Let’s get right into it: Cyberpunk: Edge Runners is a really, really good show. Judged alone, it’s one of the hardest-hitting anime we’ve watched in quite some time, but put it alongside Cyberpunk 2077, and it’s a near perfect companion piece. This isn’t some half-arsed video game adaptation scrapped together by people who don’t really care — it’s a full-on celebration of the core themes and hyperviolent action that defines cyberpunk as a property.
Set in the very same Night City as CD Projekt Red’s open world RPG, the show follows a troubled young man named David Martinez. He’s stuck in a rut, already part of the rat race, being put through education by his well-meaning mother. But as is the case with almost everything that happens in Night City, a single bloody incident kickstarts a chain of events that spiral beyond the reach of a normal person.
edge runners is ten episodes long, and things move quickly. It’s a dense and detailed anime, a feast for the brain as well as the eyes. It also has a heavy focus on the concept of cyberpsychosis — the violent mental breakdown that typically occurs when someone replaces too much of their organic body with machinery. It’s a concept that plays a role in 2077 as well, but it’s explored to a much greater degree here, acting as the morbid, but fascinating central pillar of the plot.
Said plot twists and turns through just about every 25-minute episode. The show’s often electric pacing means that you’re never allowed to dwell on a specific story beat for too long, which adds an unapologetically brutal tone to proceedings. Night City simply doesn’t give a damn about any of these characters — and that’s the real horror of cyberpunk. Watching David’s struggles unfold is genuinely gripping at times.
edge runners is rated 15, but it revels in depictions of extreme, bordering on absurd, violence. The opening scene of the first episode is a fair indication of what to expect, as a cyberpsycho turns tens of police officers into paste. The show starts exactly as it means to go on — and the action only gets more engrossing as the series introduces a colorful cast of brilliantly designed characters.
Speaking of which, David and his eventual allies can’t really be considered the ‘good guys’. Like any Night City mercenaries looking to make a name for themselves on the streets, they’re at the beck and call of morally bankrupt bigshots. It’s a nightmarish setup, but that makes the story all the more engaging; you’re rooting for David after all he’s been through, but you know that he’s on the brink of selling his soul.
It’s not just the themes of cyberpunk that edge runners captures so well — it’s also the look. Supremely talented Japanese outfit Studio Trigger (Kill la Kill, Darling in the Franxx, and many more) has crafted a neon-soaked thrill ride here. From the immediately recognizable character designs to the explosive use of color — and the many direct environmental references to Cyberpunk 2077 — it’s a joy to behold. A bit busy for some, perhaps, in the way that the animation conveys speed and moments of bloodshed, but again, it’s hard to argue against it being a perfect exaggeration of the source material.
And it’s not like there aren’t slower moments — sometimes at the expense of show’s pacing. Animation ain’t cheap, and so you’re bound to notice when the direction screeches to a halt, and you’re left looking at a still shot as characters converse. Some of these scenes can linger just a touch too long, and they start leaning into awkward territory — but generally speaking, all is forgiven when the next gunfight rolls around.
Our only real complaint can be aimed at two later episodes, both of which feel exceedingly slow compared to the chaos of previous outings. The show’s momentum comes dangerously close to being stopped dead during these exposition dumps, but there’s just enough character based intrigue to keep you watching. And, of course, these episodes are ultimately building up to what is one hell of a finale.
Cyberpunk: Edge Runners is a triumph — and a testament to what can be done with video game adaptations when the people involved are so closely tied to the source material. Studio Trigger’s typically excellent animation style brings Night City and its insane inhabitants to life like never before, and brutal, gripping story beats punctuate the show’s eye-popping pace. An absolute must-watch if you’re a Cyberpunk 2077 fan, but even if you aren’t, edge runners stands on its own as a fantastic, emotional rollercoaster of an anime.
Have you given Cyberpunk: Edge Runners a watch? What did you think? Have your own say in our poll, and then plan another trip to Night City in the comments section below.