Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a new anime series from Trigger and Netflix that’s set in the same world as the Cyberpunk 2077 video game. Like its parent game, Edgerunners follows a group of characters residing in Night City who occupy various roles such as Corporate, Fixer, Mercenary, Netrunner, Nomad, Streetkid and Techie, to name a few. Another way the anime is similar to the game is that characters get paid to go on various missions.
While the Edgerunners anime series doesn’t feature any of the main characters from the video game such as V or Johnny Silverhand, the new characters it does introduce still occupy similar roles to those characters. In addition to establishing some level of familiarity for fans of the game, it’s also a great way of introducing a non-gaming audience to the premise of Cyberpunk 2077 as a dystopian future where everyone fights to survive, similar to Blade Runner. The anime even recaptures how fans experience the game in various ways.
One way that the anime recaptures the experience of the video game is by following a similar narrative structure, with each episode playing like a new mission or level for its characters. In the original Cyberpunk 2077 game, players get to customize and play as the main character, known only as V. Depending on how fans customize the character, V can either be male or female and take on any of the following life paths: Corporate, Nomad or Streetkid. Whichever life path the player chooses for V, they still move to Night City to start a new life, and they still meet a Mercenary named Jackie Welles and a Netrunner named T-Bug.
Together, V, T-Bug and Jackie get hired by a Fixer named Dexter DeShawn to steal a biochip known only as “The Relic” from the Arasaka Corporation. The mission is botched, and V ends up inserting the biochip into their neural network, which threatens their life. They then go on various missions throughout the game to find a way to safely remove the biochip. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners follows a very similar storyline with protagonist David Martinez, who essentially fulfills the same role as V in the game. David even ends up fulfilling all three of the roles V occupies in the game, with the difference that he doesn’t choose any single life path.
At the start of Edgerunners, David and his mother originally move to Night City so that he can attend the Arasaka Academy to become a Corporate. After his mother dies in a tragic car crash, however, David drops out of school and becomes a Streetkid. After he grafts an artificial spine known as “The Sandevistan” to his body, he meets Lucy, who then introduces him to a Mercenary named Maine, the leader of an Edgerunner team. Having found a new family, David becomes a Nomad and goes on various missions with Maine and his team until the latter succumbs to cyberpsychosis and a botched mission ends in his death. From there, David becomes the new team leader and grafts more cybernetic implants onto his body to increase his strength.
Another way Cyberpunk: Edgerunners replicates the experience of Cyberpunk 2077 is by centering the plot and its various conflicts around the Arasaka Corporation. While the company’s CEO Saburo Arasaka and his son Yorinobu don’t appear in the anime as they do in the game, they still have a huge presence in the storyline, as many company decisions inform the actions of the main characters. Arasaka technology also continues to be a primary target for theft by Fixers and Mercenaries, with the difference being that the anime’s Edgerunners are Mercenaries who specialize in stealing and selling computer data from Arasaka databases. In both the game and anime, stealing from the Arasaka Corporation yields catastrophic results.
Since Arasaka technology is the most sought-after technology, the majority of jobs Fixers pay for in both the game and anime involve stealing from the megacorporation. This often makes Fixers prone to betraying Mercenaries when jobs go awry to avoid drawing attention to themselves and to protect their own interests. In Cyberpunk 2077, the Fixer who ends up betraying V after their team’s botched theft of The Relic is Dexter DeShawn, who is later killed by Arasaka’s bodyguard. In Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, Faraday is Maine’s primary Fixer who later hires David to steal hidden Arasaka data for their rival company, Militech. Like DeShawn, Faraday also betrays David when he discovers his girlfriend Lucy has the data.
On a visual level, the last thing the anime does to recapture the experience of the video game is to replicate the phone calls. In Cyberpunk 2077, phone calls are depicted by displaying text transcriptions of characters’ conversations on the screen. The anime does the same exact thing, even in place of subtitles if watching the Japanese version. The sex scenes between the video game and anime are also mostly the same in that they are experienced in the first person point-of-view, with the anime being more explicit. One notable difference, however, is that the anime is more brightly-colored and faster-paced than the game, which makes the anime feel like a drug-induced trip. This is a stark contrast to the game’s bleak colors and neo-noir tone.