86 episode 15

Frederica, reminiscing

In last week’s review, I underestimated how much content from the second novel was still left to adapt. A full episode will probably be needed to do what remains justice, but that also sets the series up perfectly for the next episode to end with the final scene of the second novel. Assuming that this season also has 11 episodes, that leaves six episodes to adapt novel 3, which feels about right.

For anime-only viewers, that all means that this is the most low-key episode of the series to date – in fact, probably the series as a whole. It is the peaceful interlude before the shit hits the fan. That does not, however, mean that nothing of consequence happens, or that the story has in any way forgotten to be compelling.

Most of the first half of the episode focuses on military preparations for the anticipated large-scale offensive by the Legion, including how the 86s will fit into that picture. The big revelation here is that the Federacy has made contact with two other surviving nations – the Alliance of Wald (to the south) and the United Kingdom of Roa Gracia (to the north) – and will start coordinating with them; don’t expect to see much further about either of those within the confines of this adaptation, however. The other key points in this half are that the rest of the 86s are back involved again after being almost entirely sidelined last episode and that we get a much clearer idea of where Colonel Wenzel is coming from. She’s not the stereotypical amoral science/tech experimenter; she has very specific reasons for her experimental designs being the way they are, ones that are grounded in practical experience.

The real star of the episode, though, is Frederica. At times she has acted her age (around 10), and that continues this episode, but at other times she has acted far older, and her conversation in Shin’s room shows part of the reason for that. No reasonable person would assign the blame to her that she assigns to herself over what happened to her “knight,” but how a child’s logic could lead to that is easy to understand, and the truth that people were killed to protect her is inescapable. That’s a heavy weight to lay on anyone, much less a girl who was only 5 or 6 years old at the time. Credit goes to Misaki Kuno (Hawk in The Seven Deadly Sins franchise for some fine voice acting here, but I also have to respect how this story is used to draw parallels to Shin’s situation. Shin was certainly headed down a destructive path similar to Kiriya before Lena snapped him out of it.

As always, the episode’s use of visuals and symbolism is sharp, though it did also seem like the episode was pulling more tricks than normal to minimize the animation need. The two birds on the wire as Shin and Raiden were talking near the end, followed by only one bird left as contemplating what Lena was doing, was a nice touch, as was the moth caught in the spider web as Frederica got to the deepest part of her conversation. The visual expressiveness of Frederica also continues to make a nice counterpoint to the limited – but still telltale – reactions of Shin; the artistry really is accomplishing a lot there with his minimalist reactions to things. Lena getting at least a brief appearance at the end was also welcome.

The downtime is now over. Get ready to a return to the action with next episode.

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