by Callum May,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Storytelling isn't just about the words themselves, but also about how those words are structured. While a lot of overseas TV has started being presented in 40-60 minute chunks, anime still uses 20-minute episodes. Therefore, it's up to the screenwriters to try and progress the story while still delivering a certain atmosphere or tone each week. In the case of 86, it's an unsettling one. If something good happens, something bad has got to happen later. After last week's horrifying reveals, it was nice to go back to a happier time at Spearhead Squadron, getting to know some of the fallen soldiers and finding out the different ways they have fun.
And then they went and killed off two more of them. Each week, 86 is tempering us with more and more despair, while also challenging Lena's resolve. How much longer until she goes marching down to operate those mortars herself? Spearhead is used to losing friends and being screwed over by the people of San Magnolia, but Lena is getting increasingly more frustrated with each new comrade that she loses. Right now, there's really nobody she can turn to – not her friend, who doesn't care, nor her uncle, who understands her perspective, but dissuades her from taking any meaningful action.
The show is back to its clean structure of showing one perspective for each half of the story, but I'm curious to see how long that can last. The good thing about this kind of storytelling is that it's able to showcase the distance between the two groups, but as the battle against the Legion grows more fervent, the gaps in their relationship won't always be the story's main strength.
The battles, as always, are exciting to watch, and I wanted to take this opportunity to talk a bit about the CG production company, Shirogumi Inc. They're a particularly veteran company within the worlds of film production and games, but it's only in the past decade that they've started getting involved in the anime industry, and only in the past few years that they've become involved to this extent. If you play any Japanese video games, the chances are that you've come across Shirogumi's work: they're largely involved in cutscene work for major developers like CAPCOM, Nintendo, and SEGA. You likely saw their work animating Arceus at the end of the Pokémon Legends Arceus trailer recently.
In the past, anime budgets have struggled to keep up with games, and so industry-leading CG companies have seldom worked in the medium. But in the last decade, thanks in part to the rise of overseas streaming, a lot of anime budgets have increased. CG creators have still had to make some concessions and find shortcuts, but now they've been able to create more fully 3DCG shows. In particular, Shirogumi created the Stand By Me Doraemon films and the TV series revisions.
Shirogumi's work on 86 follows on from their work last year on the dance choreography in 22/7, but 86 is closer to their strengths. Pretty much all mecha shows employ the use of 3D animators, but that doesn't necessarily make the process cheap or easy. It all still needs to fit within the same world while matching the exhilarating suspense of each battle. Unlike other mecha anime where the protagonist will be enclosed behind layers of sci-fi steel, the Juggernauts in 86 are light and brittle, and the CG creators are constantly reminding us of this.
Thanks for indulging my info dump, but hopefully it gives you a little more appreciation for the work that's being done across the different production departments. 86 is far from an easy show to create, but what's impressive is that we're about halfway through the first cour and it's still an incredibly well-made show. Next week's episode will be storyboarded and directed by Sword Art Online and ERASED's Tomohiko Ito, so there's even more to look forward to!
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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