TV adaptions of video games usually get the short end of the stick, either because of a lack of budget or straying too far from the source material. It’s natural, then, to watch Cyberpunk: Edgerunners with some skepticism, but my fears were soon laid to rest after getting a special screening of the first two episodes of the anime.
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners has Characters that Matter
Taking place within the unforgiving streets of Night City, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners tells the story of David Martinez. Down on his luck, some unfortunate circumstances plant David smack dab in the middle of the sleazy underbelly of Night City. As a character, David feels relatable and has a complex personality based on the life situations he’s experienced. David’s a school kid at Arasaka Academy — a privileged school for Corpos — but financially, he’s more impoverished than most. This makes him something of a mix between Street Kid and Corpo, which is an interesting dichotomy.
These situations and the portrayal between the wealthy and poor are conveyed through brief but powerful character moments within the Academy. The second episode introduces a pivotal character named Lucy, who has dubious origins and certainly dabbles in some illegal activities of her own. The chemistry between David and Lucy immediately grasped me, and I started to feel for the characters just two episodes in. Supporting cast, like a slimy Ripperdoc, establish the theme that this is Night City and it’s unforgiving.
The screening I saw was the anime dub, which is always a point of contention for fans. I’m happy to report the voice acting for Cyberpunk: Edgerunner is exceptionally well done. David’s voice actor, Zach Aguilar is a fantastic and experienced voice actor, and truly brings the protagonist to life. David experiences a wide range of emotions in these first two episodes, from happiness to anger to sorrow, and it is convincingly portrayed here.
Studio Trigger is at the helm of this show, which is a name well known among anime enthusiasts. Understandably, many viewers will charge into the show without any sort of anime knowledge, and that’s perfectly fine. Trigger’s signature style is the rule of cool — style over substance, with bombastic and action-packed sequences of animation that’ll make your jaw drop. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is Trigger at its finest, with consistently strong animation throughout the first two episodes.
In fact, there wasn’t a moment where I thought animation was lacking. Many studios save their budget for only the most intense or paramount scenes in their show, but from the opening scene’s insanely gory battle to David’s trek through the harsh streets of Night City really breaths life into the show.
I’m a stickler for background art in anime, and cheaply done backdrops really remove me from the scene. It’s the opposite case of Cyberpunk: Edgerunner, with Trigger’s style prevalent throughout without a drop in art quality. Whether backgrounds — and animation, for that matter — hold up in future episodes is up in the air, but I think the caliber of the show will stay constant.
The framing of shots and cinematography as a whole takes a more realistic approach, which deviates a bit from the Trigger norm. I noticed a lot of beautiful camera shots, especially when David makes his walk to Arasaka Academy. Of course, CD Projekt RED is heavily involved in this project and their influence is certainly making a large impact on how Cyberpunk: Edgerunners’ is portrayed on the screen, but this is beneficial to the show as a whole.
The moment I knew this show was going to be special was near the end of the second episode. In a sequence of beautiful shots combined with actual music from Cyberpunk 2077, I got literal chills as I admired how beautifully well done this show looked. While I have no doubt the story of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners has many twists and turns and my opinion may change as a result of this, I’m in for the ride and can’t wait to binge on what could be a strong contender for anime of the year.