[Nier: Automata] The Concept of Humanity and the Descent of 9S


Nier Automata’s story is one of dark nihilistic
and existentialistic themes. Sometimes it hits so close to home it makes you feel just
a little uncomfortable. Even if you weren’t a deep thinker before, this game forces you
to make those comparisons between it’s disturbing themes and real life concepts. And that’s
what makes it so gosh dang great. For someone who likes to write essays for
fun, I had a hay day with this. Buckle up because we’re goin deep. And I mean deep.
Like deep. Playing through the perspective of the android
forces we’re biased right from the beginning. However, skepticism is human nature after
all and as revelations are made throughout the game, we are left questioning who the
true protagonists really are, or if there are any at all. Nier Automata plays with grey
areas like it’s going out of style, but haven’t you heard? The interchangeability
between the hero and the villain stereotypes is all the rage these days. So 9S and 2B. You want to root for them. Ever
since that opening sequence when 9S charmed his way into your soft little hearts with
his boyish charm. You want him to find solace in 2B’s company. You want her to lighten
up a bit in his. But most of all you want them to win. Machines killed your entire squadron
in the span of like 2 minutes. They’re attacking you and your new emotional, pun loving sidekick.
They’re dumb looking stumps with dumb round heads and dumb stumpy legs. They’re emotionless
and they’re the enemy, obviously. They deserve to die. Right? But that doesn’t seem to be the case the
further you get into the story. The concept of humanity is an ambiguous one,
I mean, I’m not going to sit here and go all Karl Marx on you but this game takes a
unique approach to illustrating what they believe humanity to be. They toy with it and
reference it in nearly every aspect of this game, the idea of emotions, of what it means
to feel. But most of all, in a world void of humans, it’s the most disturbing concept
and it’s what makes 9S’s character the most tragic. The red flags start early, but they’re subtle,
borderline insignificant. It helps that 9S is constantly dismissing them, something
I’ll touch more on later. Before you even really delve into the game, everyone is nailing
it into your head that machines can’t feel. Machines don’t have that kind of intelligence.
That’s not how they’re programmed. And yet, you begin to see glimpses of scenarios
and reactions that aren’t supposed to be happening. Many of the side quests exist to
further exploit this. Machines that turn vengeful after you slay their kin. Machines that worry
about their appearance and trying to woo the opposite sex. Machines that call themselves
“mother”, “father”, “brother”, or “sister”. Most of the time, it’s
downright creepy simply because they aren’t human. But the most impactful revelation of these
humanity-possessing machines has got to be in the desert apartments when you stumble
upon their domesticated, uh breeding nest– for lack of a better term. Machines are rocking
nonexistent babies, they’re babbling about love. It’s at this moment that it kind of
hits you: someone’s got their facts messed up because these things have more emotion
than 2B’s finger. They aren’t unfeeling and they sure as heck aren’t unintelligent. I consider this to be the official turning
point, if you will, in regards to this illusive concept of humanity. It’s taboo amongst
androids and completely rejected when concerning machines. It’s no longer simply a foil between
2B and 9S either, here, in this fight against an unevolved adam, it’s become a central
theme of the game. And yet, through it all, 9S is always there
to dismiss the blatantly obvious. He can’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that
his enemy could actually be more alike the species that’s responsible for his existence
than himself. As the most intelligent Yorha model, he actually cannot process this, always
justifying killing them by labeling them as less of what they are. Because if he were
to truly acknowledge that they possess some form of humanity, then that not only shatters
his instilled beliefs of who the enemy is, but it would force him to recognize the holes
in the purpose of his existence. It would force him to metaphorically take off his yorha
blindfold and see the truth of what has been hidden from him. And he’s not ready to do
that, yet. The idea of knowledge is a concept in of itself
in this game. It stands as a symbol, more than anything, a symbol of danger— of dying.
The relationship between knowledge and death is something that is repeated. The first instance
of this is seen after the evolution of Adam. Unlike his brother that was literally born
from him, his sole purpose seems to be to learn, to gain knowledge. After some post-game
reflection, it can be argued that he never truly was after the androids on a power-trip
kind of level— he was merely curious about them. And curiosity killed the— well, you
know. In the second fight against Adam and Eve after they have evolved Adam explains
what their purpose is, and that’s to know more about the humans and conversely the androids
that were made in their image. He finds it fascinating that, “they killed uncountable
numbers of their own kind and yet loved in equal measure,” calling them, “an enigma.” 9S once again nonchalantly brushes this off
as Adam being “bonkers” but ironically this statement is most applicable to him. Another example of this is the machine children
that commit suicide due to the intense fear of being killed. Pascal blames himself for
teaching them what fear is, because without fear, there is no reason to end one’s life.
The knowledge of that concept proved to be their demise in the end anyways. But it doesn’t end there. It’s the sole
purpose behind 2B and 9S’s coexistence. 9S never stops searching for answers. 2B must
kill him every time he finds them. An endless cycle of knowledge and death. Their weapons
are great foreshadowing to this plot point. 9S’s sword, Blood Oath literally means a
vow of truth made by blood— he’s made to learn what’s true. 2B’s sword, Virtuous
Contract, is a fancy way of saying, “obligated moral excellence”— to fulfill her duty.
To do what needs to be done. It’s knowledge that throws 9S onto his war
path. The truth is the cause of everything crumbling around him. His beliefs. His existence. And the loss of the one person he loved and
hated the most. Everything about him has become a dichotomy
at this point and all he can focus on is the hatred. The one intrinsic constant in a world
where everything has become meaningless. A direct mirror to both Adam and Eve. The similarities aren’t quite all there
until the end of the game but looking back on it, Adam and Eve can be seen as the machine
counterparts to both sides of 9S. Adam, too smart for his own good. 9S during
routes A and B. Eve, fueled by rage over the death of a loved one. 9S during route C. And if I haven’t completely confused you
by the point, let me suggest something else. Eve is also the counterpart to 2B. Think about it, every time she had to kill
9S despite trying to hold him at arms length, she had grown to care for him. Arguably he
was the only living being she ever cared for. And she had to kill him. Again and again.
But she stifled those emotions, prohibiting them, a defense mechanism for herself. Otherwise
she might be as crazy with grief as Eve. When stabbing him through the head, she does
so with hesitation— with reluctance— and relief. There’s something there that bothers
her. Something she can probably see in herself. So what is the concept of humanity exactly?
How do all these parallels between characters relate to each other? What does it all mean?
And why did this video game lore analysis video somehow turn into a philosophy class?
I don’t know. But what I do know is that I have a pretty educated guess. About the
humanity concept thing. Not the philosophy class thing. The concept of humanity in accordance to Nier
Automata, is purpose. And it’s the free will to achieve that purpose. When 9S is held captive by Adam and is hacking
into his memory data, he finds information on the machine lifeforms that leads to the
conclusion that, “it’s like the network was copying every possible human behavior
and discipline, they keep preforming the same behaviors and never learn. It’s almost
as if the objective is failure.” You see, the machines are so obsessed with
humanity because they desire to have the purpose that humanity had. They desire to exult in
their freewill— to reach achievements. So they try to imitate humans in every way they
can, and what do humans notoriously do? They fail. They fail a lot. It’s how we learn. But the machine lifeforms
get tripped up somewhere around there. They can’t ever see past the trial part of the
equation. It’s why the forest kingdom trapped their king inside the body of an infant that’ll
never grow, if only to replicate human nature. They reach the error but they go no further.
Bottom line: They inadvertently look to failure for a sense of purpose. This can be seen as a commentary on humans
in general. If you’ve ever taken one history class in your entire life then you’ll know
that wars have always been a recurring thing over the same exact problems. Despite how
terrible they are, how many causalities they cause, humanity repeats the same mistakes
over and over. It’s almost as if we just don’t learn. Conversely, when looking at androids and their
sense of purpose— there is none. It’s duty. It’s obligation. Their reason for
existence is following orders. They are imitations of humans but are meant to exist without a
concept of humanity. Yet, they put themselves above the machines saying that the machines
are the ones who aren’t alive. The irony in this is made clear when Adam laughs at
9S, saying, “and yet you androids claim to be alive? How very odd. You are puppets
who lack your own free will.” Puppets blinded by the lies established by
command, fueling a war that has no purpose so that they do have a purpose. And at the
root of it all, they’re more alike their enemy than they ever thought. It’s quite funny when you think about it.
The story of Nier Automata is all about becoming more human, whether it’s wanted or not.
For a species that usurped their creators and another that lived past theirs, it demonstrates
the cycle of life. No matter how much these species evolve, they always end up back where
they started— back where everything started. Endless cycles. There’s another theme for
ya. This confrontation with Adam is the spark
that ignites the descent of 9S. He seeks to fester the desires that he can see 9S has. “You’re thinking about how much you want
to —- 2B, aren’t you?” Now this statement can be interpreted in a
few different ways. But the most common would be well, I’m trying to keep this a PG-13
channel guys, so uh, I think you can fill in that blank. The other is something that
doesn’t quite make sense until finishing the game. “You’re thinking about how much you want
to kill 2B, aren’t you?” And why would 9S want to kill 2B? 2B is literally the personification of his
hatred towards machines. He hates them because they kill androids. So does 2B. It is her
purpose as 2E. She is everything he has ever stood against. Both words fill in the blank to this sentence
appropriately. Both make sense. Because after all, isn’t there a fine line between love
and hate? The line between love and hate is the perfect
mirror to the line between sex and death. A dichotomy that goes hand in hand versus
a dichotomy that signifies a beginning and an ending. It’s not a coincidence that 2B straddles
9S in a blatantly sexual manner when killing him in endings A and B. Nor is it a coincidence
that 9S violently stabs the image of 2B in the chest while in the same position later
on in route C. Death scenes being correlated with sexual themes is a recurring motif and
is made even more so when you consider the fact that, “android brains contain an algorithm
which allows them to derive pleasure from battle.” So basically, the act of killing
for androids is the equivalent to a human’s sexual stimulus. So what does this say about 2B and 9S? A definitive
answer isn’t given, but many can be inferred. Nier Automata can possibly be hinting at what
it means to love and the pain that comes with it, or more simply, what it means to be human—
and the ups and downs that it entails. In route C, without a bunker to reload data,
making death a permanent possibility, androids are far more like humans than ever before. 9S’s grief is a contender to that. In terms of the game’s concept of humanity,
9S never truly descended. He found his purpose. His purpose to avenge 2B. This realization is referenced many times
throughout the game— what 9S will become, what he needs to truly have a reason to exist. A purpose brought forth from the depths of
his own desires and his own free will. But at what price? Was humanity truly worth
it?

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