Cyberpunk: Edgerunners – Addiction and Impossibility

Why Trigger?

Studio Trigger feels like definitely an interesting choice for something attached to a video game. A video game that took a while to be playable apparently. I mean seriously, you should look up some of the bugs that Cyberpunk had. They were hilarious and I am sure most of them are gone now. At that time, it was such a strange thing to see Studio Trigger not only base an anime around that game, but having Studio Trigger do something based on something that doesn’t seem like it would interest them as much. Especially since Trigger works are usually things that reference the things they love under the moon and back and it’s always great.

All of that made me more curious about this work. Then I watched Edgerunners and I think having them at the helm is a choice that did and didn’t work against the anime itself. When it comes to cool technology and style, Hiroyuki Imaishi and the rest of Studio Trigger is very good at those elements and I can feel the show come alive from seeing how they animated everything. A lot of my critiques about Trigger are there endings because all their works end in almost the same way. That means everything contributing to the finale becomes little more than set dressing unless you are doing something like the SSSS where it feels different.

All of which provides an interesting color when looking into Edgerunners more.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners – The Setting

Set some time in the future in the Free State of California in a certain city called Night City, everything about this city is falling apart at the seams. It is controlled by mega corporations and split into different districts with how people live. Obviously, there are the right people who live on high, the middle class we don’t see as often, and the poor who can barely make ends meet. They suffer under the crushing weight of the city itself. A city that has different levels of medical plans and so many other things based on how much a person can afford. That even moves into the different sort of guards that are sent to help you based on your payment plan. 

As one would expect, we meet David Martinez and his mom, Gloria Martinez suffering under the weight of not having enough money to even wash clothes. Somehow, Gloria is paying all the money in the world for David Martinez to go to a high class school, Arasaka Academy, but that means the family is barely living paycheck to paycheck. As a medical worker, Gloria apparently has to have taken side jobs through selling and possibly stealing implants from the dead she picks up. One small incident of the two of them being in the middle of a drive-by shooting in which Gloria dies, leads David to do things he didn’t expect him to. Breaking the law. Something his mother would look down upon (or not). Too bad that isn’t going to happen. 

David’s life changes when has the Sandevistan, a tool that allows him to move faster than a blink of the eye, on his body. First this mysterious girl named Lucy finds him, attracts him, and gets him in a very specific place after showing him the moon. Then the Edgerunner crew shows up to take it from him and leave him for dead. Well, David did fight for his right to join the edge runner gang led by Main and slowly, he becomes one of their crew and allows him a chance to at least survive in this world even if it’s running side jobs for corporations and other things just to give them some money to move onto the next gig. A job that has multiple dangers from all sides including corporations and dangers from the insides diving into them as well. It’s a harsh world.

Fun Characters

In all the world of muck and grime that comes from Night City, there are a lot of fun characters. Especially on the Edgerunners side that David has to interact with. I say that because David is the character that the plot follows and thus not as interesting as a lot of other people because he is placed so heavily into that role. That’s not a bad thing because he’s a decent enough character to follow and has some solid ambitions. He just is the most straight and narrow character while everyone is allowed to be a lot more interesting and colorful with some sense of personality behind each of them. 

Lucy, for instance, is a fem fatale in the beginning of the story and as a net runner (hacker) in the series. And well, she and David have a lot of good moments in the beginning like the car jacking or when Lucy literally rides on top of David’s stretcher out of an ambulance in an episode. She has a lot of fun moments counter balanced by a lot of drama in her backstory. Something which hurts her a lot in the second half when she doesn’t play into the story until she is just supposed to become captured in order for David to be manipulated into something. So yeah, she loses a lot of her energy of being so good when she just net searches for a while instead. Then again, her being so fun is why the drama hits so hard. 

That happens a lot in the side cast. Maine and Dorio for instance, a couple formed from two highly amplified people that seem aggressive at first. Then you see them in off moments and they are just a very goofy set of people. Maine is more fun than he lets on and Dorio is a great match for him. It’s fun seeing this sort of dynamic. Rebecca is a highlight though. She is an incredible character that none of the creators wanted  her to have, but this gun happy, crass character is excellent and loyal and she provides an energy to the show that it needs. Especially when it comes to drowning the show in the drama that is inherently into all of it. 

Beautiful Body Image

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (L to R) Wataru Takagi as Pilar and Kenn as David Martinez in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2022

Who knew a series where people enhance their bodies would have this as some sort of idea. Well, it is there because the gear that a person can put onto their body can change for the good or for the bad. Do you want to become a much larger person then you ever would before? Well, there are ways of doing that. Or getting those cybernetic implants that weren’t expected as possible otherwise. It is that kind of world that feels like the older sort of cybernetics compared to Ghost in the Shell where characters can do that much more seamlessly. I can’t say that its easier, just that body parts aren’t as gaudy to look at.

Then there is the nudity. There is a lot of nudity for all genders in this film. Heck, the show opens up with cyberdick and then moves to the net runners, who happen to be wome, who dive into the net by dipping completely naked into ice baths because of the heat. Or the fact that some characters barely wear any clothes or just plain don’t at home because that is what is comfortable for them. It is that kind of state where people should be who they are and not worry about what others have to say. You know, unless that state is ruining your own life style and sometimes it happens. 

Corporations, Class, and the Cost of Living

Edgerunners is not a very subtle show. Nothing about it isn’t shouting all of these ideas in your face with a megaphone almost all the time. (Some people missed that, but well…you never know.) Honestly, I’ve already shared this message when discussing the plot. Even at its most surface living, the inability of being able to live in Night City through hard work is one of the main points that this show works and runs on. The highest class people can afford everything. Medical insurance that can guarantee a person’s survival to a security service that can get there immediately with the strongest forces possible if something bad happens.

This is not only the opposite of David and his Edgerunners friends, this is what all of them are fighting against. Many assignments that each of them are given require taking down a high class person to help another high class person (or at least their data) for money. Money that allows this group to even survive, gain upgrades to make their tasks easier, and just acquiring ammo to have the next task. A lifestyle that is in the name, running on the edge of civilization and hoping not to fall off of it. That literally feels like a reverse to a Lord of the Rings quote “The quest stands upon the edge of a knife.” There is no safety. It’s either this or never making it in this world and that makes the entire show so unlivable. 

Cyberpsychosis and Addiction

There are drugs in the world of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. It’s true because addiction feels rampant. Or you have drugs that help ease the pain of having implants because they hurt normal people like David if they use them too much. The main focus of Edgerunners though? The effect of cyberizing too much. Being too on with those and even replacing body parts with gear so heavy that the brain can’t handle it. Something which is, once again, hinted at as loudly as they could be because, once again, there is absolutely no subtly in Edgerunners at all. This time, the crash symbols are being hit right in front of you and there is no way you can ignore it.

Maine, the guy who became David’s mentor whether he liked it or not at first, suffered from it halfway through the show and it is one of those things that the show knew the audience was expecting it to happen.  Dorio, Maine’s lover, tells him to lighten his load a bit and cool himself off. Something which Maine doesn’t do. Since this was so expected to happen, it means that the episode where it happens had to be large and the best episode possible. Directed and animated by the same guy from Gridman and Dynazenon, it was such a wonderful and impactful episode because it felt right for everything it represented to get the most of the emotional appeal of cyberpsychosis. This is what it’s like and why it is so bad. 

The sad thing is that Cyberpsychosis is a byproduct of living in Night City and wanting to survive. A byproduct of the blatant pressure of trying to perform better and better all the time. A byproduct of doing this or death. Now, there are other characters that don’t put all the heavy implants on them, but David is the kind of person that wants that power because he didn’t have it when going straight and narrow. Maine is his idol after all and he is the representative character for the audience and we see him struggle with it all just to show how bad it all is and why addiction is going to happen to normal people when presented with the ability to become stronger by themselves. 

Trigger Versus Tone

Ok, I’m going to be really clear and obvious about my opinions here. I have mostly said a lot of positive things and mentioned how this show isn’t subtle or its main character isn’t as interesting as others. Those aren’t necessarily bad things. Just makes the show a little less interesting which isn’t a crime either. What bothers me about Edgerunner is the presentation for all of it. It is a nice looking show but it’s a trigger show that has a lot of cartoony elements where there should be a lot more serious drama instead of the silly sort of nature trigger goes for in that blended mix together. The presentation is what held me back from diving deeper into all of it. 

If I had to make some studio or visual sort of switch, I feel like the production crew behind Chainsaw Man would capture the sort of feeling that Cyberpunk Edgerunners would work better on. Especially since that is a higher end sort of drama piece. Then Trigger and Imaishi should have taken Chainsaw Man because that is a series which needs the edginess and maturity to do so much more in it. Still, Edgerunners is pretty good despite that dissonance. Has a lot of good and entertaining bits of so many cool and well crafted or so many things onto it too. So yeah, can dig it well enough for it too. It became popular for well, because its trigger. Even with that, it still had to be good to get attention and Edgerunners is definitely that. 

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