REVIEW: ‘NieR: Automata Ver. 1.1a,’ Episode 1 — or not to [B]e

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NieR: Automata Ver. 1.1a Episode 1 —   But Why Tho?

In the distant future, the Earth will be attacked by hostile machine lifeforms. In order to win the earth back, special android combat units are deployed to destroy the invaders. Two such units, designated 2B and 9S, have a mission to destroy an enemy weapons factory that harbors a Goliath-Class threat in NieR: Automata Episode 1 from A-1 Pictures.

Adapting video games to other entertainment mediums has been a long-standing struggle. While there have been recent successes, many of the most well-received adaptations of video games have little to do with the plot or events of a given game but instead simply focus on the characters or setting, namely Castlevania or Arcane. While these series take a less direct approach to adapting the games players love, NieR: Automata‘s approach is far different. While there are changes to the events that occur in NieR: Automata Episode 1, the opening is strikingly familiar to those who have played the game.

The core of this episode follows 2B and 9S through their assault on the weapons factory that opened the game. While it blends both of these characters’ points of view together, the series does a fantastic job of delivering all the weight and mystery that the game used to draw players in. Iconic moments like 2B’s bursting onto the battlefield as her pod assistant rapidly fires reports about status changes are recreated with loving care.

While there is a lot that is familiar with this series’ opening chapter, there are numerous moments that are different. So far at least, I loved all of the new material. The biggest addition, coming in the opening moments of the episode, works wonderfully with the story as it plays with how new viewers will translate the events that are depicted. At the same time, those in the know will see something completely different.

While the action moments are fun, the primary focus of NieR: Automata Episode 1 is giving newcomers to the franchise their first impressions of the main duo. Their personalities, their approach to combat, and how the two interact is all set up wonderfully here. These things are achieved without slowing down the plot, allowing the story to remain both interesting and exciting.

To further flesh out some of the elements that this episode introduces, NieR: Automata Episode 1‘s last couple of minutes takes the form of a puppet show. There, its protagonists explain some of the key information of the preceding episode, like why they are named the way they are, to the viewer. This addition helps new viewers understand smaller elements of the series and will be a great way to deliver important information as the series progresses. Plus, it delivers a little humor to bring the tone out of the show’s heavier narrative elements.

The animation in NieR: Automata Episode 1 is wonderful. Not only is combat delivered fluidly, but loads of little details are worked into the show, calling back to the animations used in the original game. Things like 2B’s sliding down a leader rather than climbing down highlight how much care the series has used in recreating this world.

Perhaps my biggest concern about this adaptation was how they would approach the music. Would Okabe’s original soundtrack be featured prominently, or would it be largely sidelined for the more pop-influenced styles that anime series is more commonly associated with? I’m happy that most of the show’s musical accompaniment is taken straight from the original game. With the exception of the intro credits, whose music is new but works great with the series’ thematics, everything I noticed was straight from what I think is the best video game soundtrack of all time.

NieR: Automata Episode 1 delivers a flawless first impression. It delivers what long-time fans will want while making elements of the story easier for new fans to assimilate. I cannot wait to see what next week brings.

NieR: Automata Ver 1.1a Episode 1 is streaming on Crunchyroll.


NieR: Automata Ver. 1.1a Episode 1 — or not to [B]e
  • 10/10
    Rating - 10/10
10/10

TL;DR

NieR: Automata Episode 1 delivers a flawless first impression. It delivers what long-time fans will want while making elements of the story easier for new fans to assimilate. I cannot wait to see what next week brings.

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