Available to View on Netflix
Japanese cyberpunk is different from its Western counterpart, and there are many beloved favourites. I first fell in love with Megazone 23 because of the music and my latest infatuation is with Cyberpunk 2077 Edgerunners. Both have excellent soundtracks. Plus, I’m fairly sure the latter shares other narrative beats with many classic series of yore.
Studio Trigger (Promare)’s ten episode series is well paced, and I like how it takes elements from Mike Pondsmith’s role playing-cum-video game, and go somewhere new with it. This IP was introduced back in the 90s as Cyberpunk 2023, and the numerical designation establishes the year that the world is at, like a living campaign. A lot has changed since, and one detail I’m glad that remained consistent is the colour palette used. That is, those particular shades of yellow and red we see are specific to this world.
The setting in this anime does not differ from everything I learned before. Although I’m thrilled to see a film showing how some people can run around in the ‘net, the life of a hacker and merc isn’t for everyone. And Dave is in trouble–he needs money. He’s the hero of this series, and he goes from being a naive kid to a young adult with mommy issues.
That is, I’ve seen the story before. Other aspects of letting tech ruin your soul can be found in series like AD Police and Cyber City Oedo. The same exposition in Serial Experiments Lain also exists in Edgerunners. That is, we are watching just how far the hero is willing to go to save the day. In this case, we’re talking about keeping Dave as plain Jane as possible. He doesn’t need cyber-enhancements, but as we get to the series’ end, he’s getting upgraded even more, and that’s going to rot his soul. That’s the big story here. And as for the individuals whom he teams up with, at least they know their limits.
Together, they’re off on tasks to equalise the status quo in the corporate world. What they do to earn a living isn’t for everyone. Dave was supposed to be a model student, but after an incident that kills his mom, he’s now living on the streets.
The first few episodes are weak since they have to introduce the lore. My advice for newcomers is to read World of Cyberpunk 2077 (review) and you’ll be up to speed. Edgerunners gets better by episode four, where we see Dave firmly establish himself with a gang of edgerunners, led by Maine. This team of four–which includes Pilar, Rebecca, and Lucy–becomes five, and it’s a recipe for a cyber power ranger pack!
Although I watched the English dub, so I can binge the series faster, I found the effort put behind this adaptation quite good. The dialogue is a step better than the Saban product, and I’ll have to give it another watch in Japanese later. Although the profanity is too much, it’s Night City after all.
The only difference between this anime and the games is that we’re not dealing with struggling to upset the balance that exists in this world.
In particular, Dark Horse Comics‘ various miniseries look at other lives affected by the megacorporations. After reading You Have My Word, I’m expecting an omnibus collection sometime in 2024. That way, readers can see how bad Night City truly is. The thread in each story may point to how some CEOs have succeeded. But to confront any of them is not a good idea. I’m not seeing this series lead up to how Bubblegum Crisis, the de-facto cyberpunk anime of the 80s/90s, attempted to stop Genom from world domination.
To survive Cyberpunk 2077 Edgerunners means either playing the game where you yourself become a major crime lord, or simply sticking it to the man where the sun doesn’t shine. Let’s just hope escape is possible.
Cyberpunk 2077 Edgerunners Trailer