Review

by Theron Martin,

86

Novel 2

Synopsis:
86 Novel 2
The five survivors of Lena's squad continued with their Special Reconnaissance Mission after they broke contact with her, striving to go as far and live as long as they could. Their efforts allowed them to come into contact with the Federal Republic of Giad, the nation formed from a revolution within the Empire, one which had been taking an even heavier assault from the Legion but also had better equipment and resolve to fight them. There the former 86s found themselves accepted, even lauded, and given the opportunity to decide what their own futures would be for the first time. But for all of the options given to them, the only place they truly felt they belonged was on the battlefield. Hence Shin and his companions, together with the girl Fredericka serving as their Mascot, formed the core of a special unit to assist in the Federacy's fight against the legion. Meanwhile, back in the Republic, Lena has accepted a demotion for her actions in support of 86s and the nickname Bloody Reina for her effectiveness as a Handler. Because of precautions she has taken, she is also among the few who actually understands the truth, and can act upon it, when the Legion unexpectedly unleashes an assault which breaches the Republic's main defense.
Review:

The way the epilogue of the first novel in this series played out had such a sense of finality to it that I was shocked to discover that there were actually more novels to the series. Author Asato Asato's comments in the Afterword of this novel suggest that a series had not necessarily been planned and only happened because of positive response to the first novel. That explains a lot about the story niche into which this novel falls.

Volume 2 is the first of a two-part story about what happened during the two-year time gap between the end of chapter 7 and the epilogue of the first volume. While the epilogue did lay out the basics of what happened in the Republic from Lena's point of view, it did not deal with what the 86s went through at all, albeit for understandable dramatic reasons. This novel concentrates almost entirely on filling in that gap from the point of view of (primarily) Shin and (to a much lesser extent) Raiden and a couple of new characters, with only a few pages at the beginning and end devoted to Lena and events in the Republic. It looks like the next novel might have more about her side, as those few pages elaborate in more detail about some things described in the epilogue of the first novel, but for better or worse, this volume is the Processor's story.

And it's mostly for the better, as the exact details of what Shin and company went through are much more compelling than Lena's circumstances at the same time would have been. We knew from the end of the first novel that the five Processors who had survived the battle against Shin's brother had made it quite some distance before their Juggernauts eventually broke down but had still managed to make their way to the Federacy of Giad. This novel explains the harrowing path they took to get there, how they were treated once they got to Giad, and their initially-dubious regard for a nation with a wholly different attitude about both those who are not Albas and compulsory military service. In the process the reason why Giad knew about the Republic's treatment of 86s becomes clearer as well (although that could have been inferred from Shin's quintet being in Giad military uniforms at the end of last novel).

But this would not be a worthwhile novel if they just settled into life in Giad peacefully, nor would that have at all been consistent with their established characterizations. All five of the survivors were creatures of the battlefield, so them eventually entering the military – and thus shaking up thinking about how to use certain kinds of battle machines – would not have been a surprise even if their military service had not been revealed at the end of the last novel. Through a combination of real-time and flashbacks, about half of the novel focuses on the battles they fight against Legion – only this time with much better equipment, supplies, and respect. The action progresses up through the big wave of attacks which, in the first novel, marked the downfall of the Republic – in other words, about a year past Shin's team departing from Lena. It also introduces a new core character: Fredericka, who seems at first to be the obligatory underaged girl in these kind of stories. However, her role as a Mascot carries interesting special meaning and her true identity is significant. So is what she can offer about Shin's lineage.

On the technical front, the writing level is fully up to par with the first novel, with another form of alternate typesetting used for communications done through means other than Resonance. It continues to play with the supernatural on its fringes but otherwise concentrates heavily on the specs of its war machines. Horror elements present in the first novel persist but less frequently, as do descriptions of incredibly graphic content. Accompanying illustrations continue to be of higher quality than the norm for light novels, especially in the trifold color page at the beginning, while technical specs tend to be more basic. The cover art, which features Shin and Fredericka, is also unusually sharp.

The one disappointment with the novel is that, even with the three-page Afterword, it clocks in at a mere 189 pages. Asato comments in the Afterword that it was intended to be one novel but was split into two because of its length, but if the split was roughly even then that means that there is well less than 400 pages of total content between the two. Granted, anything over 300 pages in the light novel field is rare, but light novels over 350 pages are hardly unprecedented. (See DanMachi volume 8.) Still, cutting it off where it does allows the novel to end on one hell of a cliffhanger, so it isn't all bad. Regardless, this is definitely a recommended read for anyone who liked the first novel, even if it doesn't have as much of Lena as I would like.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B+

+ Fills in an important time gap, greatly expands setting's world-building
Brief length, some key supporting characters have minimal characterization

Story: Asato Asato

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86 (light novel)

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