*FJ Freeman’s Personal Note: In order to do my mental health a favor, and just comply with my overall binging habits. (Sorry, it would just be too many screens) I’ll write this review in two parts, roughly around ~ 1K in length, but posted all together as one post since the full of the anime is already out. Additionally, Japanese VA’s are referenced for this review. Watch out spoilers inbound!
OP: 「」 (This Fffire) by (Franz Ferdinand)
I am taken aback at just how much fun Trigger was able to have, coming hot out of having watched the first five episodes of Cyberpunk Edgerunners, I am in awe and simply amazed at the production quality and overall great storytelling as well as how much Trigger was able to stay visually true to the vision CD Projekt Red created. This is not a half-hearted adaptation for sure, in fact, it’s not an adaptation, but a full-blown new playground for Cyberpunk lore and story. I wouldn’t be surprised if some executives at Trigger actually RP’d David in an internal session using the Cyberpunk TTRP guidebook. This is the Arcane of anime.
Before we dive properly into talking about these first five episodes (or rather not at all), I’d like to introduce the Cyberpunk world, classes, and lore. Much like D&D, Cyberpunk is filled with folklore and mechanics for you to play with galore! There’s never a dull moment in a Cyberpunk campaign, with room for everything. Don’t let the game by CDPR deceive you, in the original core rulebook, there are more than 3 classes. But let’s break those down since they directly apply to Edgerunners.
Street Kid is directly applicable to David (KENN) (at least in the beginning, much like the game, the playable classes flow through this story) this spunky troublemaker, who lives with his mom and plays on the ground is nothing major but an ordeal of upcoming headaches, the first thing he tries to do is go against the system and install a pirated upgrade to his VR school googles, failing spectacularly he has to deal with the consequences and later nabs him in the middle of a street shootout between some business that is non of his beeswax.
The use of storytelling in this show is incredible, as an important part of the Cyberpunk universe shows up, although I’m not quite sure if this is the first time the Trauma Team is mentioned or seen, nevertheless, Trigger found creative ways to incorporate an aspect of the universe that in my opinion, CDPR needed to explore, a little bit more, but Cyberpunk (The Video Game) might have been so hyped-out of proportions there might have not been time. In the TTRPG as well I could like to see more for the TT.
When David’s car crashes, the men in light green arrive but scan them to see if they are customers. David and her mom can’t afford insurance and so don’t even have the lowest tier. The Trauma Team can arrive at your location in under 2 minutes or your money back is guaranteed! Even if you’re brain dead they’ll try and revive you, money moves everything in Night City, and Trigger made dam sure to push that message forward.
Street Kids have this connection to an underground network of people, and the only way to get decent jobs is to pay it forward, something David makes sure to do. However, his one tiny flaw is being naive, having to grow up real fast during the runtime of an episode or so. And Trigger managed to pull it off incredibly well. It’s hard to see and makes his character relatable. He’s definitely more than your typical extroverted anime protagonist. He lives in Night City, and this city can just swallow you whole.
David lives around a community of street bums who spend their days high on crystal, jacked out of their minds, or straight up drunk, these people want to escape the edge as much as possible, David speaks true to that sentiment, however, he is willing to do something about his situation and was lucky enough to come into possession of that military-grade chrome. Cyberpunk speaks true to homelessness in America.
There’s another way to do things and that’s going the Corpo route, to manage people’s lives through the skyscraper-views atop Arasaka Tower. Corpos hire fixers to do the dirty job for them. Fixer would very much apply to the tough macho alpha of the group. Maine (Touchi, Hiroki) as he had to swallow his pride and suck up to that 3 eyed corpo called Faraday (Inoue, Kazuhiko) after the little limousine incident involving David and Lucy (Yuuki, Aoi) .
Funny enough Fixers were once Corpo’s, who are scared out on being Solo’s to boot. So I wonder what’s the story there with Maine.
I’m mentioning this because Street Kid is the exact opposite of the Corpo lifestyle, corporates are lavished in money and can install chroma under anesthesia, street kids have to grind their teeth and suffer through it. Trigger made sure to make David’s first fight against his school bully come out of that lifestyle and it’s just a perfect choice in my opinion. Katsuo (Ishikawa, Kaito) represents this role. And apparently likes to prowl on the weak as he bullies David. But David is just out of luck as the only hospital he can afford is the one down the street. Things take a turn for the worse and his mom dies when her vitals suddenly spike. David is forced to go and recollect her ashes like it’s candy from a vending machine. Night City can also be grim, there are wailing people in the background, and David scours the street with despair washing over him.
This is a great time to mention I managed to watch EP 1-5 in both English and Japanese, and while the Japanese VA’s do a great job at the onomatopoeia present throughout anime, the English voice actors also do a decent job, and the multicultural accept of Night City comes through as English voice actors made sure to give certain characters an accent. Like, the Ripper Doc, for example, speaks with an almost reggae tone, while the bikers who chase Lucy and David speak full-blown Japanese. One tiny fact that unfortunately is lost in translation. It’s almost like Trigger was expecting the characters to speak English.
This is his catalyst pushing him down a series of decisions that aren’t exactly right for him, but what’s a good story without some bad decisions here and there? Being locked out of his apartment because he hasn’t paid rent, he just explodes and once this kid has set his mind to something there’s no stopping him. His big decision is to go down the street to the ripper Doc and have him install this military chrome. Fortunately the doc bites.
Anyway, the last class I forgot to mention are the titular Netrunner, usually assigned to those choombs who have chromed out in order to deploy hacks, and surf the Net, a metaphysical hyperspace where everything is possible, maybe even going to the moon, and feeling the sun on your skin? Lucy and Kiwi (Honda, Takako) would fall under this role. They trade in information and don’t like to play by the rules.
The story quickly ramps up in order to incorporate one of my absolute favorite parts of Cyberpunk lore. Cyberpsychosis and Brain Dance, BD for short. By seeing the intro and just how many times the characters have mentioned it on screen, I get this feeling they are quickly ramping up into an ending where David is going to die, I mean it’s right there in the intro, who is the killer, I still very much don’t know. But how they are going to kill him is what’s interesting to me.
Cyberpyschosis is a form of madness. Chrome aka Cyberware implants put a mental strain and physical one as well on the body, so people have to use immunosuppressants, just like David and Maine are seen using. Cyberpsychosis stems from the overuse of the implants to a point where you’ve accended a physical state. Trigger represented this beautifully once again by making the eyes of this man (oh yeah the um peeing deviant man) jump out of his skull in a glitched-out way. His consciousness is some ways apart on the Net. There’s just no talking sense to him, and Pilar (Takagi, Wataru) suffers the consequences.
In a sort of left-field kinda way honestly. Like Trigger was just letting you be comfortable in this world with this new party and just out of nowhere they pull a fastball on you. Everyone also kinda gets over it rather quickly. I guess the monkey was disposable. Trigger introduced both BD and CyberPsy rather elegantly.
I’ve never felt lost or like the lingo was way too much. On the other hand, it would be biased of me not to admit: I am a big fan of both the TTRP and the game by CDPR. So when lingo was thrown left and right, my brain instantly translate for me. However, I would like to know the opinion of someone who is not privy to the source materials.
Trigger is doing absolute wonders for me with the animation, it’s a dance between beautiful carnage, blood, and gore galore, as well as action-packed sequences that leave my jaw on the floor.
And well that’s pretty much my thoughts on Part 1 of this review, read the next part below!
Well, it’s been a couple of hours since, hinging closer to a whole day actually (sorry I had to sleep), and having watched the whole of the series by now, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this little dive into the world of Cyberpunk created by Mike Pondsmith, where everyone is just seconds away from being trigger happy and no one can really trust anyone. In this world vulnerability is a scarce resource. Yes, people do let themselves, be well, themselves, but the message is clear that no one can really trust, or actually, no one can really 100% place their bet on anyone, because at the drop of a light they will turn back on you and leave you for flatline on the street.
I really would have liked that they would have done more with this JK character, Jimmy Kurosaki (Yasuhara, Yoshito), that smile he gave David just before flatlining was incredibly creepy. Trauma Team was already on the scene when David and Co escaped so they might have been able to revive him since technically he wasn’t brain dead just yet. Just his heart had stopped.
But oh well, the rest of the series ramps up rather quickly for its finale, giving David a power-up in the quick sense of having Maine go CyberPsycho, the lines are blurred and your past is here to haunt you, death beckons as you are unable to see the lines that blur reality from the Net. Plus with hallucinations included, things go into murky waters, and quickly. In the middle of a heist, the worst comes for Maine, Dorio (Kaiden, Michiko) stands in the firefight to try and save Maine but ends up getting shot herself.
This show not only had great action scenes, but some intense levels of gore as well, what I mean is that no one was really safe, and even though we kinda already where the story was going, the journey is what was important. This is really David’s journey, but as we soon realize, Kiwi was working behind the scenes with Faraday, and moving the strings of fate so that Arasaka could gain the upper hand against Militech. Using David as their pawn, at least that’s what I’m understanding. Because of the whole cyber skeleton incident. I mean if Faraday hadn’t given David the job that found him in that situation then things could have gone a lot differently. And I am a little sad that David had to flatline for the story, but we saw that coming a mile away no fewer thanks to the OP of course. And well we know by this point Faraday is double dipping between Arasaka and Militech, only following the big euro bucks.
I am glad however that Adam Smasher (Misono, Yukihiro) made an appearance, as I believe he also makes an appearance in the game so that little connection was welcomed all the best. David pretty much chromes out by the end of the series, and relies on heavy immunosuppressants in order to keep himself from going cyber-psycho, the slow burn of his eventual descent into madness was just le creme de la creme for me, tasty stuff if you ask me, and I really like this direction Trigger took.
Personally, whatever your stance on the predictability of this show is, I really enjoyed my time with it, and would personally like to see a S2 if it means bringing David back from death so be it, or simply a new protag would be good too. However, CDPR did pay upfront for this project. It’s part of their multimedia strategy for Cyberpunk, I just hope it makes ends meet for both Trigger and CDPR.
I would like to talk about Lucy and David’s relationship, as the roles sort of reverse for them after the death of Maine. And after David got all beefed up with muscular chrome. Lucy sort of takes the role of David and David takes the role of Lucy in a sort of weird way. Where David was all vulnerable and naive and would let his essence ooze out of him for other people to consume, it’s now Lucy the one who is being vulnerable towards David, meanwhile, David is so focused on being, or standing in the same light, being the same Fixer Maine was, being a boss to the group and keeping up with his responsibilities. That it’s Lucy the one who wants to protect him, hence her indecisiveness towards being a full fledge netrunner, that’s why she evaded David’s plee until it was all but too late. David wants things to go back to normal, but Lucy can’t do both, she can’t be in a relationship with him while at the same time putting herself on the edge. On the edge of edge running.
Even though the show drops its name through its runtime like it’s free candy or something, Edgerunning is something we all do, by living on the edge, on the edge of flatline. It’s basically like living in real life, except in Night City living in real life can get you killed by taking a wrong turn at the wrong time. Pissing off the wrong person with the right chrome can get you killed. Or having an unfortunate rendezvous with a cyber-psycho, or hell, even worse, by becoming one yourself.
No, you’re not special, everyone goes over the edge eventually.
ED: 「」 (Let You Down) by (Dawid Podsiadło)
FJ Special Note #2: Thanks for reading, I really appreciate you if you made it all the way to the end, as this was something different from what RC usually does. Netflix has the binge model for all its series and even though they do break it from time to time, it’s likely not going away, so if they ever do something like this again with a show I’m really looking forward to and would really like to talk about, expect more reviews like this one. Bye for now choomba!