NieR: Automata Ver 1.1a – 01 (First Impressions) – Glory…to Mankind

Nier:Automata Ver 1.1a is an anime adaptation of a video game sequel to a spin-off of another video game series dating back to 2003, but for me it might as well be anime-original. With this adaptation, A-1 Pictures gives us a polished sci-fi action flick set in a bleak and gritty world decimated by alien invasion. The aliens use “machine lifeforms” (retro-looking robots) to fight sleeker (read: sexier) androids developed by humanity.

Our protagonist is YoRHa B-Gata H-Kei 2-gou B-gata, AKA 2B, which is super easy name to remember. Sporting a silver bob, eye mask, dark maid/knight outfit, katana, and slick-as-shit mecha, 2B is voiced by Ishikawa Yui, channeling Mikasa with an appropriately stiff, mechanical vocal performance. I also thought of early Vivy.

2B has the baroque look of a late-stage Final Fantasy character, which contrasts nicely with the more bare-bolts industrial setting. At times I wondered if Yuuri and Chito from Girls’ Last Tour might come running through the mist. She’s supported by a float “Pod” companion that keeps her informed about her surroundings and conditions.

2B has a mission, and despite being the only one of her squad to make it to the factory where her Goliath-type target is located, she is determined to carry out the mission or die (or rather be destroyed) trying. She’s aided by a far more “human”-acting intelligence android, 9S, voiced by Hanae Natsuki as if he were an affable high school character.

9S hasn’t spoken to anyone in a while, and is happy to be teamed up with someone, being a typically solo unit. 2B is less enthused, especially with 9S’ loquaciousness (she tells him not to call her “miss” and cuts his exposition short). But he also saves the “brute-force-first” 2B’s ass. As for the Goliath, it appears as a massive oil platform-on-tracks, with a face resembling the boss from StarFox.

This Goliath is a tough customer, but 9S has it handled: diving into its computer brain in a trippy hacking sequence that’s a nice change of pace from the external twisted metal and rust, and smoke. His hacking ends up being incomplete and he’s ejected from his mecha and seriously maimed, and Goliath is able to reboot and regain part of its autonomy.

9S urges a suddenly very human-like 2B not to worry about him and complete the mission. She runs up the appendages of the Goliath and punctures its core with her katana. The good guys have seemingly prevailed and defeated the big level boss. But then it wakes back up, and four other Goliaths awaken and rise, surrounding them.

It looks like it’s going to be Game Over, Man for both 2B and 9S, so after she thanks him for saving her, the two take out their Black Boxes. When these boxes touch, they self-destruct in a massive explosion that consumes all of the Goliaths. Even with 9S by her side, this was always going to be a suicide mission as soon as 2B arrived without any of her fellow squad units.

But while that’s the end of her body, her mind, memories, and data are all transferred back up to the massive orbital human stronghold called the Bunker, and she wakes up in a new android body. It’s the first time we see her eyes, and because of that the sight of them really packs a punch.

When she reunites with a revived 9S, he confirms that the mission was complete, but that he must have only had time to transfer her data back to the Bunker. The 9S before him has no memories of their joint mission down on the surface. When this new 9S dutifully utters their motto—Glory to Mankind—2B clenches a fist and repeats the words …but grudgingly.

We don’t see a single human being or alien in this episode, only their tools. If we never see either, I probably won’t mind. Their absence contributes to quite a compelling atmosphere of loneliness, isolation, and even a tinge of resentment and brooding in the androids. They were built and programmed to say that motto and fight and sacrifice their bodies and minds, and while emotions are forbidden, they are also definitely there.

2B wonders if her unending cycle of life and death is a curse or punishment from the gods who created her. None of this is groundbreaking stuff, but it is admirably executed, and looks and sounds awesome (Aimer sings the OP and the score is boss), which is why I’ll be continuing to watch.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro 2nd Attack – 01 – Sushi Violation

Whether you identify as a Hayase or Naoto, if you liked the first season of Don’t Toy with Me, you’re in luck: the “second attack” isn’t rocking any boats. It also thankfully doesn’t push any reset buttons. Hayase still teases Naoto and calls him names, but the two are a lot closer after all their experiences last season.

Both that comfort and their dynamic is reflected back at them in the meta stinger, in which Naoto is reading about an underclassman who makes her student council president senpai her slave after she catches him cheating. Naoto identifies with the put-upon four-eyes, while Hayase identifies with the conniving kohai.

Another key part of the dynamic is that the embarrassment is never a one-way street. Hayase gets her wish when water is accidentally spilled on her new loafer. When Naoto stoops over, she panics: is he actually going to lick it off like the prez in the manga? But no, he just wipes it off with a hanky.

Naoto has also grown to the point where he actually considers taking the initiative in terms of suggesting things they can do together. This is undermined when he hesitates to greet her and she accuses him of acting like a stalker. This leads to a lesson in high school girl greetings, all of which involve either violence or close contact.

Naturally, Naoto messes up and trips while contemplating how to greet Hayase, and ends up accidentally copping a feel. When she shoves him back, he’s caught by Hayase’s friend Gamou, and we know Hayase always prefers to have Naoto to herself.

In the next segment she gets just that, whipping out a pair of black tights since it’s getting cold out. When she senses Naoto is a little disappointed he won’t get to see her bare legs as usual, she asks him to put them on for her. This is where Hayase once again gets more than she bargained for, as Naoto isn’t he only one who gets a little too excited by the ensuing close contact.

The reason for the tights is the two are going out to an after-party at a conveyor sushi restaurant with Gamou, Yoshi and Sakura. Hayase doesn’t put on any airs in inviting Naoto even though it’ll be him and four girls, and Naoto doesn’t hesitate to accept the invite.

Once there, he worries they only got him so he could work for them getting the sushi they want off the conveyor. But then Hayase leans over him to grab his preferred fish, and announces that everyone should treat him with respect and dignity “just for today” in acknowledgment of his hard work at the festival. They also treat him with their profits selling straps.

When the other girls make special sushi combos just for Naoto, and he exclaims that they’re all delicious, Hayase’s jealous side comes out, and she overcompensates by making a “dirty joke sushi” that puts everyone off (combining cod roe and soft roe to make a “pregnant sushi”).

But while the others make faces and comments that make Hayase blush with embarrassment, Naoto knows just what to do. He tastes the sushi she made for him, and what do you know, it’s good too! Like him, Hayase doesn’t always react the best to being teased, so it’s nice to see him have her back here.

I’m definitely glad these lovable goofballs are back in my life, and looking forward to Hayase devising new methods to toy with Naoto, Naoto unveiling new reaction noises, and the two generally becoming closer as a couple.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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