Cyberpunk: Edgerunners — Like Father, Like Son
Alright, so the title may be a little disingenuous, but I had to get your attention somehow, right?
If you’ve plumbed the shallows of my previous posts, you know that I’m kind of a simp for the Cyberpunk franchise. I readily acknowledged that the launch state of the game was abysmal, but I gave it a pass because what was there was absolutely phenomenal.
While Edgerunners didn’t premier anywhere close to that state, it still does have a few flaws wrapped around the brilliant diamond that is its core.
First things first, let’s establish some weeb cred. I’m not an anime superfan by any stretch, but I’ve seen enough of it over the years that I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on the genre. We’re going to hit the list quick, so if you’re not interested, skip the next paragraph and I’ll get into Edgerunners itself.
We’ve got Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion, Samurai Champloo, SAO (the first two seasons at any rate), Hellsing, Ghost in the Shell, Violet Evergarden (don’t judge me; it’s an amazing show), Dragonball and its sequels, Attack on Titan, Outlaw Star, and Afro Samurai. It’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s enough to establish that I’m not talking out of my ass.
Alright; Edgerunners. It’s pretty damned good. I’ll keep plot details light if you haven’t seen it, so no worries there.
We kick things off with David Martinez, a street kid from Night City, whose mom managed to get him into the prestigious Arasaka Academy. As things always do in NC, shit goes wrong, and David finds himself an orphan with bills to pay.
Carving in some stolen Cyberware, David takes to the streets to make money any way he can. Along the way, he finds himself a crew who rapidly become his family, and a beautiful girl that he’d do anything to protect.
Pretty standard anime fare, right? Right.
The main problem I have with Edgerunners is that it seems to think that because it’s telling a variation on a story that we’ve all seen before, it can skip the character development in favor of flashy visuals and bombastic sequences (not that there’s anything independently wrong with either of these). The pacing moves at a mile a minute, favoring montages over exposition.
I don’t need to see the gang sitting around and shooting the shit after a gig they’ve pulled, but I do need to see the gig itself. I need to see the bonds that David is forging with his new family. An episode or two of non-arc-related worldbuilding and character development would’ve been perfect.
Watching David go from untested punk to Night City legend felt like getting a bad case of whiplash. I just needed everything to slow down. Now, I realize that this probably wasn’t the fault of anyone in particular. Netflix probably gave them only ten episodes because it was an untested concept. Totally get it.
But please; when you do a season two, slow the fuck down!
Another issue I have is the almost callous disregard the show seems to have for killing off characters. Don’t get me wrong, it’s Cyberpunk, I fully understand (and respect) the fact that people are going to die; hell, I kill off most of my characters, too.
The problem is that they didn’t really give me time to become attached to the characters they’re killing. David’s mom is a perfect example. We spend maybe five minutes of screentime with her, and the show plays her death scene as if we’re supposed to have this emotional connection to her. I didn’t; I thought, “Yeah, it do be like that in Night City”.
The same can be said for almost everyone else that dies. With the exception of maybe one character (everyone’s new waifu), I felt almost nothing – which is unfortunate, because I know if I’d spent just a little more time with all of them, I would’ve felt each and every one.
Alright, that’s the bad shit out of the way, let’s get to the good.
This show is so fucking slick. Let me say that again. This. Show. Is so fucking slick.
The character design, prop design, cars, guns, cyberware – it is all dripping with that cool factor that I’ve come to associate with the Cyberpunk universe; all gleaming chrome and soft flesh.
More than anything else, though, it took me back to when I first booted up the game and stepped out into Night City. I found myself saying, “Oh, I know that place! I’ve driven past that damned street corner!” – even if I didn’t. I’d see an easter egg and say, “Yeah, I know that!”, “I have that car,” or “I’ve shot that gun.”
Edgerunners effortlessly pulled me into the world in the same way that the game did.
What’s funny, though, is that Edgerunners dials it up to 11 on a world that’s already dialed up to 11. The neon, the speed, the blasts, the bodies, the scale; it takes everything one step further in the best possible way.
In the end, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a great show with a few flaws that were probably the birthing pains of an untested concept. Whether you’re a fan of anime, or a fan of the game, or just a fan of the universe Mike Pondsmith created, it is well, well worth your time.