In CDPR’s Cyberpunk 2077 anime spinoff, David Martinez is a brilliant student who, over the course of about five episodes, goes bad. This is in stark contrast to the game, where V’s time in the criminal underworld was explored in a five-minute cutscene. But Studio Trigger and creator Rafał Jaki get some breathing space to explore Night City and the shattered dreams of its inhabitants in the thrilling Cyberpunk: Edgerunners – our pick for the best anime series of 2022.Edgerunners makes a strong case that CDPR could have something solid to build on for future Cyberpunk stories. The locations and designs are identical to the ones you see in the video game, but the story is focused on a new set of characters like David. In short, don’t expect to see V or Johnny Silverhand in the anime.
As David slowly drowns in debt, gets kicked out of the prestigious academy he can no longer afford, and chased by debt collectors, Night City’s hyper-capitalism becomes the early villain of Edgerunners, showing that even flying cars and cool outfits aren’t a panacea for poverty. David’s luck changes when he meets a mysterious web runner named Lucy and falls in with a lovable mercenary group led by the strong-willed – and armed – Maine. Thus begins his journey to become a mercenary in Night City.
Edgerunners is at its best when the various elements of Night City’s hostile life cycle are explored, seen in the way street gangs and mercenaries commit crimes on behalf of the Fixers who themselves depend on Night City’s true rulers, the Megacorps. These relationships are at the center of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, with David’s rise up this food chain a fascinating vantage point to take in this setting.
The story, in turn, has a see-saw effect with Studio Trigger’s more fun and extravagant animation style. When the story gets too bleak, the art style helps lift it up to maintain the hyper-reality of the cyberpunk genre, while the mature storytelling also reigns in Studio Trigger from going overboard tonally. It is a complement, not a clash.
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners doesn’t overhaul Cyberpunk 2077 as much as it expands on it. It offers the best version of Night City this side of the 21st century. It’s a wild ride, but worth every second, choom. And that’s why it’s IGN’s pick for Best Anime Series of 2022.