Skip to main content

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners review: Candy-coated chrome carnage

Animated adaptations of video games are in a surprisingly good place right now — particularly on Netflix, where shows like Arcane, Castlevania, and even Carmen Sandiego have delivered rewarding extensions of their respective franchises. That continues with Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, which serves up a wild anime adventure set in the world of 2020’s Cyberpunk 2077.

Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi (Gurren Lagann)  and Hiromi Wakabayashi (Star Wars: Visions), Cyberpunk: Edgerunners follows a teenage boy pulled into a dark world of high-tech mercenaries known as “Edgerunners.” As he’s drawn ever deeper into the world of body modification and corporate espionage, David (voiced by Zach Aguilar in the English version of the series) soon finds himself struggling to figure out what’s truly important and where to draw the line when it comes to his cybernetic implants.

Lucy looks into the camera while David drives in a scene from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While much of the Edgerunners world is a shiny metropolis sitting among dark streets and dirty alleys, the series doesn’t shy away from covering all of it with a gory mess of blood and viscera. The ultraviolence in Edgerunners gets started early, but the series never devolves into a nonstop symphony of brutality. Between bouts of frantic action (and the occasional, explicit sex scene), Edgerunners also delivers a fair share of quiet, contemplative moments as David ponders the increasingly bleak turns his life takes.

The10 episodes of Edgerunners run anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes each, and the show does a nice job of fitting a satisfying amount of action, storytelling, and world-building into each chapter without feeling overstuffed. Cyberpunk anime often has a difficult time balancing those elements, with many series collapsing under convoluted, fictional networks of corporate and criminal drama. Fortunately, Edgerunners mostly avoids getting mired in the weeds of its own complicated lore by keeping the focus on its characters.

David's bloody back reveals his latest implant in a scene from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Anyone familiar with the cyberpunk worlds that fill William Gibson stories and the Shadowrun franchise will recognize the major players in Edgerunners, as they tend to fall into the usual archetypes of the genre. Hulking muscle-heads with exaggerated cybernetic musculature operate alongside shadowy hackers and unhinged, walking armories wielding comically large guns, taking on missions for sinister, suited executives angling for an advantage over their corporate competition. It’s a cadre of characters you know, but they’re still fun to watch as they bounce off each other in the grim environment they operate within.

Maybe most importantly (for the game studio that financed its production, at least) is that Edgerunners makes the dystopian world of Cyberpunk 2077 both accessible and appealing to those who haven’t played the game. Like fellow Netflix adaptation Arcane and the League of Legends game that inspired it, you don’t need to be familiar with Cyberpunk 2077 to enjoy Edgerunners, but the show is so intriguing you’ll probably want to give the game a look after the season ends.

The whole crew walks down the street in a scene from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

That’s not the only quality Edgerunners shares with Arcane, either. The cyberpunk series also features a memorable opening theme — This Fffire by Franz Ferdinand — that manages to capture (or perhaps set) the tone of the series while also being amazingly earwormy in all the right ways.

Although it isn’t as philosophical or self-aware as more prominent cyberpunk anime (for example, Ghost in the Shell) or as beautifully polished as the aforementioned Arcane, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners still measures up well in the genre and as an extension of the game that inspired it. The series might not break any new ground, but that’s not the intent. What it does deliver is a satisfying standalone story that leaves you hopeful for future one-off tales set in its blood-drenched world of neon and chrome.

David and Lucy look at the Earth from the moon in a scene from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The entire season of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is available on Netflix.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (2022)

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
tv-14 1 Season
Genre Animation, Action & Adventure, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Cast KENN, Aoi Yuki, Hiroki Tōchi
Created by Rafał Jaki

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Rick Marshall
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local and national news, arts and entertainment, and…
Glass Onion review: a deviously intricate Knives Out sequel
Daniel Craig looks in the camera in Knives Out 2.

Like the drawling Southern detective he has now placed at the center of two fabulously entertaining clockwork whodunits, Rian Johnson should not be underestimated. The writer, director, and blockbuster puzzle enthusiast has a gift for luring his audience onto ornately patterned rugs, then giving their edges a powerful yank. Glass Onion at first seems like a more straightforward, less elegant act of Agatha Christie homage than its predecessor, the murder-mystery sleeper Knives Out. But to assume you’ve gotten ahead of it, or seen every nature of trick Johnson has concealed under his sleeve, is to fall into the same trap as the potential culprits who dare trifle with the great Benoit Blanc (a joyfully re-invested Daniel Craig).

Anyone annoyed by the topical culture-war trappings of Knives Out (all that background MAGA chatter and drawing-room conversation on immigration policy) may be irked anew by how Glass Onion situates itself rather explicitly at the onset of COVID, with an opening series of introductions heavy on face wear and video chats. Even Johnson, first-rate showman that he is, can’t make these reminders of the recent, dismal past very funny.

Read more
Cobra Kai season 5 review: Crowded, but compelling, karate
William Zabka, Ralph Macchio, and Yuji Okumoto stand in track suits in a scene from Cobr Kai season 5.

In a crowded field of reboots and revivals, Cobra Kai has not only managed to stay alive over four seasons, but has thrived, earning a long list of accolades -- including an Emmy nomination -- ahead of its upcoming fifth season.

As with prior seasons, Cobra Kai season 5 mixes and matches the allegiances of the franchise's heroes and villains yet again while bringing back more familiar faces from past Karate Kid films. It's a formula that keeps working for the series no matter how many times it's repeated, and the show's entertaining fifth season continues that trend.

Read more
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners anime gets a bloody NSFW trailer
One of the Edgerunners in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.

CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077 wasn't everything that gamers were led to believe it was. But if you can overlook the glitches and technical problems, the video game expansion of the Cyberpunk world offered a tantalizing glimpse into a darkly compelling future. Next month, CD Projekt Red and Netflix are expanding that universe with Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, a new 10-part anime series. And if the new trailer is any indication, the anime won't be toned down at all from the source material. Fair warning before you watch: This video features very intense and bloody violence, as well as some cartoon nudity. Suffice to say, it's definitely NSFW.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners | Official NSFW Trailer | Netflix

Read more