86 asks the hard questions, without any answers.
86 is a difficult watch because it is an anime that makes the viewer reflect internally about existing in a world that actively creates victims. It asks the hard questions about what it means to oppress and be oppressed. It has clear victims and perpetrators. It tells its story without judgement and the characters all seem to know what is going on, seemingly ok with it, except for the protagonist Lena.
And it’s with Lena that the story is a difficult one to tell. It is only Lena that hasn’t come to terms with the active oppression. It is Lena who is the only one who is suffering while the rest of the world seems to be fine with whatever is happening. Lena begs and pleads with anyone who will listen, superior officers, friends and even the Eighty-Sixers. All of them are telling her the same thing, but she won’t listen: There is nothing she can do.
We get some moments of backstory from her friend who is racked with guilt. Her friend turned her back on the eighty-sixers that lived next store, doing nothing to stop them from being taken to camps.
The Eighty-Sixers are tested on like animals to create new science.
And in accordance with the will of the government, and consent of the people Eighty-Sixers are sent to die on the battlefield. When they don’t exist anymore, then the sin of killing them can be erased from memory. No one will have to worry about the guilty conscious or live with fear of repercussions. It’s after all the Eighty-Sixers are dead the Republic can ignore the sin of killing them to begin with. The slate will be wiped clean and no one will be any wiser for it.
Lena grandstands to the General, to no avail.
Lena is lucky to have an uncle who is willing to put up with the whims of his niece. Lena exists on this untouchable plane where she can grandstand with no immediate negative consequences. When her uncle is in an apparent church that honors and worships the saint San Magnolia, the virtues on which the Republic is apparently built, Lena confronts her uncle.
Receiving a permanent reconnaissance mission into the heart of enemy territory is a death sentence to the remaining Eighty-Sixers, who only number 5 at Episode 8.
Lena stands up to her uncle for a moment and swears on all the virtues and holiness of Saint San Magnolia, but all of that is to no avail. Her uncle flat out tells her that the people who killed her for their own self-interest are not people worthy of her legacy. As such he lays out the reality of the situation. The government wills the complete genocide of the Eighty-Sixers, and indirectly so does its people. People who look the other way and do nothing are just as guilty as the ones who committed the crime.
It’s a heart-breaking moment of stone cold reality. There are no other options left for the young Major. Lena tries to reconcile her guilt with the Eighty-Sixers one last time, telling them to do something different with their lives. But the resolute Eighty-Sixers reject her logic and her pleas. There is nothing left for them to do but to live in accordance with their own last wishes.
It feels like the story is on the verge of something else. We see the supposed last moments of the Eighty-Sixers leaving their operating base. But if the story is about to do something different than to consign its Eighty-Sixers to death, now is the time to make a story-telling miracle happen. I am curious what role Lena will have to play in the story going forward.
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