Eighty-Six Second Cour: How Shin Nouzen Re-Enlisted his Groove Back

Well it sure has been a bit since we look at this haven’t we? Despite being in the closing part of 2021, 86 was a series that apparently needed a little more time to cook in the oven. With the last two episodes pushed back to March we all knew it was going to be a while before we wrapped this series. That time has finally come so after the cut, let’s take a dive into the second half of the series Eighty-Six!

My thoughts on the first half can be found right here!

One of the interesting things about this story was what was going to happen after everything seemed to conclude in the first half. By the time the curtain falls on that first cour, we see that Shin and his fellow eighty-six have fled to freedom, while Lena, their former commander is left with a newfound sense of resolve. Gone is the ignorant and privileged girl blinded by ignorance, and instead there is a battle hardened commander. One who remains a lone voice of sanity in an empire coming undone at the seams. It might have been an interesting place to continue the story, to see Lena’s ongoing struggle, but that is not to be.

The moments of peace for Shin and the others can’t last, as they are children of the battlefield.

Instead 86 makes the  choice to change focuses from Lena to Shin and his surviving comrades. For the rest of the season we follow them as they reach the Giad Republic and for the first time, a taste of true real freedom. Taken in by the president of the nation and his adopted and feisty daughter Fredrica, we see Shin and his friends adjust into a new life free from the battlefield. However not all soldiers can put down their guns, and Shin re-enlists to the army, just in time for a massive invasion by the Legion, one that will shake the foundations of not just this country, but all around the world.

The little bit of Lena we see in this series shows a woman forever changed by her experience. The girl is gone, and instead is a battle hardened officer.

This pivot in focus from Lena to Shin I think was a wise choice. One of the biggest strengths of 86 was that it handled a sensitive and political topic like war, in a manner that was not preachy or point-scoring. While Lena is forced to eat her humble pie about her place in the world, it is done with an even hand that is tough, but not in your face or lecturing. Likewise is the story of Shin and his friends unable to fully leave the battlefield, despite everyone in the Federacy apparently wanting them to. I cannot speak for people who have fought in war, but I do think that not everyone can ‘switch off’ once they come home. The battlefield changes people, for Shin who seems to only see the world through a gun, putting that down could be an impossible task. 86 handles that, at least from this viewer, with a level of tact and grace that is neither overly angsty or flippant. By the time it is over and the final credits roll, you feel that Shin, Lena and everyone from the cast has been through the fire and on their way to making themselves and the world a bit better, even as war wages.

The battle against the Morpho has all the dressing of a military op and brings the series to a good conclusion

For the rest of the story, it is clear why A-1 pictures decided to delay the last few episodes. 86 has always been a pretty show, but this season with the battle against the Morpho remains top tier battle animation for a mecha show, at least in my eyes. I may be a lapsed fan of the genre, but even I know good action when I see it. The animators make every frame count and you can feel every bullet fired, or wall climbed. Seeing the spider-mechs being used is absolutely a breath of fresh air. Especially for a genre that has gone to the Gundam well more times than you can count. The new characters too are a good edition, with my personal favorite being Frederica, the bratty kid mascot who follows our heroes into battle. Often characters like this can be a point of annoyance, but Fredrica strikes a great balance, with a Japanese performance by Misaki Kuno that is pitch-perfect for the type of character. I adore the voice of Frederica, and she serves as a great foil for Shin, giving him a little sister to take over, and a check on his more self-sacrificing tendency. I also enjoyed the addition of President Ernst Zimmerman, a joyous and happy-go-lucky leader who shows moments of darkness that prove his love for Shin and the others is fully genuine. 

Shin and Fredrica’s relationship remains a high point of the second cour.

Eighty-Six’s second season wasn’t something I thought about much after it went on hiatus (like most of the anime community did). Like I said before, it is a show that adds nothing new to the genre. Everything it has done has been done before, better and worse. What I remembered when I came back however, was that this is a show that takes those well worn concepts and gives them the spit and polish they deserve. This was a good show then, and it remains a good show now. Just a great piece of science fiction and war drama that never talks down to its audience or thinks it knows better. And neither it is one that is hamstrung by those high and philosophical themes that sink some of the later Gundam series. I have no doubt that a film or second season will be coming in the future and I will absolutely be there for it. If you are looking for a good mecha show, or just a good war anime in general, you can’t go wrong with Eighty-Six, give it a look and see for yourself. 

The meeting of Lena and the Eighty-Six is a heartfelt way to end the series and really brings the entire story together.

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