Title: 86: EIGHTY-SIX Vol. 2
Author: Asato Asato
Release Date: March 30, 2021
Publisher: Yen Press
It’s been a long time since I’ve plunged headfirst into a politically charged mech adventure. In a world where I thought Muv-Luv head the most agency, 86: EIGHTY-SIX comes and proves that I had it all wrong. 86: EIGHTY-SIX Vol. 2 puts all the cards on the table for who these characters are, but what the series does with this foundation is yet to be seen.
86: EIGHTY-SIX Vol. 2 opens with Lena getting side-eyes by her peers for her relationship with the Spearhead squadron. Given that these soldiers are Eight-Six and she is an Alba, we get to see more sides of this cruel world. While Volume 1 showed us how this discrimination of race works, we get to learn more about how Lena can truly create a bridge of trust, even though the squad will never view her as an equal.
It’s a compelling Volume that feels like it never ends. Page after page, you witness the struggle of those fighting on the frontlines and how they are forced to pick up at a moment’s notice to protect the Republic who views them as dogs. I was immersed in each delivery as I joined Lena in an attempt to humanize the Eighty-Six instead of seeing them as less. It’s an important Volume in this regard but extends even further as we get to understand some of the key members.
The volume shares Lena’s past and how she rose through the ranks to be the commander that she is. Her fight happens to be with the people she serves, but she does it without breaking the rules. This only hurts her connection to the squad, which are used to be treated poorly by their Alba commander.
As we witness Lena make steps to prove she is different, we learn more about each of the members. Further, we get a dose of pain as we learn that nothing is safe in war. Still, some parts slow down to show how this squad operates on a day-to-day basis. I loved these scenes because I knew everyone was safe and sharing stories of what they plan to do after being discharged.
The illustrations by Shirabii were insanely well done. I honestly can’t stop thinking about how truly powerful these illustrations were. I was immersed in each scene, wanting to slow down if only to take in the beautiful environments and character expressions.
I can only say the same for the moments of high action through the panels. There’s some great pacing in this volume as we jump from the past to present seamlessly and naturally to limit confusion. I also appreciated the mech designs, which resemble takes more than over-the-top mechs you’d typically see from this genre.
86: EIGHTY-SIX Vol. 2 is by far one of the must-read manga of this year. Its pacing is spectacular, which is mirrored by some amazing illustrations. I was just in awe of this story which took a strong foundation and supplemented it with interesting character backstories who you want to see overcome the obstacles ahead. I am very much looking forward to Volume 3, as you should be.
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