Soon, Yoko Taro’s NieR: Automata will be making its way to the small screen as an animated series. Known specifically as ver1.1a, this will be a new look at the world of 2B and 9S. In the meantime, anime is full of mechanical protagonists exploring what it means to exist.
While we wait for the winter season to take hold, delve into these series. Each offers its own unique take on these existential questions… and each answer is a bit different.
Battle Angel Alita
Unlike the stars of NieR: Automata, Alita (or Gally in the original Japanese) isn’t a full android. She’s an amnesiac cyborg with all sorts of abilities at her fingertips, despite her lack of memories. The 1993 anime is only two episodes long, but it’ll get you started with her story.
If you have the time and inclination, it’s worth diving into the multiple manga series. Through them you’ll learn more about Alita’s history, as well as the plans other people have for her. Oh, and you’ll get to see the incredibly cool sport of Motorball. The endings of the manga are incredibly high-stakes—as in godlike powers and karmic cycles.
ATOM: The Beginning
We just touched on this Astro Boy prequel in manga form. But if you’re looking for a NieR: Automata stopgap that’s also historically relevant, the anime adaptation may be right up your street. Pulling inspiration from Osamu Tezuka’s legendary work, this series focuses on A106: a robot with “artificial awareness” rather than artificial intelligence. This unique system allows A106 to formulate his own feelings—and this wholesome child of science definitely does just that.
As he battles between what his creators want from him and what he feels is right, robots and humans alike notice his surprisingly compassionate ways. While the anime doesn’t dig fully into how things link back up to Astro Boy, it’s a good starter for those curious about the manga.
Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-
What does it mean to exist? What is an android’s duty to humans? The questions of NieR: Automata arise again in Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-. The series, from many of the people behind Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-, is a unique take on both robotics and time travel. To make androids safer, each receives only one task. Diva’s is to sing from the heart. But things take a strange turn when an AI from the future enlists her to prevent a robot uprising.
Our heroine battles against her programming, witnesses the fate of fellow AIs, and watches history unfold. The whole time, she must ask herself: what does it mean for a machine to sing from her “heart”?
Prefer your anime robots bigger? Here’s why you should watch GaoGaiGar.