‘Cyberpunk: Edgerunners’: Is Just a Small Taste of the Power of Anime
Anime is mainstream, and it has the potential to breathe new life into any new or existing property, even if the initial launch of that property was disastrous. One month after the release of Netflix’s new anime series Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, its big brother video game Cyberpunk 2077, released in 2020 and starring Keanu Reeves, now has more concurrent players than it had when it first debuted. The Cyberpunk brand, thanks to troubled production from developer CD Projekt Red, was sullied upon arrival thanks to its buggy introduction. It was so bad on PlayStation 4 upon release that they had to pull physical copies until the studio patched out its most prominent issues.
Outside of fixing the game into a salvageable state, addressing claims of crunch production, and showcasing a roadmap of the game’s future downloadable content, how else is a brand supposed to recover from this?
Release an anime, of course!
Anime has the benefit of being produced swiftly these days, which is important coming out of a pandemic (supposedly). Couple that with serialized storytelling, time to explore the setting of Night City in better ways than the game, and synchronizing in-game content based on the show, and your IP may gain access to a different sector of fans.
A fiery, passionate fanbase. One that loves to embrace the main characters stuck between a rock and a hard place. Ones that find a place of belonging in a harsh, cruel reality. One that loves shonen tropes! And that’s just what they get in high school protagonist David Martinez and the world of Cyberpunk.
Although the game has some fantastic moments small in scale as well as big and epic, it is the equivalent of a movie when compared to the 10-episode standalone animated series. In Cyberpunk 2077, the characters are big, the game is big in scale, big in infamy due to its release, and has one of the biggest movie stars of all time front and center as Night City’s equally famous Johnny Silverhand.
The anime, however, scales its characters back to a young adult in high school and shows how the class discrepancy affects citizen’s in real-time instead of just hearing about it like in the games. It also showcases the day in the life of an Edgerunner with David arguably better than it does with mercenary protagonist V. It introduces the degenerate world of Night City just as well as its video game counterpart but is allowed to do so in a more intimate way. And if you’re not a newcomer to the franchise, you’ll get plenty of easter eggs and callbacks to Cyberpunk 2077.
This isn’t the first time Netflix pulled this trick off, either. Arcane was released in November 2021, and developer Riot Games was able to introduce a decade-plus-old IP to a new audience trying to branch out from its MMORPG origins. After the show launched, Season 12 of League of Legends was sharply affected by its companion show, increasing the usability of the characters that were featured in the series and gaining a 50% increase in players that month.
What makes Cyberpunk’s situation different is LoL didn’t have a chip on its shoulder as Cyberpunk 2077 did, and nobody saw Edgerunners’ explosion in popularity coming like some may have expected with Arcane. What made the reputation of Cyberpunk 2077 so tarnished in the first place was it was the most hyped game of 2020. It was dropping around the holidays and was the sole reason some folks rushed out to build top-of-the-line PCs or grab next-gen consoles. And then folks got a product so different than what was promised that previous trailers now looked like vaporware in comparison. Then the dogpiling began.
But now that there’s a surge in players, the mod community has returned to introduce new skins and gameplay aspects to make the game feel more like the anime. There are streamers playing the game with the new patch and DLC, attempting to make character builds similar to the ones seen in the anime. Even though CDPR just laid out a roadmap of upcoming games, one of which includes a new Cyberpunk game, all the fans want to know now is if Edgerunners is getting a Season 2. And who knows? By then, the show could be so popular that Reeves may return as Silverhand in an anime instead of the next game.