Oh it’s been far too long waiting for this. Ever since 86 abruptly left off thanks to the wonders of production hell and other associated fun and games I’ve been eagerly anticipating its return. And not just because of annoying cliffhangers mind you: there’s a definite finale the series was lacking on, something to seal the deal for everything we’ve seen to date. The sort of thing this week and next have and are going to delve into in exquisite detail. Why yes, how did you know I was that excited?
Getting the obvious out of the way, yes Lena is finally back, and yes, you can expect the reunion with Shin and friends to be properly consummated during next week’s actual finale. I’m sure some are a little annoyed it didn’t happen right this moment, but honestly I like how drawn out the affair is. Besides letting Lena speak for herself and emphatically display her unwavering care and loyalty towards her charges both past and present, it helps reveal how Spearhead and her have grown apart since Spearhead’s departure – and yet just how similar they still remain. Lena after all may now be the one needing help to deal with a menace which has overrun her country (as Spearhead once used her help to survive on the frontline), yet she remains the pillar of strength standing firm in a sea of chaos. It’s only right making greetings in person after having some to appreciate just how much (and how little) things have ultimately changed.
Case in point of this understanding is Shin himself who very much is the focus of this episode – and for pretty obvious reasons. For the first time ever the kid finally acknowledged he was chasing death and that it was in part for his responsibility in the deaths of his compatriots. Make no mistake, Shin doesn’t directly blame himself for their deaths – the poignant imagery here reinforces that nicely – but he has certainly internalized them. It’s a combination of fear and self-blame, the agony which comes from being metaphorically left adrift with no one to latch onto and a child’s sense of guilt borne from age and experience (as Anju has previously described). Dealing with Kiri who himself faced similar agony and the resulting fate of the Morpho simply provided the trigger needed to force Shin into facing everything he tried denying and keeping under wraps.
Much as discussed a season ago Shin has been forever caught up in the past and unable to see the future, a kid focused on those before and ignoring everyone whom he’s helped live to fight another day. It’s amusingly ironic (in a good way) that Lena would be the one to finally pierce through his melancholy, but it’s a necessity to help the kid finally see that for everything he’s experience he’s not actually being left behind. As Lena oh so succinctly put, it’s alright for Shin to feel proud for what’s he done: he’s not only brought closure to those suffering, but he’s helped ensure more than a few people have a future full of life they can look forward to. Not a bad badge at all to wear with pride.
For the immediate future, however, it’s going to be all about planning because for all Giad may be back on even footing San Magnolia certainly isn’t – and its redoubt-like borders offer far too much potential for Legion exploits to easily ignore. Don’t expect too much in the way of grand developments for 86’s grand finale, but do look forward to some key characters finally coming face to face. After all, this moment has definitely been a long time coming.
While widescreen is usually annoying for anime (even when used for flashbacks), I really enjoyed its use here. You could get a good appreciation of Shin’s mindset from start to finish, from shrinking black borders highlighting his agony and fear to the transparent white of Lena cutting through the melancholic resignation and all the way into Shin’s new understanding and lease on life. There may not be much animation-wise to these scenes, but damn were they ever thought out and reveal just how much you can show without ever needing to utter a word.