Within the first ten minutes, Studio Trigger’s Cyberpunk 2077 anime Cyberpunk Edgerunners immediately grips you with a rapid, dark-tech future that highlights the pitfalls of neon-escapism so well that I can’t believe it is related to its source material.
It’s hard to think of a game that’s preemptively generated as much hype as Cyberpunk 2077 did. Eight years of CD Projekt Red’s hushed development and the mass amounts of unfounded superfan speculation inflamed expectations until they became an untamable beast; even if you didn’t care about Cyberpunk, it was impossible not to drown in the endless praise and critiques that flooded the games industry. Those conversations only multiplied when Cyberpunk 2077 infamously dropped in December 2020. It had glitches so catastrophic that co-founding developer Marcin Iwiński released a five minute apology video explaining how he and the leadership team were “deeply sorry” for releasing a game in such a rugged state.
Hours into the experience, through all the irreverent jokes and frustrating bugs, Cyberpunk 2077 metamorphosizes into an incredible game. Initially I bounced off of it and was just going through the motions to wrap it up. But once the story sheds its tryhard edginess and starts being genuine, it unexpectedly absorbed me. It’s definitely flawed, but it’s the first game that taught me the important lesson that not every piece of media has to be critically acclaimed and stamped “good” for it to be fun.
Since its launch, defending Cyberpunk 2077‘s imperfect world in casual conversation has been an uphill struggle that would make Sisyphus shiver in fear. It’s like being the lone defense attorney for a dude that has “I murder people” tatted on his forehead. That’s why I stopped trying. But the recent release of the impassioned Cyberpunk Edgerunners makes it easier by transforming all the best parts of 2077 into a fast-paced anime powered by Studio Trigger’s hyper-exaggerated signature style.
I’m only a couple episodes into Edgerunners, but dang, it whips. The show revolves around David, a low-income kid trying to survive in the slums of Night City after a preventable tragedy strikes his family. Right from the start, David is submerged in beef with the most notorious bigwigs: the Arasaka Corporation, who serve as the perfect tech-infused Goliath for David to take down.
At the start, everyone is ragging on David, he’s like a little ant surrounded by kids with magnifying glasses. Night City’s body-augmented baddies are tough, but a couple episodes in, David picks up a rare corrupted chip that levels the playing field and leads to some incredibly smooth animated sequences.
After stomaching an absurd amount of verbal abuse from the preppy class bully, our protag decides enough is enough and starts a fight. David dodges the kid’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure-esque flurry of punches with ease, and proceeds to activate his augment, phase through spacetime, and body his nemesis so hard that his navy suit turns maroon. These high-octane outbursts pop up a few times each episode and are always such a treat to watch. The fantastic thread of violence inside of a mechanical world calls back to the original Ghost in the Shell movie, which is a difficult feat for a modern show.
Cyberpunk Edgerunners excels because it hits hard right from its opening moments — which is ironically the exact opposite of Cyberpunk 2077. If you’re at all interested in Cyberpunk‘s realm of high tech lowlifes then you should absolutely start with the Cyberpunk Edgerunners anime.