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'Cyberpunk 2077: Edgerunners' is a breath of fresh air for maligned game

"Swap meat for chrome, live a BD fantasy, whatever, but at the end of it all, it's the code you live by that defines who you are."
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Posted at 12:18 PM, Sep 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-19 12:18:11-04

TUCSON, Ariz.  — Remember "Cyberpunk 2077"? The game, released nearly two years ago following more hype than probably any other game I've seen, flopped hard and became the butt of every joke in the gaming world.

That terrible release pretty much ruined most people's interest in the game. Despite updates patching up many issues from launch, the game, once held on a pedestal as high as Mount Olympus, has become a forgotten footnote in recent gaming.

That's why it was such a surprise to see a major anime studio like Trigger making an anime based on the world established in the game. "Cyberpunk 2077: Edgerunners" is a stand-alone story set in Night City, using the peculiar vernacular of that universe and putting an over-the-top anime twist on an otherwise "grounded" (or, as grounded as a sci-fi video game can be) setting.

In "Edgerunners," we are introduced to David Martinez, a teenager whose mother is a busting hump to ensure her son gets a good education and becomes a member of the corporate ladder. While driving home one day, they get in the middle of a shootout between a gang and a corp.

David's mom dies, and he ends up with a piece of cybernetic hardware not meant to hit the streets, a hookup that can essentially make him slow down time for himself. Now carrying this experimental military hardware, he's the target of multiple corps and gangs.

Thankfully, while surviving the tough streets of Night City, he meets up with a gang of Edgerunners who take him in, teaches him to survive, and grow him into an underworld killer to be feared.

The story is pretty simple and honestly parallels the structure of "Gurren Lagann" (which was directed by "Edgerunners" director), a young man getting access to enormous power, meeting a group of friends he has to rely on to learn the ropes (including a love interest who is deeper into the villain's plot than he knows), and eventually having to take leadership in a time jump that changes the dynamic of the show.

And it ends with a wildly violent bout of cartoon action that makes the already excessive fights of the first few episodes and makes them look like Disney fare.

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Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (L to R) Kenn as David Martinez and Kaito Ishikawa as Katsuo in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2022

In a way, this structure establishes David and the crew and gets us invested as more and more bad things happen. But also, where "Gurren Lagann" has 27 episodes to build its characters and grow the plot, "Edgerunners" 's biggest flaw is that it only has ten episodes to fit in everything it needs to.

That includes multiple characters to invest in and a romance that, while cute, doesn't have enough time to flesh itself out.

Regardless, I loved many of these characters. Lucy is the stand-out and her backstory, combined with her growing tenderness toward David, slowly leaving the life she brought him into, is wonderful.

Also, Rebecca, the foul-mouthed loli who machine guns anyone in her way, is another show stealer who electrifies any scene she's in with violent abandon.

Another thing that stands out about "Edgerunners" is the animation and music. Franz Ferdinand makes a comeback with a fantastic opening credits song, and the rest of the soundtrack adds a cool auditory veneer to this neon-blanketed story.

Trigger has a very specific animation style that can look a little stilted and cheap sometimes. Still, I found myself lost in the world between bright colors and hyperactive violence where physics doesn't matter.

Plus, the character design is nova.

This anime is exactly the windfall that "Cyberpunk 2077" needed. Just saying the name of the game brings thoughts of the infamous release and the months of ridicule that killed any chance it had at gamers giving it a second chance. But maybe "Edgerunners" will endear Night City to those who avoided the game enough to give it another chance. It certainly did so for me.

Whether that was the intention of the anime or just Trigger loved the world and wanted to craft a great anime based on it, it's done its duty.

Both an entertaining anime that even anime agnostic Phil Villareal watched all the way through and a perfect marketing tool, "Cyberpunk 2077: Edgerunners" is well worth your time regardless of how you feel about the game.

"Cyberpunk 2077: Edgerunners" is streaming on Netflix