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2B and 9S Relationship

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This page contains various information and facts about 2B and 9S relationship that were presented in the game and subsequent materials.

Q33. What kind of feelings did 9S harbor towards 2B? What kind of feelings did 2B harbor towards 9S?
No comment.
Yoko TaroStrategy Guide Q&A [1]

This was Yoko Taro's answer printed in Strategy Guide which came out Apr 30, 2017 - before NieR Music Concert: The Memories of Puppets and other materials came out.

Early Theory

The popular theory for a long time was that 9S had an internal conflict and a love/hate relationship with 2B thus making everything between them complicated. Where in fact their feelings towards each other were pretty simple - it's the circumstances they were trapped in were complicated.

This theory mostly came from an early unfinished Memory Cage translation, [****], Soul Box scene, 2B clone fight as well as general stereotypes surrounding the usual hunter/victim themes.

Memory Cage

With the full translation of Memory Cage, we learned that 9S did not want to cold-heartedly kill 2B there (it was his first “life” with 2B too) and it was merely a self-defense which he did not enjoy at all:

"I'm sorry."

"So it wasn't just a misunderstanding,"

"I wish it really were a misunderstanding," he thinks to himself. That 2B was willing to kill him is just too much. With each of his words comes inadvertent changes in his expression and tone, showing small glimpses of his doubts. Though soon, those doubts turn to confidence and that confidence becomes reality.

"I really didn't want to have to do this ..."

He didn't hack her solely for the purpose of taking control of her body and killing her. There's something he needed to know, no matter the cost.

—9S, Memory Cage [2]

And after learning why 2B didn’t kill him right away he dies in peace:

He only has a few seconds remaining before his "current self" is crushed by the virus and disappears. He watches helplessly as the white space around him becomes painted over by black.

"Is this ... it ..."
The location from which 2B received her orders was from the access point within the desert. There were so many opportunities for her to kill him before they even reached their destination. There was no place to hide, the footing in the sand was terrible, and 2B is easily the better fighter — she had all the advantages in the world. Nevertheless, 2B didn't even attempt to attack him until they were already inside the temple. But 9S was able to see her memories, and find the answer to all of that.
"2B sure is clumsy ..."
It was all so she could end it quickly. So 9S could die without realizing what was happening.
The black spheres fill in the remaining space, leaving no gaps. However, somehow it's a strange and quiet feeling. 9S feels neither fear nor pain.
"Goodbye, 2B ..."

—9S, Memory Cage [2]

****

Read: ****

Soul Box

Soul Box scene has a rather big localization issue. 9S was not shouting that his memories were his and his alone with anger. In fact he was shouting in desperation that those memories of 2B were his treasure. Which goes a long way since in Route B 9S learns that some machines had so-called "treasures".

That is further explained in the Precious Things recital drama:

Pod 042 (narration): Those memories are his greatest treasure.
Pod 042 (narration): The person he treasures above all else.
—Precious Things [3]

9S did not enjoy "stabbing" 2B either. In fact that was a pivotal moment for his mental and physical breakdown.

I am standing in my own memory region. Fragments of my past are reflected on multiple screens. And standing right in the middle of my memory region is...her.

That's right...this is the one place I can meet her.
"2B's data...even if these are memories, I..."
All the surrounding screens are filled with the memories I have with 2B. No matter where I look, she's there. I approach her on unsteady feet. Just as I reached out to touch her, black noise appeared and mercilessly trampled over my memories.
"Stop it...stop it..."
Everything is fading away. Everything I've treasured. They're falling apart. They're being corroded. They're being taken away.
"Stop it!!!!"
I swung my sword at the black shaped humanoid that overtook 2B. I screamed and cried, swinging my sword heedlessly and tearing everything apart.
"Stay the hell out of my god damn memories! These belong to me and me alone! Get away from them!"
The pod warns me of damage to my memory region, but I don't give a damn right now. I don't give a damn right now. I straddled the prone figure and thrust my sword into it. Over, and over, and over again. My screams are not stopping. The thing beneath my body took 2B's form as my stabs drew blood. But she doesn't even smile. She has a blank expression, her body cold like a doll. But the feeling of my sword sinking into her is much too real and vivid.
My crazed screams turn into broken laughter in my throat.
"Ha....hahaha.......haha!!"
My tears have all dried up. My heart is torn.
I'm breaking
Only silence remains as the unit beneath me ceased functioning, its core losing light.
That's enough. Let's bring an end to this. To this world...and to me.

—9S, Strategy Guide/Game Chapters Comments [4]

From Strategy Guide and Precious Things we know that 9S was corrupted some time before he entered the Tower. And since the virus was corroding his memories and taking them away - Soul Box is an obvious place where it happened.

Furthermore, A Long Story shows us what 9S was thinking when laughing

I'll kill anyone who hurts 2B. I'll kill anyone who touches 2B. I'll kill anyone who gets close to 2B. I'll kill anyone who looks at 2B. Because the only one who's allowed to look at 2B is me. The only one who's allowed to get close to 2B is me. The only one who's allowed to touch 2B is me. The only one who's allowed to hurt 2B is me. The only one allowed to…
—9S, A Long Story [5]

2B Clones Fight

Again, side materials clarify that 9S was not doing it because of his hatred towards 2B

Pod 042 (narration): Reality and fiction blend together.

Pod 042 (narration): With clouded consciousness, unit 9S carries himself forward, his legs heavy.
Pod 042 (narration): He'll defeat as many enemies as possible, even if he is alone.
Pod 042 (narration): As if in response to that wish, a new enemy appears.
9S: Khh ...
Pod 042 (narration): Many enemies appear in front of him.
Pod 042 (narration): They're ... androids.
Pod 042 (narration): They're ... YoRHa units.
9S: 2B models?
Pod 042 (narration): The person he treasures above all else.
Pod 042 (narration): Someone who resides in a location out of his reach.
9S: Heh ... Heheheh ...
9S: I'm glad I got to see you here. I truly am.
(9S gives a distorted smile.)
9S: I'll tear you apart ... Every last one of you!
Pod 042 (narration): 9S draws his sword.

Pod 042 (narration): Is this an act of murderous intent? Or is it perhaps done out of love? It's no longer possible to tell.
—Precious Things [3]

And from A Long Story:

When 9S saw the 2B copies, he thought that the machines were trying to mess with him again, like what they tried with 21O. They probably wanted to see him get killed by 2B; see his face twist in despair, watch him as he cries and screams, he thought.

Silly machines. Despair? Cry and scream? But why would I do that? When there are so many 2Bs right in front of me.
"I'm glad…I'm really glad to be meeting you here…"
I'm glad that 2B isn't walking around somewhere I don't know about. If it's here, I can reach her. I tear off my visor. There's no need to hide anything. There's no need for extra information. I want to see directly. 2B's figure. The 2B that I can touch if I just reach out, reflected in these eyes, and then.
"All of you…"
I can't hold down my bubbling laughter.
"Because I'm going to destroy all of you!"
Making 2B models without permission? I can't forgive that. Breathing life into 2B models without permission? I can't forgive that. That's why, with these hands, I'm going to destroy them. That's right. The only one who is allowed to destroy 2B is me.
"I'll shatter every last one of you into pieces!"
Because you're all mine. I won't hand you over to anyone. …Not even if it's to 2B herself.

—A Long Story [5]

Furthermore, English Voice Acting for “2B I am going to kill you now” line is different as there is no audible hatred presented in Japanese.

So 2B and 9S are just good friends?

The Game

There is no point in mentioning every single moment that shows how much 2B and 9S loved each other. But here are some notable ones in no particular order.

Read: Weapon Stories of Cruel Blood Oath and Virtuous Treaty.

The game has sidequests like Amnesia where 2B shows jealousy when 9S supposedly helps a pretty woman (we are going to disregard a baseless theory about 2B doing this just because she wanted to protect 9S from discovering E unit she somehow recognized); Parallels with quests like Wandering Couple and Photographs. And, of course, Gathering Keepsakes ending.

9S reaction to 2B’s compliment during her maintenance at the start of the game, him suggesting to go shopping together and buy 2B a T-shirt is what old humans used to call a date.

2B flight unit message sounds like an awkward confession especially considering that memories are the most important thing androids could have.

During Ending D, 9S mentions that he was happy to be with someone, it was like he had a family. This comes as an opposite of him being lonely during the time when he worked alone rather than his definitive feeling about 2B.

Both EN and JP versions of Weight of the World tracks have huge romantic vibes.

Side Materials

There is no point in mentioning every single moment that shows how much 2B and 9S loved each other. But here are some notable ones in no particular order.

The palm of her hand feels strange as it resists, a feeling she's never experienced before. It's not like this is the first time she's been made to destroy a friend's body. When another member of YoRHa became inoperable on the battlefield, and she had to destroy them, she didn't feel anything like this. She wonders if she's finished destroying him yet.

The feeling known as guilt. Or perhaps even remorse. But regardless of what it is, emotions are forbidden. In the moment she tries to suppress those forbidden feelings, 2B feels something else well up within her, as if to resist that. Memories of 9S.

His voice as he'd shout, '2B'. The smile he made when when he told her how fun it was to have a partner — it was such a bashful smile. She wonders during which mission it was when he was so shocked by her unexpected clumsiness, as well.
—Memory Cage [2]
After Adam revealed impaled 9S:
She’ll never forgive this machine lifeform. Because...he hurt 9S!!
—Strategy Guide/Game Chapters Comments [4]
9S (narration): What was most important to me ... was being together with 2B.
—Precious Things [3]
My first impression was that she was a cold person. But how many times did she have to kill me by then? She must have tried to keep her distance as to not get attached. Without knowing any of that, I was just happy to be with someone. I didn’t know how much that made 2B suffer; I was simply and truly happy that she was by my side.
—9S, A Long Story, Ending D [6]

Each time 9S finds out about 2B's mission to kill him, he accepts that sometimes to the point of committing suicide or not resisting to make it easier for her. (Memory Cage, Memory Thorn, A Repeating Prayer).

Pod 153 (narration): The hand he was attempting to stroke 2B's cheek with no longer existed.
9S: I-If it's for you, 2B ... I — I'd easily ... throw my life away …
—A Repeating Prayer [7]

At some point (Memory Thorn) 2B decides to rather die than kill 9S, but 9S kills himself instead and makes a promise with her - to continue killing him as that way they’ll meet again (hence Contract/Treaty/Oath in their weapon names).

Said promise goes a long way and is mentioned in several side materials as well as in the lyrics of Song of a Broken World.

Precious Things goes as direct as it could be:

9S: I am who I am ... because of 2B ...

9S: I have a reason to live ... because of those memories ...
9S: So ... please ... don't take them from me ...
Pod 042 (narration): To him,
Pod 042 (narration): calling her family feels too unreasonable.

Pod 042 (narration): But calling her a lover feels too distant.
—Precious Things [3]

The last line reads as “Not exactly a family and closer than lovers”. The phrasing is a bit vague due to a translation from Japanese. See explanations in this [Reddit Post]

The term applicable to “closer than lovers” is soulmates. And there is a lot of black/white, virtuous/cruel and weapon stories background images symbolism supporting that in the game. Their love is so strong that they literally can’t live without each other (see Route C, Farewell).

Note Fun fact: Black box “clink” scene at the end of prologue is very similar to the pact that binds two souls from Drakengard: Video, Images

But they are androids and human terms and feelings don’t apply to them!

If the game shows us something it is that androids (and some machines to a certain extent) are capable of the full range of human emotions. They openly talk about romantic love, call themselves couples, families (although this concept is not very applicable to them, but 21O was fascinated by it nonetheless, for example).

Androids even have a working chemical system in their circuits similar to dopamine as evident by Jackass Research quest. (This could also be a throwback to the player since Taro often mentions how people love to kill things in games).

That said, they struggle with identifying their emotions:

Do the androids in NieR:Automata have sexual desires? If so, how are they fulfilled?

Yoko Taro: The androids in NieR: Automata don’t have so-called sexual desires. But this desire is very vague. They don’t quite know what they feel. I think that humans are also unable to distinguish between “what is sexual desire” and “what is love”. Based on this idea, I also made the androids struggle with identifying sexuality, love, anger, and other emotions.

Yoko TaroInterview with Yoko Taro: Deleting files to give the game its ending [8]

And it is evident with 2B and 9S too - they never say that they love each other but rather show it with their actions. Not to mention that emotions are prohibited for YoRHa (even 9S says that during Adam’s torture despite him making jokes about that rule and how 2B constantly follows it [4]).

2B (narration): Even so, I continued on by his side, without even knowing the name of the emotion I'd been feeling.
—Precious Things [3]
9S: I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel something special towards 2B.
—A Repeating Prayer [7]
9S as he’s being strangled by 2B:

Her hands wrap themselves around my neck.
Feeling your weight on me, feeling the warmth of your hands...my throat is being crushed, slowly but surely.
I’ve lost my voice.
But, I thought…
...that we’re touching each other right now.
Almost as if - I’m directly connected...to...you...

—Strategy Guide/Game Chapters Comments [4]

But they don’t have genders!

Androids do have genders (2B/9S were surprised that machines had them as well). But not in a biological sense (since androids are not biological):

The owner of said figure isn't even a human, nor does she have a sex, in a biological sense
—Memory Cage [2]

Since androids can emulate everything humans have - they assign themselves genders and act accordingly.

No genitals!

It is true that Taro did not give a straight answer to that question:

Q4. Do androids, as well as Adam and Eve, have reproductive organs? Do they use them?
They do not have them right after their ‘birth’. Since reproductive organs were hidden in most of the information from humans, they failed to copy those organs. However, during their learning process, they may gain body parts that serve as reproductive organs. Since they can copy anything, they can create semen, change their sex, and even mimic pregnancy to a certain extent, but since they cannot become truly organic lifeforms, they will not be able to undergo insemination or mitosis. They can only create very convincing imitations of the real thing using other materials.
Yoko TaroStrategy Guide Q&A [1]

That said, his answer seemed like he was talking mostly about Adam/Eve. And during Dinner Spoiler Talk Show:

At the very end of the stream, 1:45:52. Taro comments a question about whether Adam and Eve had reproductive organs. He says that he first answered that as a definite yes but later decided that some people might not like it and left it to player's interpretation.
—NieR Automata Dinner Talk Show [9]

At the end of the day we see naked Adam and Eve right after their birth.

Though the fact that 2B and 9S were not surprised to see what machines were doing before Adam’s birth, their reaction to “how do you make children” question and that they know what genitals actually are (when talking about how humans enjoyed looking at flower’s genitals) is enough evidence to conclude that the worst case scenario for them is they don’t have genitals at birth but are well aware of their functions.

Furthermore, old models like Devola and Popola were indistinguishable from humans and Devola was known to be “playful” when drunk. And it is Yoko Taro we are talking about who wrote characters like Octa.

Yoko Taro tweets and other mentions of 2B/9S

Yoko Taro is very active on Twitter and often comments on various cosplay and fanart that he likes. And with 9S2B being the most popular (after 2B) topic of fan content for NieR Automata he commented on those too. Here are some of his tweets:

And from one of his interviews:

Yoko Taro: If it’s possible please make a fanzine about NieR Automata in highschool girl version

Saito: For example, I think we are happy with a fan art of 2B and 9S that enjoy shopping together with holding hands.

Yoko Taro: Doesn’t it feels so good looking at it? I wish fans can make things I can’t write anyway. Expanding the world and the characters you love. Because there are times when it’s easier to understand that “she is such a character” by watching fan art. With such a persuasive power, I think that it will become known as “a fact” in other fans’ mind. With such expressive power, I am happy to give answers and commentary to people who make the art
—Excerpt of NieR Automata’s Final Promotional Event Interview [10]

Not long after that interview, Yoko Taro had a meeting with fans and a very popular 9S2B artist Ring: https://twitter.com/quanjiang1/status/924601308912291840

During NieR Automata Dinner Talk Show:

Taro was asking each voice actor what their character thought about humanity. Ishikawa said that 2B wanted to do with 9S things which people used to do. Like, buy a T-Shirt. Others suggested matching ones.
—NieR Automata Dinner Talk Show [9]

Notes