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Is Nier: Automata ver1.1a’s puppet show a joke or something more?

Twist or troll: You decide

Puppets of Nier Automata protagonists 2B and 9S stand in a classroom Image: Crunchyroll
Joshua Rivera (he/him) is an entertainment and culture journalist specializing in film, TV, and video game criticism, the latest stop in a decade-plus career as a critic.

The post-credits scene is an institution in blockbuster movies, now so commonplace that it’s almost more notable when a big franchise film doesn’t have one. On TV though? They are wild cards, showing up at random, a rebuke to those who move on at the first glimpse of text on screen. Sometimes they’re gags, sometimes they’re teasers for what’s to come, and sometimes — like in the premiere for Nier Automata ver1.1a, the anime adaptation of the video game Nier: Automata — they’re puppet shows.

There is nothing about the premiere of Nier: Automata ver1.1a, nor the game that it’s based on, that suggests this is in store. For the most part, the anime’s premiere closely follows the source material, with the first episode roughly corresponding to Nier: Automata’s opening mission. Like the game, the show throws the audience right into things, as a squadron of androids piloting fighter jet mechs launches a strike on a “Goliath-class weapon” that goes rather poorly for all of them, leaving our protagonists in a bind: The taciturn and femme 2B, and the boyish and sweet 9S.

For those who aren’t familiar with the game, there’s not a lot to go on here beyond mood: it’s an oblique en media res opening, one that hints at the bleak and bittersweet nature of the story to come. As such, it’s absolutely wild to see that, after the credits roll, viewers who stick around are greeted with puppet versions of 2B and 9S, riffing on the video game adaptation we just watched.

Doubly strange is the fact that the point of the scene is so hard to discern. It’s not just a goof — there is vital lore here for those in the know (the puppets explain the reasoning behind the androids’ naming conventions) — and there is a layered jab at the video game’s multiple endings that could be a joke, or could suggest something about what the show has in store.

Like just about everything involving Nier franchise creator Yoko Taro, the baffling nature of this scene is kind of the point: Much like how he almost always engages with the public from behind an unsettling mask, there’s a level of pro wrestling-esque kayfabe to every game he makes. Is it a joke or sincere? And what’s the difference, really?

The only way to find out is to keep watching.

The next level of puzzles.

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