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Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

Entry updated 3 October 2022. Tagged: TV.

Polish/Japanese animated online tv series (2022). Studio Trigger. A prequel to the Videogame Cyberpunk 2077 (2020) created by CD Projekt Red, with Mike Pondsmith. Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi. Writers include Jan Bartkowicz, Łukasz Ludkowski, Masahiko Ōtsuka, Bartosz Sztybor and Yoshiki Usa. Voice cast includes Kazuhiko Inoue, Kenn, Yukihiro Misono, Hiroki Tōchi and Aoi Yūki. Ten 24-minute episodes. Colour.

In 2076 David Martinez's (Kenn) mother dies, caught in the crossfire of a gangland shooting in Night City. She would likely have survived if her body had not been weakened by overwork, undertaken to pay David's fees at an academy otherwise attended by the children of Arasaka, one of the megacorporations that run the world. After his mother's cremation, David discovers a Sandevistan military implant she had stolen and has it installed into his body. Cybernetic implants often drive users mad, creating cyberpsychos (see Psychology), and the side-effects of this one had made it unusable by others, so David's relative tolerance of this device is noticed by Arasaka, who realizes he would be an ideal guinea-pig. Meanwhile, David joins a gang of Cyberpunks, or Edgerunners, led by Maine (Tōchi). They are heavily augmented humans (see Cyborgs) employed by Faraday (Inoue), a fixer who does the dirty work for megacorporation Militech. A romance develops between David and another gang member, Lucy (Yūki), a hacker who dreams of going to the Moon.

When Maine is killed, David becomes the gang's leader, regularly augmenting his implants and meds – still having a remarkably high tolerance, but increasingly displaying psychological damage. Lucy retires from the gang, working on removing all knowledge of David from Arasaka's Computers so they will not pursue him. However, Arasaka have developed a Cyberskeleton (see Powered Armour), which is more powerful than the Sandevistan – and they want David to test it. Faraday, whose relations with Militech have soured, is hired to arrange this. He has the gang steal the Cyberskeleton from an Arasaka convey just as Militech forces arrive to do the same: so the only way David can save himself and his team is by wearing the Cyberskeleton. Then, learning Faraday has kidnapped Lucy so Arasaka can retrieve the data she stole, the gang goes to rescue her. David, slipping into cyberpsychosis, battles with Arasaka's Head of Security, Adam Smasher (Misono), a barely human cyborg who is a major antagonist in Cyberpunk 2077. David dies, but has bought enough time for Lucy to be rescued – and in the series' final scene we see her on the Moon.

The setting is the typical urban Cyberpunk nightmare (see Clichés) – a reflection of Pondsmith's original Cyberpunk game having been issued in 1988 – though the animation gives it a lot of life. The plot and characterization of the first half of the series is similarly familiar, though later there is some improvement. The finale is rushed, with the confrontation with Adam Smasher suffering as a result: most Anime tv series have seasons of 12-13 episodes; with only 10, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners would have benefited from at least a couple more. This would have allowed the plot to breathe and deepen characterization, though David does have some development: he has pride, but his motivations are the dreams of others – his mother's, then Maine and Lucy's, rather than developing his own path. However, the non-stop action and violence (see Horror in SF) – performed with the high level of flair expected from Studio Trigger (also, as it is Studio Trigger, plenty of Fan Service) – does push many of these flaws into the background, resulting in an exciting, entertaining series. [SP]


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