Reviewby Richard Eisenbeis,
When his mother is killed by random gang violence in the corporation-ruled cyberpunk cesspool known as Night City, high schooler David Martinez struggles to make a life for himself with nothing but the clothes on his back and a stolen, super speed-granting implant. But death, pain, and brutal violence lurk around every corner in Night City—and trust is the rarest commodity of all.
(Spoiler warning: As it would be impossible to get into the meat of what makes this anime so excellent without going into spoilers, I didn't hold back. Continue forward at your own risk.)
On it's most basic level, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is an ultra-violence-filled love story of two displaced young people, searching for meaning in their lives—and finding it in each other. As different as they are—David, a kid whose mother sacrificed to get him into a corpo school and Lucy, an escaped corpo child slave—they make a convincing couple. This is largely because of who David is. He comes into the underworld of Night City still full of innocence unlike any Lucy has ever seen. She feels that she can show him her dream of going to the moon—and when shown, he finds it beautiful. As the two fall in love over the course of the series, Lucy comes to value David's life above her own—and David feels the same in regards to her.
This self-sacrificing love is the tragic core to the whole story—and why it hits so damned hard emotionally. David constantly upgrades himself with more cybernetics to protect Lucy while Lucy sets out on a one woman crusade to eliminate all those who would use David as she had been used in the past. In the end, it is these very actions that prevent them for having their own happily every after—or whatever the closest thing there is to that in the dystopia they exist in.
If there is one message that permeates through Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (and Cyberpunk 2077 for that matter), it's that you should quit while you're ahead. Those who keep pressing their luck inevitably die. The best they can hope for is to go out in a blaze of glory. David sees this firsthand halfway through the series and still stays in the city to make a name for himself. There is nothing preventing either David or Lucy from leaving the city—joining a group of Nomads or trying to make their way in another city. Yet, David, like many young people believes himself to be special—that he won't succumb to cyberpsychosis (or a sudden violent death) like so many others. And eventually, he reaches the point where he couldn't turn back even if he wanted to.
But here's the thing about knowing there is no way out for you: it brings into focus what is most important to you—the thing you would die for. For David, this is Lucy and getting her too the moon—though as we see in the final shot of the series, she would have rather just been with him. He became her dream—her escape from the shitty world they lived in. Without him, the moon is small comfort. It's a universal tale of love an loss—one guaranteed to tug on the heartstrings of even those who wanted nothing from this anime beyond awesome fights and bloody action.
And don't get me wrong, if you come to Cyberpunk: Edgerunners because you're “ready for a bit of the ol' ultra-violence,” you won't leave disappointed. Studio Trigger brings their A-game to this anime with Hiroyuki Imaishi of Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill fame in the director's seat. The action is dynamic, visually stunning, and completely over-the-top in the best possible way.
But its not just the action—everything about the visual style is a tour de force. The character designs fit right into the world and the constant use of glowing, florescent highlights is both beautiful and just screams “cyberpunk.” The backgrounds—the portrayal of Night City—are likewise amazing. Rather than invent their own style—their own interpretation of the city—Trigger follows the visual design established in the Cyberpunk 2077 game. It's to the point that I could tell where the characters were located at nearly any given moment simply because I had played it—and that's only the start of the Easter Eggs aimed at those who have played the game.
The music is likewise quite good. Generally a mix of rock and techno, it perfectly fits the cyberpunk vibe of the series. And while the opening and ending themes are quite good, it's the insert song “I Really Want To Stay At Your House” by Rosa Walton that stole the show for me as it serves as the love theme for David and Lucy. I'll no doubt have it on my playlist for years to come (though I may skip it anytime I don't feel the need for a good cry).
Simply put, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is great sci-fi from top to bottom. It uses the trappings of a world not so different from our own to teach us about human nature and the world around us—be that David as an example of the perceived invincibility that so many young people feel or Night City itself as an allegory for corrupt capitalism run wild. Add onto that amazing animation oozing with style and a soundtrack to match and you have an instant classic—though one that might just leave you depressed in the days that come after watching.
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A-
Animation : A+
Art : A
Music : A-
+ A solid sci-fi tale with insight into love, society, and human nature presented through a combination of fantastic animation and great music.
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