Edgerunners is a low budget anime produced by CDPR directly based on the 2020 videogame that has become an instant hit. It was so successful in fact that it caused a huge player resurgence for Cyberpunk 2077.
Who is it made for?
I think primarily it is aimed at players of the game, since there are so many references to the game. That said you can still enjoy it if you never played CP2077, as the story is completely independent of the game. But you'll not have that warm and fuzzy feeling when locations or characters pop up that would be familiar from the game. Perhaps it works in reverse too, if you play the game after watching the anime.
Is it really that good?
Yes, it is really that good, but not flawless. It starts a bit slow, so you have to bear with it at first. But it soon becomes clear that this is not a slow burn. I think the story here is better than that of Cyberpunk 2077. Both objectively and subjectively.
The main theme of the series is the dilemma of how much cyberware one can install before loosing their mind. Aka. going cyberpsycho (basically go on a delusional murderous rampage). The series focuses more on character development rather than telling a complicated story arc with twists and turns. But of course there is an overarching story line in it, but outside of the last few episodes it is kept subtle.
It is very action and violence heavy, but I think its real strengths are the more emotional scenes and character moments. Be warned this is not a happy go lucky experience, it is a heavy and gut-wrenching story, but not to an uncomfortable level.
I started by describing it as low budget, because there are many scenes that are not properly animated, and presented more like slideshows. I have a gut feeling that this is not a creative decision but a clever way of doing more on a limited budget.
The soundtrack is amazing, at first I felt like the title song is not that appropriate but it grew on me by the 3rd or 4th episode. But the true masterpiece is the end credits song in my opinion. And the brilliant thing is that the official music video of the song actually tells another short Cyberpunk story, so if you want a teaser for the series just watch the music video:
I guess my biggest criticism of the show outside of the slow start are the time jumps after almost every episode. Every time I started watching a new episode I was reeling and felt that I accidentally skipped one. The first 5 minutes of each part is spent finding my bearings again and coming to grips with the sudden changes that happened off screen between two episodes.
Oh, yes one more thing, when I reviewed that other anime a few months back (SAC_2045) I said you must watch the original Japanese dub with subtitles. Well in this case I'll tell you the opposite. The English VO for this is stupendous, better than the original by far. The voices feel much more lively and closer represent the characters, and are less generic than the Japanese ones. The acting is also better.
This is a diamond in the rough, 8/10
Unfortunately CDPR said that there are no plans to make a second season. I thought with the success and positive reception this would be a no-brainer, but apparently they have other ideas.
Still here? Go watch Edgerunners instead.