Who Is Lily in the NieR Automata Anime?

NieR Automata Lily

NieR: Automata Ver1.1a is a retelling of NieR Automata’s beloved story and the anime’s second and third episodes make one thing clear: this retelling isn’t as straightforward as episode one’s depiction of Automata’s first mission might have indicated. While much of the episode revolves around pre-established lore contained in NieR: Automata’s side quests and data logs, some elements of the story have been changed and reframed to showcase the post-apocalyptic setting from different vantage points. Our newest point of view is from the perspective of a lesser-known character named Lily from NieR Automata and its related media. So, who exactly is Lily and why is she already showing up in the NieR anime?

This article contains spoilers for NieR Automata v1.1a and the game it’s based on.

When we first meet Lily in NieR Automata Ver1.1a, she is heading a resistance camp that has been fending off machine life forms for centuries. The Council of Humanity tells the resistance that reinforcements are on the way to help break the stalemate. Lily, jaded by prior experienced, appears unconvinced. “Those guys will never send any assistance!” she argues.

She is wrong and surprised when help does arrive in the form of two powerful YoRHa units carrying logic virus vaccines. Lily is particularly shocked, in particular, to see 2B, who she refers to as “Number 2.”

So how does Lily know “Number 2” in NieR Automata Ver1.1a and what is the nature of their relationship? The original NieR Automata might contain some hints.

In the NieR Automata‘s version of the story, an android named Anemone leads the Android Resistance instead of Lily. Like Lily, Anemone seems surprised to see 2B when 2B and 9S arrive at the resistance camp. Anemone also refers to 2B as Number 2, which comes as a surprise to 9S who doesn’t know why Anemone would “know about 2B.”

Anemone offers an explanation, claiming that the bunker told her to expect them. This is, at best, half true and a series of data entries stored on a nearby terminal reveals the truth of the matter.

These data entries, called novels in the NieR Automata‘s parlance, detail Anemone’s history with the resistance. The first novel, “Anemone: Encounter”, is a journal entry from Anemone’s point of view portraying some of her hardest days fighting in the 14th Machine War. By the point of “Anemone: Encounter,” Anemone is one of only nine remaining androids still capable of fighting the machines. Lily is also a member of that group.

Things begin to look up when the androids encounter a team of unfamiliar androids called YoRHa. Among this squad is a YoRHa unit called Number 2. Anemone, Lily, and the others welcome the YoRHa soldiers into their ranks after some initial hesitance. By the time the player can access this record in NieR: Automata, they know that that Number 2 isn’t a reference to 2B. Instead, it is a reference to A2, who looks like 2B and will be featured in later episodes of Ver1.1a.

In NieR Automata’s subsequent Anemone novels, Lily contracts a supposedly incurable logic virus but is saved by the YoRHa member called Number 21 before Anemone has a chance to put her out of her misery. The logic virus eventually evolves to resist Number 21’s interventions, though, partially dooming the team when they launch an attack on an enemy server. While Anemone manages to survive the mission, Lily does not. A2 is also presumed dead. This would certainly explain Anemone’s surprise when she sees 2B at the Resistance camp centuries later. It could also explain Lily’s surprise, assuming she serves a similar function in NieR Automata Ver1.1a. But if Lily is alive, does that imply that Anemone is not? Episode three does contain a scene where a forlorn Lily remembers those who she lost in the past. It seems reasonable to assume that Lily might be the only known survivor of a mission similar to the one that took her life in the events of NieR Automata, but that is still a matter of speculation at this point.

The story of NieR stretches across a vast array of mediums with various portrayals of the story imparting new meaning and understanding. Lily has appeared in NieR stage plays before and these stage plays can change from performance to performance. One static version of her story can be found in the manga YoRHa: Pearl Harbor Descent Record, too. The game’s writer, Yoko Taro, did say that NieR: Automata ver1.1a will feature changes to the original story. The weary iteration of Lily in NieR Automata Ver1.1a is one of our first major indicators of how substantial these changes might be.

The NieR Automata Ver1.1a anime is streaming on Crunchyroll. The NieR Automata game is available on the PS4, Switch, Xbox One, and PC.

Benjamin Maltbie
Benjamin is a writer from Upstate New York who has spent the past five years learning to survive the summers of Phoenix, Arizona. When he isn't playing video games, he is rambling at length about tabletop RPGs or diving down rabbit holes on Wikipedia. He has been writing about video games for the last twelve years and can't imagine stopping anytime soon.