Spring 2021 has arrived with a plethora of shows that have the potential of being stellar. One of them is A-1 Pictures’ 86, a show that I initially had little interest in until I saw some online recommendations. After watching the first two episodes, I was simply blown away by how amazing it was. If these first episodes are any indication of the quality of the rest of the season then this could easily be in the running for one of the best shows of an already excellent year for anime. 86 is the “hidden gem” of this season and one that you just can’t miss.
What is 86?
86 is about a country called San Magnolia that is at war with an army of robots called Legion. To fight Legion, the government moved all people with Grey hair and eyes into the safety of the first 85 districts. Everyone else was stripped of their rights and lived in the 86th district to fight the enemy in mechs that the government claims are automated.
Now, I can’t give a full critique of the plot or story yet since only two episodes have been released but based on what has been shown so far I can see so much potential here. I find the premise quite interesting since I personally have a liking to these more military and political kinds of shows. And I also think that what has been set up so far could tell a really compelling tale of w*r, discr*mination, drama, and politics with a very interesting world to explore. The narrative also somewhat reminds me of some of my favorite shows like Full Metal Alchemist and Attack on Titan which makes me want to watch it more. Overall, this story is shaping up to be something promising that I can’t wait to watch more of.
In regards to our main leads, Lena and Shin, I think it is far too early to give an accurate assessment of how well-written their characters are. However, based on these episodes, they’re already very likable. The voice acting for them is excellent. Their character designs look beautiful, especially for Lena. I can easily see them becoming top-tier waifu and husbando respectively. And their initial characterization while limited is more than sufficient for these episodes. These episodes, although not invested, certainly got me interested in their relationship and how it relates to the power dynamic of that society since Lena is one of the “chosen” people while Shin is the “subhuman” sent to the battlefield.
Now, I haven’t read any of the Light Novels so I’m going into this anime blind but I do have certain expectations for this show if it wants to keep up the momentum established here. First, they need to really nail Lena and Shin’s relationship, especially if it romantic, since this is what is going to underpin our emotional attachment to the story. Second, they need to further develop the side characters especially Shin’s company. One of my critiques of these episodes is that I really couldn’t care about any of the characters besides the main leads so they need to remedy that next time. Lastly, they need to nail the worldbuilding. Why is there a war against Legion? Why are certain people considered subhuman? If this show can get these right then we could have a masterpiece on our hands.
The Godly Animations
Now, what truly amazed me in these first episodes were the truly gorgeous animations and visuals. There was a scene where Lena was in her work area and I was just like “My God, why does the computer screen look so beautiful”. The background art and world design are also equally impressive. In particular, the character designs of both Lena and Shin easily catch your attention because they’re so visually appealing and easily distinct from the rest of the art on the show. I can already see people buying merchandise and cosplaying these two.
But where the animations truly shine are during the battle scenes. Watching the fight in episode 2 my jaw was wide open and I was just like “holy s***” at how freaking incredible this looked. I was simply blown away at how well directed and choreographed the action was. The fight and animations looked so clean, stunning, and plain epic. I was so impressed that after watching it I immediately went online to see the scene again. Very few animes have ever made me do that in the past. This scene was the one that got me hooked on this show and if this was just in the second episode then I am just so hyped to see more of this.
The Next Attack on Titan?
The first anime that I thought of when watching this was Attack on Titan since in many ways they’re quite similar. They’re both military anime with very political themes of w*r, fas*ism, and ra*ism. There was even a scene in episode two that references N*z* race science. Now, it only has been two episodes so we’ll have to wait to see how fleshed out and developed these themes are going to be. However, the fact that these themes are here indicates to me that this is going to be a dark and mature story which I like since it’s going to scratch that itch that I’ve had since the end of Attack on Titan. If you just can’t wait a year for AOT and want that same gritty storytelling and political themes then I think 86 just might be your show.
On another note, this is similar to Attack on Titan in that they both have fantastic soundtracks composed by the same guy, Sawano Hiroyuki. This soundtrack is an absolute banger especially when the one that plays during the battle scene in episode 2, combined with the godly animations, just felt so epic. If you don’t believe me, check out the OP and ED on Youtube. They’re so good that I’m already addicted to them and have watched both at least a hundred times already and still ain’t bored. We’re only two episodes in and the soundtrack is already awesome so I can’t wait to hear what else this show has to offer.
To conclude, I’m very impressed by what 86 has shown me so far. Everything from the visuals, animations, soundtrack, and voice acting emanates high quality and top-tier anime production. The fact that this anime is not getting that much attention from the community is a travesty in my opinion. I hope that more people discover this “hidden gem” and see it for all its glory. This show is shaping up to be one of the most promising animes in a season and one that you absolutely must watch.