Prior Expectations of the NieR: Automata Anime and My History With the Game
Upon the announcement of the anime, I was pretty excited. It’s not too often we get Square Enix anime! Especially an anime for something like NieR: Automata! NieR: Automata’s popularity and critical acclaim surely meant that it would get an amazing adaptation, right?
I adore the NieR: Automata game. When I first played it I only did route A, thought it was neat, and quit. I picked it back up a few months later and properly finished it. I was amazed at how amazing it was. Then, I promptly (a year later) got the platinum trophy. So, it’s definitely a modern classic in my mind along with being a personal favorite.
Production Quality – It Sure Is TV Anime
Let’s get the ugly, rusty, parts out of the way first. Lemme make it clear: I don’t hate CG at all in anime. I fully understand why it is used, and the only reason isn’t to cheap out either. With that being said, I do not like the implementation of it here. The CG here 1) stands out and 2) doesn’t look nearly as good as the game. I even think the CG models are from the game. Which accentuates my second point even more. The lack of the game’s lighting, animation, shaders, etc. really makes the usage of the assets in the anime look lifeless. Automata may not be the best-looking game ever, but its visual style is striking and cohesive. Not to mention the animation work is stellar in the game. Maybe they should have reused some game animations to go with those models. If that’s possible of course.
Ok, onto some positive things. Some of the CG does look fine! I’d say the usage of CG for the Pods looks good! The CG used for the machine lifeforms in some scenes looks fine! The only flaw is that it looks different from how they are rendered in 2D. That’s more of a nitpick really.
Well, the visual identity of a show isn’t all there is to judge. What about aspects of the pre or post-production? That’s right! How do the scenes and editing hold up?
Editing and Scenes
I’m usually not picky about editing or how scenes flow to one another. There are so many unique ways to present a scene and make it feel like one part of the whole. My pickiness flares up when I’m taken out of what I’m watching. When the illusion breaks, my mind complains. I’d say my main issue with this aspect of the presentation is how it just jumps around at a few points. It’s mostly just fine. Most cuts, transitions, and scenes fit together! The main parts where I was taken aback involve when 2B encounters the unfinished Goliath-class machine. Especially when 9S saves her. It just kinda… happens? Even her running up to it and on it, threw me off. I feel like a couple more transitory shots would have helped. Extra scenes would help, but what about editing? I want stuff to be (2B) slowed down a hair, mostly. Let me chew the scenery some. Just some lingering shots would be good. Please. Even some of the action having some slower parts would be nice. When 2B jumps to attack the Goliath-class machine, you could have framed it as a semi-glamour shot. The same goes for when 2B later jumps out of the flight unit to stab the Goliath in the face. It happens sooo fast.
I could chalk this up to just trying to fit so much content into the first episode. That’s perfectly fine. I won’t know if this is the case until I watch more of the series as it airs. If this aspect of the presentation winds up being how it is stylistically, then I won’t enjoy that. I can swallow that pill since everything else about the anime seems fine.
Frankly, just a handful of scenes rubbed me the wrong way. As I mentioned, it could be intentionally done due to the density of the episode. This section could very well be me making a mountain out of a molehill, but the way parts of this anime present the amazing opening of the game is jarring. The disjointed feelings remained. They cut so deep, in fact, that they made me make the opening paragraph of this section as equally disjointed and weird as the anime!
On a positive note, I don’t believe my criticisms are unfounded. My favorite parts of the episode (presentation-wise) are the slower parts. When 2B is exploring the factory there are nice shots while 9S monologues. Editing wise the transition from the black box incident to the space station was nice stylistically.
Are changes really necessary? Of course, they are!
NieR Automata, From Game to Anime Changes – Functional and Logical!
It’s a little hard to get into what’s been changed since this is only episode 1 after all. Most changes make perfect sense due to the change in medium. You can’t present an anime like a game, with the gameplay sections wholly adapted. Plus, it would be boring if they adapted even the cutscenes shot for shot. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about anything particularly trite or dull adaptation-wise since it seems to leverage the animation medium competently. Times, where you’d explore in the game instead, has some wonderful shots that show off the environment. A sensible and striking change! Having addressed the obvious necessity of changing the presentation and flow, what about the content itself?
I do not remember anything about the androids tracking down a core in the game’s first section. Though it’s what activates the target machine. Odd reason to have 2B explore the factory, but it works. Maybe some of the future changes in the anime will involve stopping a core before it activates a Goliath. (all of that falls apart if I’m misremembering what happens in the game lol) If you’ve played the game, you will have noticed that they include aspects of the opening of Route B. That’s neat, especially since that route starts as a perspective shift. I didn’t care for how 9S’s hacking was portrayed. It’s not bad, but it wasn’t inspired. Though to be fair, I’m not sure how they would adapt the hacking mini-game from the game and make it interesting. I did thoroughly enjoy the ending segment where 2B and 9S puppets touch upon the multiple endings of the game. They even recreate one! Not faithfully, but comedically.
In short, all of the changes make logical sense to make. Omitting lengthy gameplay sections. On the creative side, I’m also glad that they take some liberties and do things in a new way. Like the puppet ending stuff. Even if the hacking adaptation fell flat.
Current Expectations of the NieR Automata Anime – Dialed ‘Em Back
NieR: Automata’s popularity and critical acclaim surely meant that it would get an amazing adaptation, right? Well, with only episode 1 out, I’m lukewarm on it. It’s definitely not BAD, but I wasn’t super impressed. A lot of game anime I’ve dabbled in have a similar vibe and pace to them. They’re enjoyable watches for sure, but they don’t replace their source material at all. NieR: Automata Ver1.1a included. I never believed it could replace the original game, nor do I believe that is the goal of any of these adaptations. The NieR games specifically rely on the medium they inhabit to portray their themes and scenarios. So I’m at least interested to see where things will go.
How will ver 1.1a adapt Automata? What scenes will be changed due to the new medium? Will the plot diverge from the source material? How will some of the more ‘video game-y’ aspects like the multiple endings continue to be handled? That’s the wonderful thing about the future; Who knows? I was mildly disappointed with the first episode, however, I didn’t fall in love with the game immediately either! I will, then, hold out hope for ver 1.1a and the future success of the NieR franchise. This anime is at least a good way to expand the fanbase and enamor more souls with NieR’s haunting universe.
2D animation? Has some cool shots. 3D animation? Disappointing compared to the game. Story? Faithful so far. Changes make sense due to the medium shift. Presentation? Mostly fine, but could be better.
Yeah. This seems fine so far. I’ll continue watching it. The butthurt gaming fanboy wants to cry “It doesn’t replace the game!” at every turn, but I’m repressing him… for now.
…Where to Watch the NieR Automata Anime?
Episode 2 of the anime will be airing tomorrow, Friday, January 13, 2023.
The details of where you can watch it can be found here.