OP: 「Escalate」by (Aimer)
Watch the OP!: Streaming ▼
“Or not to [B]e”
My favorite video game of all time is NieR:Automata. I played it through a few years ago and absolutely fell in love with the world, 9S (Hanae Natsuki) and 2B (Ishikawa Yui), and the story. To this day, themes from the game and other reminders make up part of my day-to-day, whether it be playing the OST during high-focus sessions at work or wearing a custom ‘2B’ necklace my partner designed for me. The concept of the game is so unique that I still haven’t come across anything so beautiful ever again. For those of you who have played the game through to the final ending, you know exactly what I mean.
The barrier to entry for this anime adaptation isn’t easy and seamless if you haven’t been subject to NieR in the past. I’ll take the time to contextualize what we all just saw on screen without any spoilers. I can recognize that the episode (and the game) throw us into the deep end and it’s only through exploration, and in this case, more episode releases that the world and story will unravel.
In this world, machines have taken over the Earth and humankind is fighting hard to take back what was theirs. The war has been raging on for centuries. Old human factories are turned into machine factories building Goliath-type sentient bots with unimaginable power. But humans don’t face these machines alone. The YorHa, a military organization of androids, are charged with various missions across the planet, gathering intel, fighting and culling machine populations, and so on. Their military base is the bunker in Earth’s orbit where 2B and 9S reunite after they self-destruct on the planet.
I can’t tell you how amazing it was to see 2B and 9S in anime form. Even if this first episode was essentially the cut scenes from the prologue, I couldn’t have imagined it any other way. It was the perfect premiere, the perfect kick-off to what I think will be this season’s best anime. It’s clear to me that this premiere, led by original game creator Yoko Taro, was done to reignite the love they know millions of players will experience within. The flight combat at the beginning, the machine face-off in the factory, 9S’s hacking of the Goliath, and 2B’s fight with the Goliath; were all events we got to play through in various game modes. There’s no messing around with this story without upsetting the core fanbase so I’m glad it’s recreating all of these fond moments. I should probably use a different word for ‘fond’ because the fact is that the prologue was the hardest game introduction ever. I may have spent more time on the prologue than any boss battle or mission in the game, and it’s a long game if you have to play it through three times! Whether or not the scenes and episodes will continue to follow the same timeline of the game is unclear but after a premiere like this one, I’m sure the community would give them the green light for anything (original or not). There are even some that think this adaptation is a secret continuity arc to the final ending and with Yoko Taro leading the charge, anything is possible.
Let’s not forget the PV has revealed that Lily will be an added character to the series hinting that director Yoko Taro might be weaving different stories and plots together from other sources. I can’t imagine how this won’t diverge from the video game but I trust whatever decisions have already been made. I think a lot of us are in for a wild ride, mentally and emotionally.
Speaking of emotions, I absolutely loved the added depth to the characters. One thing that took a long time to decipher and understand in the game was the dynamic between 2B and 9S. Both are androids of YorHa ready to serve humanity yet 9S has this cheerful and unabashed manner that opens a soft spot in 2B’s patriotic and war-hardened heart. We get glimpses of her thoughts, intentions, and actions much clearer and quicker in this episode than we do in the game’s original prologue. A lot of this can be attributed to the acting though. Comparable to the games, there’s so much more emotion in their delivery, in the things left unsaid, and in how they react to one another.
Yoko Taro is unique in that he often wears a mask during interviews and has an affinity towards puppets, both in game but in real life. It was absolutely endearing, and with little surprise, that he developed an Omake with puppets of 9S and 2B. I was taken aback when I thought they’d really reveal the endings but I’m glad it diverged a little. At the very least, the Omake will introduce and clarify concepts for new fans of the franchise.
With the prologue now over, what lies ahead for the YorHa duo? There are many more characters and storylines to navigate and I hope it continues to resonate with core fans especially. I also hope it succeeds at reviving the game with new viewers or just pulling sci-fi anime fans into the NieR fold. Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll do my best to answer in the comments without any spoilers! But I’m also curious about those of you who are new to NieR, what are your thoughts?
Note: I’ll try my darnedest not to review the anime as a video game but I can’t promise anything since that game has infiltrated my very soul and essence.