San Magnolia is at war with the Empire of Giad, but according to both propaganda and the military itself, the end is near, as San Magnolia’s human soldiers have been replaced by drones, battle units who’s max efficiency results in victory after victory without any human casualty for the republic. The San Magnolia soldiers now spend their days drinking, gambling, and speaking ill of the processors, with the exception of Vladilena Mirizé (Lena), who understands that the truth is a little different. The drones are manned and she feels for the soldiers as they put their lives on the line to win the war. When Lean is transferred to the Spearhead squadron, infamous for retiring other handlers (or even leading them to commit suicide), it seems her care will be tested, as will the soldiers’ feelings toward those who put them on the front lines.
I have so many questions after watching episode one, but most primary being, are the “drone” soldiers, or processors as they seem to be called, A.I. units or humans? Flashback to the death of one leads me to believe the latter, but either could result in an immensely interesting tale between two sides, those sending to war and those fighting in it. The first episode of 86, which I’d been looking forward to after being recommended the manga, likewise is split down the middle, with the first half showing the gluttony of a military that doesn’t have to fight while establishing the heroic and upright Lena, and the latter part of the episode displaying the camaraderie and anger of Spearhead. The conflict ahead between Lena and Spearhead, but more vitally between the drone soldiers and greater society, is already captivating, speaking toward an already ages-long conflict between the upper crust—kings, nobles, generals, and officers and the lower, the foot soldiers, the poorer classes, the enlisted men and women. There’s also enough joy here in varying personalities to lead the series away from complete death and hopelessness, with a centering, it seems, on the relationship between Lena and Spearhead’s lead, Undertaker. All this could result in a hot mess, but the well-considered structure and world building of episode one have me excited at the possibilities of this series.
86 Eighty-Six is streaming on Crunchyroll.