REVIEW: Cyberpunk: Edgerunners – Season 1 (2022)

Television and film adaptations of video games have had a rocky history, to say the least. Very few of them are even simply good. A standout exception to this norm was last year’s Arcane, which saw critical acclaim and built an explosive and ravenous fanbase. Netflix, in association with foreign studios, has done it again. The spiritual successor to Arcane is here, and it is Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. Following the disastrous launch of Cyberpunk 2077, none would be remiss in assuming this franchise was dead. However, this anime came out of the blue and rejuvenated the fanbase, skyrocketing the game’s popularity. Edgerunners manages to be a love letter to the game while crafting its own narrative and themes. Love and attention were put into recreating locations, characters, and events that made the game’s story so good, even if that story was initially hidden beneath a broken interface. Fans from all backgrounds, video games or otherwise, can find so much to enjoy in this rich story.

The world-building of Edgerunners is phenomenal and an essential aspect of the series. However, it’s the show’s heart and complex characters that have inspired such devotion. Tragedies always pull at the heartstrings, yet Edgerunners does so in a far superior way to most of modern Hollywood. The audience can love all the main characters within the first episode or two, even the morally grey or evil ones. Edgerunners is a simple story without complex twists and turns, but sometimes simplicity is all that writers need to get fans to love a show.


Edgerunners follows David, a street kid pushed to the brink of human endurance by his need to exist in the turbulent and violent world of Night City. He can’t protect his mother, newfound friends, or even himself, so he augments his body further and further to be strong enough. Ultimately, his superior endurance runs out, and his cybernetic implants take their toll on his mind, sending him over the edge into madness. Only the power of new love can keep him coherent enough to save the woman he loves and send her into a better future, sacrificing himself in the process.

Many themes and complex issues are addressed and explored in Edgerunners, most of which are questions asked, not definitive statements made. The effect of technological advancement on underdeveloped minds, the corrupting allure of strength and power, and the lengths of deception someone will go to for a loved one are all classic themes in sci-fi, and in general. However, they are examined in this series in a new light. The descent into madness that ends in cyber psychosis is fascinating and explored far more deeply than the source material ever did.

David’s journey is mirrored by his mentor, Maine, who succumbs to his chrome early on in the series. Rather than taking Maine’s fate as a cautionary tale, David keeps pushing and pushing. His belief that he’s built differently compels him ever onward until there is very little human left. This drive ends with the death of all his friends and comrades, except Lucy. She has perhaps the worst fate of all, as she’s left alone in this broken and twisted future. Edgerunners exemplifies the point of tragedy. It may seem meaningless from a cursory glance but evolves into a cautionary and emotionally compelling tale when the broader implications are explored.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

Perhaps the best diversion from the game that Edgerunners takes is with its protagonist. Cyberpunk 2077 centered around a grizzled and experienced mercenary who was already attuned to the corruptness of Night City and comfortable with augmentation. Edgerunners coaxes the audience into facing this broken city from the perspective of innocence. David knows much of the darker side of the city, yet he has lived a relatively easy life, sheltered from trauma exceptionally well by his mother. He’s experienced very little loss or hardship beyond financial difficulties before the inciting incident of his mother’s death. Then, he’s thrust into the greedy underbelly of the city, diving headfirst into corruption, crime, and murder. The shock of this sudden immersion is mirrored by the audiences’ own experience watching these events, giving them an emotional waypoint to relate to David. This makes David’s fall into insanity all the more tragic.

Edgerunners’ final antagonist was also featured in the game. Nonetheless, Adam Smasher is far more narratively at home in the anime, as he offers the darkest potential in David’s future. In the game, Adam had a nebulous history with Johnny, offering no thematic or narrative opposition to the protagonist. He was merely an intimidating physical opponent in Cyberpunk 2077. In Edgerunners, his looming, metallic form and twisted mind are a glimpse into David’s future if he continues down the path he set himself on. Adam should have been introduced in this series earlier to explore this comparison, but he still offers an intriguing antagonist for David’s final moments.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

Tragedy and sudden deaths are not new to modern-day stories. However, few hit as hard as the deaths and ending of Edgerunners. Becca, in particular, became a near-instant fan favorite, with her small, almost childlike personality and stature seeming adverse to her violent and bombastic tendencies. She stands beside David till the very end, doing her best to save his mind as much as his body. However, when Adam comes crashing down from the sky, crushing her, this sudden and heartbreaking end digs deep, leaving us feeling as if her story was purposely left unfulfilled. The other moment that hits the hardest is the end of the series, seeing Lucy alone on the moon, her life’s dream fulfilled but at too high a price. None would be blamed for feeling a swell of emotion in those closing moments. Tragedy and sudden death are not cheap or cliché plot points meant to get a superficial reaction from the audience in Edgerunners. They are beautifully set up and integrated into the story in a fascinating way that can only be called excellent.

The primary flaws of Edgerunners derive from a lack of runtime. This is one series that needed to be longer. More time for world-building and character development would have significantly helped this story and is almost essential to properly explore David’s story. Additionally, more explanation of what the moon means to Lucy would have helped her story quite a bit. Her wish to go to the moon seems more like a dream vacation than a legitimate escape from the world’s darkness. If some exploration was done to legitimize her wish to go to the moon, it would have helped justify David sacrificing his life to get her there. Perhaps the colony on the moon is a safe haven for those wishing to flee Night City. Regardless, more time was needed to explore this and the descent into cyber psychosis. The rabid fans of this anime would not be opposed to more of it at this point.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a straightforward yet compelling story that explores several complex issues without preaching to the audience. The Japanese influence gives it a foreign feel, fueled by the beautiful animation. Few animes have had such a broad and overwhelming impact in the Western world as Edgerunners has, and rightfully so. Edgerunners is worthy to stand beside Arcane as one of the best video game adaptations in history; their art, story, and characters stand head and shoulders above the majority of modern-day entertainment.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners – Season 1 (2022)

Plot - 7.5
Acting - 9
Progression - 7
Production Design - 9
Animation - 9



Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is an extremely simple yet compelling story that explores several complex issues without preaching to the audience as so much of modern-day Hollywood does. The Japanese influence upon this story gives it an extremely foreign fuel, fueled by the beautiful animation.

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