• Tue. Mar 28th, 2023

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (2022) Anime Review

ByJohn Wintroub

Sep 17, 2022

Cyberpunk has been a staple genre in anime since the release of Ghost in the Shell in 1995. Despite what seemed like a drought in the 2000’s, the genre made a comeback in Japan in the last few years with series like No Guns Life and Akudama Drive. CD Projekt Red and Studio Trigger‘s Cyberpunk: Edgerunners signifies a true revival of this genre.

Based on CD Projekt Red’s hit video game, Cyberpunk 2077Edgerunners showcases a new side of that world, while containing imagery familiar to fans of the game.

The series follows David Martinez, a top student at Arasaka Academy whose life turns upside down after a tragic event. That tragedy leads him to the Edgerunner Lucy who discovers his body tolerates cybernetic enhancements more than the average person. Despite initially using him for personal gain, Lucy realizes there is more to David than the metal inside him.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners release date, trailer, synopsis, and more
David and Lucy in Lucy’s apartment in episode 2, “Like A Boy”

Trigger is known for their overly expressive imagery that overloads the senses. Trigger’s co-founder and premier director Hiroyuki Imaishi (Kill La Kill, Gurren Lagann) somehow manages to top his previous work. The combined talents of Imaishi, creative director Hiromi Wakabayashi (Space Patrol Luluco, Promare), art director Masanobu Nomura (BNA: Brand New Animal, Little Witch Academia), character designer Yoh Yoshinari (Little Witch Academia) and director of photography Tetsuya Kawada (Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizunacollide to create one of the most visually distinctive anime of the year. Trigger brought together their most talented artists for this series and it shows.

The action set-pieces are gloriously violent, reveling in the destruction caused. The car chases are some of the best I’ve ever seen, taking an approach similar to Mad Max: Fury Road with the technology of a cyberpunk setting, that is coated in Imaishi’s style. The animation team on this series went ham in every episode, with scenes that will consistently leave you on the edge of your seat.

However, Edgerunners is distinct among Trigger’s other series due to it taking place in a pre-existing universe. Writers Masahiko Otsuka (Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Star Wars Visions) and Yoshiki Usa (Wooser’s Hand-to-Mouth Life, Working Buddies!) clearly had a blast playing in creator Mike Pondsmith‘s sandbox.

Fun Ride With Lucy | Cyberpunk: Edgerunners Seaason 1 Episode 2 - YouTube
David attempting to argue with Lucy’s maddened state in episode 2, “Like A Boy”

Otsuka and Usa’s storytelling is quite different from the other series Imaishi has directed. Edgerunners’ story lacks the absurdist creativity of Gurren Lagann and Kill La Kill, trading it for a tighter narrative revolving around the development of its main cast. That is not to say that the world of Edgerunners isn’t grand. The series just doesn’t contain any of the world-altering plot twists that are common in Trigger’s most popular works.

Because of this, the series revolves around David and Lucy. We see how they grow alongside each other and how each major event in the show affects them. The show lives and dies with their dynamic, and luckily, their relationship feels fresh and natural within the story.

The secondary cast usually represents the dichotomy between the two. Characters like Maine and Dorio reflect the ideals David and Lucy strive for and the ultimate cost of their lifestyle.

Even with their amazing writing, these characters would be nothing without the voice talent behind them.

Zack Aguilar (Demon Slayer, Bubble) gives a career best performance as David, displaying the most vocal range I’ve ever seen from him, completely disappearing into the role. He still brings that youthfulness to David, but with an emotional complexity that feels like a first for him.

Emi Lo (Shadows House, Bubble), on the other hand, has made her career with a seeming refusal to be typecast. This remains the case with her performance as Lucy. As Lucy, Lo flows from extreme expressions to near emotionlessness within the same scene. Lucy is yet another role that shows how dynamic of a talent Lo is.

Giancarlo Esposito (Mutafukaz) voicing the series’ most prominent antagonist, Faraday, was a welcome surprise. While still holding his typical line delivery, Esposito brought this synthetic creepiness that allows him to disappear into the character. I hope this is not the last we hear of Esposito in animation.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (TV Series 2022– ) - IMDb
Faraday’s introduction in episode 3, “Smooth Criminal”

Matthew Mercer (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, One Piece) brings that Cassidy (Overwatch) charm with his performance as Falco. It was wonderful hearing him in a new anime.

Alex Cazares (Glitter Force, Drifting Home) brings this nonstop energy as the hyperactive powder monkey Rebecca. It’s no wonder the character has achieved so much appeal with fans.

Despite the performances surrounding him, William Christopher Stephens (Super Crooks, Yasuke) delivers a spotlight-stealing performance as the large-and-in-charge Maine. Stephens delivery during the scenes tackling Maine’s downward spiral form

The Cyberpunk 2077 anime has a hyperviolent new trailer | PCGamesN
Maine in episode 6, “Girl on Fire”

Despite the talent within the voice cast, such quality would not be possible without script adapters Kayli Mills (Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song, TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You) & Gregory Snegoff (Bastard!! -Heavy Metal Dark Fantasy-, March Comes in Like a Lion) and voice director Wendee Lee (Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song, March Comes in Like a Lion).

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners continues Netflix‘s streak of successful video game adaptations. Not only is the series stand out among Trigger’s works, it is one of the best series out this year. With only ten episodes, Edgerunners tells a fulfilling narrative with breathtaking , heavily stylized visuals. I am excited to see what this creative tea does next.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is available subbed and dubbed on Netflix.

Rating: 10/10