REVIEW: ‘Nier Automata: YoRHa Boys’

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Nier Automata: YoRHa Boys

Nier Automata: YoRHa Boys is a science fiction novel published by Square Enix, written by Jun Eishima from an original story by Yoko Taro and translated by Stephen Kohler. Before a scanner designated 9S was teamed up with combat model 2B, there was an experimental unit of YoRHa called Experimental M Squadron. It was the first-ever YoRHa squad made entirely of male units. Lead by Instructor Black, the newly minted team has a lot to prove as they strive to excel in the eyes of YoRHa command and the Council of Humanity.

Like all great science fiction, the masterful game Nier Automata introduced players to a world that begged for further investigation. With the many centuries-old wars between the androids and the machines, the game sets up a huge narrative playground to explore. Some exploration of Nier Automata‘s world has already occurred with the short story anthology book Nier Automata: Short Story Long. Now, a more focused story comes to fans in the form of Nier Automata: YoRHa Boys. And as a fan of all things Nier Automata, I am happy to say it delivers on the interesting world it helps build-out.

Before the book gets to its main story, it delves a bit further back into the history of its world. Namely, the founding YoRHa itself. This is a spoiler-free review, so I won’t go into details, but this opening hit me quite hard. It builds and expands on some of the original game’s concepts in ways I wasn’t expecting. It also highlights a fundamental thing to know about Nier Automata: YoRHa Boys—it is not for those who are unfamiliar with the game it builds off of.

Like with Nier Automata itself, the story present here often runs on implication and subtext. Rarely is the importance of particular events spelled out for the reader. Instead, the story trusts the reader to be able to grasp the importance of what was just stated on their own. With this subtext often referring back to the events of the original game, Nier Automata: YoRHa Boys requires the reader to understand what those subtleties are hinting at. While an unfamiliar reader could follow the story events from one to the next, the context would be so lost that I can’t imagine the experience being nearly as good as someone who is familiar with the original material.

After the prologue finishes, the story moves on to its core narrative. Readers meet the members of Experimental M Squadron. With the story mostly focusing on YoRHa units. No. 3, No. 4, No. 6, No. 21, No. 22, and No.9, the characters each receive quick introductions with their broad personalities established. Along with Instructor Black, the team speedily departs YoRHa’s orbital base for the Earth’s surface. Their goal is to test out this new unit formation and see if it can improve the androids’ chances of defeating the invading machine army.

As Experimental M Squadron moves from mission to mission, things begin to falter for the team. Impossible missions and brutal sacrifices litter their many battles. Before long all the team can ask is why. What is command thinking? Why can’t they ever get support or abort a mission? Is something more going on that is being kept from the new squadron?

Nier Automata: YoRHa Boys is a unique experience. While it builds its core character cast well, it does require the reader to have a bit of patience. The exploration of characters feels a bit slow at times, and the narrative itself doesn’t come to a fulfilling conclusion in its own right. Rather, the story’s ending gains its strength from its connection to the larger world. This can feel especially true with what initially feels like the end. Though, in classic Taro fashion, there is a bit more to learn.

The bulk of Nier Automata: YoRHa Boys’ story follows the members of M Squadron exclusively. Once the story reaches its conclusion, the book jumps back to the beginning of the story to show elements that the reader didn’t originally experience. Points of view of characters outside the core group are utilized to fill in some of the blanks surrounding the primary narrative. This approach is classic Nier storytelling, and shouldn’t surprise any long-time fans.

Finally, once all the pieces of Nier Automata: YoRHa Boys’ story have been explained, the book takes a brief moment to explore a few of the tale’s side characters and what befalls them after the main story concludes. While this little addition is fun, it mostly serves to give fans a chance to see a few familiar faces from the franchise. I won’t say who shows up, but this moment brought a smile to my face. It was a warm way to wrap up an otherwise emotionally rough tale.

When all is said and done, Nier Automata: YoRHa Boys provides an interesting look into the expanded world of Nier Automata. It utilizes the themes and concepts introduced in the game to create a fun prequel story. While the book’s narrative itself is a bit thin, how it interacts with the larger lore should make it more than worthwhile for any fan of the original game’s world.

Nier Automata: YoRHa Boys is available now.

Nier Automata: YoRHa Boys 
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

When all is said and done, Nier Automata: YoRHa Boys provides an interesting look into the expanded world of Nier Automata. It utilizes the themes and concepts introduced in the game to create a fun prequel story.