Wouldn’t you like 2B there dressed to the 9S.
Nier: Automata continues to be a fan favorite in Japan, where it won a Users’ Choice prize at the PlayStation Awards 2017 – and now, two theater productions based on the series are underway in Tokyo, along with a cafe serving food and selling merchandise themed on the original game.
We’ll get to the cafe below (including a couple of neat photo galleries), but let’s start with a trip to the theater.
Nier Theatrical Production
The first production, “Stage Play Shonen YoRHa Ver1.0,” features an all-male cast and will culminate with a pay-to-view livestream on Japanese video service Niconico on February 4. (It’s in Japanese only, but you can find details here https://secure.live.nicovideo.jp/product/4146 for how to watch.) This will be followed by “Musical Play YoRHa Ver1.2”, an all-female musical production that runs February 9-13, with a livestream on February 12.
“Stage Play Shonen YoRHa Ver1.0” is a spinoff of Nier: Automata that follows the backstory of one of the game’s protagonists, 9S. Like the game, it is set 10,000 years in the future on Earth, where sentient androids fight a futile war they do not understand in the service of a mankind that long ago fled to the moon. IGN Japan attended a preview performance.
The play begins with a dialogue between 2B and Operator 6O, a comical interaction that filled the theatre with laughter. But since this is an all-boys production, these two female characters are abruptly eliminated right at the start, leaving the audience with the polite request to “relax and enjoy the show” – an absurd touch that will appeal to fans of the games.
YoRHa, androids designed to fight alien machines on behalf of humanity, are organized by number, and here we meet several of them. They are dressed identically in black pants, black coats, their faces covered by black masks, so that they are difficult to tell apart at a distance. However, they do have different personalities, which are made clear in an opening movie – better pay attention to this if you decide to watch the livestream.
Indeed, the play moves at breakneck speed, and it can be hard to keep up, but those who pay attention will gain a wider view of Nier’s philosophy for their trouble. It also offers tearjerking moments, as the central characters ponder the meaning of the birdsong they hear, and with it, the meaning of their eternal battle.
But the main attraction here is the awesome fight sequences: in particular, No.4’s sharp gun handling and No.3 and No.6’s swordfighting skills, though the combined effect is even greater than the sum of its parts, a beautifully choreographed dance of synthetic beings.
All of which is enhanced by the phenomenal music of Nier series composer Keiichi Okabe and his team at MONACA. The battles on stage flow rhythmically with the dramatic orchestration, like a finely crafted music video, only it’s right in front of you, bringing the world of Nier to immersive reality.
It is rare to see a play make so little use of theatrical blackouts to reset the scene. Instead, the place, the time or the situation change using ingenious tricks of direction. For example, the connection between the first and second acts: At the end of Act 1, the stage is littered with the corpses of YoRHa and Resistance members, beaten by the machines; there is a seamless transition to Act 2, with a message on-screen that reads “Two months earlier”; now some YoRHa members are carrying out training ahead of the battle we had just seen, and the corpses still lying on the stage instead represent comrades who had fallen during a violent drill exercise. This smart directorial flourish insinuates an almost monotonous exposure to violence in the YoRHa androids’ daily training routine.
9S, for his part, does not break away from his role as a passive protagonist. Rather, the production gives us a glimpse of this scorched world through his eyes, leaving the story’s deeper meanings wide open to interpretation. The androids struggle with existential suffering that could apply just as well to our world.
9S’ own story continues with the events of Nier: Automata. As for how the dramatic stage play ends, we wouldn’t want to spoil that here – fans of Nier will want to see it for themselves.
Nier Food and Merch at the Square Enix Cafe
The original Nier was released in Japan as two separate editions: Nier Gestalt is the same as the version released in the West, while Nier Replicant made the protagonist a teenager. Until March 2, these two versions are the special theme of the Square Enix Cafe in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, with an exclusive food menu and merchandise.
The interior design of the entire venue is based on the games. It contrasts between white and blue colors reminiscent of Grimoire Weiss, Kainé and Yonah; and black and red colors that evoke memories of Grimoire Noir, Devola/Popola and the Shadowlord. You can see the interior and some of the exclusive merchandise in this gallery.
The Nier menu at Square Enix Cafe was created especially for this limited period – check out the gallery below for photos and more details of each dish.
If you happen to be in Tokyo and want to visit the Square Enix Cafe, note that all weekend reservations are already fully booked, but weekday tables are often available. There are also limited spaces kept available for visitors without a reservation on weekends from 9pm to 10:30pm. If you only want to browse the merchandise, you can walk in anytime.
The Square Enix Cafe in Osaka is holding a Nier: Automata tie-up, similar to one that was held at the Tokyo branch last year but with store-exclusive coasters.
Find more information on “Stage Play Shonen YoRHa Ver1.0” and “Musical Play YoRHa Ver1.2” at http://yorha.com. Square Enix Cafe is at http://www.jp.square-enix.com/café.
Adeyu is a freelance writer for IGN Japan. This article was translated by Daniel Robson and Alexander Neang.