Rating: 4.5 (of 5)
Storytelling in all forms has a habit of exaggerating the evil actions of an enemy or an oppressor just to make sure that the audience has no sympathy for them. Much more rarely, though, the full extent of the evil is just a logical extension of what has already been established. That is the case with the most recent episode of 86, though not for the most immediately apparent reasons.
The revelation last episode that Spearhead Squadron assignments are effectively execution orders also partly falls under that umbrella. After all, successful 86s being allowed to live would contradict the whole purpose of the oppression. Given that, the revelation this episode that 86s whose terms are up are given an open-ended “Special Recon Assignment,” which is implicitly intended to be a suicide mission, should hardly come as a surprise. The bigger revelation is that Annette’s apathy towards Lena’s efforts is a defense mechanism. She feels that she selfishly betrayed an 86 neighbor boy by distancing herself and discouraging her father from taking him in, and she knows first-hand the uglier side of the research behind the Para-RAID. Their development was the fruit of inhuman experiments on 86 children, her father’s anguish over that most likely resulted in him committing suicide, and she implies that she was involved herself afterwards. Hence, she strikes out at Lena when the latter tries to shake her out of that protective bubble.
The other dark truth here is that the Republic’s effort to expunge the 86s from the Republic extends to eliminating evidence that they even existed. That is why 86s are not allowed graves, but this is not just evil for the sake of evil, either; if the 86s are gone, and no record of them remains, then the Republic cannot get in trouble for their actions when/if contact with other countries is reestablished. Yeah, I know there are some big holes in this theory, but this has historical parallels as well: the Nazis did try to destroy records of what was happening in the concentration camps in the waning days of World War 2. Lena’s uncle’s comments about this – that a lack of resistance to this from the public implies tacit acceptance, and that the country’s namesake saint may have been a martyr herself – are also damning. This is all practically an embodiment of the famous quote, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
What I find most interesting about this part of the story – and in particular how the anime adaptation portrays it – is the stark contrast between the Republic side and the 86 side. On the Republic side, Lena is being isolated further as each avenue for trying to help Shin and crew gets shut down on her. Indeed, even Shin shuts her down by telling her not to resonate with them anymore. (He does not seem to understand that this is ultimately probably crueler to Lena than keeping her involved until the end would be.) On the other side, the 86s, their number now dwindled just to the five most prominent members, stand united and, to a degree, even happy. They are resigned to their fate, but as Raiden reaffirms, they aren’t going to just hang themselves, and in a sense, this is the freedom that they have long sought. Even if they will likely end in ugly fashion, their journey still awaits, and Shin can settle one final score in the process. It is just like they are being sent on a grand adventure, rather than to their deaths.
The one minor surprise here is that the anime does not skip the scene where the Shepherd which has Rei’s brain reflects on what really happened between Rei and Shin. I am very pleased that it was included, especially since most previous Interlude scenes in the novel have been skipped. It is the one whose absence would probably be most felt by anime-only viewers, however, and it does allow for a dramatic lead-in to next episode. It also allows for pictures like this one:
Among other random tidbits, this episode does not have the wealth of visual cues that the previous episode did, but it still has some. One of the most significant is Lena’s flower vase. Conversations in another forum have led me to believe that her vase is being used to indicate how many 86s have died in the given episode, and this time it has four, to signify the four remaining non-core members dying off-screen. (The deaths are also being reflected in two different places in the opener.) The musical support also does not get enough credit. And boy, all of the signs point towards the boy that Annette was talking about being Shin, don’t they?
Since next episode’s title is also the title of the first novel’s last chapter, the adaptation of the first novel will probably mostly conclude with episode 9. (I predict that the last few pages of the chapter will make up the beginning of episode 10, and the epilogue will be dealt with throughout the second cour.) What the 86s will do is obvious; but what will Lena do?
OTHER SERIES I’M FOLLOWING:
Fruits Basket the Final ep 8 – Drag thing out much? Though these were big revelations about how Kyo and Tohru are far more connected than we’ve known until this point, the delivery of it here was tedious. The only thing which saved the episode for me was the cliffhanger ending.
Higehiro ep 8 – You had to figure that the kind of turning point that the episode ends on was coming. Up to that point I thought the episode was trying a little too hard to keep a potential romance between Yoshida and Sayu in play despite Yoshida’s effort to distance himself from that. Still, it conveyed well that Sayu is taking small steps towards the need to confront her past, while Yoshida is realizing more and more how firmly Sayu is becoming part of his life. This is one of two big cliffhangers for Monday that I will be eagerly awaiting.
SEVEN KNIGHTS REVOLUTION: Hero Successor – Actually got caught up on this one because I was bored one night. Have about the same reaction to this one that I had to Hortensia Saga last season: looks nice, but it is painfully generic as fantasy content goes. Still, it has just enough going for it (especially the Class President character) that I will probably finish it out.
Vivy -Flourite Eye’s Song episode 10 – This has been a strong enough series that it might be a contender for Best of Season honors if 86 wasn’t around, and this may have been the series’ best episode yet. Seeing Diva relegated to a museum attraction after retiring (because she couldn’t sing anymore after her other persona left) was particularly sad, and the relationship with the boy Osamu over the course of 20 or more years has a certain melancholy feel to it as well, as do the visits from Matsumoto. The song she finally comes up with fits perfectly, as do the two twists at the end: both about Osamu’s last name and the suggestion that she might have unwittingly caused the very thing that she was trying to prevent. I sort of suspected all along that the story might go in this direction, but even so, I am eager to see how this plays out.