After the animated adaptation of Tekken, Netflix follows the blow with the streaming giant’s offering of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, a 10-episode series created by CD Projekt RED and studio Trigger. How is this Polish-Japanese mix, which is one of the advertising elements of the entire universe?
Before I answer this question in more detail, a brief introduction to history. Viewers have the opportunity to follow the life story of David Martinez, a boy from a poor neighborhood who, despite many hardships and origins, is trying to succeed in Night City, a city well known to Cyberpunk 2077 fans. After a personal tragedy that befalls him, the boy abandons his education and chooses a path that leads to the pinnacle of crime and compulsive body modification, believing he is some sort of chosen one. The story was written by Bartosz Sztybor, but the adaptation itself, which was in charge of Masahiko Otsuka and Yoshiki Usa, lasted almost a year, because the Japanese clearly had their own vision, which had to meet somewhere in the middle with the vision of the Polish studio itself.
The series is very related to the game, which for me personally was a huge plus. The Japanese studio even made sure that the path that the hero takes from school (Arasaka Academy) to his home is exactly the same as in the game, including the smallest details. Fans of CD Projekt RED products will catch a ton of flavors and will be thrilled to see entire streets, buildings, clubs (such as Afterlife visits) or districts, as the action takes place both in the center and in Santo Domingo. and in the wastelands of the Badlands. There are clothes, weapons, and even known gadgets from the game, such as the nano-whip – catching all these flavors is a lot of fun.
There are threads in the series that can be better understood through knowledge of the game or the entire universe. The rivalry between Arasaka and Militech corporations is one thing, but we also have the acquisition of new cassettes for creating braindances (a kind of virtual reality) showing the work of doctors in the trauma team and the entire health insurance system and the social inequalities associated with it. , the consequences of cyberpsychosis, i.e. a disease that affects people with body modifications or, finally, skillfully shows how individual gangs, fixers and netrunners work in Night City. For people unfamiliar with the game, some terms and events on the screen may be incomprehensible, but this exoticism paradoxically creates a certain depth and encourages reading the original source.
The binding style matches well with what we’ve seen in the game, though it feels a bit too cartoonish at times. On the other hand, the HUD related to phone calls, the whole shell related to mind hacking, connecting to brains, and even skills related to controlling devices or a drone have been transferred to the realm of anime beautifully. The character designs are really good, as are the landscapes of Night City bathed in sunlight or at night, and the only complaint I have is the action scenes. Sometimes I got the impression that some sequences just lack more frames, so they are not as smooth and clear as they could be, the strange behavior of the cars during the chases was also a little annoying, but I really liked the moments when the scene is first introduced in slow motion, and then the same memory can be seen in normal speed from a different point of view. Usually at such moments effective executions are presented, leaving the opponent with a wet spot on the wall or sidewalk.
The original soundtrack was composed by legendary Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka, although as Bartosz Sztybor mentioned at the press conference, many of the songs written for the series by the Japanese were ultimately never used. Nevertheless, the music in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is perfectly combined with dynamic editing and fast-paced action, and we will also hear a rather atmospheric song performed by David Podsiadlo in English, works by the Scottish band Franz Ferdinand and even Japanese rap that brings back pleasant memories. from the Persona series. Although both the Polish and English versions boast a really strong cast, including the voice of Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Far Cry 6, The Mandalorian), I recommend watching the series with Japanese dubbing and Polish subtitles to conquer the atmosphere, even if sometimes they blend into the background.
The series draws you into the story from the first series, mainly with an uncompromising script that reflects the rather cruel realities of Night City. Here we have scenes in which a corpse thickens, heads burst, limbs fly, the animation doesn’t shy away from vulgar language, sex scenes or nudity (here the show is overshadowed by an implant caricature character Ripperdoc who uses a talking device for his own fun called “sucking device”), so it is definitely aimed at an adult viewer. The punk crew that David works with is a plethora of extremely colorful characters, including slightly childish characters such as a certain crazy teenage Rebecca, who is the local version of Harley Quinn, which may not be to everyone’s taste. Equally intriguing is Lucy’s set runner, David’s love and femme fatale whose past harbors dark secrets, a former soldier and great runner from Maine who acts as a kind of mentor to David, or Falco’s driver, straight from the 1970s, whom the writers unfortunately treated a bit after neglect. Which does not change the fact that this group becomes for David a family that he never had, a family for which he is ready to give up his humanity, which turned out to be really reliable.
Of course, not everyone will make it to the finale, and a few twists work well to further emphasize that Night City is a city where only death is certain. This is a story about growing up, a rather specific love, attachment to certain values and a violent confrontation with the criminal world and the city itself, which is full of crooks, prostitutes and people who deeply respect human life. And at this level in the cartoon version, it looks really good, although it should be remembered that the atmosphere of the anime, given that the hero is a teenager, has a very different, more relaxed atmosphere than that of Ghost in the Shell. or Akira.
The plot, however, is multi-threaded, trying to smuggle deeper content, for the first part of the season, building a difficult relationship between the characters is excellent. On the other hand, the script becomes quite predictable over time, and the last episodes are another persecution that relegates the construction of stories to the background, which didn’t quite buy me. I just missed the more original ending to this story, and the time jumps sometimes broke the narrative. After all, this series should be recommended to fans of not only games, but also cyberpunk in the broadest sense, who should have a great time here.