86 Season 2
Episode 18

by Callum May,

How would you rate episode 18 of
86 (TV 2) ?

I spent most of my reviews of this show feeling like I was commentating on a parade. An exceptional production that was able to excel at pretty much whatever it put its mind to. The first cour was a particularly great adaptation, splitting episodes in half to create an engaging parallel between two vastly different ways of living. In that sense, there was a structure to the storytelling: if we got an episode where we only saw Spearhead Squadron, then we felt Lena's absence.

The second cour has had to work a lot harder to keep viewers engaged. It still has some great directors, but the story is told in a much more straightforward way. That has meant that we've seen many “characters sit and talk about big plans” episodes, interspersed with the episodes where they actually execute on those plans. The members of Spearhead Squadron remain the most interesting cast members, but they're most in their element when they're actually doing something and making their own decisions.

Episode 18 squeezed in a lot of anticipation, removing both the OP and ED to make it all fit, which hopefully means that Episode 19 will be able to start immediately with these characters at their best—on a suicide mission. The politics of the Federacy are kind of interesting, but the constant chatter about this upcoming mission has felt a little repetitive, especially when we know the members of Spearhead want to go on it anyways.

The biggest issue with the talking heads isn't necessarily the dialogue, but rather the way it's shown. It's no secret that the production of 86 has been suffering. This week's episode was delayed a week, and next week's episode has been delayed as well. Episode 18's delay did little to make the episode flourish: the animation directors did at least have the time to keep the characters on-model compared to the previous week, but it still has been a bunch of cardboard cutouts flapping at each other visually.

Thankfully, 86 has always been blessed with great episode directors and storyboard artists that have managed to keep things feeling more interesting. The opening scene with Ernst and the commander was still largely a bunch of still frames, but the director was able to add in an interesting motif. When we see the reflection of the commander in the table, he tells us his true reasons for sending the 86 on the mission. However, when we see the reflection of Ernst, he stands up for the 86. It's visual language telling us that Ernst really is saying what he means. He really does want to protect these kids.

It's been hard watching 86 limp its way to the finish, and it's unlikely that another week's delay will be able to improve things much. We are finally heading into the climax of the second cour, which will likely see Spearhead take down Kiriya. The one big reassurance is that the CG animation seems to be unaffected by the production issues, and so we can still expect some stunning mecha battles. I've even recently started buying the 86 model kits.

I'll see you all again in December for Episode 19, and hopefully the show will actually reach its finale.


86 Season 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Callum is the host and creator of the YouTube channel The Canipa Effect where he explores topics within the anime industry. You can also find him talking nonsense on Twitter.

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