First Look: 86: Eighty Six

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Alternative title(s): Eighty Six
Light Novel Adaptation by A-1 Pictures
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

The Republic of San Magnolia, made up of eighty-five territories, has long been at war with a neighboring country, but has created a series of supposedly unmanned drones that allows them to wage battle with zero casualties. However, the truth is that beyond San Magnolia’s utopian-like walls lies a forsaken eighty-sixth sector, whose population, tasked with piloting these “unmanned” mecha, are regularly slaughtered on the battlefield. Lena, a handler employed by the San Magnolia military, has just been assigned to command a detachment of these Eighty-Sixers.

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Artemis’ verdict: Textbook Definition of a Hot Mess

I’ll get the good stuff out of the way first: the animation looks great. No doubt about it, assuming you like the art style (I didn’t really care for the character designs myself but that’s purely down to personal taste), this is a good-looking series, and the premiere clearly put its best foot forward here in terms of visuals.

On the other hand, there’s… well, pretty much everything else. I’ll start with the dialogue, of which there is a ton. The vast majority of this is purely expository in nature, and it felt like it kept going and going and going, to the point where I actually hit the pause button to give myself a breather (only to find I’d only gotten to the 10-minute mark). It was honestly exhausting to follow, and not at all helped by the fact that there’s a fair amount of jargon tossed in for good measure.

This is accompanied by several extremely dramatic flashbacks and flashforwards, which unfortunately served to confuse me further because frankly, I’m not about to remember all the dates thrown up on screen for my benefit. I’m sure the timeline is super important and all, and I guess I appreciate the intricacy of the story and attention to detail? However, these details mean absolutely nothing given that I have no interest in memorizing what, to me, is at this point little more a bunch of random words and numbers. Plus, while I’m fully aware that the action scenes between times are meant to inspire shock and sympathy, they’re just so on-the-nose that I felt more inclined to roll my eyes than get emotionally invested.

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Indeed, there’s really no subtlety to be found anywhere in this episode. It’s clear that the series wants viewers to empathize with the main character, and that’s certainly not hard to do, but only because nearly all of her colleagues are literally drunken men stumbling around using the most vulgar and derogatory of language to refer to the 86. It’s also pretty clear that “empathize with” is basically synonymous with “lust over” in this case, since Lena’s military uniform is about the least practical thing you can imagine, complete with miniskirt, thigh-high stockings, and suspenders – of which we get several close-up shots (as well as of her bra in a clothing change scene), just in case we hadn’t already gotten the idea.

Look, I’m fairly sure this series is targeted squarely at already-existing fans of the light novel, and given that a second season of this thing has already been announced, I assume there are more than enough of them for the anime to do well. Since I’m obviously not part of that (presumably teenage and male-heavy) demographic though, I’m happy to simply move on and forget I ever watched this one.

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Jel’s verdict: 86% Chance of Failure

This episode brought up a lot of intriguing topics, like the ethics of war, nationalism, wealth and racial gaps… I could go on but I have very little confidence that any of these will actually get explored to any degree. Instead, 86 seems to be using these topics simply as a back drop for its paint by numbers anime sci-fi war story. As a result I want to like it, but I’m pretty sure this is going to primarily be about our factory made waifu main character, and not exploring the interesting settings and themes they’ve established. I hope I’m wrong.

Iro’s verdict: Military Melodrama

I feel like this would be way more interesting if it was only about the man-on-the-ground team dealing with the miserable proxy war they’re fighting in. Those were the parts of the episode I enjoyed, though certainly one’s tolerance for anime-style melodrama would play a big factor. For example, the squad leader mercy-killing his subordinate, tearing the livery off their tank, and carving their name into the back? Squad of anime teens wearing fatigues and throwing darts in their bombed-out, filthy base? It’s incredibly silly; I unironically enjoy it.

Meanwhile, while I’m intrigued by the mystery of the setting (placing my bets that the silver-haired people are on some kind of moon colony away from any danger), seemingly half of the entire show is going to be about Miniskirt-And-Garters Commander, who is completely uninteresting. Her role as The Only One Who Really Cares About The Troops doesn’t really have any concrete basis other than literally everyone else at military command being a drunk louse, and honestly comes off as patronizing. If the show’s perspective stays with the soldiers dealing with their shitty new commander, I’ll probably stay interested, but if the scales tip the other direction then count me out.

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