by Callum May,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Two weeks ago, Episode 9 ended with our beloved cast of characters marching off into the unknown. Since then, it's been a series of constant surprises; I had absolutely no idea where they're going or what's going to happen. And now, it at least appears that Spearhead Squadron has been completely wiped out, complete with a scene of Shourei leading a young Shin into the afterlife. It's easy to think of main characters as eternal, but 86 is sticking to its guns when it comes to telling us that Spearhead Squadron really are destined to die on the battlefield.
Of course, there could be a twist where they all make it out somehow, but I feel like this is the most interesting story they could have told that continues to leave us at the edge of our seats. This episode also shows how essential Episode 10 really was – I mentioned that it would give all further tragedies a lot more weight, and that's absolutely true here. We do get more time to learn more about the cast, including alluding to what they'd be like in a school setting. It's more than a little tragic.
Before their possible(?) demise, we were introduced to more facets of the Legion. Having the gap of Episode 10 made the introduction of a new Shepherd less exhausting, but it was still soon enough to convey a feeling of complete hopelessness. Who's the princess? Who even is this guy? Who gives a shit? Our favourite characters are (possibly) dead, after all. We are also introduced to a brand new type of enemy: a horde of creepy zombie-like robots that will charge relentlessly at the humans before exploding. It's pretty easy to imagine them swarming the shining city of San Magnolia and being a whole new source of creepiness as 86 continues down its path towards being a compelling sci-fi horror.
After a week's break, we finally returned to the format of each episode being 50% Spearhead, 50% Lena. After her badass mortar moment a couple weeks back, she's taking her mandatory time off work to visit the Spearhead barracks. It feels like there's a competition going on here for the most emotionally gripping scene. Is it watching them die? Is it watching Lena read their messages and realising that they actually did believe in her?
Strangely, despite how emotional I've been over these characters' (possible?) deaths, I would genuinely be annoyed if they turned out to be alive after all. Whether it's Lena appearing in the nick of time to save them, or Shin pulling off one big move, it would retroactively dampen the narrative weight of this incredibly well-directed episode. Despite what we've been shown, 86's website hasn't yet updated their profiles with “DESTROYED”.
Next week is going to be a “Special Edition”, and what that entails is still unclear as of time of writing. If it's a recap episode or cast interview, I'll see you again when the second cour returns. If not, I'll be back here for more splendid sci-fi suffering.
86 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Callum is the host and creator of the YouTube channel The Canipa Effect where he explores topics within the anime industry. He also serves as Video Editor at OTAQUEST, discussing the art and creation of Japanese pop culture. You can also find him talking nonsense on Twitter.
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