86 episode 5

No, the screenshot isn’t upside down.

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

Though the franchise does not advertise it, 86 does have a mild horror element, one that has only been vaguely hinted at through the first four episodes. (Really, the only significant indicator so far was the series’ opening scene, where Spearhead Squadron’s previous Handler loses it.) This episode is the one where that finally, directly, comes into play. In so doing, it explains and connects many little tidbits and references which have come up to date and fills in the biggest gap in the story’s overall scenario. And, frankly, the implications of it are chilling.

The core of the matter is the two years of remaining lifespan on the Legion. The Republic is not wrong about that per se, but what its leadership has utterly failed to consider is that the Legion might be capable of adapting to get around that limitation. Since the Legion’s operating system is based on the human brain, the solution seems obvious: use actual human brains (or direct copies thereof) to replace the operating systems. Not only do you get smarter and more adaptable Legion, but they also outlive the normal time limit. Further, the Republic has practically assured a steady supply of human brains are available by disallowing 86s from being buried. Hence the Legion just have to salvage the dead 86s to prolong themselves. The one that have been so converted are the Black Sheep that have been cryptically referenced once or twice before.

Something somewhat along this line has been used many times before in anime, but this version has an extra twist: Shin has a special psychic ability which allows him to hear the voices of these brains. Or, perhaps more specifically, he can hear the last thoughts imprinted on those brains before death, thoughts which the dead are locked into repeating over and over again. Anyone who syncs with him via the Para-RAID can hear them, too. The anime adaptation does a fantastic job of showing just how horrifying and overwhelming this can be on first exposure, to the point that how previous Handlers may have been driven to suicide just to get the voices to stop is perfectly understandable. So is Lena freaking out over it – especially when one of the voices in Kaie’s. So is why Shin acts the way he does; a person who hears those voices all the time would have to shut himself down emotionally just to keep his sanity. Also not hard to understand is why Raiden would be impressed that Lena sticks with them even after that.

The supreme irony here is that the Republic, in their efforts to stabilize the country through persecution of minorities, has not only set up the circumstances for their own demise but they have also cut off nearly any means to deal with the problem. Who, beyond Lena, would listen to the 86s even if the latter were willing to talk about it? Even besides that, curtailing the problem from getting bigger would require a complete rethinking of how they manage the 86s, and that’s not happening. A reckoning is looming for the Republic, and it will be ugly. Lena demonstrates again here that, for all of her emotional nature, she is made of sterner stuff, but will that be enough to salvage anything?

The episode has other things going on as well. The intro displays the accident scene where a young Lena lost her father and met Shin’s brother, who almost certainly had a big influence on her being where she is and doing what she’s doing several years later. The epilogue scene shows why Shin always wears a scarf: he has a scar around his neck, and flashes more strongly suggest that his brother was responsible. (This presumably happened before Rei saved Lena, as Rei’s behavior suggests that he has deep regrets.) The implication looms heavy that Shin’s brother’s brain is out there somewhere, and may even be a Shepherd, but more importantly for the story, it finally gives Shin a specific purpose. Lena also gets a couple of lighter-hearted moments to balance out the later grimness; her expressions when talking about the party and enjoying the cake are adorable. That Shin does not remember any of his family’s faces or much about where he lived pre-Legion is also telling.

Lastly, the artistic effort here deserves comment. Though neither is long, we get two different action sequences this episode, and the CG effort still stands head and shoulders above almost any other TV series anime out there. The 2D effort also continues to be top-caliber. The rest of the episode had a lot of exposition, so the production team puts a lot of effort into preventing that from becoming visually boring. Henrietta having x-ed out pictures of suitors just like the 86 do for Handlers is an amusing parallel, and the camera does its best to find little, possibly symbolic details to focus on while Shin explains things to Lena (especially the flowers). I could probably write a couple more paragraphs exploring the possible meanings there, but there is such a thing as obsessing too much on the little details. What matters most is that the series again proves how much of a powerhouse it is this season.

OTHER SERIES I’M FOLLOWING:

Combatants Will Be Dispatched! Episode 5 – Anyone else get the impression that Six really isn’t cut out to be evil, even though he does have a somewhat twisted side? I’ve read the novel that the first few episodes cover, but I’m still having a lot of fun watching him in action.

Higehiro episode 5 – There are all kinds of ways that this episode could have gone wrong, but once again, the writing deftly avoids them. Somewhat surprisingly, Gotou seems to genuinely connect with Sayu rather than things getting catty, and that’s something Sayu needs. Yoshida can tell her things bluntly, but he cannot put things the way Gotou can, or with the implicit backing of speaking from experience at being a high school girl and understanding, in retrospect, how they’re regarded. With Gotou also looking out for her now, may Sayu can even weather the coming storm of one of her coworkers being one of the guys she previously stayed with. That’s sure to be a loaded affair next episode.

How NOT To Summon a Demon Lord Omega ep 5 – Really, Diablo never realized that the rabbit kid was a girl? Even if I hadn’t seen that gimmick dozens of times over the years, I still think I would have figured it out.

Moriarty the Patriot episode 16 – I’ve seen many theories about the true identity of Jack the Ripper over the years, but this take – that it’s the ploy of a group of revolutionaries seeking to sow strife in London – is a new one for me. The resolution seemed a little too easy, but it also looks the like the episode is bringing a potential rival for William into the picture.

Vivy – Flourite’s Eye Song ep 7 – While I do like this confident, sassy, and perhaps even a little arrogant version of Diva, I was actually glad to see Matsumoto pop up again this time and awaken the questions in her about her past. Learning that a reboot was necessary after what happened at the end of episode 6 was not a surprise, but bringing the concept of AI suicide into the picture was. I look forward to seeing how that develops next episode.

Zombie Land Saga Revenge episode 5 – Lily is not one of my favorite characters in this series, but she outdoes herself in this episode with her on-the-fly reinterpretation of the song that her opponent in the contest just sang beautifully. Sure, getting that much done in just a few minutes is unrealistic, but it was a catchy enough performance that I’ll forgive that. Even though his was the more polished performance – and thus presumably why he won – the opponent clearly understands that her performance is the one that will be remembered, and he’s humbled by that

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