86 Season 2
Episodes 12-14

by Callum May,

How would you rate episode 12 of
86 (TV 2) ?

How would you rate episode 13 of
86 (TV 2) ?

How would you rate episode 14 of
86 (TV 2) ?

It's surprising how much 86 manages to get right, despite its ambition. Earlier this year, I wrote in my review for Episode 11 that I would be annoyed if the characters survived their final battle. At the time, it seemed almost poetic. Soldiers who knew nothing but battle, dying purely to save themselves. I thought that if they survived, it would be because of some magical psychic power that would kill the grounded nature of 86 up until now.

But instead, it did the impossible: It nailed the fake death fakeout. The second cour of 86 is strange in that right now, it still feels like an epilogue. Shin has succeeded in defeating his brother, and the squad has now been offered a new life in New York City (aka the Federal Republic of Giad). An entire episode is dedicated to their time in Giad, playing out like a delightful AU story where they can live out a fulfilling life. But clearly, it's not so easy to walk away from a lifetime of war. The end of the episode left me yelling at my TV, “Don't go back! You'll be safe here!” Ernst Zimmerman's pleading with them to stay reflects the audience's perspective perfectly.

I firmly believe that 86 is one of the best-written shows of 2021 and perhaps one of the best war stories told in an anime. A lesser show could have spent so much time droning on about the complexities of the war against the legion and the conflicts between Giad leadership, but 86 recognizes that none of it would mean anything to the audience if it means nothing to the former Spearhead Squadron.

Right now, it's difficult to see where the show may be going. We have a whole new cour ahead for the cast to find a purpose for fighting, and tension is already building among their squadmates. Watching Shinei's ice-cold expressions toward Eugene in both life and death was difficult to watch, and it's easy to sympathize with the other members of the military who are enraged by his demeanor. I only worry that the serialized nature of the light novel could prevent us from ever seeing an animated finale to their journey in the future.

Meanwhile, we see very little of Lena within these first three episodes. She has a cool new red streak in her hair, but ironically, her situation is far less optimistic than the soldiers she used to command. The opening of Episode 12 mimics the first, but cloudy skies signal disasters to come, even while the same conceited propaganda explains that everything's going to be fine. I was kind of hoping that the show would be focusing on a new generation of Spearhead Squadron, but it's clear that they want to expand the scope by introducing a new nation.

In the past, 86 has relied on a 50-50 structure where we get to see two sides of the same conversations, but that wouldn't really make sense anymore. Lena and Spearhead are fighting two very different battles, but their goals are the same and will likely lead back to the same resolution. Whether Kadokawa will ever let these characters see peace is a whole other matter, though.

P.S. Apparently military mascots were a real thing, but were usually animals and not children. I'm fine with them coming up with an excuse to keep a comic relief character around Shin though. He needs it.

Rating:

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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