Cyberpunk Edgerunners

Series review

settings scifi

In an effort to keep better track of what I watch, I'm reviewing the movies and shows as much as I can. No spoilers in this one.

Cyberpunk Edgerunners is a Netflix anime series based on the Cyberpunk video game, which is in turn based on the Cyberpunk roleplaying game. I own the Night City source book, and it's one of my favourite city books and it's the city I use in my Shadowrun games. I feel like a lot of tabletop science fiction, and maybe science fiction in general, has been dominated by science fantasy lately, and it's been refreshing lately to find the "hard" sci fi out there. I don't know how hard Cyberpunk sci fi really is, but there's no magic in the setting, and that's close enough.

This series is about a guy, David, whose mom dies. I guess that has some impact on his life, although the series doesn't really demonstrate that aside from conversations about how he shouldn't try to live his life to meet his dead mothers' expectations. He decides to become an Edgerunner.

An Edgerunner is essentially a cyberpunk mercenary. The series is the story of the David's journey from runt to pro, although he gets a lucky break when it's discovered that he's got an unusual tolerance for cyber enhancements. In the Cyberpunk world, the more meatware you replace with cyberware, the less human you become. Take it too far, and you risk a psychotic break. For whatever reason, David can handle more cyberware than most, and so he advances in the Edgerunner world quicker than expected.


David joins an Edgerunner crew, so much of the series is also about his team, particularly his mentor, Lucy. The early stages of David and Lucy's relationship is captivating. Lucy is enigmatic and has questionable motivations. We're not sure whether we can trust her, or for that matter whether we can trust anybody in the cutthroat world of Cyberpunk. There's a severe power imbalance, with Lucy being street smart and dangerous, and David wanting more than anything to be as experienced as she is.

David's attracted to Lucy, too, and she appears to be attracted to him. There are some super atmospheric scenes of them chatting late into the night as they look out at the sprawl of Night City. You can't quite tell whether they're flirting, or whether Lucy's just being kind to the lost puppy she's ended up with.

David and Lucy talk

Those power dynamics are forcibly shifted later in the series, when David is a superhero-level Cyberpunk, and Lucy gets kidnapped by an evil corporation.


I have to admit, I don't think that power shift works for me. Not for any good or important reason, I just happen not to have enjoyed that story. I think I'd have rather seen Lucy lift David up to her level of experience as an Edgerunner, and then for them to go on jobs together, and to do those jobs well. I know that stories require conflict, and heroes have to be tested, but I also feel like sometimes fiction just doesn't give me enough of what sold me on the fiction in the first place. I understand that a movie is limited in how often the hero can be perfect, because there's only 90 minutes or so for the hero to clash with the greatest threat ever and then resolve it. But for serial fiction, it just seems like all I really need is a few episodes about the journey, and then a bunch of episodes about the heroes being excellent at what they do. Top the series off with a token really-serious-threat and I'm happy.

I don't fault Cyberpunk Edgerunners for its narrative arc, though. It's a valid arc, and probably works for a lot of people, it just didn't resonate with me this time around. Most everything else about the series did, though. The action sequences are good, the tech is fun. The animation is nice.

I'm happy to have seen the show, but I wouldn't watch a second series. If you can't get enough of the Cyberpunk world, though, this is one way to immerse yourself in one aspect of it. As for me, this show wasn't by cup of soykaf.

Lead photo by Anika De Klerk on Unsplash

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