This is part 1 of a 2 part series of articles that focus on Nier’s best boy.
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 was the reuse of certain themes from Nier, and how the composer, Keiichi Okabe, re-mixed them into new themes.
SPOILER WARNING: detailed plot points won’t be pointed out (that’s in part 2), but there will be thematic spoilers and choice quotes from both Nier and Nier: Automata.
Also, Emil was shown in the trailers and commercials for Automata, so no whinging about his survival.
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.”
Emil’s original theme from the first Nier is one of the soundtrack’s highlights as it pulls many emotions forth from the player. A tincture of sadness, a pinch of regret, a dash of longing and sincerity, all on top of a thin layer of melodrama. While initially lonesome, Emil finds solace and comfort in the friends he makes, however various events in the game require him to do whatever is necessary to protect said friends. While his dialogue implies a sense of hope and optimism, his theme is almost anything but that. The audience can’t help but sympathethize with Emil’s plights, especially when he commits to his final, in-game act.
Song title: Emil - Shop theme
Quote: “every day’s a sale, every sale’s a win”
When did you, reader, realize that Emil was playing a variant of his theme as he drives around the city selling his merch? I’ll admit, I only found out after reading an errant comment on the web and the realization was chilling... Because I can’t stand it. It’s loud and obnoxious, but it’s also quite joyful and fun.
At this point in his life, Emil’s found a place in the world... As a traveling merchant! He rides around the city ruins, shamelessly playing his joyful tune until an android blasts him to a standstill, at which point he’ll offer his wares for sale. He’s seemingly found his own inner peace, having done whatever needed to be done years ago. Amusingly, machines don’t seem to attack him, and that maybe because he’s so strong that they dare not mess with him.
Or they just don’t want him to stop in their spot and sing his song.
Song: Emil - Despair
Quote: “This pain! This sadness! This desperation! You know nothing about it!”
What, what happened to my friendo?! His song is full of anger and hate with the chorals pounding against the world. The years haven’t been kind to Emil, transforming his optimism into pessimism. His hope and optimism are gone as he lost his faith in the world around him. Eternity is a long time after all, and instead of staying on his path, he chooses to lash out onto the world, his anger a result of his weariness and pain of constantly seeing friends disappear.
Acute fans of Nier (and Drakengard) may note there’s a track missing from this list, partly because it’s canonicity is questionable, but more so because it never actually plays in either Nier game. We’ll take a look at it next time in part 2. Enjoy the songs!
EDIT: Route B.