The latest Aniplex Online Fests’ announcement regarding what can only be described as one of the greatest Action-RPG sensations of the 2010 decade – Nier Automata’s anime adaptation is greenlit and is named NieR Automata Version 1.1a; is all set for release in January 2023.

The fine age of game adaptations has set the standard for anime adaptations. We have seen multiple Visual Novels being adapted into the primary stages of being full-blown Anime. Yet Anime adaptations of Japanese Action-RPG games are still not the norm. With such advancing developments questions arise as to how the anime will pull off the branching storylines.

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NieR Automata Ver 1.1a Anime staff and cast announcement

Nier Automata Anime ver 1.1a
taken from Aniplex Youtube

Although initially released in 2010, NieR Automata itself grew out of proportion during the last five years. Nier Automata is the sequel to Nier which again is a sequel and spinoff of the Drakengard series. The PlatinumGames developed and Square Enix published NieR Automata game will be adapted by A-1 pictures (Known for SAO Movies and Persona films, also Kaguya Sama and Lycoris Recoil). Director Ryouji Masuyama will take the help of the game director Yoko Taro. The following is the officially released staff list –

Director: Ryouji Masuyama (Blend-S)
Series Composition: Yoko Taro, Ryouji Masuyama
Character Design, Chief Animation Director: Jun Nakai (Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note)
Music: MONACA (Summertime Render)
Studio: A-1 Pictures

The plot and character line-up

Nier Automata anime
courtesy of Aniplex Youtube channel official Nier Automata 1.1a trailer

As for the cast, it was released in the very third Aniplex Online Fest of 2022 held in Sept which also showcased a promotional video. A-1 studios started the promotion with the introduction of Automata’s primary female protagonist 2B. 

2B

  • The female protag will be voiced by the voice of Mikasa Ackerman in Attack on Titan, Yui Ishikawa.
  • 2B is the practical soldier thrown amidst a long ranged proxy war between humans and aliens. While aliens have deployed machines to massacre the world humans came up with their own weapons named Androids.

2B is a human-made android that the Automata game follows initially along with another character 9S. 

9S

  • 9S deviates from other androids given that he is capable of feelings, a term vaguely disassociated from the pop-culture understanding of machines and robots.
  • 9S is also the main character that received his promotional video in the online fest. This support-type second protagonist will be voiced by Natsuki Hanae known for his work as Tanjiro Kamado in Demon Slayer.

Along with 2B, he is part of the YoRHa unit and plays more of a support role. He garners information for battle formations used for the group’s combat tactics.

However, the promotional videos don’t feature a trailer for the third main protagonist of the Automata game – A2.

2b in Nier
courtesy of Aniplex Youtube channel official Nier Automata 1.1a trailer

The creators’ take on adapting the famous Nier Automata game

The thing about the Nier Automata game is that there are easily over two dozen of endings. The game ending changes depending upon the varying outcomes of combat but also the different roads and routes chosen to approach a situation.

The Anime Directors’ account

  • Ryouji Matsuyama alongside Yoko Taro discussed the possibilities for the anime adaptation in the Aniplex Online Fest. Matsuyama shared that he was first astonished by the protagonist’ covered eyes.
  • The seeming blindfolds, however, courtesy of creator Yoko Taro, are actually vision visor gadgets. They are technological goggles of sorts that give the player the HUD and other in-game technicalities.

Game Creator’s feelings

  • Yoko Taro, the director of Nier Automata shared in the fest that when approached by Aniplex initially to develop Nier into an anime, he was perplexed by their decision to do so.
  • He said that an anime adaptation so late after the game’s initial release felt odd if anything. Taro mentioned that Aniplex was very persistent in getting across to him in hopes of getting the franchise animated to which Taro eventually complied.

Why the Nier Automata anime is called Ver 1.1a

Courtesy of A-1 Pictures, the key visual for Nier Automata Ver.1.1a
Courtesy of A-1 Pictures, the key visual for Nier Automata Ver.1.1a

Creator Taro went in dept to explain why the Nier anime shall be called version 1.1a. The game has dozens of endings and all of these cannot be fully incorporated into an anime. Usually, when visual novels with multiple endings are adapted into an anime (say Clannad or Steins Gate) the creators are tasked with finding the best potential ending. This is a grave task given that if the ending fails to resonate with the audience the whole thing could go under the rug.

NieR: Automata was a story we created to be a game, so copying it as is wouldn’t make an interesting story for an anime.” -YokoTaro

Steins Gate is an example of a branching endings adaptation

  • Yet Steins Gate did it exceptionally well as one example when they decided to play out two routes – the tragic ending of Okabe failing (which led to Steins Gate 0 anime adaptation, an interesting choice of development for the franchise).
  • But Steins Gate anime then took a reverse V turn (whatever that means) and went ahead with the best ending possible – the original Steins Gate timeline ending.

How the Anime could play with different endings

Nier Automata anime adaptation Nier Automata ver 1.1a
courtesy of Promotional Video of 9S released by Aniplex YT

Taking note of this Steins Gate example we can bring together how different elements can come into play when developing a game that deviates in the way it tells its stories. We could potentially see upcoming adaptations of different endings of the Nier Automata storyline. Such storylines could be named (let’s assume) version 1.2a or version 1.3b etc.

The possibilities become endless when creators can also incorporate multiple endings (as in Steins Gate) or go with a singular ending (like Clannad).

A devastating example of the incestuous anime Yosugano Sora

  • Or for a more vitally extreme example, we can take the name of Yosugano Sora which is not as famous for being a good story but more for its hentai-ishqe contents. Yosugano Sora adapted the visual novel for some 3 episodes and the rest of the episodes (12 total) just follow the protagonist ending up with different harem choices (and all of them, which also include his own sister for fu*k’s sake).

Concluding

The thing with NieR Automata is that it blew out of proportion on both ends – the audience and the developers. Square Enix did not imagine the Nier game would be such a hit, much less that they’d ever developed it into a full-blown franchise. Yet here we are with NieR having almost a cult-like following. The anime adaptation feels fresh and seems to be under the able supervision of the game creator.

From how Taro described it he has no plans of sticking rigidly to the game. The game should be kept separate despite the industry’s usual inclination to adapt the source material exactly as it is. This is simpler with sources like Light novels or Manga. But it’s a whole new world when a game or visual novel is being adapted. With the amazing voice actors, A-1 Studio, and the original game director taking charge, we expect Nier Automata to be as hack-slashing as it ought to be.


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Rhytham is a Philosophy graduate who founded a state-level organization that promotes anime and Japanese culture in his home state of Assam India. The org is named Assam Senpai Society. He is also an ardent writer, poet, musician, vocalist, graphic designer, and photoshop artist. He has worked on multiple state and national level conventions. Other than anime, catch him watching western series that really have in themselves the solidity to catch his attention.