The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: 86 EIGHTY-SIX

86 EIGHTY-SIX: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.” –Henry David Thoreau

After the Morpho’s self-destruction hurls Shinei’s Reginleif clear of the blast, a lone Legion unit approaches, intent on harvesting his brain. Shinei experiences a gripping vision, where he struggles to accept that he’s no longer got a purpose now that everyone dear to him is gone. However, support fire from allied forces save him, and it turns out Vladilena has arrived. Although she has no idea she’s talking to Shinei, the pair exchange their thoughts behind what makes something worth fighting for. Shinei learns that his friends have survived, and with Giad reinforcements arriving, Vladilena prepares to return to San Magnolia; Ernest has arranged for Giad forces to help survivors in San Magnolia out. Federica believes that meeting Vladilena again has given Shinei new purpose in life: spurred on by the fact that she hasn’t given up, Shinei and his friends promise to do what they can, too, and shortly after Night of the Holy Birth, they return to Giad’s military. Shinei visits Eugene’s grave and apologises for failing to protect him. Here, he runs into Marcel and Nina, reconciling with both and promising to continue on with protecting what Eugene had sought to defend. Shinei later leaves the old dog tags at the memorial, having made peace with the past, but he, Raiden, Anju, Theoto and Kurena are all surprised to learn that Vladilena is their new commander. It’s a tearful meeting as Vladilena finally is able to put faces to names, and most of all, meet the people that she’d once tried so hard to make a connection with. Having finally met at last, Vladilena and Shinei resolve to continue puShineig forwards into the future and fight the Legion to protect that which they hold dear. This is the ending of 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s animated adaptation for the present, and with it, a nearly year-long journey draws to a close. Through its run, 86 EIGHTY-SIX covered an impressive breadth of topics, from how ethnocentrism can lead to complacency and calamity, to the idea that being alive allows one the opportunity to regain their purpose where death would only deprive one of all hope, and that people are capable of change as a result of their experiences no matter how firmly entrenched they are in their own beliefs. While this series has framed these learnings around a brutal war with an unfeeling, mechanical foe and portrayed the horrors of warfare in its own right, 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s strongest point lies in its characters.

While Shinei had begun 86 EIGHTY-SIX a lone wolf, moving from squadron to squadron after surviving endless battles, his time with Raiden, Theoto, Kurena and Anju under Vladilena’s command begins to change him: his squad-mates are no longer people who come and go, but rather, people who promise to stick it out with him. Indeed, by accompanying Shinei when he takes out Shōrei, and in continuing to remain by his side when he reaches the Federacy of Giad, Theoto, Raiden, Anju and Kurena demonstrate to Shinei the strength of certain bonds amongst people who’ve endured countless trials together: to Shinei, there is no greater show of trust and resolve, since his friends have, seemingly against all odds, continued to survive with him through many dangers. When Vladilena returns into his life, being constantly shown how people can live on and find new purpose catalyses the final change of heart that leads Shinei to finally realise that there is more to life than dying, and that there is more to living than merely welcoming and embracing death itself. In those moments when Shinei is faced with death at the hands of a Legion, an indescribable terror seizes him; he’s not worried for himself, but rather, than he will face and end without having the chance to have seen Vladilena, Theoto, Raiden, Kurena and Anju off. Although Shinei had not realised it at the time, interacting with them, and then seeing Vladilena on the battlefield again, made coherent something Shinei had been worried about; all he had known was death and destruction, and so, he’d sought out death as being the purpose in life, to put others out of their misery and meet a better end than those who’d fallen to the Legion. However, when this ended, and Shinei was stripped of his purpose, he wandered through life without any aim until the battlefield found him again, and this time, it took a near-death experience to show Shinei what would be more visible to people blessed with a more ordinary life: that purpose is unfixed, mutating, and as one chapter on one’s life closes, another will begin. The key here is being able to spot these opportunities and capitalise on them to take a step forwards, no matter how uncertain the future may be. This is, of course, contingent on one’s being alive to do so.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I wrote about 86 EIGHTY-SIX, it would’ve been late January, a full month after the twenty-first episode had concluded. I’d fallen quite far behind on things, and therefore did not have the time to watch 86 EIGHTY-SIX in December, so I spent a few days in January catching up on things. Like Girls und Panzer, three months separated 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s final two episodes from the remainder of the series, and similarly to how I remembered things, the period between the series respective finales were characterised as being busy.

  • Over the past season, I’ve been keeping up with only two active series: Slow Start‘s in the books now, and I was also following World’s End Harem, a series that managed to create a curious thriller despite its raunchy premise. The former proved fun and accompanied me through the move, while the latter was interesting, and while I don’t have much to say about it as of yet, I was moderately impressed with how the latter was able to weave a sci-fi story into things. There may be a discussion on this in the future, but for the present, my focus is on 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s finale.

  • Rather than being an action-packed finale, as one might expect of the typical science fiction, 86 EIGHTY-SIX uses its final two episodes to act as a lengthy (and satisfying) dénouement to Shinei’s journey to meet Vladilena. Because of how 86 EIGHTY-SIX closed things off, I was left with the distinct feeling that the war against the Legion was ultimately secondary to Shinei’s internal conflict: had this series been about warfare itself, human nature and the belief that people should be free to choose their futures without another force controlling said futures, it would’ve unfolded more like a Gundam series.

  • That two entire episodes are devoted to having Shinei express pure relief at his friends’ safety shows this series is more concerned with the human nature of things, than it is about the Juggernauts and other hardware that the human forces, and the Legion, possess. While the eponymous Gundams in the Gundam universe play a central role to things, being symbols of hope and power, and mobile suit development is often tied with character growth, the mecha in 86 EIGHTY-SIX are simply a means to an end. This is the primary reason why I’m not terribly worried about the ramifications of the mecha design in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, or the series’ general lack of exploration regarding alternate weapons and strategies that might be employed against a hypothetical grey-goo scenario.

  • As the Legion are self-replicating automata, they can be treated as a much larger (and therefore, more manageable) form of grey-goo: it is thought that use of software viruses to interfere with their capabilities or communications, depriving them of their power supply and use of directed energy weapons would be sufficient to handle the Legion. However, such countermeasures would’ve rendered the Colorata, and by extension, Shinei’s entire story, unnecessary. Logic would dictate that, were efficient solutions been in place, then there would have been no need to create the Juggernauts, and therefore, no story.

  • As it is, the seeming lapses in judgement are necessary to create the story at hand and write something that can present the themes that Toru Asakura had intended to tell, and one of the things in 86 EIGHTY-SIX that has endured throughout the series’ entire run is the juxtaposition between the serious and the comical moments. While Shinei is dealing with complicated matters, he and the people around him are human. As such, after Frederica spots Shinei speaking with Vladilena and peers into his mind, she’s able to confirm something that viewers had been thinking since 86 EIGHTY-SIX started: that Vladilena is that “special person” to Shinei. Her eyes sparkle in excitement, and this is something that Shinei’s Reginleif is apparently able to capture with its external cameras.

  • The exchange between Vladilena and Shinei is not the first conversation they share, but it is the first time both are unknowingly close to one another; Shinei decides not to reveal himself to her just yet, feeling that if they are to meet, then at the very least, they should meet when he’s in a more dignified position. This frustrates Frederica, who feels that Shinei could’ve fulfilled a longstanding promise of sorts, but I’d tend to agree with Shinei’s decision here from a narrative standpoint; choosing to wait shows that Shinei has enough faith in himself that he will be able to meet with Vladilena again in the future. It turns out the entire conversation between Shinei and Vladilena was recorded, and everyone wastes no time in poking fun at Shinei after he returns from the infirmary with his post-mission report.

  • 86 EIGHTY-SIX had always been particularly open about Shinei and Vladelina, using more subtle gestures during its run to hint at where things were headed. However, befitting of the fact that Shinei and his friends are still youth (and Lieutenant Colonel Wenzel isn’t too old, either), they gently nudge him about things. The fact that Raiden, Theoto, Anju and Kurena have survived alongside Shinei show both their own determination and resilience, as well as the fact that while Shinei regards himself as cursed to live until his time is up, those around him regard him warmly. It is not lost on me that Shinei resembles Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s Claudia, who had similarly survived battle after battle while her allies fell, leaving her withdrawn and grim. When placed with a squad that was plucky and spirited, Claudia had begun to change, and in doing so, found the strength to fight for those around her.

  • The human sides of 86 EIGHTY-SIX is something that one “Lambdalith” appears to be unable to grasp: during the height of 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s run, this individual claimed that the series made numerous gaffes about the technical elements, and professed to possess a profound understand of the series few others would have. Such individuals are always a disruption in discussions: they’re so insistent on their own correctness that they fail to see perspectives beyond their own. “Lambdalith” became known to me after making the claim that this blog was “spam” when a commenter at Random Curiosity linked back here, and struggled with the idea that there could be other writers out there, besides Random Curiosity’s, that could offer meaningful conversation on things like Super Cub. I would tend to argue that focusing on philosophy in a slice-of-life anime like Super Cub is to be pedantic: the goal of such anime is to make a statement about life in general, rather than a company’s mission, but that a conversation for another time.

  • As such, I am glad that “Lamdalith” has not returned to comment on 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s finale episodes: doubtlessly, one would be treated to irrelevant complaints on technical shortcomings in the series that add no value to the discussion, or baseless accusations that other commenters with opinions differing their own were spammers. Back in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, Shinei had been as stoic and taciturn as Gundam 00‘s Setsuna F. Seiei throughout much of 86 EIGHTY-SIX, but like Claudia, who underwent considerable growth as a result of the people around her, Shinei has undergone the same process. Both Warlords of Sigrdrifa and 86 EIGHTY-SIX share this in common, although the latter holds the clear edge in world-building and framing the story for their respective protagonist’s experiences. As it stands, seeing Shinei smile was the surest sign that he’s happy to be here, besides those who matter most to him.

  • Since 86 EIGHTY-SIX entered its dénouement, humourous moments become common again. Unlike series that are all-business, the presence of funny faces and exaggerated facial expressions indicate that despite a heavier premise, 86 EIGHTY-SIX is about the human side of things, first and foremost. Frederica provides most of these moments in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, but the fact she’s experienced so much, in conjunction with her powers, allows her to present both sides of the coin. After everything wraps up, it turns out that Frederica had fallen behind on her studies, and Zimerman forces her to catch up before the Night of the Holy Birth arrives.

  • One thing that 86 EIGHTY-SIX had particularly exceled in was how it portrayed the passage of time: when scenes transition, they are accompanied by a calendar date. Gaps in the dates are meant to show how certain experiences require a bit of time to process, and that things don’t happen overnight. On Night of the Holy Birth (a thinly veiled version of Christmas with the same customs we’re familiar with), Zimerman gifts to Shinei and his friends things that are related to their hobbies, and everyone is surprised that they’re able to celebrate something like this even in spite of the fact that the war against the Legion is ongoing, and the losses they’ve sustained earlier.

  • Despite their surprise, everyone settles into their hobbies quite nicely: Anju impresses her classmates at cooking school, while Kurena finally decides to buy the jacket she’d been eying and turns a few heads when she steps out of the store with a spring in her step. Meanwhile, Theoto is enjoying the intermittent peace to sketch, and Raiden’s working on a mechanical project of sorts. Shinei decides to make desserts with Frederica, who’s evidently finished her studies. The resulting product is so good, even Anju is impressed, showing how even Shinei can find something new to immersive himself in outside of battle.

  • However, as soldiers, Shinei and the others soon find themselves being recalled back to the battlefield. Zimerman notes that their next unit commander is a bit of a controversial figure that he’d personally approved of, and while he’d worried about Shinei’s team would not agree with the arrangement, it turns out they wholeheartedly welcome their new commander. Storytelling has people returning into one another’s lives in interesting ways in fiction, although in reality, fate can also work in curious ways.

  • One of the more touching moments was watching Shinei reconcile with both Marcel and Nina; while visiting Eugene’s grave, Shinei runs into both here. Unlike his past self, Shinei expresses his remorse to Marcel, showing him that he’d accepted responsibility for what happened to him. However, as it turns out, Marcel had also felt guilty about not doing more to keep Eugene alive, and had pinned the blame on Shinei to assuage his own lingering regrets. Being able to talk to Shinei allows Marcel to get his feelings out, and help him to find the strength needed to move forwards to protect what Eugene had sought to when he joined the forces.

  • Similarly, while Eugene’s younger sister, Nina, had loathed Shinei for letting her brother die despite his world, she’s since been able to reconcile with the fact he’d been fighting to protect her, and moreover, in his stead, others are now doing the same. Nina is able to properly express her thanks to Shinei, and as a mark of his own growth, Shinei acknowledges this. Death is always a tricky topic, and while I dislike sharing my own thoughts on things, I am of the mind that the best way to honour the deceased is to live life with integrity and do one’s best: this is something 86 EIGHTY-SIX is conveying in its finale.

  • Winter soon gives way to spring, and Shinei’s team returns to the frontlines with new Reginleifs. While painting their custom emblems on, Theoto wonders why Shinei is sticking to his old emblem of a headless reaper, feeling it to be bad luck. However, Shinei’s reply speaks volumes to how far he has come: he sees surviving six years with this logo makes it lucky. Conversation soon turns to their new commander, and in subsequent moments, the perspective switches back over to Fido, who records footage ahead of everyone’s thoughts.

  • Fido had much more of a minimal presence during 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half, but seeing its recordings of Shinei’s teams prior to Vladilena’s arrival reminds viewers that Fido is solidly, dependably present, through both the tough times and easier moments. While the whole team is excited to finally meet their “Handler One”, the most standout moment for me was Theoto presenting his drawings. Initially, Theoto and the others had thought very poorly of Vladilena, expecting her to resign her post as their previous handlers had, but after she stuck it out with them, earned their respect. This is reflected in Theoto’s drawings, who present her as becoming more heroic, and in his last frame, he suggests that Vladilena and Shinei stand a chance with one another, leading an irate Kurena to chase him around and declare that Vladilena and Shinei have no chance on the virtue that she’d known him longer.

  • What happened to San Magnolia and Vladilena is also shown in the finale: as it turns out, the Legion overran San Magnolia, but Vladilena and members of her faction were determined to fight to the bitter end. While San Magnolia and their capital is ravaged, people survive, and the Federacy of Giad step in on a humanitarian mission to save and support all survivors. While some of the Alba remain committed to their backwards thinking, many experience a shift in thinking and welcome help from Giad: this may mark an end to the Alba’s belief in their own racial superiority as they observe for themselves how other nations, and their people, conduct themselves.

  • When the Giad forces arrive and link up with what’s left of the San Magnolia’s armed forces, Vladilena consents to join so she can continue to defend that which is dear to her. Vladilena may not have had much screen time during 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half, but her experiences during the Legion invasion only serve to reinforce her own beliefs and leave her more determined to do what’s right. In this way, the Vladilena at the end of 86 EIGHTY-SIX is not merely an idealistic naïveté, but rather, someone who now has seen firsthand what the Colorata had been dying for and therefore, has her own measure of what Shinei and former Undertaker squad, have experienced.

  • When Henrietta and Vladilena have a chance to meet up and unwind after being extricated from harm’s way, Henrietta opts to join the Giad forces, too: she was greatly surprised to learn that the para-RAID system Giad had been using is more or less derived off the same system as the San Magnolian designs. This is what leads Vladilena to conclude that Shinei and his team survived: the only way for the para-RAID system to have been so similar would have been if the technology had been reverse engineered, whole-sale, from a functional San Magnolian unit.

  • This fuels Vladilena’s intense desire to link up with the group she’d once commanded from afar, and this time around, Henrietta consents to also join the Giad forces, feeling that this is the best course of action that would allow her to continue her research. Henrietta and Vladilena may have had their differences earlier on, but when everything is said and done, the two do care greatly for one another. The terminal on Henrietta’s monitor suggests she’s trying to decrypt files, likely related to para-RAID research: because the text is different enough from the console logs I normally get while trying to debug, I rest easier knowing that no one can call out Asakura for not being accurate to reality.

  • It should become plain that Asakura is no Tom Clancy: while 86 EIGHTY-SIX features a strong military component, the focus of the story is on the human aspects of things, and Asakura clearly doesn’t have the same background as Clancy and his contemporaries. Fortunately, viewers primarily have focused on the story rather than the technical details, and speaking to the clarity of writing within this work, viewers and readers alike both walked away with a satisfying and enjoyable experience. Of course, there are exceptions: one closed-minded individual who claimed that 86 EIGHTY-SIX needed to “be at least a bit more subtle in what they were trying to tell”. Naturally, I disagree: if a work was so subtle that only viewers with a keen eye for nuance, or a background in literature, could approach it, then it has failed.

  • As it stands, there will always be individuals who believe themselves to be indisputable experts on most everything during internet discussions, and in the absence of evidence to suggest said individuals are acting in good faith, I find it easies to pay them no mind. Sardonic and patronising commentary insulting a given work (or its fans) is the height of irrelevance; per Les Stroud, if having a conversation with someone who is dismissive and disrespectful, there is no more discussion to be had precisely because in their closed-mindedness, they’ve shut the door to hearing others out. Regardless of whether it is face-to-face or online, I contend that there is no room for sarcasm anywhere: shooting straight and being honest avoids miscommunication, and it makes one’s opinions more respectable.

  • 86 EIGHTY-SIX succeeds in telling the story it intended to tell, and the finale was a satisfying, conclusive one. After Shinei and Vladilena had come so close to meeting during the penultimate episode, all signs pointed to an eventual in-person meeting between the two. 86 EIGHTY-SIX does not disappoint in this regard: the final moment is prolonged, deliberately drawn out to show the enormity of Vladilena, Shinei, Raiden, Theoto, Anju and Kurena finally meeting one another face-to-face. This particular scenario was reminiscent of my own experiences; the ongoing health crisis had meant I largely worked from home, and save my supervisor, I’d never actually met anyone on my team in person until the company Christmas party.

  • From a narrative standpoint, 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s anime adaptation could end here, and still remain a satisfactory conclusion to things; Shinei has now appreciated that there is worth to staying alive and fighting for what matters to him, spurred on by the fact that Vladilena had done the same, and now, their paths have converged. This was the journey the anime had sought to present, and while I’ve heard that we’ve only covered the first three volumes of the light novels, and there are a total of eleven volumes at the time of writing. There is, in other words, plenty of material to continue adapting if 86 EIGHTY-SIX has strong sales.

  • The brilliant blue skies and verdant fields of 86 EIGHTY-SIX have long stood out to me, creating a sense of contrast between how beautiful their world is during times of peace, and how grim things can get in war. When 86 EIGHTY-SIX first began airing, the juxtaposition had led me to wonder if this anime would convey a similar aesthetic as did 2010’s Sora no Woto. The themes in both series ended up being dramatically different, as did the respective worlds each was set in; Sora no Woto had particularly stood out to me because it created a cozier world, whereas here in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, the world is a bit larger.

  • Since Frederica is around, the mood is light as she suggests taking a photograph of everyone together. Frederica had proven to be an integral part of 86 EIGHTY-SIX; despite her young age and occasionally bratty tendencies, when the moment calls for it, she’s able to ask the piercing questions that forces Shinei to re-evaluate his strategies. When times are less tense, she provides much of the humour, reminding viewers that for all of the danger that the Legion pose to their world, there are still things that are worth smiling about from time to time.

  • With 86 EIGHTY-SIX at an end for the present, I have no qualms issuing this series an A- (3.7 of 4.0, or for those who prefer ten-point scales, 8.5 of 10): despite the opening feeling a little disconnected as the series established its characters (and this disjointedness works to the series’ favour, conveying the vast gap between the Alba and Colorata), once the series picks up momentum in its second half, the story becomes considerably more cohesive and gripping. Minor details, particularly with military technology and world-building, do seem a little overdone, designed to accommodate the story, but when everything is in place, 86 EIGHTY-SIX is able to tell a tale of finding purpose anew amidst the horrors and desolation of battle.

  • 86 EIGHTY-SIX concludes with Shinei and Vladilena reaching for one another’s hands as they vow do everything in their power to protect humanity and defeat the Legion. The assured expression on Shinei’s face, and Vladilena’s look of confidence, speaks volumes to the fact that these two, and their allies, are ready to answer the threat that is the Legion, leaving no doubt in viewers’ minds that the world is ready to defeat their foe together. With this, I’ve finally crossed the finish line for 86 EIGHTY-SIX, and with it, I’m presently caught up on everything. Entering April, I have a small number of posts scheduled: I’m still getting used to life following the move, and like good software practises, I’m finding myself preferring to work out a routine that is elegant and maintainable now, then optimise it later. Having said this, there remain a few slots to blog, and I imagine that once I acclimatise to things, I’ll be able to write posts with some regularity.

Overall, while 86 EIGHTY-SIX excels with its presentation of this world’s military hardware, and while A-1 Pictures has likely passed through numerous challenges in bringing Toru Asakura’s sophisticated vision to life through animation, 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s core strengths lie in its characters. The series had started out a little more disjointed as both Shinei and Vladilena’s stories were given exposition: there are a large number of supporting characters early on in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, but as the series continued, and war claimed its victims, 86 EIGHTY-SIX began to narrow its focus. A smaller number of characters spoke to the horrors and desolation of warfare, but it also conveys the idea that as things are taken away from people, they are forced to appreciate what remains in their lives. As 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s cast size shrunk, its story became increasingly clear: this was a tale of finding new purpose in life, of appreciating that one always has more worth in life than in death, and how living allows one to realise opportunities that they’d never thought possible. In this way, 86 EIGHTY-SIX suggests that regardless of one’s background and experiences, there is always a chance to learn about those critical human traits, of resilience, and of always seeking out a new raison d’être as one’s circumstances shift in response to an endlessly changing world. Ignoring the fact that NATO ammunition exists in this world, or the fact that weaponry are wildly inconsistent, 86 EIGHTY-SIX excels in its portrayal of a distinctly human story whose strengths exist outside of the series’ factual accuracy. At the end of the day, a meaningful narrative and theme matter considerably more than smaller details: the Legion and the war are ultimately means to an end, of being used as a very visceral means of suggesting how human connections work in strange, but powerful ways, propelling people forwards even when all hope appears lost.

86 EIGHTY-SIX: Review and Reflection, Plus A Brief Intermission After Twenty-One

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” –Albert Schweitzer

Giad’s command forecast a massive Legion counterattack and Leftenant-Colonel Wenzel manages to reassemble Shinei’s squadmates into Nordlich Squadron. Frederica reveals that she is the last surviving member of the Giad Empire’s royal family, and that a member of her guard, Kiriya (who shares ancestry with Shinei), eventually became assimilated by the Legion. The overwhelming Legion assault threatens to overwhelm Giad’s defenses, but Nordlich Squadron successfully repels the Legion. With Legion threatening San Magnolia’s borders, Vladilena prepares to rally the remaining Colorata under her command, although San Magnolia is overrun and defeated. It turns out that the Legion have been making use of a massive artillery gun named the Morpho, and moreover, this weapon is controlled by the remnants of Kiriya’s spirits. Giad decides to send Nordlich in to handle this, and although Leftenant-Colonel Wenzel is incensed that Shinei and his team are to be assigned on a suicide mission, Shinei and the others accept their task, feeling death in combat to be preferable to cowering while others fought for them, as the San Magnolians did. Giad ends up deploying a prototype vehicle to get Shinei and his team close to the Morpho, although they learn that the Legion had left behind a decommissioned Morpho as a trap. While they are able to escape, the Giad forces take heavy losses. Shinei receives permission to continue pursuing Kiriya’s Morpho and are shocked to learn Frederica had accompanied them into battle. Before their final attack on the Morpho, Raiden implores Shinei to look after himself, and later, Frederica remarks that she’d like to see the ocean with everyone once the fighting ends. Kiriya’s Morpho proves to be a fearsome opponent, and each of Raiden, Theoto, Kurena and Anju become damaged during the fighting, leaving Shinei to take on the Morpho on his own. His magazine sustains damage, leaving him with a single round, but thanks to support fire from an unknown source, and Frederica imploring Kiriya to stand down, Shinei manages to strike the weak spot on Kiriya’s Morpho, destroying it. The Morpho subsequently engages a self-destruct mechanism that engulfs both Shinei and Frederica in its blast radius.

Whereas 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s first half was divided between Vladilena’s command of the Undertaker unit, and Undertaker’s exploits in the war against the Legion, this second half is predominantly focused on Shinei’s remaining team and their return to the battlefield, as they fight alongside the Federacy of Giad to push back the Legion and put an end to the war. The shift in perspective is 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s advantage. The first half had the advantage of showing the war from the San Magnolian perspective, and the disconnect created gave the distinct impression that save Vladilena and a small number of her circle, San Magnolia appears to care little for the war effort otherwise. Conversely, Giad, as a part of the political reform, is willing to deploy their own professional soldiers to the frontline and fight alongside Shinei’s group. This eliminates the need for the Handler/Processor dynamic and creates the impression of a society that is seeking to right past wrongs. From a narrative standpoint, the fact that Giad soldiers are willing to deploy to the frontlines results in a story that’s much more cohesive and focused. The entire focus of the second half, after Shinei, Raiden, Theoto, Anju and Kurena join the Giad forces, is to take down the Morpho, a massive railway gun with a four hundred kilometre range. This weapon poses a massive threat to Giad and the surviving nations, to the point where the other nations agree to an alliance in a bid to stop this weapon. The effort taken to destroy this weapon gave 86 EIGHTY-SIX a chance to really focus on Shinei and his team, to an extent that hadn’t been possible in the first season because perspective had constantly flipped between the harsh realities that Undertaker faced, and the idealism that Vladilena sought to try and bring to the table. In this way, it becomes clear that even among his team, Shinei is more disconnected from humanity than Theoto, Raiden, Anju and Kurena: he lives purely for the thrill of combat and feels no other purpose in life. Having established the extent to which Shinei’s sense of humanity is blunted, viewers thus gain insight into why he’s so effective in combat, and so reserved off the battlefield.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I originally hadn’t intended to write about 86 EIGHTY-SIX at this stage in the game, having fallen behind on things, and instead, was waiting for the finale to air so I could do a single post on things. However, making my way through things right through to the assault on the Morpho, 86 EIGHTY-SIX clicked for me, and I found myself greatly enjoying how this second half was progressing. While I get why the first half was formatted the way it was, the story I’d come to enjoy the most was always to do with the Colorata, and Shinei’s team, in particular.

  • Although the textual discussion would suggest that 86 EIGHTY-SIX is all-business, one aspect about the series I found helpful was the fact that there is an effort to remind viewers that the characters are human; here, Frederica wanders around the base half-awake, prompting Shinei to hand her off over to Anju so she can get dressed. 86 EIGHTY-SIX is somewhat unusual in that visual elements more common to comedy are occasionally employed; this is the show’s way of reminding viewers of the fact that even in the grimmest moments, gentler or more amusing moments remain.

  • Frederica provides much of these throughout 86 EIGHTY-SIXs second half. Her background is a bit of a tragic one: her entire family was eventually executed, and it was only thanks to Ernest Zimmerman that she was spared. It turns out that Zimmerman himself was a former Imperial Guard who ended up renouncing his background and fought for a democratic Giad. His actions may come across as suspicious, but ultimately, Zimmerman wants to build a country unencumbered by the failures of Imperial Giad, and in his personal life, raise a family in stead of the one he’d lost.

  • Together with a Giad military that has been shown to drill its soldiers as contemporary professional armed forces would, and one that utilises equipment designed with the operator’s safety in mind, I was left with the impression that Giad is a legitimate power with a genuine concern for the world. It therefore became much easier to trust that Giad’s desire to eliminate the Legion as genuine; the whole of the first half had Shinei and the others fighting for a uncaring and slovenly nation, so it was natural that both Shinei and the viewers had little reason to trust Giad initially.

  • However, the combination of seeing Giad’s professional armed forces in action, coupled with the Reginleif’s armour and defensive features, I became convinced that Giad is trustworthy. Eliminating this doubt allowed the story to focus on the sort of challenges that Shinei and the others face now that they’re fighting under a different flag. One aspect that some viewers found surprising was the fact the Reginleif’s secondary armaments were designated as using 12.7×99mm NATO (i.e. .50 BMG) rounds, but in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, there shouldn’t be a NATO equivalent (and as such, no STANAG 4383 clause). This particularly irked one viewer, “Lambdalith”, who suggested that A-1 “copied all the ammo list provided by their military consultant without removing the NATO rounds designation [and therefore] can be interpreted as a blooper of sorts”.

  • Others promptly stepped up and noted that this was likely done as a convenience feature so viewers wouldn’t have to learn new calibres. In this case, while it might’ve been a little easier to just refer to the rounds as “.50 BMG”, which is not a STANAG 4383 compliant designation, I imagine that “12.7×99mm NATO” was chosen simply because it looks cooler to viewers. I’ve never really understood the demand that works of fiction be completely free of gaffes (I’d argue that “Lambdalith” is calling out something minor such as this, in an attempt to sound more knowledgeable); the type of secondary ammunition the Reginleifs use don’t impact 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s story in any way, so such comments add little to the discussion at hand. Here, Frederica peers into Shinei’s mind and learns he’s enjoying the chaos of battle the same way Kiriya once did.

  • Anime discussions have always varied in terms of quality, and generally speaking, the most meaningful discussions entail people who make an effort to listen to other sides of the coin, walking others through their thought process and where applicable, sharing their own related experience. Folks who focus on a dry, impersonal analysis as though they were writing an undergraduate term paper usually aren’t the most fun to converse with, which is why I do a combination of writing about pure outcomes in my paragraphs, before delving into assorted thoughts and commentary with the screenshots.

  • For 86 EIGHTY-SIX, I’ve (surprisingly) been able to keep clear of the overly-serious conversations out there, and this in turn has really allowed me to enjoy the series at my own pace: while I’d been skeptical of this series, being able to draw my own conclusions has led to a superb experience overall. As an example, the first half’s pacing was a little disjointed for me, but once I came to the conclusion it was meant precisely to show a disconnect, Vladilena’s presence became considerably more enjoyable. Cutting her from most of 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half to focus on Shinei’s team gave the latter much more growth than was previously possible.

  • However, while Vladilena might’ve had a reduced presence, the destruction of San Magnolia in 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half, coupled with the fact that she’s clearly a central character, means that her role isn’t over yet, and I look forwards to seeing what role she will play in the future. This sort of conclusion isn’t something I’d be able to reach were my thoughts to encompass opinions from elsewhere, and in retrospect, this is an approach that I should apply to slice-of-life series, which are often critiqued to an even harsher extent for reasons that elude me.

  • Once 86 EIGHTY-SIX has Shinei and the others settle into their duties as a part of Nordlich squadron, the series turns its entire attention towards the matter of the Morpho. The Legion offer many resistances to known countermeasures: their ability to jam communications and EMR signals means there is no effective satellite reconnaissance it is not possible to simply pinpoint the Morpho’s location and overwhelm its defenses with hypersonic cruise missiles or ballistic missiles outfitted with conventional warheads. Similarly, the Legion likely possess hardened electronics resilient to EMP effects. This leaves armies to deal with them head-on using ground forces within visual range.

  • Even this is a challenge, and although Shinei had been asked to conceal his ability to detect the Legion telepathically, there comes a point where he’s forced to bring this power out to help Giad’s military out. The idea of Newtype-like powers exists in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, although like its Universal Century counterpart, the precise origins or nature of these powers are never well-characterised. Whether or not this becomes an issue is largely dependent on a story’s demands: if the powers impact the outcome of an event in a tangible manner, then at the very least, its scope and limitations should be explored.

  • In 86 EIGHTY-SIX, that Shinei and Frederica possess such powers suggest to me that it would be worth exploring them further in future instalments. Throughout 86 EIGHTY-SIX, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well Frederica fits in with the story: she’s highly perceptive and demonstrates agency far exceeding what is typical of someone of her age, and moreover, rather than being a burden on the story, Frederica is able to ask the right questions and proves instrumental in pulling Shinei away from the brink. It helps that she’s also got the most funny-face moments of anyone in 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half.

  • Giad’s assault on the Morpho is accompanied by support from neighbouring nations, who agree to cooperate on the grounds that the Morpho’s range is enough to pose a threat to any nation. This massive joint operations entails creating a massive distraction and making use of Nordlich team’s capabilities to close the distance. However, Giad is outwitted: the Morpho had previously been damaged in an earlier strike and was allowed to remain so it could act as a decoy for the real Morpho, which is illuminated by an ethereal blue light.

  • Kiriya’s spirit operates this Morpho, and while he answers to the entity known as “No Face”, Kiriya is brash and aggressive in his digitised form. It is clear that this Kiriya only retains the negative aspects of his old self. 86 EIGHTY-SIX choses to give Kiriya a face, both to indicate that Kiriya plainly remembers his old identity and to convey to viewers the sort of torture human minds experience as Legion; this aspect of 86 EIGHTY-SIX further emphasises that the Legion’s ability to use neural tissue as a CPU is not a pleasant experience for those who are captured, and the resulting Legion suffer continuously until they are destroyed. Once Nordlich figures out the presence of the real Morpho and prepare to attack it, No Face orders Kiriya to withdraw.

  • From this vantage point, the destructive power of the Morpho’s main 800 mm cannon can be seen: it completely obliterates an area appearing about six blocks across, with an initial crater width of around 100 metres, and the damage appears to show that the impact energy was transferred wholly into the ground.  Official documentation gives the Morpho’s muzzle velocity as eight kilometres per second, and eyeballing this to correspond with a force of around 0.2 kiloton (836 GJ, all transferred into the ground): it’s possible to work out that the Morpho’s 800 mm projectile is likely a slug with a mass of 26.1 tonnes. Assuming a density of 22.59 g/cm³ (similar to osmium) and a roughly cylindrical shape tapering at the head to a point, the projectile itself would need to be 114.92 metres long in order to have such a mass. This is greater than the Morpho’s length of 40.2 metres. Because Asakura is steadfast on the muzzle velocity being 8 km/s, and the fact that the Morpho’s ammunition clearly isn’t three times the length of its chassis, the only remaining explanation available is that the Morpho’s main gun is using ammunition that is significantly denser than any known metal.

  • If Asakura was open to an much higher muzzle velocity (say, 49.2 km/s, only a little faster than Halo‘s Mark II Light Coil guns, which accelerate a 600 tonne projectile to 30 km/s for a yield of 64.5 kt), it’d be possible to impart a similar about of damage with a tungsten slug that is a more reasonable 2 metres long. Having said this, my calculations are just for fun: unlike Lambdalith and the folks unfamiliar with Newtonian kinetic energy, I’ve no qualms if the numbers don’t check out, since they don’t affect the story. The Morpho’s main weakness is that it is primarily dependent on railway lines to travel, and after the Legion lose their element of surprise, No Face orders Kiriya back to Legion-held territory. This buys the Giad forces a bit of breathing room, and Shinei decides to continue pursuit even as the Giad forces retreat, reasoning that there’s no opportunity quite like this to take out a major Legion asset. Major railway guns are particularly vulnerable to attack from the air. However, the Legion face no such threat: the absence of air power in 86 EIGHTY-SIX is quite noticeable, being the consequence of the Legion’s use of Eintagsfliege (small butterfly-like units that flood the skies, blocking out EMR and capable of causing jet engines to flame out), and the Legion themselves only manufacture ground units owing to their original programming.

  • Unlike High School Fleet, the justification for why aircraft are largely absent in 86 EIGHTY-SIX is a reasonable one. I have noted before that as long as authors take the time to provide a plausible account for why their world is what it is, then an element can be accepted; where enjoyment of fiction is concerned, I’m of the mind that J.R.R. Tolkien’s concept of internal consistency applies to a given work. That is, if something is consistent with what is defined as being possible in a fictional universe, then one needn’t fall upon a suspension of disbelief for something, because the author has clearly laid out limits and rules.

  • This is why I tend to be fairly open minded about things that are otherwise dismissed as “unrealistic”: for instance, in The Aquatope on White Sand, some critics argue that Kukuru’s treatment at Tingarla is unrealistic because she is given far more leeway than would be expected for someone in her position in an equivalent company. However, The Aquatope on White Sand maintains internal consistency by establishing that Tingarla’s director is fairly open-minded, and as such, may have been made aware of Kukuru’s unexpected absence. His decision would override Tetsuji’s, so she isn’t reprimanded upon her return. Similarly, in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, the lack of air power owing to the Eintagsfliege’s presence is not far-fetched and forces combat to remain ground-based.

  • After Frederica stows away in Fido, Shinei and the others are forced to accept that she’s around. Although they’d rather she stay away from the frontlines, her presence does end up being instrumental to Shinei’s eventual success in taking down the Morpho. However, Shinei’s friends do worry greatly for his mental well-being: Raiden confronts him and demands that he stop fighting so recklessly; so long as they’re still alive and have one another, they can continue to help one another out. Despite being a captivating and gripping story, 86 EIGHTY-SIX has the same degree of subtlety as something like Gundam with respect to its themes.

  • That is to say, Gundam is very clear about its intended messages and will flatly present its ideas to viewers without obfuscating them. Other works will jump through hoops and layer in themes that require a bit of thinking to get: there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to approach fiction, and having studied works for classes a decade earlier, as well as consuming fiction for personal enjoyment, I’ve found that there are merits to both approaches; so long as a work actually conveys its theme, it has succeeded. With this in mind, I prefer dealing with thematic elements once a series has fully aired: although 86 EIGHTY-SIX has been quite plain in its aims, I acknowledge there is always the possibility that what is shown in the existing episodes could feed into something else once everything is done.

  • While Raiden shares a conversation with Shinei voicing his concerns on behalf of the others, Frederica and the others eavesdrop. It turns out that even now, Kurena still has feelings for Shinei. However, indicators will show that Kurena’s going to be in an unfortunate situation, and here, Frederica is reduced to a blubbering pile after Anju overhears her making a blithe remark about how with Vladilena seemingly out of the picture, Kurena might have a shot at things. Moments like these became increasingly rare as 86 EIGHTY-SIX wore on, but remain welcome, and I will note that while I’d initially found Frederica a little grating, she’s become an integral part of the team.

  • Upon gazing out over the open hinterlands at sunset, Frederica mentions that she’d like to see the ocean one day. The ocean’s vastness has held people spellbound for as long as human civilisation has existed, as imaginations of what lies on the shores across the ocean drove people towards exploration – Frederica’s longing to see the ocean might be seen as a wish to see what’s on the other side of this conflict. As it turns out, the Giadian Empire’s royal family and leaders were responsible for the Legion’s reign of terror: revolutionary forces (which Zimmerman had been a part of) had cornered the crumbling Imperial leadership, and in a final act of defiance, the Imperials transferred their consciousness into the Legion before issuing them with one final order to continue fighting.

  • However, even the Giadian Empire had devised a failsafe – any member of the Giadian Royal Family could deactivate the Legion. I imagine that Zimmerman might have suspected that it would be helpful to not fully destroy all traces of the old Empire, and the very fact that Frederica holds the master override to end the war once and for all means that so long as she’s alive, there is hope for ending this war swiftly and giving everyone a chance to gaze upon the ocean with their own eyes. Having seen what the remains of Shinei’s team has gone through, one cannot help but wish for a speedy end to their war, although this does lead to the question of what everyone’s looking to do once peace is attained.

  • In particular, Shinei remarks that he feels his only purpose is to fight, and since Shōrei had tried to kill him, he’d lost any particular desire to the point of wondering if he’s alive at times. A longstanding notion in fiction is that people are inherently without purpose, and responsibility of seeking out purpose falls upon the individual: Frederica suggests that purpose or not, as long as one has people in their corner, they can keep on living and find whatever their future holds, no matter how uncertain it is. Whether or not Shinei takes this to heart, there is truth to this statement, and it’s always encouraging to see works of fiction remind viewers of this fact: life is what one makes of it.

  • When the final operation does start, Shinei ends up with everyone electing to keep the Legion off Shinei’s back while he presses forwards: although they’d planned on fighting the Morpho together, a Legion onslaught causes Anju’s unit to fall off a cliff, and although she’s fine, she’s no longer able to follow the others into battle. Speaking to the Reginleif’s improved survivability over the San Magnolian Juggernauts, Anju herself is okay, and her Reginleif is still somewhat able to fight: Anju swaps out her 88 mm cannon for rocket artillery, making her useful against massed Legion forces.

  • Similarly, because Kurena has specialised her Reginleif for long-range combat, she decides to hang back and do what she can. To assist in sharpshooting, Kurena uses a VR headset in combat, which is linked to a smart optic that allows her to hit targets at range. A similar feature was found in Gundam 00‘s Dynames and Cherudim Gundams, which had a dedicated controller unit wired to special optics. I have heard arguments that mecha do not necessarily need this gear, since they could simply use an AI or similar to place long-range shots. However, the counterargument for this is simple: a given mecha would not be in sniping configuration all the time, and engaging this equipment changes the handling characteristics, allowing it to focus on long-range fire at the expense of something like mobility.

  • Again, the concept of internal consistency applies here: I’ve noticed that a lot of fans out there are quick to call out things for falling on “rule of cool” (in common terms, where something awe-inspiring or novel is selected over something more practical to create an impact amongst viewers), but for me, as long as internal consistency is maintained, gripes like these are inconsequential. In the end, even Raiden gets taken out of the fight; he promises to keep Frederica safe while Shinei forges ahead.

  • The twenty-first episode has Shinei engaging Kiriya’s Morpho alone; the episode itself aired on Christmas day, but I’d spent most of the day preparing Christmas dinner and reading through new books, so I didn’t even consider that a new episode of 86 EIGHTY-SIX would be airing. At the time, I thought that I’d fallen so far behind that it would be easier to let all of the episodes air before continuing from where I’d left off. As it turned out, production challenges meant that episodes were airing at two-week intervals, and moreover, there’d been two recap episodes. I realised I wasn’t as far behind as I first imaged, and so, decided to push forwards, just in time to present my thoughts on where I feel 86 EIGHTY-SIX stands a full month after the latest episode aired.

  • The Morpho possesses a fearsome array of point defense weapons, and together with the “arms”, even Shinei has difficulty getting close enough to do damage. In the end, Frederica threatens to kill herself if Kiriya doesn’t stand down, and this buys Shinei enough time to close the distance enough to board the Morpho, locate the weak spot and blast it to kingdom come. Kiriya passes on into death, no longer bound to the Legion, and viewers were left with a lengthy wait: the next episode is scheduled to broadcast on March 13.

  • As such, I will be returning in a few months to wrap up 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second part to deal with the messages I got out of 86 EIGHTY-SIX. While the series began on a rougher footing, once the characters and conflict was established, things have become much more engaging. I’d been sitting on the fence with 86 EIGHTY-SIX after its first part concluded, and had suggested that San Magnolia would face total annihilation if they didn’t get their game together. Having seen what’s happened now, it appears San Magnolia is no longer a concern (having been met with complete annihilation owing to their hedonistic and xenophobic ways), and this leaves the floor open for Asakura to focus purely on Shinei and whatever lies ahead between himself and Vladilena, which is admittedly something I am quite excited to see.

Having established the basis for Shienei’s character, 86 EIGHTY-SIX enters an intermission. Despite A-1 Pictures driving the series’ production, and the fact they’ve done a solid job of bringing 86 EIGHTY-SIX to life thus far, the Legion have presented the team with numerous challenges owing to their numbers and fluidity. Production issues in getting the Legion to appear as author had Toru Asakura envisioned them meant that the story will be delayed until March. However, at this point, the Morpho is defeated, removing one more threat to the allied forces, and this means there will be an opportunity yet to give Shinei and the others a denouement. Given where things end up, it is unlikely that 86 EIGHTY-SIX will end here: Vladilena’s story has not yet been resolved, and although San Magnolia now lies in ruin, the fact that she figures so prominently in the series means that she likely evacuated and survived the Legion’s assault. Vladilena and Shinei had first met in a very impersonal capacity but came to care for one another showed how Vladilena was able to bring out some of Shinei’s humanity, and how Shinei was a sign to Vladilena that her concerns were legitimate. As such, 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s premise is built on the fact that the pair was able to support one another emotionally, and while reality often sees circumstance keep people apart, 86 EIGHTY-SIX is a story, a work of fiction and consequently, should able to tilt the odds such that Vladilena and Shinei do, in fact, end up meeting, in order to advance the idea that human connections are what lets people rediscover their purpose anew. In this way, while 86 EIGHTY-SIX is framed around a war, it would appear that Asakura’s intentions through this story had been to present a moving tale of how important being connected to others is, especially in a world where interpersonal relationships are becoming more impersonal. At this point in time, I have no idea what lies ahead of the second part’s eleventh episode, but I do know that it will be interesting to see where things end up.

86 EIGHTY-SIX: Review and Reflection Three Past The Halfway Point

“I think it’s a common misconception in the civilian community that the military community is filled with just drills and discipline and pain. They forget that these are humans who are in an abnormal situation.” –Adam Driver

After Shinei and his team disappear past radio contact, Vladilena is relieved of command and assigned to manage a conventional team, but her combat efficiency allows her to continue looking after her charges and provide them with benefits. Meanwhile, Shinei and his team awaken in the Federacy of Giad, where they meet president Ernst Zimmerman and former princess to the Empire of Giad, Frederica Rosenfort. Zimerman wishes to have Shinei and his team adjust to civilian life, but the five are unable to do so as a result of survivor’s guilt, and so, when Zimerman learn that Shinei and his team intend to rejoin the armed forces, reluctantly allow them to do so. Frederica decides to join them: the five have no trouble getting through basic training and are assigned to Leftenant Colonel Grethe Wenzel’s Nordlicht Squadron. Shinei pilots the Reginleif-class spider tank, which is a single-seater derived off the San Magnolia Juggernauts, and despite their performance, Giad forces still sustain heavy casualties, including Eugene, who Shinei had met in the library and is fighting for a better future for his younger sister. Shinei mercy kills him and prepares to turn his attention towards the upcoming battle ahead with the amassing Legion forces. With this, I am now three episodes into 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half, which follows up with the events that saw Vladilena develop a closer bond with Spearhead and attempt to make tangible changes even as San Magnolia continues to lose the war against an unfeeling, autonomous foe. The first season had suggested that systems exist out of convenience to the politicians, and while Vladilena’s efforts had given the Colorata of Spearhead some hope, the harsh reality led to the deaths of everyone, save Shinei, Anju, Raiden, Theoto and Kurena, who managed to survive and begin to yearn for a future beyond the deaths that the San Magnolia armed forces had consigned them to.

However, adjusting to life outside of the battlefield, and the expectation of dying in battle, is not an easy task for Shinei and the others. The very idea of a future seems entirely foreign to them, and while everyone does their best to acclimatise to the fact that they’re now the masters of their own future, guilt and remorse weight heavily on their minds. This outcome is not particularly unusual, and there is substantial evidence to indicate that veterans who leave the armed forces do have a tough time returning to their lives. Pew Research found that aound 27 percent of veterans experienced this difficulty, and moreover, being seriously injured, watching a fellow soldier get injured or killed, and generally experiencing a traumatic event made it tougher to transition back to civilian life. Further to this, soldiers have a very disciplined, rigid life and train extensively for the operations they face, so many veterans report that the relative lack of order and structure means that getting used to how civilians approach problems and work together is completely unlike how people within the military work together. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and 86 EIGHTY-SIX has done a fair job of conveying this: for Shinei, Anju, Raiden, Theoto and Kurena, a lifetime of fighting under the inhumane conditions that San Magnolia had foisted upon them instilled in them a sense of devotion to their duty bordering on fanaticism, and this is most evident once the five’s wishes are granted. When returning to the battlefield, Shinei fights in a suicidal manner, putting his assignment above his personal safety, and his machine’s capabilities – at this point in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, it is evident that Shinei, Anju, Raiden, Theoto and Kurena have lingering hurdles in their life, and while they see a return to the battlefield as their solution, I imagine that a part of 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half will be having these five find their peace.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Since the events of 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s first half, Vladilena has adopted a darker uniform and given her hair a red streak to signify the losses Spearhead had taken. While her actions have garnered the respect of some of her colleagues, on the whole, Vladilena’s vocal defense of the Colorata have made her highly unpopular amongst command, and it is only by virtue of her bloodline that she’s allowed to continue working, albeit on less prestigious assignments.

  • I’m not going to count 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half a second season and continue to refer to the series as a whole on the virtue of episode numbering: the first episode of this second half starts at twelve. It feels like 86 EIGHTY-SIX would’ve done better as an uninterrupted twenty-four episode series, but such productions are less common nowadays because TV networks no longer put up large sums of money to produce a show with the expectation of selling products by using said anime as a promotional means. These days, most anime tend to air during off-hours, and because there is no guarantee that longer shows can succeed, anime producers will produce shorter seasons, see how they perform and determine whether or not it is worth continuing.

  • Some anime do end up with a new season announced immediately after the first ends; in the case of 86 EIGHTY-SIX and Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, I imagine that the studios split production up so they would be able to work on other series. From a business and production standpoint, there are practical reasons for taking this route. For us viewers, this isn’t of too much consequence, save the fact that one might forget what happened in the past season. The remedy for this is simple enough: reading up on things as a refresher, or if time allows, rewatching the earlier works anew.

  • For 86 EIGHTY-SIX, the fact that the first half had aired earlier this year meant that I still had a reasonable idea of what happened earlier: Shinei and his team have disappeared beyond San Magnolia’s borders, leaving Vladilena to sort things out on her own, and end up coming upon a Legion army near the Federacy of Giad. I imagine that in between, they engaged in combat but were overrun, then saved by Giad’s armed forces. Once they’ve had a chance to recuperate, the interim president, Ernest Zimmerman, introduces himself, and explains that he’s taken an interest in ensuring these five can lead normal lives as citizens of Giad.

  • While 86 EIGHTY-SIX has all of the elements for an all-business story about warfare and its consequences, the biggest piece that stands out is the fact that there are whimsical moments, such as Vladilena melting in happiness when eating a pudding made from real ingredients, or here in the second half, when Shinei and the others meet Frederica for the first time. Her initial manner is that of a spoiled child who is concerned with little more than having a good time in life. This is initially meant to drop the viewer’s guard: the little sister archetype is a familiar one in anime, and these seemingly-bratty characters do have a charm about them.

  • Much as how Shinei and the others struggle to adjust to their new lives in Giad, the change in pacing in 86 EIGHTY-SIX was noticeable, and the anime does a fantastic job of conveying to viewers how unaccustomed to things the five are. It feels strange to see Shinei and the others outside of their Juggernauts and uniforms, without their distinct Para-RAID devices on their ears; Giad surgeons have removed the devices, creating a strange sense of freedom that Theoto cannot get used to; during a conversation with Anju, Theoto complains vocally about how mobile phones are inconvenient even if they do offer a modicum of privacy compared to the Para-RAID.

  • 86 EIGHTY-SIX capitalises on this time to show what life in Giad is like: there are cooking classes, Christmas markets and boutique clothing stores that Kurena takes an interest in. In many ways, Giad is more similar to the world that we know, and by comparison, San Magnolia feels even more backwater as a result. Seeing all of the activity in Giad suggested to me that this nation was one that had learned from its predecessor’s mistakes, and looking around at the citizens, there is a diverse range of people sporting different appearances, unlike the homogenous makeup in San Magnolia.

  • While the combination of diversity and the fact that their armed forces is a professional one would indicate that their society is better equipped for dealing with the Legion, Giad is by no means a perfect nation. Here, Shinei meets Eugene, a young man close to him in age who has aspirations to join the army so that his younger sister can be afforded an education. Conversations such as these underline social issues in Giad, such as social stratification; one would imagine that since Giad formed from the remains of its old empire, former nobles are the ruling class, and while the country has transitioned over to a more democratic systems, old systems endure.

  • As such, Eugene struggles to make ends meet and believes that joining the army would allow him to earn enough funds to send back home. This is a world that Frederica isn’t terribly familiar with, and out of the blue, she appears in front of Shinei. The two end up visiting a Christmas Market in town, where Frederica pulls some stunts in a bid to convince Shinei to buy something for her. Although Shinei wonders where Frederica would pick up something like this, he buys her the stuffed bear that she’d been eying, a reminder that despite his past, Shinei retains his humanity.

  • The presence of a Christmas Market, coupled with the nation’s history and the eagle motif on their flag suggest that Giad is probably modelled after Germany: anime is particularly fond of incorporating German elements into their stories because of Germany’s lengthy historical connections with Japan. The military discipline and organisation of the Meiji Restoration was in part, inspired by Prussian approaches, and even today, there are aspects of Japanese culture that overlap with German culture, such as the belief in punctuality, politeness and respect for formalities.

  • While Giad might have Germanic elements, aspects of Japanese culture inevitably return: one evening, Shinei and the others are late in returning to Zimmerman’s palatial home, and Raiden is the first to run into Frederica, who’s feeling uncomfortably hungry. Raiden decides to whip up an omelette for her in the shape of the Japanese omurice, and upon tasting it, her spirits immediately return to her. Although such everyday experiences are doubtlessly comforting and a far cry from the battlefield, Shinei and the others are uncomfortable with spending their days this way and decide to rejoin the armed forces.

  • Zimmerman is initially reluctant to allow them this, feeling that the five had seen more than their share of combat. However, when Frederica finally reveals that she’s the former princess to the Empire and explains that she has the power to delve into someone’s mind and see their past, Zimmerman eventually relents, although he does ask the five to take on the training needed to become officers, as this would allow them more opportunity to reintegrate with society once their duties ended.

  • While doing a training exercise, several overly-enthusiastic recruits pilot their spider-tank over the hill but slips off, nearly colliding with Shinei’s unit. Shinei manages to evade but blows out his unit’s actuator in the process. The drill sergeant overseeing the exercise admits that Shinei had a point, but concludes his decision was still reckless. While Shinei is accustomed to being treated as expendable by the San Magnolia military, Giad clearly views its soldiers as people, and the design of their spider-tanks more closely resemble present-day MBTs, indicating that they were designed with survivability in mind.

  • Grethe Wenzel ends up taking Shinei and the members of the newly-minted Nordlicht squadron out to a memorial in a field where Spearhead had made their final stand earlier. It’s a little early to be passing judgement, but it does look like that despite their predecessors manufacturing the Legion, the present-day Giad holds human life in a much higher regard than the Empire (and considerably more than San Magnolia). This is an encouraging sign so far, although a part of me wonders if Giad might end up betraying Shinei and the others despite doing so much for them now.

  • It turns out that Giad had managed to recover items of personal significance to Shinei, including his service pistol and even FIDO, the autonomous support robot that had accompanied Spearhead throughout 86 EIGHT-SIX‘s first half. Frederica proudly announces that Giad retrieved FIDO’s main CPU and was able to rebuild it entirely, returning Spearhead’s companion back to life with all-new parts for increased performance and durability. This completely diminishes FIDO’s “death” back during the first half, but on the flipside, having an additional asset could be the difference between life and death.

  • While Shinei and the others don’t play well with Giad’s main tank, the Vánagandr, the experimental Reginleif is right up their alley, being a high-mobility single-seater capable of much greater speeds than the Vánagandr, at the expense of firepower and armour (the Vánagandr possesses a 120 mm smoothbore cannon and a pair of .50-calibre MGs, while Reginleifs equip a smaller 88 mm gun). Despite the tradeoffs the Reginleifsd make, they are still superior to the Juggernauts that San Magnolia field in every way, possessing improved survivability and mobility. On their first engagement together, Shinei manages to save Eugene’s Vánagandr from destruction.

  • Frederica ends up joining Nordlicht as a mascot, an individual tasked with bolstering morale amongst the soldiers. When she joins Eugene and Shinei for lunch in the mess hall, she struggles to finish her shimeji mushrooms: on one hand, she’s clearly not fond of them, but at the same time, she knows how much effort goes into food production. Shinei takes them off her hands but asks that she at least try one to help her grow: the moment does result in a few funny faces from Frederica, and I suddenly recall that of everyone in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, Vladilena probably had the most funny faces when she had screentime.

  • While Vladilena might not have had much screen time insofar, it is not lost on me that Eugene’s appearance evokes memories of both Vladilena and Shinei’s older brother. Here, the pair share a conversation, and for me, such conversations have always been foreshadowing of death. Indeed, once their next battle begins, Eugene is mortally wounded and asks Shinei to let him look at a photo of his sister one more time before he dies. Shinei subsequently shoots Eugene in the head to prevent him from being assimilated into the Legion, and while another soldier who’d been disapproving of Shinei earlier objects to this, an officer thanks Shinei for doing the thankless job.

  • The path that Shinei, Raiden, Kurena, Theoto and Anju go down will doubtlessly be a trying one, and I therefore look forwards to seeing where Vladilena comes back into play. At the time of writing, I’m an episode behind (and once the sixteenth episode airs later today, I’ll be two episodes behind): it was a bit of a difficult decision as to whether or not I would be writing about 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half early on, especially when the first few episodes were a bit slower, but once Shinei and the Nordlicht begin combat operations, the series immediately picked up again.

  • The main mindset I have going into the remainder of 86 EIGHTY-SIX is that in this series, the sharp contrast between the lighthearted moments and brutality of warfare means that one can never be too blasé about what’s happening because things can always unfold in unfortunate ways. While it is the case that 86 EIGHTY-SIX does offer a lot to consider, at the end of the day, I’ve never found it to be too meaningful in trying to discuss things like morality and the like when a series is still ongoing. As such, I will be returning to write about 86 EIGHTY-SIX next once the whole series is in the books, and I’ve got a stronger measure of whether or not the story succeeded in conveying its message.

86 EIGHTY-SIX is proving to be a compelling one insofar: although its subject matter touches on the nature of warfare, handling of issues like racism and issues pertaining to things like PTSD, the series also spent enough time building up their world so that there is reason for viewers to continue watching. Up until now, we’d only seen San Magnolia’s central districts and the outlying areas where the Colorata engage the Legion, so to see an entirely new setting in Giad gives viewers a chance to see what became of the world outside of San Magnolia – while the former Empire appears to be more of a democracy now, resembling the contemporary world, it is still a nation in transition, and one where the government is attempting to sort out the problems their predecessors had created and, at the same time, continuing to ensure that their citizens are able to live peacefully. The most notable contrast between Giad and San Magnolia is the fact that Giad’s armed forces appears to be professionally staffed, and this is reflected in their war machines, which are built with survivability and safety in mind. Shinei, Anju, Raiden, Theoto and Kurena have grown accustomed to their mistreatment at the Alba’s hands, so it is understandable that things in Giad do seem a bit odd to them, and following how the five familiarise themselves with practises more consistent with those of modern nations will be interesting. Similarly, the introduction of former princess Frederica Rosenfort and the revelation that she can peer into the pasts of those around her adds another layer of mystery to the sort of technology that exists in this universe. With the way 86 EIGHTY-SIX is set up, there is the possibility that the series is doing more than it has time for, but for the present, all eyes are on Vladilena, who’s been noticeably absent from the proceedings.

86 EIGHTY-SIX: Review and Reflection At The Halfway Point

“Life is not always easy to live, but the opportunity to do so is a blessing beyond comprehension. In the process of living, we will face struggles, many of which will cause us to suffer and to experience pain.” –L. Lionel Kendrick

After Kaie’s death, Vladilena makes an effort to learn Spearhead’s names, earning their respect and discovers that she’d met Shinei’s brother, Shourei, long ago. Spearhead’s next engagement with the Legion and Vladilena’s refusal to disconnect from the session results in her being exposed to the Legion’s “Black Sheep” units, whose microprocessors can assimilate neural processes from their victims in order to maintain their functionality. Despite the horror and further casualties, Vladilena persists in her support for Spearhead and begins to fall in love with Shinei. She arranges for a crate of fireworks to be delivered to Spearhead. However, she is unable to secure reinforcements, as Spearhead was designed as penal unit of sorts, whose soldiers were made to fight to the death. During one engagement, Shinei hears Shourei’s voice amongst the Legion’s new model and desires to confront him one final time in order to properly put him to rest. Vladilena’s persistence in helping Spearhead draws Henrietta’s ire: she reveals that she’d been friends with Shinei and her father’s work on the Para-RAID resulted in the deaths of countless Colorata. Remorseful of her actions towards Vladilena, she agrees to help her by commandeering San Magnolia’s artillery systems, and in their next engagement, this allows enough Legion to be destroyed such that Shinei can confront the Shepherd Legion possessing Shourei’s mind. He is able to destroy the Shepherd and finds peace in success, feeling his brother is finally liberated from suffering. With his goal finished, Shinei decides to desert and set course for territories beyond San Magnolia, to Vladilena’s chagrin. Shinei and the surviving Spearhead members, Anju, Raiden, Theoto and Kurena enter Imperial territory, where they encounter additional Legion. Vladilena travels out to Spearhead’s base to see the sights she’d only heard about, and discovers they’d intended for her to adopt a kitten they’d picked up. She promises to continue fighting and do what she believes is right. This is 86 EIGHTY-SIX at the halfway point; a second season was announced shortly after the finale aired, and will pick up in October 2021. Until then, 86 EIGHTY-SIX leaves in its wake a trail of questions after Shinei is able to face his inner dæmons and confront his brother one final time.

Because 86 EIGHTY-SIX is technically only halfway through, ascertaining the series’ overall objective is not a particularly meaningful task; whatever awaits in the second half will be required to provide a complete picture of what 86 EIGHTY-SIX strove to convey. With this being said, the first season’s portrayal of the war between San Magnolia and the Giadian Empire’s autonomous machines, specifically how San Magnolia handled the conflict, speaks to the idea that dehumanising a group of individuals perpetuates a cycle of suffering that will result in complete annihilation. This is most obvious with the Colorata, who are treated as non-humans, but among the Alba residing in San Magnolia, it is clear that their society has stagnated from a technological standpoint; as the war against the Legion raged, San Magnolia’s inability to defend their nation proved embarrassing, so the Colorata (conveniently living at San Magnolia’s edges) were made the scapegoats to shift blame away from a government unable to find a solution. In time, discrimination against the Colorata became commonplace, and the current status quo seemed viable, so San Magnolia has no incentive to advance their technology and properly face the Legion, which in turn results in continued death amongst the Colorata. As more Colorata die, the Alba leadership are forced to eventually await total casualties so the truth will never get out, but the outcome of this approach is that, without the Colorata to fight, the Legion will eventually overrun and destroy San Magnolia, too. The Alba of the present don’t seem too concerned because many remain unaware of the fact that the Legion are capable of replacing their processing cores and effectively giving them an unlimited operational life-span. Coupled with the fact that the Legion can appear to use nano-machinery, 86 EIGHTY-SIX is setting the stage for San Magnolia’s demise, and it appears that nothing less than uncommon perseverance from Vladilena and other like-minded Alba will save San Magnolia from complete annihilation.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s too early to tell if the world-building and outcomes in 86 EIGHTY-SIX will rival those of Sora no Woto, which is the vibes I had coming in to this series. Sora no Woto excelled in all areas, with a unique balance of character growth, comedy, urgency and a solid theme to unify everything, so it’s naturally a very tough bar to beat, and while I’m not expecting 86 EIGHTY-SIX to impress quite to the same level, I found this to be a modestly enjoyable ride, enough for me to have an interest in the second season.

  • A major part of 86 EIGHTY-SIX was Vladilena’s gradual coming to know Spearhead better. As viewers, we are well aware of the fact that Vladilena’s intentions are genuine, but Spearhead have no way of knowing, and as such, a part of the payoff comes from Vladilena succeeding in getting her feelings across through conversations with the group. While they still keep her at arms’ length, the hostility slowly begins dissipating. Compared to the antiquated and sterile environments within San Magnolia, Spearhead’s facilities feel a lot more natural.

  • It turns out that Vladilena’s perception of the Colorata as human, and her determination to save them, comes from an event in her childhood: her father had been a staunch proponent of the fact that the Colorata should be treated properly, and even travelled out into District Eighty Six to show Vladilena the reality of their war. However, during one such excursion, their helicopter was shot down by anti-air legion, and the young Vladilena herself would’ve perished had it not been for Shourei, who saves her.

  • While 86 EIGHTY-SIX does aim to present a more serious story, two aspects of the anime did diminish the atmospherics. The first of these was a whimsical piece of incidental music making use of a woodwind, and the second is the fact that Vladilena herself seems to glow in bliss whenever she has food made from real ingredients. I understand that this is placed to indicate that Vladilena has access to the full spectrum of emotions, although I would also suppose that it’s to demonstrate that despite her station and the associated responsibilities, she’s still young.

  • Against a foe like the Legion, the most effective weapon would’ve probably been electromagnetic pulses to scramble their electronics, followed by use of cluster munitions. If we’re allowed more exotic weapons, then plasma rounds as seen in Halo, or Star Wars‘ ion cannons would also feel like feasible choices. Instead, San Magnolia is left to field inferior, manned spider-tanks against the Legion, speaking volumes about their nations’ inadequacies. The general attitude surrounding the armed forces seems to be “better us than them”, and it appears that as long as the Alba leadership can live comfortably, they don’t really concern themselves with even developing better weapons.

  • The Colorata thus could’ve become a stopgap measure, but instead, a combination of discrimination, complacency and hubris stops them from researching more effective weapons. Granted, had this been the case, 86 EIGHTY-SIX wouldn’t allow Vladilena and Shinei to speak with one another, which is doubtlessly the disruption to the status quo that allows the story to happen. I’ve long joked that if common sense prevails too early, there is no story; in 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s case, I’ll forgive the lack of drive to develop better tools against the Legion mainly because giving the protagonists powerful weapons diminish the impact of death.

  • The sharp contrast between the world that Vladilena lives in, and Shinei’s world, is night and day. Through this, 86 EIGHTY-SIX conveys the idea that to live life fully is to accept that there is always going to be a risk, and that because of this risk, the experiences that we share become more meaningful and precious. By comparison, the sheltered, closed-off life within the walls of San Magnolia feels stilted, and here, Spearhead recalls a party they’d had as a group during the spring, under blooming cherry trees.

  • The biggest surprise early in 86 EIGHTY-SIX is the idea that the Legion’s machines possess enough sophistication to be aware of their own “death” and have determined that harvesting neural tissue from deceased humans is the best way to ensure their own survival. While this seems like malevolence in AI, one could actually devise a setup such that the Legion’s actions can be considered an emergent property: in graduate school, I took a course in biological computation and emergent computing to study how immensely complex behaviours can arise from devising agents that follow simple rules.

  • The most famous example is Craig Reybolds’ BOIDS, which demonstrate flocking behaviours rivalling those of real-world bird flocks despite each agent only possessing three rules. It is therefore conceivable that that a slightly more complex set internal data and a sufficiently sophisticated decision function would eventually lead the Legion to realise that their internal hardware can be replaced with a readily available source of computational power, one that is easier to find than returning to the manufacturing plant and asking for replacement parts. What works for the machines, however, terrifies those who fight them: residual neurological patterns mean that the dying thoughts of the person can be heard, and Vladelina loses her composure outright when she’s exposed to this phenomenon.

  • One of the factual pieces of 86 EIGHTY-SIX that isn’t accounted for is the fact that organic tissue, while capable of immensely complex actions, is still very slow. Modern day processors cannot reason and spot patterns anywhere nearly as effectively as our minds, but instead, they compensate by being orders of magnitude faster. One supposes that the Legion have overcome this particular barrier or use the organic matter purely to augment their existing hardware in some way.

  • After one conversation with Shinei, Vladilena spots a heart shape in one of her chocolates and glows red in embarrassment. It’s easy to surmise that she’s fallen in love with Shinei;86 EIGHTY-SIX is set up in such a way so that the two’s paths will inevitably cross, and so far, the progression hasn’t felt unnatural in any way. The two exchange conversations to learn more about one another and support one another outside the scope of their ordinary duties to the point where they develop a minor connection of sorts.

  • I’d previously mentioned that Vladilena reminds me a great deal of Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s Claudia: both are dedicated to their duties, but possess a more human side to them, as well. Unlike 86 EIGHTY-SIXWarlords of Sigrdrifa flew under most viewers’ radars, and discussion of the series was quite limited. 86 EIGHTY-SIX, on the other hand, drew much more discussions; some folks counted this series as a game-changer in anime, while others found the hype and acclaim for the series to greatly exaggerate what the series did end up doing.

  • A recurring joke in 86 EIGHTY-SIX comes from Henrietta constantly fending off suitors that are well outside the realm of her interests. At a San Magnolia party celebrating their national holiday, Vladilena is disinterested in the proceedings and activates her para-RAID so that she may speak with Spearhead. While her determination is admirable, resistance to any idea of reinforcing Spearhead is fierce. In fact, San Magnolia’s leadership is acting the same way Cornelius Fudge and the Ministry of Magic did in response to the suggestion that Voldemort had returned.

  • Competent leadership and the drive to innovate would’ve easily dug San Magnolia from their current situation, but this would end the story before we viewers had a chance to check it out. For the same reasons that humanity doesn’t have Forerunner technology at the beginning of the Human-Covenant War, we’re dropped in to a point where things look grim, so that Vladilena and Spearhead may work out the challenges together. While it’s a small gesture, Vladilena’s sending fireworks to their base, disguised as special rounds, is done to show she still cares about them.

  • As it turns out, Henrietta had been friends with Shinei as a child, but as the country devolved into racism and segregation, she ended up selling them out to avoid trouble for her family. I’d initially figured it was a radio, but between the Legion’s ability to jam EMR and Henrietta’s father had been involved in the development of the para-RAID, which directly links minds together, this theory is quickly benched. The fact that Henrietta’s father had experimented on live Colorata test subjects resulted in his committing suicide from the guilt, despite succeeding. I’ll leave others to cover the ethical ramifications of this achievement, since the implications for me are that San Magnolia does have the capability of putting together technological feats that are impossible with contemporary technology if they put their minds to it.

  • Hence, the question of why effort would be expended towards a technology that only will prolong the Colorata’s suffering, rather than developing the munitions needed to mop the Legion up, lingers. I’m not too sure if the second season will go in this direction, although I will note that I will not hold this against 86 EIGHTY-SIX at all: the world is built this way to accommodate the story, and even in reality, companies are known for making illogical decisions (such as loot boxes and delaying BD releases while offering location and timed exclusives for certain anime films).

  • Shinei’s prowess as a Juggernaut pilot is consistently shown throughout 86 EIGHTY-SIX, manifesting in high-paced combat sequences that are fun to watch. Despite his power, Shinei’s main reason to fight is the fact that he wants to properly send his brother off, having been haunted by the fact that Shourei had tried to kill him in a fit of rage after their parents died in the Legion onslaught. Thanks to his ability to hear the voices of the deceased, Shinei determines his brother must still be suffering from regrets in his life and feels the only way he can attain redemption for failing to protect those around him is at least to help Shourei find peace.

  • In the end, Shinei is successful: fighting against a titanic Legion known as a Shepherd, which possesses near-human intelligence and is capable of coordinating Legion offensive with frightening accuracy. While Shinei is nearly wrecked thanks to the Shepherd’s nanomachines, Vladilena had managed to convince Henrietta to take control of San Magnolia’s artillery system and hammers the area in a danger-close fire mission. Clearing away enough Legion to buy Shinei space, he is able to finally destroy the Shepherd, liberating his brother’s spirit from suffering. Recognising what Shinei was trying to do, Shourei apologises to Shinei before dying.

  • In the end, only five members of Spearhead survive the battle; there is a sense of finality here, akin to how as Angel Beats! progressed, fewer characters were left as they moved on. This creates a sense of melancholy, and knowing their eventual fate is death, Spearhead decide to head out of San Magnolia’s borders for new territory. While Spearhead’s members had each been prepared for death, seeing what lay outside of their service to San Magnolia also helped them to appreciate the value of life.

  • The final moments of Spearhead setting course away from San Magnolia’s borders is set to an inset song, a collaboration between Hiroyuki Sawano and mizuki. 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s incidental music is, unsurprisingly, scored by Sawano and Kohta Yamamoto: I didn’t notice Sawano’s style until this inset song, whereupon motifs from Gundam Narrative immediately presented itself. Like Kenji Kawai, Sawano has a very distinct style, making use of percussion and strings extensively in his pieces to capture a sense of grandeur and scale. Indeed, Sawano’s contributions to 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s soundtrack greatly resembles the music in Hathaway’s Flash.

  • Because Sawano’s music (and the singers performing his songs) tend to have a strong emotional tenour, some folks indicated that 86 EIGHTY-SIX was trying a bit too hard to create a touching moment that showed the extent of how much Vladilena had come to care for Spearhead. As far as emotions go, I did not feel that this moment said anything substantial about Vladilena, but I did enjoy it for the music. The soundtrack released today, and aside from the track “TararaTaTa”, which was that woodwind song I’m not terribly fond of for being completely dissonant with the overall aesthetic in the series, the remainder of the soundtrack is solid.

  • Outside of San Magnolia’s borders, Shinei, Anju, Raiden, Theoto and Kurena are finally at ease: with the Legion a threat for another time, the five are able to unwind properly. After surviving their last battle, Spearhead’s remnants only have access to Shinei’s Juggernaut and one robot for carrying supplies, lovingly dubbed Fido. The vividly coloured landscapes Shinei and his allies see stand in stark contrast to the sterile environments the Alba live in, and it is here that 86 EIGHTY-SIX really shines. The combination of lighting and foliage colour here creates a very cool and comfortable feeling, paralleling the passing of last week’s heat wave.

  • We’re now a ways into July, and having gotten my second dose, I’m looking forwards to returning to the office in a shade under two weeks. I’ve been lucky in that after taking my shot, the only side effects I had was mild drowsiness, and by Friday, I was well enough to enjoy a surprise lunch of fried chicken three ways (quarter chicken, chicken tenders and popcorn chicken) with barbeque sauce and fries. While working from home’s been fun (I find that my productivity is roughly the same as it is from the office, ±10%), the biggest impediment is that I only have a single monitor setup at home for my Mac machines, and I lack the adaptors to run an HDMI cable to USB-C ports.

  • The drawback about returning to the office is that, since I tend to watch anime at lunch, my pacing might slow down somewhat. I’ll figure something out once I start at the office; for now, I’ll focus on 86 EIGHTY-SIX – here, Kurena melts in a hot bath, which is a rare luxary afforded to them by the large container they’re carrying. For the longest time, Kurena has had a crush on Shinei, but was always too embarrassed to say so. Shinei seems quite unaware of this, but in spite of this, Kurena always develops a spring in her step when Shinei praises her.

  • While exploring an abandoned town in the Giadian Empire, Shinei and the others come upon a damaged Legion unit possessing a human brain. Shinei is able to understand the machine’s desire to end its suffering and shoots it in his usual manner. During one engagement, the support robot Fido takes damage and needs to be decommissioned. The existence of robots like Fido would suggest that San Magnolia is capable of at least basic AI, even if what they build isn’t as advanced as what the Giadian Empire created prior to their destruction at its hands.

  • It suddenly strikes me that what makes the Colorata and Spearhead squadron special are the fact that they are human, whereas their foe is a machine. Since the Giadian Empire is no more, one direction 86 EIGHTY-SIX could impress with during the second season would be the idea that regardless of technological sophistication, the human spirit is more impressive still. I’m not sure if this is covered in the original novels, and I suppose I could go check the novels out, but for the time being, I would prefer to see the events from the anime surprise me.

  • After exploring a school, Shinei and the others encounter a field of Legion. Shinei decides to engage them on his own and orders the others to leave. While Kurena, Raiden, Theoto and Anju’s fates are unknown, one can suppose that Shinei survives, since this is essential to the story: one could say that he is cursed to live because the narrative demands it. Seeing everyone in a classroom was reminiscent of a scene in Sora no Woto when Kanata imagines her, Rio, Nöel, Kureha and Filicia in a music club together – there is a sense of longing for normalcy amongst the group, and this was a moment I found particularly moving.

  • Vladilena’s unauthorised use of artillery lands her a suspension from active duty, and she uses the time to head out to Spearhead’s base. Having shared so many conversations with them, Vladilena is reminded of how the facility once housed the people she’d come to develop an attachment to. For me, this was probably the more emotional moment in 86 EIGHT-SIX; as Vladilena explores the places Spearhead once occupied, memories linger in the corridors and rooms.

  • I would liken the feeling to wandering campus grounds during the summer, returning to lecture halls and libraries I once made extensive use of – while devoid of people, certain memories endure. Vladilena’s trip leads her to find a cat that Spearhead had been keeping, and, promising to take care of the kitten to honour the old team’s wishes, Vladilena resolves to do what she can, as well. This is where the first season ends: after the finale, another episode aired, but to my initial disappointment, this ended up being a recap. However, the recap episode proved to be a blessing in disguise; I will watch it prior to 86 EIGHTY-SIX resuming in October just to jolt my memories on a few things. With this, my talk on 86 EIGHTY-SIX draws to a close. I have no verdict for the series yet, since it feels unfair to provide an assessment of a story that’s really only halfway through.

  • Having said this, I did have fun watching 86 EIGHTY-SIX, and the first half is sufficiently interesting such that I am looking forwards to the second half. In the meantime, the only other anime left over from the previous season is Higehiro –  I’m not too sure when I’ll get around to writing about it, but I do intend to wrap things up. For the upcoming season, The Aquatope on White Sand and Magia Record are on my list of series to write about, and DOOM Eternal has exceeded expectations, so I’m looking forwards to penning my thoughts on the game once I’ve completed the first four missions. Finally, I was able to set up a basic Mists of Pandaria server a few days ago, and while it’s nowhere nearly as functional as my Wrath of the Lich King server as far as quests, spells and dungeons goes, it is sufficiently complete for me to explore Azeroth and Pandaria from the air without any crashes, so that could be worth writing about once I finish exploring Northrend and share my final thoughts on Skyrim, where I’ve finally beaten Alduin.

Beyond these aspects, 86 EIGHTY-SIX also touches on what working within a system that is resilient towards change is like through Vladilena, as well as how even in the face of a limited lifespan, people like Shinei can nonetheless find purpose in life and make the most of the time they have. The more human aspects of 86 EIGHTY-SIX, however, have felt more inconsistent. Vladilena’s connection to Spearhead is still being developed, and while she’s determined to know those whom she works with, she still has yet to actually meet anyone in person. However, knowing that there is a second season means that Vladilena’s story will have time to undergo further exploration. Conversely, Shinei’s desire to find closure with his brother, despite being portrayed as a pivotal moment for him, ended up being resolved on short order; folks looking for a bit more of an emotional connection to Shinei finally achieving what he’d set out to do felt shafted on account of how quickly it’d occurred. This naturally leaves the question of what lies ahead for Shinei: once Shourei’s Legion form is defeated, Shinei completely relaxes and even finds enjoyment in life. He appears content to watch the sun rise over the universe, but with the Legion still posing a substantial threat, it is difficult to imagine that Shinei would take this lying down, and as he continues to fight, I imagine that his course is set to converge with Vladilena’s come the second season. Because 86 EIGHTY-SIX is still in progress, it would be unfair to settle on a verdict at this point in time; I’ll determine whether or not the series meets expectations once everything is in the books, but insofar, I have enjoyed what I’ve seen so far; despite hiccoughs in the character development, the world-building in 86 EIGHTY-SIX has proven to be very compelling to the point where I’ve certainly looked forwards to the episodes each week this was airing.

86 EIGHTY-SIX: Review and Reflection After Three

“I hate prejudice, discrimination, and snobbishness of any kind – it always reflects on the person judging and not the person being judged. Everyone should be treated equally.” –Gordon Brown

When war erupts between the Republic of San Magnolia and the Empire of Giad, San Magnolia begins folding under the Empire’s automated machines. San Magnolian engineers claim to have developed their own autonomous machines, leading the public to believe that this war is purely fought between automaton, but in reality, San Magnolia has the Colorata people, an ethnic minority in San Magnolia, pilot these machines, Juggernauts, while the Alba majority live their lives idly. Major Vladilena Mirizé is an Alba with the military, and at the age of sixteen, is a handler for Colorata squadrons. Unlike her compatriots, she treats her units kindly and possesses a fierce desire to end the discrimination the Colorata, informally, the 86, have received. She accepts an assignment to lead the Spearhead unit, which is infamous for having driven previous handlers insane. Vladilena quickly realises that Spearhead is worthy of their reputation, and desires to learn more about them, including unit leader Shinei. The Colorata soldiers, on the other hand, find Vladilena curious at best and untrustworthy at worst: a handful of Spearhead begin to speak more freely with Vladilena, Kaie among them, but Kurena refuses to open up because the Alba had executed her parents. WiShineig to help Spearhead improve their combat efficiency, Vladilena finds a new map with engineer and researcher, Henrietta Penrose, to better improve her awareness of the terrain, but during an operation, Kaie’s Juggernaut gets bogged down in a marsh, and she’s killed in action. Theoto, one of the surviving pilots, accuses Vladilena of putting on a front about caring for those she commands into combat, and claims that Vladilena hadn’t even bothered to learn everyone’s actual names. After three episodes, 86 EIGHTY-SIX has proven to be an intriguing anime, covering a range of intriguing topics through its world building: while there are moments that lighten the mood up considerably, 86 EIGHTY-SIX on the whole

Out of the gates, the dystopian world is rife with relevant social issues of segregation and discrimination, and the protagonists represent dramatically different viewpoints on the war. The treatment of the Colorata, the 86, as non-humans, is despicable, and 86 EIGHTY SIX makes this discrimination clear out of the gates with an Alba handler verbally abusing the Colorata soldiers as they enter combat. After Vladilena is introduced, she enters a military office filled with inebriated officers who seem completely disinterested in their duties. It becomes clear that the Alba are no saints, and that their world is a fabrication. Vladilena, however, is different: she regards the Colorata as humans to the bemusement to those around her, and while other Alba lecture her for her seemingly naïve perspectives, Vladilena’s beliefs make her easily sympathetic to the audience. What appears as electronic signals on her screen, are, after all, people, and 86 EIGHTY-SIX subsequently switches the perspectives out to show the Colorata as they fight in combat against an unfeeling enemy, as well as their lives outside of battle. The Colorata are human, experiencing joy, sorrow, mirth and melancholy as acutely as any Alba (if not more so). Meals are enjoyed together, jokes are shared, amongst the Spearhead soldiers, and Vladilena plainly understands this, even if she’s not on the battlefield herself. Hoping to lead her soldiers to survival and eventual return to San Magnolia, Vladilena immediately becomes a likeable character: three episodes in, viewers have reason to support Vladilena and hope that her sincerity reaches those who fight under her guidance.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve always been fond of anime with an interesting world and mecha: 86 EIGHTY-SIX looks like an amalgamation of Sora no Woto and Warlords of Sigrdrifa at first glance, with Vladilena benig 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s counterpart to Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s Claudia. Both are devoted to their duties as soldiers, but have a more friendly side to them, as well. Upon reaching the military headquarters, Vladilena is disgusted to see her fellow officers lazing around after what must’ve been a wild party. In this moment, it became apparent that in San Magnolia, very few care about doing their duties properly.

  • Consequently, I developed an immediate sense of respect for Vladilena. Vladilena’s battle station is a dark room with large displays and an uplink to real-time data that allows her to spot enemies and direct her units to proper points on a map. While it makes sense that even automated systems have human controllers, that Vladilena is speaking with the machines hints at the fact that the Juggernauts aren’t, in fact, autonomous. Fighting from behind the safety of a screen, and the comfort of a good chair, Vladilena nonetheless feels connected to the names on a screen, whereas other mission controllers, dubbed Handlers, view their units as disposable.

  • When Vladilena is given command of an elite squad, she immediately accepts. Vladilena is an idealist, speaking to things like equality, fairness and nondiscrimination: these topics have never been more relevant, with current events constantly highlighting the mistreatment of minorities and need to contain racial discrimination. As a visible minority myself, I’ve experienced discrimination, but it also speaks to a bit of luck where I’ve opportunity to overcome whatever barriers this presents on virtue of effort and merit alone. In 86 EIGHTY-SIX, however, the Alba’s systemic discrimination against the Colorata is such that the Colorata don’t even have this chance. Vladilena therefore becomes a character viewers will rally behind, as she’s completely opposed to San Magnolia’s treatment of the Colorata, and does what she can to raise awareness of this issue.

  • I suppose that it is a hallmark of this decade’s anime, where cutesy mannerisms and facial expressions find their way even into anime with a more serious premise: Vladilena melts when Henrietta convinces the former to stick around for tea, as she’s made cream puffs and cakes with real eggs and cheese. The implication is that there’s a food crisis going on, and while San Magnolia’s citizens seem to be living in reasonable comfort, their world also seems artificially clean, manufactured. This stands in stark contrast with the Colorata, the 86’s, world, which is rundown, gritty, but also possessing a human touch to it.

  • Unlike the Alba, which all have silver hair and blue eyes, the Colorata are a very diverse group of individuals, sporting a range of complexions, hair and eye colours. Having grown up in a multi-cultural nation, I’m accustomed to seeing people of all sorts, and I fully embrace the idea that different cultures share one thing in common: everyone has noteworthy customs, traditions and above all, food. Despite their poor treatment at the hands of the Alba, Spearhead squad is a spirited and energetic group: ironically, they feel more human than the Alba do, even though the Alba claim that the Colorata are non-human.

  • Between the devastated world outside of the San Magnolia walls, military emphasis, spider-tanks and general aesthetic, 86 EIGHTY-SIX distinctly feels like Sora no Woto. It’s been ten years since I first watched Sora no Woto, and admittedly, since then, I’ve had a fondness for the sort of world-building that Sora no Woto presented. Here in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, it is no small compliment when I say that this series is comparable to Sora no Woto as far as creating intrigue and excitement to see what happens next. However, unlike Sora no Woto, which I watched after its airing (and therefore, could watch the episodes at my own pace), watching 86 EIGHTY-SIX as it’s airing means that I’ll have to wait a week should any episode end on a cliffhanger.

  • Whereas the Alba eat artificial foods, with actual food being hard to come by, Spearhead appear to have access to fresh peaches and cherries, as well as real eggs and flour. Even though their lives are far tougher, and death is always a real threat, one could make the case that the Colorata are living more fully than their Alba counterparts. Here in this screenshot, I’ve just got Shinei, the male protagonist of 86 EIGHTY-SIX. Brutally efficient and skilled, Shinei is a taciturn, stoic individual, and in fact, reminds me greatly of Gundam 00‘s Setsuna F. Seiei.

  • Assuming this to be the case, I feel that 86 EIGHTY-SIX will likely have Shinei become more expressive and honest with his feelings as he gets to know Vladilena better. Shinei is voiced by Shōya Chiba (B Cell from Cells at Work! and Yuito Aoi of Iroduku: The World in Colours). Shinei is notable because of his devotion to duty and attendant combat efficiency. When one of his squad-mates is injured in combat and asks Shinei to put him out of his misery, Shinei does so without hesitation: in most situations, one would at least stop and hesitate a little, so such an action speaks volumes about Shinei’s mindset.

  • Despite not expressing his emotions often, Shinei is often seen reading books when off-duty. I read primarily to lose myself in other worlds, and I therefore imagine that books are probably Shinei’s way of coping with the things he’s seen and done on the battlefield. Further to this, while Shinei isn’t particularly vocal, I imagine that there could come a point in 86 EIGHTY-SIX where Shinei loses his cool: in Gundam 00, flashbacks to his past, brought on by Ali Al-Saachez and a return to the Krugis republic, causes Setsuna to fight with a wild abandon.

  • Spearhead and the other Colorata soldiers use the M1A4 Juggernaut, a manned spider tank armed with a single 57 mm smoothbore cannon and depending on the configuration, either a pair of oscillating cutters or 50-calibre machine guns. Juggernaut pilots are called Processors to create the illusion that the Juggernauts are autonomous, unmanned machines, whereas in practise, the Juggernauts resemble Star Wars‘ TIE Fighters, which were built to overwhelm enemies with numbers and lack any notable safety features.

  • By the second episode, viewers have a chance to see what sort of enemies San Magnolia are fighting, and it’s explained that Spearhead and other Colorata pilots are engaged in a battle with the Empire’s Legion, fully autonomous machines that overwhelm enemies with their numbers and ability to sustain casualties without concern. It is briefly mentioned that the Empire might not be in full control of their machines, which attack based on some failed algorithm, and as a result, San Magnolia’s war with the Empire is set to conclude in two year’s time, when Legion machines reach their operational limits and shut down.

  • With this in mind, the Colorata become human sacrifices, fighting to keep the Legion busy while the Alba wait things out. I’ve heard that this already precipitous setup will be further disrupted in the future as more of the world becomes presented to viewers, although having very little familiarity with the source material, I think I’ll stick to an anime-only perspective of 86 EIGHTY-SIX so that any new revelations can have a greater impact. While I’ve long been neutral or tolerant of spoilers, of late, I’ve had an increased inclination to avoid spoilers as to have a more thorough and complete experience.

  • Vladilena’s convictions become reinforced to viewers when she’s invited as a guest speaker for a lecture and promptly goes on to say that the Colorata, the 86, are fully human, and that it is only with San Magnolia’s mistreatment and misclassification of them that allow the country to claim a zero-casualty war against the Empire’s Legion. Ordinarily, characters with a predisposition towards supporting a cause can come across as being quite irritating because of indecisive writing, so it speaks volumes about Vladilena’s character that hearing her bring awareness to the Colorata’s situation serves to increase my respect for her: the series is able to get viewers to rally behind Vladilena because the other perspective (i.e. those of the Colorata’s) is clearly presented, leaving no ambiguity that with few exceptions, the Alba are being unreasonable.

  • To communicate with Spearhead, Vladilena uses what’s called a PARA-RAID, a VoIP system that Henrietta had a hand in developing. Spearhead finds her calls unusual, since most mission controllers regard the Processors as expendable. While initially reluctant to open up, a few of Spearhead do eventually warm up to Vladilena, who goes by the call-sign Handler One. Here, she asks Shinei to produce better combat reports so that she may better support them: while Processor teams are ostensibly supposed to write reports for this exact reason, unofficially, most mission controllers have no regard for the Processor’s well-being and thus, never read them, so Spearhead’s taken to submitting the same one every time to save effort.

  • There’s actually quite a bit of terminology in 86 EIGHTY-SIX that takes some getting used to, but fortunately, after three episodes, I believe I’m a little clearer now. A Handler is a mission controller, an Alba who sits behind a screen to direct the Processor, human pilots running the M1A4 Juggernaut spider tanks. To ensure a line of communications, the PARA-RAID system is used. The Legion refer to the autonomous war machines the Empire has created, and I think that’s everything.

  • Here, in between operations, the women of the team decide to frolik in a nearby stream, and after hunting a boar, some of the guys figure it’s a good idea to cop a look. They get busted almost immediately, and in the chaos, Kurena accidentally lets slip that she has feelings for Shinei, which leads to all sorts of good natured teasing subsequently, causing Kurena to puff up her cheeks in indignation. The use of visual elements such as puffed-up cheeks is unusual for a series of this premise, and I recall that Warlords of Sigrdrifa did something similar, with exaggerated facial expressions. I come from a time where serious anime had serious, consistent facial artwork, so seeing these elements always suggest to me that a given series, whether it’s 86 EIGHTY-SIX or Warlords of Sigrdrifa, is reminding viewers not to take things so seriously all the time.

  • Of everyone in Spearhead squad, I immediate took a liking towards Kaie: friendly and outgoing, she’s very forward and direct, as well as possessing a greater understanding of the Alba and Colorata’s history. As with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s Kyon, I’ve long had a thing for ponytails, and despite 86 EIGHTY-SIX being a new anime, I felt that Kaei looks very familiar, even though can’t quite put my finger on which anime character. Kaie is voiced by Haruka Shiraishi, whom I know as Himouto! Umaru-chan‘s Kirie Motoba, Ruri Hibarigaoka from Anne Happy! and Hanawa Ushiku from Anima Yell!.

  • By evening, Vladilena uses the PARA-RAID to contact Spearhead. One aspect I particularly liked about 86 EIGHTY-SIX was the fact that the same moments would be portrayed from Vladilena and Spearhead’s perspective as the two converse, which really accentuates the idea that there’s two sides to the coin here. Although the only thing connecting them is voice comms right now, 86 EIGHTY-SIX will almost certainly go down a route where Vladilena’s conviction in equal rights and fair treatment of the Colorata will have her show up on the frontlines, which would show Kurena and the others that Vladilena means business.

  • After retrieving a map from the archives with Henrietta’s help, Vladilena is confident that she’ll be of greater help to Spearhead. However, things quickly go pear-shaped when Spearhead is ambushed by the Legion, and in the chaos, Kaie’s Juggernaut becomes stuck in a marsh that the maps did not denote. She becomes a sitting duck for the Legion’s guns and is subsequently destroyed. Theoto subsequently lashes out at Vladilena, and while his words come from the heat of the moment, there’s truth in them. Vladilena doesn’t know the horrors of the battlefield. As accusation after accusation comes in, Vladelina loses composure.

  • Three episodes into 86 EIGHTY-SIX, and I’m sold on the premise; there’s a lot of moving parts in this anime, and correspondingly, much to consider. I could be here all day discussing various ideas, as 86 EIGHTY-SIX offers food for thought on many fronts. However, I also appreciate that there will be a smaller set of themes this series will likely wish to focus on as it progresses. To give 86 EIGHTY-SIX a fair chance to explore the themes its author had intended the work to convey, I’ll close things off here and note that with this post, I’ve now established all of the anime I’m actively watching and writing about this season. I’ll take a look at Yakunara Mug Cup mo in another week: because the series is broken up into an animated and live-action component, there’s only the equivalent of a half episode each week, so I figured I’d best wait to see more of the series before sitting down to write about it. In the meantime, it’s time to catch up with the fourth episode: I’d deliberately held off on watching it so this after-three talk was not impacted by knowledge of future events.

Beyond social matters, 86 EIGHTY-SIX also speaks to the disconnect between the Alba handlers and Colorata soldiers. Theoto’s grief-filled rant carries this message plainly; while Vladilena may care for those around her, all she sees on the screen is a series of pixels representing a soldier. She’s not present to know how losing a comrade feels, or see the battlefield painted with allied blood with each and every death. 86 EIGHTY-SIX thus indicates that there exists a gap between leadership and the foot soldiers in general: leaders often have sight of the bigger picture, but are blind to the experiences (and sufferings) of those with boots on the ground, and short of visiting the frontlines themselves, will have very little idea of what individual soldiers see and feel. At the opposite end of the spectrum, foot soldiers have their concentration focused on getting the next objective done, and without a connection to leadership, can find it easy to lose sight of what they’re fighting for. When one loses their best friend, or a squad mate, the overarching objectives of a war become secondary: someone dear to them is gone, and achieving victory won’t bring them back. As Vladilena and Shinei get to know one another better through both conflict and whenever Vladilena contacts the Spearhead, 86 EIGHTY-SIX is clearly set on reconciling these two differences, both closing the gap between leaders and soldiers, and also set in motion the events that will see the Colorata receive equal rights, and perhaps reconciliation to demonstrate that irrespective of one’s appearance, ethnicity, beliefs or creed, everyone is human, with rights to life and security. 86 EIGHTY-SIX has covered a considerable amount of territory thus far, and this series could prove to be immensely enjoyable if all of these elements are brought together to accentuate the idea that at the end of the day, even seemingly-disparate people are more similar than unlike.