WARNING: This character analysis will contain major plot spoilers for the 2017 game ‘NieR: Automata’. If you haven’t played it, I would highly recommend doing so before reading this article. Going into that game blind is an absolute must if you want to fully appreciate it. I’ll leave a link to my spoiler-free review right below this paragraph if you want to know more.
Be warned though: it is an old review. It may have aged a bit. Thank you.
At long last, I shall discuss a character that isn’t from an anime! Rather, I will break down a character from an anime-like video game! I’m shaking things up so much, I know.
NieR: Automata is one of my favorite video games of the last decade. Not only is the game a ton of fun to play, it has some of the best characters and existential storytelling I have ever seen. It’s the kind of game that I could write a thousand different articles about and still have fun with it!
I could pick any character from the roster for a character analysis. 2B and her dark, mysterious purpose is something that I definitely intend to talk about in the future! 9S’s journey to insanity was one of the most engaging character arcs I’d ever played through, one that I am also fully planning to talk about one day! However, I felt that, if I had to talk about one of the playable characters (which I did), it would have to be the lone killer herself: A2.
A2 is a relatively late arrival in the story, appearing near the end of campaigns A-B before starring in her own campaign. Initially, she seems like a quiet and deadly killer devoid of personality. However, as you progress through the game and learn more about her, she becomes one of the most interesting and likable characters in the entire cast! One worthy of being the main character after 2B steps aside.
Which is my nice way of saying that she literally murdered the old main character to take the role.
The Wound: The Slaughtered Prototypes
This is a bit cliche, yes. But hey! It’s effective nonetheless!
Long before the events of NieR: Automata, A2 and her squad worked for YORHA to fight off the machine menace during the 14th Machine War. Unfortunately, during a mission, her entire squad was wiped out by machines, leaving A2 alone. She desperately wanted to get revenge, so she went AWOL and started a life of machine killing.
It is a typical backstory in every way. But it works very well for what it is. It perfectly informs all three of the other building blocks. It isn’t super interesting, but it is absolutely essential for her character.
It’s the next two categories where things get interesting!
The Want and the Lie: All I Have to Do is Kill…
I love it when two of the four building blocks work together. And there are few examples of them cooperating as well as they do here!
A2’s Want is simple. She wants to slaughter all machine life in order to avenge her fallen comrades. It’s a simple lust for revenge. However, it’s this simple hunger for revenge that plays directly into her lie.
She believes that, by killing all the machines, she can be rid of her feelings of loss and regret. If she wipes out the enemy completely, she’ll finally have closure. All she has to do is destroy them all. It is an important task, one that only she can accomplish, as everyone else would be a burden, or they are simply too untrustworthy.
This is a common belief held by revenge-thirsty characters and A2 is no different. Unfortunately, her belief is flawed for numerous reasons. First: the machines are far too numerous to be wiped out simply by running around and killing them all. Without help and a strategy, she is doomed to go nowhere in her murder quest.
Second: her feelings won’t just go away. We can see throughout the game that, no matter how much progress A2 makes towards her revenge, she can’t get over her feelings of loss. Killing all of her enemies isn’t going to magically fulfill the hole in her heart. If anything, it will drive her further into despair.
Third: the enemy isn’t as evil as she thinks. When A2 meets Pascal and everyone else in the village, she’s faced with the simple realization that not all machines are as evil as the ones that ruined her life. She has to confront the fact that revenge won’t give her what she truly wants: to be with her fallen friends again.
However, we see that A2 isn’t completely lost. Despite all her pain, she is still a very kind creature. And it’s through this kindness that A2 eventually figures out what she truly needs.
The Need: I’ll Take Care of You
As mentioned in the previous sections, A2 was the lone survivor of her squad back in the early days of YORHA. Because of that loss, she spent god-knows how long wandering the world alone and slaughtering machines. It isn’t until late in the events of the game that what she needs starts to become clear.
A2 spent her days trying to avenge what she lost. In this revenge quest, she forgot why she lost them in the first place. She forgot why she was built by the humans to begin with: to protect what’s still there.
Despite everything, A2 is still a very kind soul. She spares Pascal and the villagers, actively tries to protect them from the hostile machines, and mourns with Pascal over their deaths. Even with 9S constantly trying to kill her, A2 actively tries to help him at every turn. In the end, if you choose to play as A2 for the final boss, she gives her life to save 9S and finally have peace.
What A2 needs isn’t revenge. She needs to accept what she lost, move on, and protect what’s still there. Believe it or not, but A2 is the single most kind and selfless character in the entire game! But she’s so drowned in her own lust for revenge that she forgets it herself!
It isn’t until she realizes this that she finally achieves her goal of wiping out the machines. She doesn’t go to confront the hive mind because she wants to finish what she started. She went because she had to keep her promise to 2B: protect 9S. By doing so, she not only manages to find peace. But she gives up her own life to join back up with those she lost.
Until the pods put her back together in Ending E. But hey, at least she’ll have company! Even if she killed/was killed by both of them.
When people think of NieR: Automata, they often think of 2B or 9S. It’s understandable, don’t get me wrong. They’re fantastic characters! But if I were to point towards one and say ‘That’s my favorite!’, that honor would go to A2!
Though Jackass does make a strong argument.