Everything That Lives is Designed to End
NieR: Automata stands not only as a storytelling masterpiece but also as one of the defining titles of the Eighth Generation. It elegantly delves into profound themes of humanity and the significance of forging our destinies. This not only makes it perfect for an adaptation in other mediums but it was inevitable going to happen.
NieR: Automata Ver1.1a is an adaptation that encapsulates everything that defined the game into an anime series. It’s a work that knew exactly how to recreate the iconic game. However; it also fell short in so many ways that it’s difficult to fathom. While not the worst adaptation; it still could have been better.
Glory to Mankind
As a courtesy to those who haven’t experienced NieR: Automata, this plot summary will remain entirely spoiler-free. Even though the game was released almost six years ago for the PlayStation 4, I don’t want to ruin the big twists and major plot points. I highly recommend picking up a copy of the game and don’t worry about not having played the previous entries.
A retelling of the acclaimed game, NieR: Automata Ver1.1a follows a proxy war between androids fighting for humanity and the machine army of an alien race. The story follows YoRHa No. 2 Type B (2B) and YoRHa No. 9 Type S (9S) as they are dispatched to support the resistance on Earth. The two work to clear out machine bases of operation, establish a link with a pacifist machine community, and battle major threats. However, all is not what it appears to be and something far more sinister is taking place in the background.
NieR: Automata is hailed as a masterpiece in storytelling due to its narrative that explores includes multiple themes along with its numerous twists and alternative branches. Ver1.1a attempts to alleviate the challenges by sticking to what should be the proper lore. However, rather than disregarding its many story branches, it recreates them at the end of each episode with puppets. Thus telling the complete story while still keeping that familiar charm. It doesn’t always get it right (there are some fumbles) but overall it does stay true to the source material.
A Future Not Given
Season 1 is a retelling of the first half of the game (endings A/B). It’s not a one-on-one recreation as some creative liberties were taken. Fans will be pleased to know that it’s only a slight deviation that still respects the source material and staying true to its overall themes. Moreover, some of the alterations make more sense than what was presented in the game. These changes include altering when certain events take place while also going into detail regarding how an event came to be.
NieR: Automata had a stellar cast and they have returned for Ver1.1a If one prefers the Japanese language version then they will be delighted that Yui Ishikawa and Natsuki Hanae returned to play their respective characters. The same goes for those who prefer the English language version as Kira Buckland and Kyle McCarley returned to play their respective characters.
Besides the return of the stellar cast, the anime also brings back the games defining soundtrack. That soundtrack is a masterpiece in video game music. Its return for Ver1.1a works perfectly as it too could set the proper tone.
Finally, it’s important to highlight how Ver1.1a significantly strengthens the connection with NieR: Replicant and Drakengard. For those unfamiliar with the lore, Automata is set years after Ending D of Replicant, and numerous characters from the previous game make appearances in the sequel in various capacities. The anime adaptation retains these elements while deepening the ties between the two games. At the same time it reinforces the fact that the NieR series is a direct sequel to Ending E of Drakengard.
NONE OF THIS MATTERS!
Without a doubt, NieR: Automata stands as one of the defining titles of the Eighth Generation. While Ver1.1a did make a valiant effort to recreate its defining narrative aspects, it fell short in more ways.
It all starts with the series opening, which is completely out of place when compared to the soundtrack. The original soundtrack is a musical masterpiece in its own right and a defining aspect of the game. One cannot say the same regarding the OP. The music sounds more like generic EDM that has no place in the series. Not helping is the video looks less like an intro and more like a cheap music video.
Next comes its reliance on CG animation in bringing some of the game’s iconic bosses to life. I’ve never been shy about my disdain for when studios use CG animation to create a character or moment instead of enhancing it. When used right, it can be helpful to enhance a moment when resources are limited. Unfortunately, it was used here in a way that created what can only be described as an eyesore.
Finally, one can’t help but notice how it transitions between moments with unnecessary action. These moments could have used the many dialogues that 2B and 9S share as they venture across the city ruins. These moments allowed players to connect with our heroes on a more human level despite being only androids. Instead, it has been replaced by generic action moments that don’t really add anything of substance. At the same time, we lose out on a quality narrative pathway.
We Are Alive
Compared to most adaptations, NieR: Automata Ver1.1a successfully recreates the narrative elements and the lore of the iconic game. It ends up less of an alternative way to experience the lore and instead, more of something fans might enjoy. Those who have not played the game should not make the anime their introduction to the Drakengard / NieR series.
NieR: Automata Ver1.1a encapsulates everything that defined the game but also falls short. It’s not the worst adaptation of a video game but it could have been done better than what we got. It’s a decent adaptation to watch if you played the game but don’t make it your introduction to the series. Hopefully Season 2 learns from these mistakes.
Disclaimer: I watched it on Crunchyroll, which I pay for myself.
8Bit/Digi is an independent media outlet that provides insight into the gamer community of the San Francisco Bay Area.
NieR: Automata Ver1.1a (Season 1)
- A retelling of the acclaimed game through the medium of anime.
- Original cast returns to recreate their respective roles.
- Reuse of the iconic soundtrack.
- Strengthens the connection with NieR: Replicant and Drakengard.
- OP feels like a bad music video while the song is out of place.
- Reliance on CG animation in bringing some moments to life.
- Relining on unnecessary action to transition between moments.