Cyberpunk 2077 is a difficult video game to describe.
You wouldn't call it weird, because in some ways it was banal. You couldn't call it a flop either. Despite the fact it was slaughtered in the media for being borderline unplayable upon release, the game sold over 20 million units and generated upward of $600 million in revenue.
So what was Cyberpunk 2077? A game that drowned in its own hype? Kinda. An Icarus-like morality tale about biting off more than you can chew? Possibly. Regardless, if you're connected to video game culture you probably had an opinion about Cyberpunk 2077. It was a game that, in the months and years after its release, developed quite the reputation.
All of which is all to say if you told me, back in 2020, that my favorite TV show of 2022 would be an anime based on this video game, I wouldn't have laughed in your face. I would have walked backward carefully, like Homer Simpson retreating into the bushes. I would have called you a fool. A witch, even. I would have demanded you be burnt at the stake.
But this is my truth. I have watched Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. I have seen the light. And if you have any good sense you will follow in my footsteps. This show is incredible. I firmly believe more people should be watching and talking about it.
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a one-of-a-kind, standalone anime set in the Cyberpunk 2077 universe. A heart-wrenching story about the long-term impacts of violence and trauma. A considered examination of the power structures that force subsets of young, poor people into a life of crime. It's the end result of a bizarro world collaboration between the game's Polish creators, CD Projekt Red, and Japanese animation studio Trigger Inc.
Much like the video game it's based on, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is dense with environmental detail. Fans of the game will most likely recognize areas they've explored virtually. The show's directors quite literally asked CD Projekt Red for a version of the game they could explore freely to take in-game reference photographs. Much of the show's environment art is a Studio Trigger version of the video game's extensive yet dense world.
But while the show piggybacks on CD Projekt Red's world class universe building, Edgerunners is razor focused on its own little story within that space. Its central characters are well written, but the visual designs themselves are the standout. An incredible amount of thought has clearly gone into the look and feel of every single person in this show, from the main cast all the way through to incidental bystanders.
It's driven by a cutting-edge soundtrack that sets the tone perfectly. To this day I can't listen to Rosa Walton's I Really Wanna Stay At Your House without shedding a few tears.
Studio Trigger, the folks behind Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, has a legendary reputation. The animation studio's founder Hiroyuki Imaishi burst onto the scene with the incredible (and unhinged) Gurren Lagann back in 2007. More recently, you might have seen Little Witch Academia or the studio's work on the Star Wars: Visions anime series.
All have a unique aesthetic. Hyper violence, an almost pathological obsession with vibrant, fluid motion ramped up to the nth degree. Anime is stylized by its essence, but Studio Trigger is beyond the pale. Everything it produces moves at hysterical, supernatural speed.
But, if anything, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is more withdrawn compared to, say, Gurren Lagann or Kill La Kill – a show about [checks notes] high school students that gain superpowers from their sentient high school uniforms. In Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, action scenes have more room to breathe. The violence, when it comes, is brutal and visceral, but feels weightier because of the dialed back frenetics. It occurs in a way that isn't just extreme, but subversive, original and strange.
Brutally beautiful and endlessly kinetic, everyone should spend time in Cyberpunk: Edgerunner's world. In a year that's been dripping with quality -- from the pointed satire of Severance to the high wire tension of Andor -- this has been my favorite show of the year. I suspect I'll be watching and rewatching it for years to come.