If anyone out there hasn’t heard of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners yet, and you happen to be looking for something new and something that is aimed at more of a seinen audience, and you also like sci-fi, then take a look.
Maybe even if you don’t like the sub-genre all that much, still give it a try, I reckon. Especially if you’re a huge Studio Trigger fan in general, or perhaps you just love bright, fast-paced anime?
Because as I keep saying, I reckon Edgerunners is worth your time.
(Even if you’re a bit gun-shy after the disastrous release of the Cyberpunk 2077 game, I believe that should you start and finish this anime, you won’t find it to be ‘unfinished’ or ‘rushed’).
[Spoilers from here on in]
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners: (Saibāpanku Ejjirannāzu) 2022
Actually, to keep jamming descriptors into my lumbering introduction, and also to go out on a limb a bit with this recommendation stuff, maybe consider trying this anime if you’re into the ‘doomed romance’ thing too.
Especially if you’re not adverse to gore and nudity, since Cyberpunk has a lot of one and some of the other. But to sneak back to my comment on its audience, about it being more seinen, I’d argue that not only due to the visual content, but the themes.
I’m making that claim for a couple of reasons, I suppose.
For one, it feels like the way Cyberpunk: Edgerunners uses revenge almost as bait-and-switch might bug an immature audience (which is not the same thing as a ‘young’ audience). Or the way that communication (or lack thereof) remains a very human theme, and one entirely distinct from the amazing technological advances in the setting.
And further, the anti-corporate, anti-capitalist bent is so clear – perhaps some of the more pointed ‘punk’ aspects to the series.
Body modification is another main theme in the anime, though Edgerunners spends most of that aspect on related violence rather than identity. No surprise, I guess – since the anime is an action-thriller too…
… and I’m suddenly back on ‘genres’ and ‘conventions’ once more 😀
Well, for me, that stuff is almost always interesting at the very least.
And in Edgerunners, I remember the first few episodes setting up what seemed to be an underdog-revenge story. By the end, it’s clear that it fits in a whole lot more.
I finished the anime wondering if, in addition to everything else I’ve mentioned above, there isn’t a bit of Psychological Horror included, with a touch of the ‘last girl’ trope thrown into the pan too.
Connected, perhaps, are Splatterpunk elements, both in terms of story and visuals, which feed into the action and horror as much as the cyberpunk.
That’s the beauty of really effective stories though – they can easily fit more than one aspect from more than one genre. Sometimes, the mix results in something that escapes the bounds of any one genre and either creates something new or at the very least, something that will last.
Having said all of that, the guts of the Edgerunners story does have a single focus, it’s the relationship between leads David and Lucy – and to a lesser extent, between David and his sort-of mentor, the imposing but flawed Maine (not that he’s the only one with flaws).
That core relationship between David and Lucy keeps all the moving parts of the anime together, and each thing I learnt about the setting and world seemed quickly or eventually relevant to David and Lucy’s struggle to survive, and to protect one another.
I’ve already mentioned the range of genres, but another I could see an argument being made for is that of tragedy – well, kinda.
And I’m not talking about the fact that pretty much everyone dies but Lucy, instead it’s that David destroys himself well before his futile (yet understandable) battle with Adam Smasher occurs, even after seeing Maine destroy himself in nearly exactly the same way.
The more I write on this anime, the more I’m thinking that Edgerunners is not precisely a Tragedy. Or, the more I can’t decide how well it follows the classic conventions of a tragedy. So maybe it could be, after all.
Could be that the show is simply not a tragedy in a somewhat narrow sense, wherein a character does all the right things and yet is still punished/made to suffer/fails.
Because I believe that the narrative perfectly shows that our main characters don’t do all the right things, that they aren’t at all ‘unfairly punished by circumstance’. Instead, they make choices themselves, and those choices just don’t work out.
Not that the choices they make are easy ones.
After finishing the anime, I wonder if I missed something or not… because I’m still doubting the idea of it being a tragedy.
For instance, Lucy is shown to be able to hide extremely well. Could not she and David have fled the city? And maybe they wouldn’t have been able to hide forever, but the simple fact that they were (perhaps understandably) too afraid to be honest with each other about who was protecting who and from what, I’d argue that they were doomed by their own failure to communicate.
And so perhaps character flaws (or fear) drove their actions as much as anything else – but whether I’m off the mark or not about genre doesn’t really matter in the end, because that doesn’t change the fact that the characters were written really well.
In terms of an actual issue at last, the first thing that came to mind was that a certain amount of prior knowledge about the Cyberpunk77 universe and world-building would probably help a little. Still, I was never lost.
I kind of hinted above that the body modification theme wasn’t explored all that much, so that felt like a bit of a missed opportunity.
But moving back to a couple of positives to finally wrap up this review, I found it refreshing to see actual daylight in a cyberpunk story! It seems far too often that low-level lighting is the default for the genre, the predictable fall-back for production design (of course, you’ve got to show off all those neons, but still, I really enjoyed the variety here).
And finally, I think that the ending was very, very effective. I was so happy to finish an anime with a conclusion that really worked… but I’d argue it was not at all bittersweet – it was only bitter 😀