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NieR:Automata Ver 1.1a
Episode 8

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 8 of
NieR:Automata Ver 1.1a ?
Community score: 4.4


One of the things I've expressed concern about for this NieR:Automata adaptation is whether it will be able to successfully convey some of the critical themes and emotional experiences that are rooted in the “game” part of the Automata package. “aji wo [K]itta” is just the kind of episode I was hoping that the show would figure out how to present, where it captures at least some of that more nebulous, exploratory aspect of the game while still holding on to the threads of plot and character development that the anime is only just now beginning to weave together in earnest.

In other words, this is a side-quest episode that adapts some of the game's “unnecessary” little activities and diversions and works them into the tapestry of 2B and 9S' journey on Earth. What I love about the way the episode handles this is how it manages to capture the whole theme of “so-called unnecessary diversions are actually an integral part of the human experience.” Whether it is playing with toys, hunting for trinkets to share with your workmates, figuring out how to balance a budget, going fishing for some mackerel with a bikini-clad weirdo, or even simply taking off your socks and frolicking in the ocean, the point is that straying from the objectives of the mission to stop and metaphorically and/or very literally smell the flowers is the most human thing that 9S and 2B could be doing in their current situation.

Therein, too, lies the interesting conflict at the heart of all of these diversions. On the one hand, the Androids have been explicitly instructed to avoid any of the messy emotions or distracting personal desires that could possibly lead them astray from their path in the war—the symbolism of the Android's blindfolds could not possibly be more obvious, in that respect. Then again, all of these Androids are clearly driven by some manner of yearning to understand the people that they have spent the whole of their existences fighting and dying for, and this yearning leads them to a curiosity that is as powerful as it is, per 2B's repeated warnings, potentially very dangerous.

Still, one way or another, the blindfolds are bound to come off eventually, and it's fascinating to see how 2B and 9S each deal with their respective skirting of the iron-clad protocols, which draws both of them out of their own shells while also bringing them closer together as comrades. The shadow of A2 that looms over the mission spells more than one kind of danger, though. Yes, A2 being a deserter that is actively at war with the chain of Command is a problem in and of itself, but we're also reminded of the pain that Anenome holds in her heart, knowing that a friend she has been mourning for years is not only alive but is also now seemingly her enemy. Would she have been better off if she never allowed herself to grow close to her allies like 2B has been doing up until very recently?

If you will allow me to mangle some metaphors for the sake of a point: There is more than one way for curiosity to kill the cat. 9S' willingness to break the rules and even spy on his Commander is one of the obvious ways that his curiosity is bound to get the better of him, as is his going off on his own to investigate the long-haired phantom that is most definitely not A2. Then there's that larger pull of curious desire that seems to be pulling at all of our mechanical friends, both Android and Robot. 2B is determining whether getting to know her allies better will truly be worth it, in the end; characters like Pascal and 9S' Operater are trying to discover the value of humanity's precious family bonds and social structures; and the twins Adam and Eve are clearly up to something with all of the time they've spent learning and pondering together. Given where 9S ends up at the end of this episode, I don't think you need to have played a second of the games to know that all of these endeavors of curiosity are leading somewhere very complicated and dangerous indeed.


Extraneous Code

• True to the title of the episode (which means, roughly speaking, “I Ate a Horse Mackerel”), this week's puppet production shows us that Jackass was one hundred percent right in guessing that eating fish is fatal to Androids. We also learn that the reason that there are just so many goddamned ruined buildings all over the place even thousands of years after the fall of mankind is that the Androids have been building them back up again, over and over, to prepare for humanity's return from the moon, only for the robots to keep destroying them.

• Unfortunately, we're going to be taking yet another hiatus of indeterminate length, as the studio has just announced that COVID-19 has wreaked its havoc on the production schedule once more. Hopefully, we'll all be back here again to analyze the heck out of this Sad Robot Cartoon before too terribly long.

NieR:Automata Ver 1.1a is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.

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