This is part 2 of a &@)#$%! welcome to route B.
If you missed part 1, then feel free to check it out below.
Nier: Automata was the sequel that likely no Nier fan saw coming. It told a complete story and wrapped up all of its plot lines, though the extra ending E from the Japan-only Grimoire Nier (a compendium of Nier art and notes) added a happy ending to things.
As a sequel that took place far ahead in the time line of Nier, it told its own story with a complete beginning, middle, and end. Notably, there were a number of references and Easter eggs that only Nier players (or fans who watched play through) could fully understand; machines that wear capes and strange masks appear as simple enemy variants, but the masks were from a city with numerous and stringent rules. A wedding doll found during a side quest references the fall of the city, but for Nier fans, it evokes memories of a traumatic cutscene that underscored how revenge saw victims on both sides of conflict.
A small, white flower that beckons a traveling salesman is evidently a Nier reference, but it’s no simple one. The Lunar Tear was a symbol of hope, with tales that said if a person found it, they would be granted a wish. Due to its rarity, it was seen only in the possession of a couple of characters...but with the passage of time, a person named Emil would cultivate it, all in memory of a dear friend.
As one of the characters to survive through the events of Nier and into Automata, Emil goes on quite the personal journey. One of the neater aspects of Automata is how it continues his story from the original, and while his plot in Automata is given enough detail to be self-contained, the full emotional pay off is only fully appreciated by those that played through Nier’s routes A and B.
So let’s follow Emil’s journey from Nier to the end of Automata.
SPOILER WARNING: this time we’re going through specific and detailed plot points (about Emil PRIMARILY) from Nier, Nier: Automata and Grimoire Nier.
Oh, and we’re doing this in a route B inspired style.
Song title: Emil - Karma/Sacrifice
Quote: “When I was young... I... I hated my eyes. And now that I’m older, I hate what my body has become. But there’s something else there now. Something like...pride. You know? I mean, without all this...I couldn’t have become your friend. Goodbye my friends! Thank you for everything!”
“For so long, all I could do was destroy. But now I have the chance to save something.”
Emil’s original theme from the first Nier is one of the soundtrack’s highlights as it pulls many emotions forth from the player. Notably, it wasn’t actually used only for Emil’s scenes, but also for any scenes that was particularly melodramatic.
Emil himself is met partway through the first half of the game, when the protagonist is trying to find more information about the magical talking book, Grimoire Weiss. He’s a small boy that lives with his butler in a massive mansion. Similar to YorHa in Automata, Emil wears a blindfold, but his reasons are more practical; he has Medusa’s gaze, turning anything he sees into stone.
Ashamed of his eyes, he hides away in his mansion in isolation. It’s only after he meets the protagonist and his companion Kainé that he starts to become less ashamed of his eyes and develop more self-confidence. Notably, the protagonist and Kainé become some of Emil’s closest friends.
Halfway through the game, Emil is forced to use his eyes to turn Kainé into stone, turning her into part of a wall to seal away a monstrous beast. Determined to save his friend, Emil spends the next two years researching how to save her.
He finds the answer in his own mansion; there’s an underground laboratory beneath his abode. Together with the protagonist, Emil ventures into the lab, recalling his memories of being experimented upon by scientists in an effort to combat a deadly enemy.
At the end of the lab dungeon, Emil reunites with his sister, Hua, and in the end takes her magical powers, giving him the ability to revive Kainé but at the cost of his own body.
Ashamed of what he has become, his fear of Kainé seeing him is dismissed when she comes to and greets him with gratitude. Over the course of the game, Emil remains a stalwart companion, slowly coming to grips with his situation and developing ever more confidence in himself. Though he has to commit tremendous acts of violence, at one time eliminating a village of people, he does it to save his friends.
Emil makes the ultimate sacrifice when he saves his friends from a very angry Android and he seemingly dies in the ensuing explosion. At that point, he fully comes to grips with his body, and is proud of who he is, especially because he knows his magical powers can be used to protect the people he loves. While his fate appears tragic, a post credit scene in route B shows that Emil survived, albeit as a head, and he rolls away to look for his friends again, ever the pragmatic.
Prior to Automata, the fan base only had Grimoire Nier to rely on for post-game story. In a drama CD, we learned that Emil continued to survive long into the future and did battle against alien invaders that came to the world. He sought to protect the world that his friends lived in because it was their home together and it was the right thing to do. The guidebook also revealed that Emil was in love with Nier’s protagonist and not Kainé, which goes to show how close a friendship he had with her.
Song title: Emil - shop theme
Quote: “every day’s a sale! every sale’s a win!”
“Boy, the world sure is going to hell in a hand basket, huh?”
At this point in his life, Emil’s found a place in the world... As a traveling merchant! However, for players who completed the side quest Emil’s memories learn, this Emil is not the original but one of many copies that were created to fight the aliens. The constant recreation of himself led him to forget his memories, but seeing the Lunar Tear in various places (and by hilariously spooking 9S while he’s at it) triggers remembrance of his past, leading players to find a secret place in the abandoned mall full of lunar tears.
The small shed was Kainé’s home, Emil had moved it (or protected it) to keep it safe from destruction as the world changed. He recounts to 2B and 9S about his fight with the aliens, and how he forgot this place existed if not for the help of YorHa units (and the player). His voiced dialogue is filled with emotional nostalgia as he remembers the people that have left him behind.
And then the player robs his house and beats him in a fight, prompting Emil to note that “power’s the only thing that counts in this world”.
Song title: Emil - Despair
Quote: “This pain! This sadness! This desperation! You know nothing about it!”
“But even so! All of this is WRONG! No matter how hard or how painful...they never gave up. They kept fighting because they believed they could overcome someday!”
Once players have collected (and upgraded) all the weapons, they can meet Emil in the mall before he runs off to the desert. There, Emil lies battered and beaten - the other clones are still alive and they are angry.
The Despair version of Emil’s theme is full of anger and hate with the chorals pounding against the world. The years haven’t been kind to the clones of Emil, transforming the original’s optimism into pessimism. As they continuously fought the aliens, they lost everyone and everything they held dear to the ravages of time, embittering the clones and making them question if it was all worth it. Loss and grief are powerful emotive factors after all, and it’s far easier to scream at the world instead of protection it.
Yet the one clone that remembered Nier’s protagonist and Kainé shouts back. The fight is always worth it because it’s a fight to protect the world his friends left behind. This is the world they all shared together and Emil will keep fighting to honor his friends and keep striving to maintain it. Yes, there is sadness to life, but there’s also happiness, and that makes it worth fighting for. For a young, lonesome boy that was ashamed of himself, the world was small and dark. If he grew up as is, he might have grown bitter at his life and the world, wondering why his lot in life was the way it is. Instead, he found kinship with a couple of others and opened himself up to the world. When most of the other clones lost hope, one was able to remember the people he fought for and maintained a sense of hope and optimism against overwhelming negativity.
Automata has a strong, self-contained story with strong narrative and emotional payoffs. The twists and questions it asks of the player make it one of the more thoughtful games recently released. However, the biggest pay off is to learn the fate of one of the original characters from Nier, and how he rediscovered his hope amongst a dying world.
Song title: Emil - DOD3 DLC version
The Drakengard 3 DLC version of Emil’s theme has an uplifting rhythm, as if to celebrate victory. It’s grandeur speaks volumes of the trials faced and conquered. While not quite as “canon” as the other tracks, as it was never inserted into the games proper, I like to imagine it plays when Emil passes away, letting him reunite with his friends.
If you would like to know a bit about what happens post-Ending E in Automata, check out the weapon descriptions for the Emil heads. The dates place them after Ending E. Alternatively you could also see the Drakengard/Nier time.
If you would like a video version of Emil’s story, I highly recommend ValkyrieAurora’s video. It is far more detailed and just plain better than what I wrote here.