This Is My Redemption Song - NieR: Automata
As if this game wasn't discussed heavily by everyone this year, and with damn good reason.
Even I already have two articles under my belt about this game and how it made me feel. Sad Gay Robots is a meaty piece on the themes of lesbianism, or just women loving women, that are rather prevasive throughout the game. When your cast is 99% women and even the creator confirms through interviews and extra material that yes, it's gay, gay people are people too, get over yourselves, it becomes a rather obvious reading and interpretation of the game, but I felt that me being a lesbian myself, a sword-swinging one on top, would make for an interesting analysis.
The other one I already did is going to be reflected a lot here. Weight Of The World is a more personal, introspective piece than Sad Gay Robots, instead talking about how the game made me face a reality and realize a lifelong dream of heroism.
Regardless of your political or personal inclinations or where you may live, 2017 has been an incredibly rough year for everyone, and as of the date I wrote this and first published this, it's still intending to try to take us all with it in various ways. I'm American, and personally am both very soured by pacifism and anarchism and inclined towards organized rebellion and revolution now. I was leaning that way anyways, but given my lifelong status of being poor and a minority on several levels and having to deal with hardships, be it my own or others' - whether I wanted to bear their weight or not, it's not hard to see why this would appeal to me. I want a safe, free world for everyone and to be able to protect everyone. Whether you're on the extreme other side of my beliefs though or closer to mine or the middle or what have you, though, we can all agree 2017 can very much leave the room now and give us all a chance to fucking breathe.
I'm as tired of it as you are, maybe in different ways, but I am. And with that, I drop the mention of politics, will agree to disagree for the sake of this, and move on instead to the real fromage. I'm not here to change anyone's mind on that, as I suspect you aren't.
The first half the year was dominated by another narrative. NieR: Automata. I'd never played nor seen any of the other Drakenier games, but was aware of how many of my friends were fans of the original NieR, so I decided to give this one a shot. Any game where I get to play as a badass swordswoman immediately gets put in front of my queue always. I had heard the original was depressing and will make you cry. I have felt that way about many other games before, the whole roller coaster of emotion that you wind up drenched in your own sweat, snot, and tears at the bottom of after the ride has come to a complete stop. Some leave you reeling long after you get out. Automata threw me for a loop like no other game ending in history has, and if you know me well, you know that a few other games have impacted me and how I've changed myself as a person in my real, waking life, games I still sing the praises of and will die on a hill to defend even now. Xenosaga, Final Fantasy 6, the Lunar games (of which you'll pry the Working Designs localizations only out of my cold, dead hands), and especially nowadays Senran Kagura, I'm looking at you and you know it.
So it's a lot for me to say Automata was the game, the catalyst, the spark I needed to ignite the idea within me that I was a hero.
I start off my article "Weight Of The World" with "I have started many articles and essays with a phrase akin to "All I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a swordsman" or "When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a knight" and ended some with "I became a samurai instead" or "I got my dream, and will work hard to not take it for granted" and so forth.
In all honesty, I should have started those with "All I've ever wanted in life is to become a hero" and ended with "I've yet to realize this dream" as sad as that is."
Something about stories of heroism and doing the right thing over just what's good and easy and simple, no matter how hard it is, to be exalted as a warrior and protector above all others, unstoppable by monsters or demons or gods or humanity itself, was what appealed to me as early as I could form memories. A bizarre fearlessness has always been a strong part of my person; indeed, my earliest memory is of the 1989 Lome Prieta Quake, the one that destroyed swaths of the Bay Area and is most famous for interrupting the World Series and obliterating the Embarcadero. I was about to turn three and my kid brother, my only sibling, wasn't even two months old yet. I remember being pulled out of the home by my moms as our house rolled horribly and stuff fell around us. I spent the whole time laughing. That, I believe, set the tone for the rest of my life. Granted it took time to evolve into a more solid identity and gain the skills needed to become that hero I wanted to be, but by kindergarten, I was sure I would grow up to be a swordsman of great renown. Fantasy books and video games like Dragon Quest were already a staple of my entertainment diet then. The first video game I ever bought myself was the first Final Fantasy when I was about 5. It had a sword and axe on the cartridge logo. How could I NOT buy it?
To be a hero, in most mythologies and cultures and real wars, you have to die. Usually in a noble and brilliantly stupid and memorable fashion. I was obsessed with this idea for years, ready to martyr myself and bear the weight of the world, all our sins, even give up my mortality and be a being unable to know the release of death if it meant we all could survive and be happy.
It wasn't until I met Koshka and joined the dojo I'm at and met my sensei and discovered the lineage I was being passed down and the history behind it all did I finally stop chasing death and started living life. I started going by what I was taught by them all; a real samurai, a real warrior, only trades her life for something of equal or greater value. Anything you were taught about samurai purposefully seeking death is sensationalist crap; they were ready to die if they had to, but until if or when that happened, they were taught to live, to thrive, to exist as an example to others instead, and that's the truth I take with me day to day now.
I have yet to find anything I would consider that outside of grandiose "what if" dream scenarios. Even Koshka, whom I'm now engaged to, agrees I am correct in this, and that she wouldn't want me to sacrifice myself for even her, since it'd mean she'd have to live in a world without me. It sounds selfish, but after a life of putting everyone and everything else ahead of yourself, putting your needs first is honestly a completely foreign concept. I still struggle with it.
My ultimate goal in life is to be someone reliable anyone and everyone can come to for whatever they may need help with. To do that, I need to live. To live, I need to put myself first. I need to learn to ask for and accept help and assistance. It doesn't make me or you weak to do so. It doesn't make me a horrible leader, for after all, a general is nothing without her troops.
I've always been the one elected leader for things, be it through the fact I am strong and capable, the part where I'm stubborn and running on pure willpower, the unrelenting optimism in spite of and not despite it all, the rousing speeches and advice I give, or just the fact that good or bad I'm the one with the sword. It's rarely if ever been me standing up and saying I'll take care of things, even less so to fuel my ego or image; something about me just has others electing me to these positions naturally, and with how things are going lately, a lot of people I know are a lot more genuinely scared or upset than they normally are. Not that I blame any of them for any reason they may now be soured on life or angry. But this year has been a culmination of all this, almost as if it were some kind of final boss gauntlet to test my abilities before the true final form of the last boss shows up to try to wreck it all to Hell.
And NieR: Automata is what helped me wake up to this and the fact that it wasn't until I dropped the pretentious bullshit about needing to fall on my own sword to be a hero and drop the need to martyr myself and no longer wished for a title of hero was when I became one. I had long since been a hero. The reason I kept getting chosen was because people saw me as this. A hero is just someone acting not just because they're afraid, but in spite of that fear as well. People see me not only stepping forth in front of the most horrifying of people or situations, they see me do it with confidence and a steadiness that not everyone who steps up has. I can handle situations people only dream of being able to. I had been doing the right thing this whole time, no matter what friends I'd lose, enemies I'd gain, allies I'd have show up after.
There's been people who have told me because of how I act in my day to day affairs even and am just so damn glad to be me in a way that doesn't drag anyone else down, in a way that only elevates others to their potential, that they have gained the confidence and happiness to be themselves. Be it their sexuality, gender identity, a dream they want to pursue, asking for something anyways, or just a general sense that their existence is worth it. It's being Atma that does it. I'm nothing less than a full legendary hero in their eyes, if not a folk hero for people the world over.
I see a lot of people talk about Automata and its themes in terms of it being a downer, a pessimistic message, about how we're all just cogs or trapped in a cycle of misery or meant to kill our emotions to survive. The great thing about games, about media, about art is everyone gets something different out of it, and while Word of God is the only one that can dictate what's canon, the only people who can validate how you felt about what you just experienced is pretty much limited to yourself. What I got out of it was immensely different from this, but then again, you're speaking to someone whom prefers Ending C to Ending D and related heavily to the character of A2.
A2 to me was a reflection of something I've become in many ways; yeah, my past is tragic and filled with betrayals and mistrust. I've lost contact with most people I once knew. I've disowned a lot of family, seen friends die younger than me, had friends burn their bridges with me over petty things. I didn't grow up in the greatest of places, a place now somewhat cleaned up and not all that great still, and have gone through some horrible physical and mental health issues I'm only now getting under control. Yet, somehow, her and I have a glimmer of hope for existence. There's a bit of optimism in her I saw as my own, the one I now carry and bear in spite of everything, to show that no matter what era life happens in or what's going on, there will always be at least one person willing to put themself out there to lead, to inspire, to fight.
It was stuff like that that made me respect the game and its narrative so much. That and so much more. I didn't think it could get any better until I got to what's known only as Ending E. I couldn't get up the next week without instantly starting to cry all over again over its themes and messages and what it meant to me and this whole wound it re-opened to finally heal properly; the wounds left on myself from when I was a bigger, more horrible martyr, from when I sought glory in death. And to think it was already mostly healed over from my past deeds and how people saw me and I never even noticed until I accepted that I'd gained what I sought so hard only by getting rid of it. Maybe chivalry isn't dead after all.
Well, it did get better when people I don't know, people I can't remember the usernames of, people I will never meet, people whom made the ultimate sacrifcie and deleted all their save data just so I could see the end, see the light, all came to my aid to see me through to the end of Automata. There's no way I'm not paying it forward so people can maybe see what I got out of the end.
I did say a samurai only trades her life for something of equal or greater value. This may not be my life, but believe me when I say my save file was given up in a cause of greater value to me; 80+ hours of work in a game to help someone else in the world, even if it winds up in the hands of someone I hate, elevate themselves to a place they can see themselves as both equal and grand. Because, to me, everyone deserves to get the end message out of this fantastic game that I did.
And that end message I got is "You are not disposable."
There really is no need for me to martyr myself. There never was. There never will be. This world's only got one Atma Weapon in it, and I intend to stick around for as long as this universe can handle having me in it. Weight of the world or not, I choose what to bear now, and can hold it and my head up higher. When both literal and figurative Hell and highwater come for you and you somehow hold your head up high, there's nothing you can't do. Because if I can, so can you. Yes, you.
So this is my redemption song. My song for everyone, but most of all, a song of redemption and forgiveness for myself and whom I once was. Because nowadays, because the truth is that I'm only one girl.
But sometimes, well, that's all it takes.
For those of us about to shout it loud, I salute you
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