Hey, all you choomers and doomers! By now we’ve all gone deep on Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, the anime series that sees renowned Trigger studios take on Night City. Rough ‘n’ tough street kids, cutthroat corpos, and glory-seeking nomads alike have headed back to the year 2077 to find all the new Edgerunners trinkets and nods hidden in game. But what did Edgerunners itself tell us about Night City? Not to worry. I’m all jacked up on all 16 flavors of ChroManticore and, before the inevitable crash, I will tell you EVERYTHING.
There have always been children wandering the streets of Night City, their squished down adult model bodies haunting alleyways and sidewalks. Even so we knew very little about their day to day lives, save free time consisting of hopscotch and, if you have a handsome ex-detective uncle, some copaganda VR. The introduction of Arasaka Academy in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners opened up a new world of potential truancy bounties with the confirmation that education does in fact still exist. (Let V put those kids in jail for seven whole eddies!)
The show details that Arasaka Academy is, of course, tuition based but there are other schools available for those in a lower income bracket. It’s not clear if any public education has survived four corporate wars but when David is expelled, a transfer is offered. At the very least there are more affordable options, maybe near his home turf of Santo Domingo.
More important perhaps than those specifics is the confirmation that the Corpo path doesn’t necessarily give you any more agency than growing up a street kid, part of a Nomad clan, or in the many in-betweens that no doubt exist in the shades of grey in NC. In short: a Corpo path might be the only way out of poverty… and without Arasaka Academy that path is likely cut off by the time you’re a teenager.
Paying tuition, getting top grades, it’s not enough to keep you safe. As with everything else, prestigious academies are used by top corps to pluck children into less than ideal situations, but more on that later…
Death & Insurance
The opening gig of Cyberpunk 2077 sees V and Jackie saving Sandra Dorsett from Scavengers. Once Sandra’s heart is pumping and she’s back online, you carry her to the balcony where she is immediately intercepted by the Trauma Team. That platinum plan WORKS. But what happens to the rest of us?
Sadly, David’s mother, Gloria, serves to tell the sordid tale. The answer? Not a darn thing. And the brutality of being left to suffer, in this case fatally, doesn’t end with a flatline. Without insurance, David, as next of kin, is forced to purchase “packages,” both for her initial healthcare AND for her death.
The only option he can afford is cremation. It’s an automated system and painfully insensitive. No ceremony, no solemnity. Her ashes pop out of a glorified vending machine in a clinical urn.
It’s only one line so you may have missed why there were no goodbyes before. You see, visitation is something you have to factor in when non-Trauma Team-ers choose an emergency healthcare package. David didn’t even get a bedside goodbye in the window of time Gloria was still alive after the crash because he didn’t have the money.
The Scavenger/Cybernetic Market
For all the high tech, low life-isms of Cyberpunk 2077, Cyberware isn’t always easy to come by. Maybe you’re on a budget. Maybe you’re looking for something only allowed for military personnel or even high ranking Corpos. Why should you have to go through Arasaka for Arasaka tech? Luckily for those seeking sweet upgrades—and unluckily for tricked out passers-by—there are Scavs. Gangs of Scavengers who will do anything from looting corpses to um… creating corpses to remove cybernetics and sell them on the black market.
You’ll run into Scavengers in game, but Edgerunners opened up the world of Scavengery introducing contacts that are just as important as a passion for kidnapping. A great source for the Scavs went hand in hand with Gloria’s career…
Gloria Martinez works for Night City emergency services. The normal guys who pick you up when they get to it if you don’t have those Trauma Team perks. After her death, David finds out that the Sandevistan among her belongings was from a Cyberpsycho clean up. Gloria would sell those parts to a small group of folks, including of course Maine.
From Maine’s words we can gather that Gloria was as ethical as they come in Night City, keeping an eye out for what her connections want when they flag a dead guy and it’s unclear if she went to a Scav gang or handled it solely on her own. But not everyone is so moral. When David finds himself in the back of an ambulance, this EMT is happy to cause a flatline. Without Lucy’s interference, David’s Sandevistan would’ve been plucked from him, dead or alive, but the chances of surviving a botched and rushed surgery in a moving vehicle seem slim. I mean, I’m not a doctor. But it seems rough.
While the events of the game take place firmly on the ground (save an ending I won’t spoil for those only now jumping in) Cyberpunk 2077 has always made it very clear that space travel is an option. The Crystal Palace is a space station resort boasting casinos, pools, gourmet food, and the latest in brain dance technology and advertisements for it are inescapable! Side quest “Space Oddity” introduces possible art smuggling and definitely rich people on the Moon. While V understandably doesn’t have time to dream about the great Out There amidst seizures and their beloved jump drive tumor rewriting their neural code, Edgerunners’ Lucy does.
Through Lucy’s eyes we get a braindance simulation of what it is to be on the moon, and after you-know-what she goes for a Moon Tour all by her lonesome. The Moon Tour is an interesting choice as an advertisement she and David watch together reveals that a one way ticket for a new life there is 250k eddies. Big money for the crew in their early days but arguably not if we judge by the luxury David and Lucy live within in the back half of the show.
We may never know why Lucy chooses a brief visit to the moon instead of starting over as she always wanted, but we appreciate a scope of space that doesn’t involve the Crystal Palace all the same. And hey, for most people in Night City, the moon is only as far away as any other dream.
Braindances are a HUGE part of both Night City’s general world building AND both main story quests and side gigs. No one could blame you if you went into Cyberpunk: Edgerunners thinking there was nothing left to say on BDs. But oh, there was…
As with all things, there’s a mainstream and an underground market for braindances. The job “Disasterpiece” sees V buying illegal XBDs from a dealer on Jig Jig street and in “Dirty Biz” Regina informs you of just how extreme (and awful) those XBDs can get.
Edgerunners imagines a world outside of the dark net, untethered to the dark corners of Jig Jig Street. David gets XBDs from his ripperdoc and in exchange pedals them to other teens at Arasaka Academy. This is less a “flea market DVDs” situation and more The Wire, if you catch my drift.
The anime opens with one of these XBDs, a cyberpsycho’s moment of peak psychosis as he loses control and ultimately dies (this is available as an Easter Egg in the game as part of the Edgerunners content in patch 1.5). David has a particularly strong reaction to this braindance and his ripper explains that it’s “fresh,” implying that reliving these moments and their potency isn’t just in the hands of the tuner. The closer to the incident the braindance you watch is, the more intense it will feel. A sort of living traumatic hangover leaving a digital and neurological print.
Speaking of tuners, there’s a lot more to account for than just calibrating your BD wreath, which Judy does for you early on in the main story of CP77.
Shards around Judy’s workspace and apartment, as well as seeing two tuners in action during “Dirty Biz,” shows how necessary and specific a tuner’s work is. Crank up the feel of sweat but crank down the smell. Blur out that heavy breathing, but keep the screams of passersby in. Cut out that Joytoy doing a little backflip off of the coffee table… wait, no, leave it in…
Custom BDs? Yeah, those ain’t so simple. For true control over the sensory experience and for particular tweaking of pain editors your BD editor needs to see you in person. This is a digital world but you need to be in person for all that spice, baby! Convenient for the plot and very cool for world building enthusiasts.
Jimmy Kurosaki is a braindance editor that is something of a black market, dark web celebrity, infamous for pushing boundaries and catering to a specific clientele. In pursuit of his clientel, David gets custom-tuned BD torture which shows just how exploited cyberpsychosis is by underground deals as a whole. It also introduces that ALL military prototypes come with built in BD scrolling, the process that records memories.
Which brings us to…
While we’re still left with more questions than answers, Edgerunners thrilled cyberpunks most by expanding on the lore and perhaps the actual neurological/physical process of cyberpsychosis.
The game confirms that cyberpsychosis is marked with an onset of paranoia and delirium, almost similar to dementia. Edgerunners takes that further, depicting the final stages and how they culminate in full on hallucinations and psychosis. For both Maine and David, the hallucinatory state isn’t inherently about a bad time. It’s tied to memories.
Maine sees himself on a run through the desert, a world sharply contrasted with the insular neon and overfull streets of Night City. In his mind he is a slighter build, a time before cybernetics, and likely before the military. For David, it’s times when he can still make his mother proud, before he lost his way hocking brain dances and insisting on independence to the point of damaged hacks. For both of them, the intrusion of people into this moment becomes a heightened threat, their cyberware seemingly linked more emotionally than cerebrally at that point.
The anime’s most consistent thread is that of cyberpsychosis being tied to a combination of physical and neurological tolerance and specific levels of gear. David’s Sandevistan was fit for a former second Lieutenant James Norris, as beefy as he was experienced, and was on the market for Maine. Everyone David encounters is shocked that he of little experience and gangly limbs can tolerate it at all, much less using it multiple times a day before so much as a nose bleed. It’s such a concern that David begins training with both Lucy and Maine, for stamina (“Good stamina can take you far”) and strength (“With that frame, prime to tweak out after maybe one, two more implants”). Seeing it all catch up with David is a horror and a privilege we didn’t get in the game. Immunoblockers, considerations of lessening tech, or even becoming more synthetic than flesh are all options on the table. None of which David takes, of course, ultimately succumbing to cyberpsychosis in heartbreaking spells once he activates the cyber skeleton meant for Adam Smasher, a machine that hasn’t been a man in a very long time, and arguably the scariest thing about Night City.
Remember the whole “top corpos creating systems to pluck children up and plop them into service” thing? Yeah, let’s talk about Lucy.
A surprise deuteragonist, Lucy spends most of the episodes shrouded in mystery and I don’t just mean how she keeps up with a platinum blonde bob with gradient highlights that match her dual-toned eyes. I’m not jealous, it’s fine! For a 20 year old living in Japantown, Lucy is one helluva netrunner with a deep dive port larger than any we see in game to boot. Wow, did she take AP Netrunning in school? Did she find some Night City Black Friday deals?
Reader, she was a netspace child soldier.
Edgerunners continues a fine tradition of the Arasaka Corporation being even worse than you thought. Similar to Goro Takemura’s backstory, Arasaka took hungry children into their service this time through a series of aptitude tests promising a bright future. But once the kids were trained in the latest and greatest netrunning skills and given Arasaka deep dive ports they were sent underground, fastened to netrunning chairs daily, sent into the Old Net. There are worse things than Johnny Silverhand’s exes in there. Lucy describes the horror of facing “daemons and feral AIs” in pursuit of lost knowledge. For children who hadn’t figured out how to netrun interface with their entire mind this was fatal. And when fear drove those kids to escape, using the incredible skills Arasaka had taught them to dismantle their security system, Lucy was the only one to make it out alive.
Is there a cyberhack to stop me from crying?
There they are, our big revelations. New canon with a heaping side of hot, hot ouch. What do you need? Fan fiction, lots of fan fiction. At least until CDPR or Trigger drop new content as a balm to ease the sick burn of this future dystopia. I’ll be in the hurt/comfort tags while “I Really Wanna Stay At Your House” plays on repeat if you kids need anything. Those sobs you heard were probably the neighbors. Yeah… it was… they do that a lot.