First Impression: NieR:Automata Ver1.1a

Things kick off with a bang, and the bangs—and booms, and crashes, and explosions, and laser beams—just keep coming the whole episode long and it is glorious. A blindfolded woman piloting a flying mecha through the sky to an industrial wasteland of an island shows incredible skill as she dips and dives and brute forces her way through confrontation after confrontation. She’s accompanied by a small bot that comes through with a huge blast when a giant robotic limb armed with an even more massive buzz saw just about catches the better of her. But then, just as the AI voice reports that a thirteen-hour recharge period will be required before the next such defensive move is viable, the buzz saw arm reanimates and the woman is left staring certain death in the face. Until, that is, a comrade appears and blasts her opponent properly. He too is blindfolded. (Must be the fashion.) Thus begins a beautiful friendship between the super chatty rescuer, 9S, and monotone superwoman, 2B. But will it survive the day? As the pair find themselves surrounded by colossal robots creaking to life, each armed with two, um, arms topped with deadly rotating teeth, the future does not look bright. Maybe this was always going to be a suicide mission…

It’s here people! It is finally here: the anime adaptation of the megahit videogame NieR:Automata, brought to you by A-1 Pictures, who are in very fine fighting form with this one. Let’s start with the aesthetics. The cinematography is absolutely stunning! And the OP is the most stylish I’ve seen yet this season. As for the animation, needless to say, there is a great deal of CG here—there has to be in order to capture the post-apocalyptic rundown industrial vibe of the world, now in its sixth millennium, pockmarked as it is by hulking rusted-out monoliths amid what seems to be a mostly flooded landscape—and though it starts out a bit rough, there are parts that are beautifully rendered, with textures that you can practically feel, and a fairly decent sense of weight to the movements. In short, the CG does what it needs to do and doesn’t detract from the overall aesthetic, which is clearly defined and immersive. The color design is on point, with the one or two glimpses of earthy greens amid the rust and metal almost bringing a tear to the eye in sheer relief. It’s wonderful to hear Yui Ishikawa (Mikasa Ackerman in Attack on Titan) reprising her role from the game—she simply is 2B. Meanwhile, the soundtrack by MONACA is powerfully evocative, striking just the right balance between grand orchestral swells and agitated vocal ululations, with percussive industrial sound effects piercing the score at just the right moments. The series is said to be written to follow the game quite closely, and indeed, the opening sequence is pretty much a straight copy, but I don’t think it’s going to be a slavish one. Instead, the action is punctuated with character moments, keeping the pace going and bringing the first episode to a very satisfying (and surprising, for the uninitiated) end. It’s a solid introduction for viewers who are new to the franchise. And then there’s the bonus scene, which is a…puppet show? Yes indeed, a stop-motion puppet show serves as an explanatory epilogue, introducing new audiences to some core lore of the series with a dose of playfulness. Who knew that chibi puppets of 2B and 9S were what the world needed? Now we do. Let’s hope they’re a regular feature! I’ll certainly be tuning in to find out.      

NieR:Automata Ver1.1a is streaming on Crunchyroll.


5 thoughts on “First Impression: NieR:Automata Ver1.1a

  1. I have the game but haven’t started it yet. Wondering if it’s worth watching the anime first.

    1. Good question! The word is that the anime will follow the game closely, just streamlining its convoluted plot, but not really going into much new territory. In which case, the choice is really about which is your master medium: anime or gaming? For me, I prefer to watch anime (and film as well) unspoiled—I find it more difficult to stay engaged week after week if I know where it’s going (case in point: I haven’t watched the second cour of Spy x Family yet, since I’ve read the manga, even though it’s a tip top adaptation). So, which do you need that extra element of mystery to enjoy more, anime or gaming? Either way, hope you enjoy the franchise!

      1. I prefer to read the light novel or manga before watching the anime, so I think I will be skipping this for now.

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