After months of delay in production, we finally have a concrete conclusion.
86 Eighty-Six has delivered on its storytelling potential. 86 Eighty-Six was able to tell a compelling story about war, racism, and find hope somewhere in between. It went in directions that I wasn’t expecting. The story was able to successfully switch the lead of each character arc without it feeling unnatural. We were able to see different societies interact with the Eighty-Sixers, but ultimately they ended up becoming the tools of war in both societies.
What I found to be the most interesting story telling device in Eighty-Six was using two different characters as leads to highlight the horrors experienced by the Eighty-Sixers. Our first viewpoint was that of Lena, an officer in the Republic of San Magnolia. She works as a commander of Eighty-Sixers on the battlefield. Tragically the Republic of San Magnolia chooses to kill off the Eighty-Sixers by sending them into battle.
In essence Lena is part of the ruling military class, and is a participant in Eighty-Sixer genocide.
What makes Lena unique is that she experiences the pain and tragedy of the death of Eighty-Sixers first hand and chooses to take a stand against the genocide. She pleads with her fellow countrymen to see that Eighty-Sixers are the same as the Alba, the ruling race of San Magnolia. She rebels against her class. She is rejected by the upper echelons of command, but she can’t be completely stripped of command due in part to her family connections and excellent wartime record of success. She is demoted and reprimanded for taking war matters into her own hands without military commands authorization.
Lena’s coming of age story is experiencing the loss of her prized spearhead squadron. She suffers emotionally and mentally from watching those she commands die pointless deaths. She learns first hand of the cruelty of her world. From that cruelty she vows to never forget.
Unexpectedly we get a second character lead in 86 Eighty Six, named Shin.
The Shin coming of age story is much different from Lena’s. While Lena is a member of the ruling race and class, Shin is an Eighty-Sixer. Lena is Shin’s commander, but she cannot spare him from death. While he is an exceptional fighter his lot in life, as determined by San Magnolia, is that he must die while killing as many Legion as possible. There is no life for him, only death. Shin suffers in his own way.
What makes Shin unique is that he has a secret ability that he can hear the voices of the legion.
He knows when the legion plans to attack and how to combat them effectively. It’s learned in the story that the legion assimilate the mind/spirit of their victims in combat. The voices of the legion in the story are the voices of the dead. You read right, Shin can hear dead people. Except it’s not quite that the legions’ voices are the voices of the dead, they are the voices of the suffering of the dead. It’s exceptionally chilling.
After Shin is sent on a suicide mission by San Magnolia, he discovers there are other survivors in the war agains the legion. And not just survivors there is an entirely different country. Robbed of his guaranteed death in war, Shin has to find a purpose to live.
It’s not easy to find a reason to keep fighting the legion and keep going for Shin. But after the climactic battle with Morpho, a legion superweapon, Shin finds his own reasons to keep living. His story is a battle of self as much as it’s a war against the legion.
86 Eighty-Six is able to end on an emotional high when Shin and Lena reunite after their stories diverge. The delivery of the season’s conclusion was exceptional in its storytelling.
86 Eighty-Six: Is San Magnolia Doomed?
86 Eighty-Six: Shin’s Character Development Arc