by John Mcleod
Among the many Netflix original anime that has been released this year, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners stands out as a tragic tale set in the same universe as CD Projekt Red’s controversial release Cyberpunk: 2077. The anime is currently certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and is rated 100% on the Tomatometer.
The show is set in a universe with expansive lore that has existed in tabletop RPGs since the late 1980s, expanded in the 1990s, and developed into many forms of media. The lore was expanded yet again with 2020’s Cyberpunk 2077.
The voice acting is filled with raw and intense emotion. This causes attachment to the characters which truly makes the viewer believe the intense emotions the characters are feeling such as love and loss.
The animation truly translates the aesthetics of the Cyberpunk genre into an anime style reminiscent of the 1990s. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners draws inspiration from Cyber City Oedo 808 and Promare. Robert McLeod, a student at PSC, stated “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is like a modern version of the classic dystopian Japanese Cyber-Nightmare.”
Cyberpunk 2077’s player count is seeing a recent resurgence because of this anime. The developers of Cyberpunk: 2077 added content from Edgerunners into the game including different clothes and weapons from the show.
The actions and reactions are believable, and the characters manage to defy expectations and act completely in character. There is not a flat character in the main cast. Each one feels like a real person with complicated goals and motives.
The number of cybernetic implants in addition to the many megabuildings and unfamiliar slang acclimate the viewer into the dystopian reality of 2076 as shown in the anime. Paul Tassi of Forbes stated, “it’s a beautiful, haunting realization of Night City and the world created from the games while being a gorgeously animated, compelling character drama as well.”
Megabuildings are like apartment complexes, but instead of having a few hundred people in each building, there are a few thousand. None of the concepts or aesthetics introduced seem unrealistic for this universe and time period.
The show has an amazing soundtrack. All of the music in Edgerunners is lifted from the soundtrack or OST of Cyberpunk: 2077. This further immerses one into the universe because there is not a jarring shift in the music’s tone going from one piece of media to the other.
Cybernetic implants are portrayed as an excellent metaphor for humans losing parts of themselves as they grow from trauma. The world may break the character’s heart, but he replaces his heart with one made of steel both literally and metaphorically.
The class divide in society is highlighted by a lack of access to basic necessities such as healthcare or a safe environment. In our society, if a citizen is in a car crash he or she will receive medical care.
In Cyberpunk, the EMT’s responsibilities are in the hands of a private corporation that will let anyone die if he or she does not pay for their subscription service. This dystopian take on laissez-faire economics paints a grim picture of the future. That future has no room for those who cannot afford to pay his or her way.
The use of colors in Cyberpunk gives each character a distinct aesthetic. When certain hues start to wash over a scene, it is dominated by the character associated with that hue. The colors are also used to show connections between characters.
This extended visual metaphor, which is present throughout the series, perfectly displays each character’s tone for the hue with which the character is associated.
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is different from other video-game adaptations because it is a spin-off series set in the same world. Instead of butchering the source material, Edgerunners expands on the source material.
The anime contains references to topics that were underdeveloped in previous iterations of the media. Kyler Whitman, a student at PSC, said “Edgerunners focused on expanding a universe, creating a new story, rather than simply adopting what was already seen in the game.” Cyberpunk: Edgerunners encapsulates the essence of the ideal video-game adaptation. The future seems bright for linear media based on interactive stories.