played the game so this review is based purely on the series.
● Many sci-fi works rip off Blade Runner which is fine in itself, although with the title Edgerunners, one has to wonder whether it is a joke. But anyway…
● The story is in essence a tragedy. David Martinez is supposedly a gifted teenager with his mum Gloria working hard to keep him at the prestigious Arasaka Academy, a private school run by the Arasaka Corporation. Despite their financial struggles, Gloria nevertheless hopes that David will do well at school and work his way to the top.
● In a world run by corporations with great class divides and significant organized crime, it’s no surprise that David’s life takes a turn for the worse. He comes across a piece of military-grade cyberware and, rather than sell it, gets it installed on himself. Later, he meets a girl named Lucy, probably a few years older than him, and through her meets a group of “edgerunners”. These are basically mercenary-like operatives. The series follows David’s rise and somewhat predictable end.
● David is an impulsive teenager to the point of being seemingly irresponsible. Setting aside the stereotype, it is difficult to like that kind of character. He is supposed to be a student who gets good grades but that is not apparent enough. A main character’s qualities need to be sold earlier.
● During the first few episodes as David learns the trade, it is not quite apparent where the story is heading. This is not a bad thing as it keeps the audience’s interest. After that, however, the direction then becomes too predictable.
● The style of this anime has that “westernized” feel. The style itself is a matter of personal taste, but I generally find the quality of this westernized approach to be inferior.
● There is a lot of sexualized imagery and a lot of action with its associated splatter. Although that is a part of the genre, the series tries too hard to look cool in these respects. The action is too fast, both the motion and the gore are simply too messy. Granted, it’s meant to be messy in a sense but sometimes it just looks like lazy work. Ghost in the Shell is a good example of action and graphic violence that takes a more refined and measured approach.
● Nonetheless, the environment design is impressive, whether it is the cityscape or interiors. Whether one likes bright colors or not is a matter of personal taste, and perhaps that is better in a video game than in anime, but it is managed well. The worldbuilding in this series is generally superb.
● The soundtrack by Akira Yamaoka is somewhat diverse as expected given the genre. There is contemporary rock, sometimes a little grungy, which, like the visuals, can be a bit too messy. The more spaced-out electronic pieces are nice and fitting.
● The performances are very good which is what one expects from an experienced Japanese cast.
● Whether one likes the story or not, at ten episodes, it is tight with steady pacing. In that regard, it is easy to watch and to finish.
● As is common with the cyberpunk genre, there is some glorification of that sub-culture. Granted, rebelliousness is understandable and even justified in an unjust world run by greedy corporations, but glorifying that kind of sub-culture is questionable. The series could do more to explore that question beyond the fact that humans can only take so many cybernetic implants. To be fair, the ending does in a way answer that question even if the journey to it is arguably lacking.
● Although the plot becomes predictable, I do appreciate the completeness of the series. There is no cliffhanger ending and the conclusion does reference some of the elements introduced in the opening. For example, the moon imagery is linked to the relationship between David and Lucy, presumably from the Japanese wordplay of “moon” (月 [つき, tsuki]) and “like” or “love” (好き [すき, suki]). Some may argue that it is cheesy but it is consistent with the noir aspects of the story and is managed well in the ending.
● Overall, it’s not a bad series but it does try too hard. Not that anything is original anymore but the story could use something different, and it is somewhat predictable. Visually, the designs are impressive but the execution is too messy at times.
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