I had a lot of hope for the 2022 anime season, but to be perfectly honest had spent most the year being disappointed.
Until Cyberpunk: Edgerunners dropped.
Based on the best-selling videogame Cyberpunk 2077, which in turn is based on the TTRPG Cyberpunk created by Mike Pondsmith, Edgerunners is created and animated by Studio Trigger, an animation studio best known for their ultra stylized aesthetics and mind shattering sakuga. Edgerunners delivers on it all, too. From the very first episode, from the very first moment that episode begins, its next to impossible to look away from. The screen, every moment, every scene, is packed with something going on, something awesome to look at. For fans of the Cyberpunk 2077 video game, there’s more easter eggs and homages than you might be able to catch in a single watch.
Trigger is absolutely firing on all cylinders with Edgerunners, delivering what—as far as I’m concerned—is a strong contender for “Anime of the Year.” From the writing, which tells the tragic rise and fall of a young edgerunner (that’s slang for merc) in Night City and life in the city, their crew, their ups and downs, their triumphs and defeats, to the absolutely awesome sound design and soundtrack (honestly, the OP is a banger and every single episode is jam packed with excellently chosen tracks that go a long, long ways towards drawing a viewer in and enhancing the experience) and everything in between. The direction and animation are, of course, incredible. Some of the best that Studio Trigger has delivered in recent years, with many instances feeling like call-backs to some of the hardcore cyberpunk OVAs of the 90’s like Bubblegum Crisis, AD Police Files and other rad and infamous anime. Episode 6, in particular (“Girl on Fire”) is probably the single best anime episode I’ve seen all year and it was so good that when it was done I sat down and watched it again. Something about it. It’s…special. Singular. Even the animation in that episode feels separate from the rest of the series, like it’s even more heavily stylized—it’s the episode that’ll break your heart. In a series of moments that land like blows to the heart.
I could probably go on for a few hundred words at least about each episode, about the characterization, about how just truly well done the entirety of Edgerunners is but to be perfectly honest it needs to be experienced totally fresh so I’m endearing to keep this review as utterly free of anything resembling spoilers as possible. Whether or not you know anything about the video game, or the TTRPG that inspired it and the anime, the show is a masterclass in delivering an animated series as a total package. If you do happen to be a fan of the video game or RPG, you’ve got a lot to look forward to because every single episode is bursting at the seams with content pulled straight from the world of Cyberpunk, and it is a living, breathing, thriving, beautiful, horrible world.
In the time since Cyberpunk: Edgerunners has dropped, I spent a while looking up reviews on other sites and going over how they’ve deep dived it, hyper analyzed it, picked it apart and gone through it. And while many of them have fantastic things to say about it (and of course some negatives—you can’t escape those and I’m not going to say it’s perfect, either), I think the number one thing to take away is this: jack in. Do the deep dive. Don’t hold back. If you can, binge it hard all in one sitting and roll around in it. Edgerunners is the kind of show that doesn’t come around very often and we’re super fortunate to have gotten it. Whether or not it gets any kind of follow-up season is, at this time, unknown. Does it need one? Not really. Not when what we got is so damn good already.