「ハンドラー・ワン」 (Handoraa Wan)
“Handler One”

Only one way to sum up this week: perfection. Tears were shed; reconciliation had; new outlooks on life achieved; and, oh yes, reunions as introductions for rounding out the arduous struggle featured until this point. It was 86’s climax, and it didn’t miss a beat.

While I could delve hard into some of tangents at work here – whether that be Lena’s redemption at knowing her prior efforts weren’t in vain, the atonement and relief found over Eugene’s death, or even one Annette who also now proudly commits to her new lease on life – I don’t think there’s much need as the pictures speak a thousand words. From the happiness of Ernst to the relief and humorous joy of Shin finally meeting Lena face-to-face, everything teased and everything you could’ve desired here was on proud display. 86 may leave off without a confirmed sequel in the works, but given how great this adaptation turned out and the potential this story offers for more in the future (as some imagery quite bluntly shows), I’m immensely satisfied with what we already have.

Sometimes there’s no greater praise than that of an honest and appreciative smile.

Final Impressions

At its core 86 is a deceptively impressive series. It isn’t what one would expect when one thinks of a war anime: Gundam? Less action and political intrigue. Heavy Object? Little in the way of light novel tropes and harem-centric character chemistry and development. Even the more drama-focused likes of SukaSuka or primarily slice-of-life providers in Sora no Woto don’t really compare to what’s under the hood here. At heart 86 is arguably a true war story, a tale focused on its characters more than its overarching world. What it lacks in explosive cinematography it more than makes up for in character exploration and development – and oh what an experience it was.

What makes 86 such a good adaptation for me is without a doubt its pacing. Too often adaptations are hamstrung by committee goals of reaching a certain endpoint or adapting so much material in a given season. 86 in this regard lucked out hard as the writing staff (and animators), whether from permission, personal care and interest, or both, decided to give it the attention to detail needed to let its various plotlines and personalities shine. This mindset went a long way to truly defining the characters at work, from Lena’s own struggles to that of Shin’s regrets and understanding, giving opportunity to both appreciate and understand exactly where the cast was coming from. Small moments of interaction; scenes perceived through the eyes of observers; every little detail that otherwise would be chopped in any other production helped to create a setting where depression, fear, elation, and joy could shine through best and cathartically hit you for the most impact. It’s not to say 86 had the absolute best character backstories or lines of development ever, but rather that it made use of them in the best possible manner and for the greatest possible impact.

The extent of this effective genericity can likewise be felt in 86’s worldbuilding and overall story movement. This isn’t a story specifically about its world and its development: the nature of San Magnolia and Legion’s effects on both it and surrounding states like Giad are simply the premise for exploring the trials, tribulations, and successes of Shin, Spearhead, Lena, and the rest. Such a framework is what largely drives the aforementioned deception at play here and the comments on 86 being boring for some, because unlike say the premises at work in the Gundam universes there isn’t some grand narrative at work, no real changing (or saving) of the world – just a bunch of kids hearing such messages in the context of trying to survive for another day. 86 is in effect inductive storytelling, you read the atmosphere from the experiences of its cast and extrapolate to the broader context of its universe. Boring to some certainly (particularly when it comes the level of action present), yet undeniably fulfilling should you relate, sympathize, or otherwise find interest with its cast of characters. As already stated, 86 is all about its cast for good or ill. Period.

Although I’ll hold to the caveat of saying 86 shouldn’t be treated as the single greatest anime to emerge in recent years (plenty of competitors on that front!), overall this series should stand as testament to just what can be done in anime for such focused storytelling and character-centric stories. All it takes is a bit of love, a little effort, and a budget suitable for the purpose and otherwise “typical” premises can quickly become incredibly impressive and thoughtful series worth every bit praise heaped upon them. For me 86 will rightfully be a key show to compare future adaptations to, and a series which if you haven’t already tried out one you owe yourself to give a shot. This one may not be the immediate life of the party, but goddamn does it have a heart of gold – and you really cannot ask for more.


  1. 2 words: IMMENSELY SATISFYING. Even the loose ends regarding Eugene and his sister were resolved (and not in an overtly convenient matter). Again, lots of small details to chew on here, and even the remnants of San Magnolia still retain their mind-boggling entitlement. I mean look at the way that high ranking Republic officer displays on his table some eyebrow raising photographs, as well as the attitudes of the survivors. I hope this will be tackled later on in the future, IF and when that second season comes. This is one of the best finales I have ever seen in an anime yet, and should a second season NOT be greenlit, I’m happy it ended like this.

  2. Man… what a cathartic end that was. Guess it’s no wonder they came across issues with the production back then when in fact they were just making sure these last two episodes were of top quality. New viewers coming in to this series will definitely have a better experience binging it (as it should be).

  3. I… I have no words for how overjoyed I was with this episode. It’s insane how this level of quality was achieved. Powerful scene direction from beginning to end. Incredible character moments. Excellent pacing especially near the end.

    The last few minutes had me screaming with joy. Started with Fido recording the same day to build up the hype for the proper reunion (I swear Fido is also an important character), then we just got the moment we all (and the cast) deserved.

    It’s almost confusing how sublime this episode is quality wise. Here’s to hoping they announce a continuation of some sort in that April 10th event they announced.

  4. Well, you couldn’t really want much more for a finale, right down to the did-they-didn’t-they handholding bit at the end.

    But S2? Forget it. I don’t want the memories of these last two episodes tarnished.

    1. Well the anime only adapted until vol 3, mind you the light novel currently have 12 vol out in Japan. There’s plenty of memorable characters yet to appear and epic moments to savour, especially now that Lena and Shin are fighting as proper comrades now.

    2. Even if they were actually hand holding I wouldn’t read too much into it, no way this goes romantic anytime soon, it’s not the time or place for it.

      Also I wouldn’t fear any sequel, this story, though it shifts focus, doesn’t drop off. If such a sequel gets the same treatment this season did all will be good.

  5. I have no complain as a light novel reader. The anime is simply sublime. The anime staff has been phenomenal. My only complaint would be if this is the last time we’d see 86 in anime form.

  6. So they finally meet. Lena crying, Shin smiling, tears in my eyes. This is it. This is why I love anime.

    While I’m a bit sad that we didn’t get a more thorough flashback of how Lena managed to keep the defense up for 2 months these final 2 episodes were definitely worth the wait.
    So where do go from here? Is it the end of the 2 different views of the story, now that Lena joined them? Will they get separated again? What new characters, what tragedies await us? I hear ppl say that this was only the prologue and what comes next is even better and I’m looking forward to it, whether it’s in the form of more gloriously animated anime or the light novel. I think there’s an event in April, so just maybe they’ll announce something…
    Thanks again for the coverage, Pancakes. It was a pleasure reading your blog posts.

  7. I may have missed it in the previous episodes, but FIDO is showing recorded videos of Shin’s childhood. I can’t remember an explanation for this in the episodes earlier. Does this mean, Shin has uploaded his data to FIDO, or FIDO was a robotic appliance in their previous life? Or there’s another explanation for this. We rarely get footage of Shin’s childhood other than his traumatic experiences with his brother. Anyway, I just noticed that after what is my nth viewing of this episodes. I cried like 5x already during the reunion scene and I can’t stop repeating those scenes.

    1. Admittedly don’t remember the specifics from before, but I don’t think it was explicitly dealt with. Like here just Fido’s memories on reel with you left to piece two and two together. Going to have to look this up now lol.

    2. Didn’t they hint long ago that shin or his family had a dog and its memory was transplanted
      or something in the current FIDO. At least I remember that speculation somehow.
      Didn’t read the novels so not sure though.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *