by Callum May,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Anime original episodes can get a bad rep. While long Shonen Jump adaptations can use them as filler, a way of giving the manga a chance to catch up, they can also be used as a way for the anime's creative staff to tell their own story. Episode 10 of 86 proved that for this team, adapting this light novel isn't just any old job, but a creative passion project in itself.
I don't regret the many 5 stars I've given to episodes in the past, but this week, I wish I could give a 6 star rating. By all intents and purposes, Spearhead Squadron won last week. They beat Shin's brother, stopped a swarm of Legion, and managed to finally cooperate with Lena. After such an exhausting episode, I was a little worried we'd be jumping into a brand new arc immediately, but Episode 10 gave these characters a chance to rest and appreciate what they still have.
A special shoutout should be given to the background artists at Bihou, Inc. The messaging of this episode wouldn't work without the beautiful environments for these characters to soak in. Up until now, Spearhead Squadron has always been under this unrelenting pressure. Battles could start at any time and there was a complicated relationship with their Handler to work through. But now, they're able to sit back, relax, and as Shin says, linger a little before they continue their campaign. Bihou created several different versions of each of these environments based on the time of day, demonstrating that they really did spend an entire day just lounging by the lake. They deserve it, after all.
This was also an opportunity for us to spend a little more time with the characters on their own terms. Up until now, most episodes have been split 50-50 between Spearhead Squadron and San Magnolia, but this was 20 minutes purely dedicated to getting into the headspace of the Suicide Squad™. I guarantee you that because of this one incredibly well-directed episode, any future deaths will have far more impact. I already dread it…
I was already prepared to sing high praises for Episode 10, but the post-credits sequence was unexpectedly raw. One of the complaints I've seen in the past is that some character deaths didn't have much impact because we hadn't gotten a chance to get to know them yet. However, this opportunity to search through Fido's data banks gave us a brand new perspective on the anxieties and hopes of the characters that still live, and of those that died in battle. Because it's all data, the staff have the unique opportunity to deliver messages visually without much care for chronology. This might be a light novel adaptation, but they can tell the story in ways that only anime can achieve (Please please please Aniplex, greenlight an original series for this team to work on next!).
After a tear-jerking return to the past set to Hiroyuki Sawano music, we get one glimpse at the future. Their rest is over and nobody is safe. And now thanks to Episode 10's brilliant character writing and direction, I'm more scared than ever before.
86 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. He also serves as Video Editor at OTAQUEST, discussing the art and creation of Japanese pop culture. You can also find him talking nonsense on Twitter.
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