86: Eighty-Six Anime Review - Morality is the sole dystopia

86: Eighty-Six

86: Eighty-Six is an animated adaptation of the novel of the same name, penned by Asato Asato and brought to life with illustrations by Shirabi. The narrative spans the genres of Science Fiction, Military, and Drama, encompassing twenty-three episodes produced by the A-1 Pictures studio. While the listed genres hint at a story combining human drama with a military backdrop, such a description barely does justice to the depth of this remarkable fiction.

The series' premise might not immediately captivate a general audience, particularly with the inclusion of the Military genre, which could give some viewers pause. However, the standout feature of this story lies in its meticulous script. Beyond the ongoing military conflict in the universe of 86: Eighty-Six, the exploration of human drama and the embedded social critique elevate this fiction to a must-watch for those who appreciate realism. Although a work of fiction, the presented situations and explored conflicts rapidly transcend the reality we know.


What is 86: Eighty-Six about?

The narrative unfolds in the Republic of San Magnolia, a region long under siege by its neighbor, the Giadian Empire. The Empire is accountable for creating a series of unmanned drones known as the Legion. Following years of meticulous research, the Republic successfully developed its own autonomous drones, ostensibly converting the one-sided conflict into a war without casualties, or so the government proclaims. However, the reality is that no war comes without bloodshed. Beyond the fortified walls safeguarding the Republic's eighty-five territories lies the so-called "non-existent" Sector 86. The young men and women in this forsaken land are branded as the Eighty-Six and, devoid of their humanity, pilot the ostensibly "unmanned" drones in each battle.

At the story's core is Shin, who leads the actions of a detachment of young Eighty-Six on the battlefield. Lena, a handler directing the detachment from a remote rear guard, serves as Shin's counterpart. The tale commences when Lena assumes the role of handler for the "Spearhead" squadron, under Shin's command. Through the interaction of the idealistic Lena with the Eighty-Six, we gradually unravel the truth behind the war and the republic's cruelty they purportedly "protect." Progressing along an uncharted path towards a destination beyond the conflict.

The Good: Harmonious War, Ethical, and Moral Conflict

86: Eighty-Six stands out as an anime with several strengths; animation and soundtrack play crucial roles in enhancing the overall enjoyment of this work. However, I am inclined to argue that its most significant asset lies in its script. This doesn't imply it's a flawless, cliché-free narrative, but despite that, it maintains a distinctive rhythm and consistently advances. While it revolves around wartime conflict, and one might anticipate action as the constant primary focus, the true beauty of this series lies in its narrative— the storytelling deployed in each episode, internal monologues, and elaborate speeches serve as the true cornerstone of the show.

The political backdrop of this story compels us to continuously ponder the moral and ethical dimensions within conflicts. The dehumanization of a minority group, coupled with the praise of the privileged group, are situations that evoke the strongest critiques in this narrative. However, the story doesn't merely stop there. As it progresses, it not only unleashes a series of criticisms but delves deeper into military ideologies, political hypocrisy, and even ventures into the conflict of political asylum.

Undoubtedly, the script is admirable, and in the same vein, we can assert that character development is another prominent aspect. Given that it's a war story, losses are inevitable, and as the script dictates, these losses become a driving force and contribute to the growth of our characters. The perpetual loss and the imperative to keep moving forward create astonishing tension throughout the series. No death is wasted, and the progress and setbacks are always perfectly portrayed, fostering immense empathy for the characters.

86: Eighty-Six Trailer

The Downside: The Script's Convenient Inconvenience

When everything runs so smoothly, it begins to feel monotonous, and perhaps that's the primary flaw of this series. It's not that our protagonists effortlessly navigate a trouble-free path; quite the opposite, their journey is uphill, with few breaks. Whether in the Republic or the Empire, our protagonists consistently find themselves entangled in battles that, in the grand scheme, they shouldn't be fighting. Thus, to drive the story forward, they remain in perpetual conflict, both internally and in war battles against the Legions.

In my view, the primary flaw of this series lies in the overly convenient nature of each battle; they always unfold at precisely the right moment, serving as a revelation for some internal conflict. While it's a valid narrative device, excessive use turns it into a mere script convenience, detracting from its authenticity. Beyond battles, there are alternative tools for character development; the potency of dialogue, for instance, should never be underestimated. Expanding on the theme of convenience, it's worth noting that the protagonists' extraordinary strength and luck don't necessarily work in their favor.

Although I acknowledge that years of experience provide them with a certain edge over others, the degree of advantage, even against seasoned veterans, appears exaggerated. Factor in the luck that propels them to victory in the final minutes due to any coincidental event. The script's influence truly operates in both positive and negative directions, especially in cases like this.

Final Thoughts

86: Eighty-Six stands out as an anime with remarkable visuals and an even more compelling script. As previously mentioned, the story's strength is also its weakness. However, this duality doesn't hinder the possibility of finding a delicate balance that significantly enhances the overall enjoyment of the narrative. Once you immerse yourself in the world of this story, you'll likely overlook these script conveniences, focusing instead on the superb attention to detail, constant critique, and the profound development of our characters. Another factor that contributes to the story's appeal is the turning point that divides the narrative into three timelines: the time in the Republic, the time of "freedom," and the time in the Empire.

In keeping with tradition, and to bring this commentary to a close, the final task is to assign a rating. Well, for me, this anime deserves a solid 94/100. It embodies an excellent story with a superb script, fulfilling everything I seek in a series. The animation is another standout feature, particularly in the breathtaking battles against the Legions. It's worth noting that the concluding moments are truly poignant—the reunion alone has catapulted this series to a prominent position on my personal list of anime favorites.

In conclusion, these are my impressions of this anime. Now, I'd like to hear from you. What are your thoughts on this story? How do you feel about the script? For those who haven't watched it yet, I highly recommend giving it a chance, as it is unquestionably a gem within the military genre.

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