<A Never Ending Spiral Of Life And Death>
You might have had your gamer friends talking your ear off since 2017 about this thing called NieR Automata. It’s really good, and you should play it. If you don’t play video games, however, fear not, because the anime, NieR Automata ver1.1a, appears to be yet another door through which you can enter into this majestically bleak world. You may have been hearing over the years about all the complex stuff under the surface, but trust me, you don’t need to know anything about any Gestalts or Replicants or what a Drakengard is because as far as NieR Automata’s world is concerned: It don’t matter. None of this matters.
NieR Automata’s world takes place so far in the future that our world is ancient history and all that is left is shopping malls in ruins, the earth that has grown over it, and an endless war between androids and robots. The only trace of a living humanity in this world is on the moon, and YorHa’s android soldiers fight in an endless cycle to protect them. 2B is YoRHa’s most efficient killing machine of an android. 9S is a scanner, skilled hacker, and compared to his compatriots is much more lifelike and enthusiastic. If you watch this pilot and are shocked by how much more personality he presents than the All-Work-No-Play attitude of 2B, congratulations, you’ve just begun to see the way the world of NieR Automata plays with your expectations.
<Who do we want [2B]?>
Adapting a video game to any work for TV and film is historically challenging, but being so closely tied to its creator, Yoko Taro joining A-1 Pictures’ [Lycoris Recoil, Sword Art Online, Love is War] writing team to adapt the award winning game, should ultimately be a boon for this series. Taro’s personal style shines through in his work, particularly his revered method of subverting the medium through which he tells his stories. NieR Automata the video game is famous for having 26 endings, one for each letter of the alphabet. This means that there are nuanced, sometimes farcical, variations in the story. However, a few of them are dramatically earth shattering in their contents. Taro has promised that NieR Automata ver1.1a will have its own story to tell, but the story contents of this pilot are overwhelmingly familiar.
Aside from combining a few different character beats from different storylines of the game, this pilot episode, “Or not to [B]e” is just about a one to one recreation of the game’s opening prologue tutorial sequence. That’s not a bad thing, as it is one of the greatest video game tutorials ever created as it familiarizes you with the main characters, the goals, the threats and the stakes with an overwhelming amount of style, theme and explosive action in a half an hour. A-1’s job on the visual front has a lot of the work done already, with plenty of incredible character designs, environment art and music.
While character animations and environments are stellar, the robots and mecha designs in the action sequences feel like game model renders applied to a Blender scene with 2D animation applied in front and back of them. Perhaps their artifice of design is deliberate, or it saves in budget, but it’s the only jarring aspect of a pilot that is otherwise directed and paced in sync with the game’s masterclass first level. A few die hard fans might poke holes in the adaptation being too direct, but that would be like pointing fingers at a filet mignon being exactly the same as the one you ate two or three times five years ago.
“Or not to [B]e” still a great introduction into this world, now more accessible than ever, including non-gamers. This anime looks to be wholeheartedly accurate to its source material, and in a bubble this pilot episode would be accurate to a fault. Time will tell how the series will deviate, but if Taro is to be believed in, and I have no reason not to at this point, this series has its foot on the gas and hopefully doesn’t let up.
NieR Automata ver1.1a – chapter.1 Or Not To [B]e is now streaming on Crunchyroll.
Featured image credit: A-1 Pictures, Square Enix, Crunchyroll