When the first volume of 86 released in April, I was captivated. However, I was also worried for the series’ future given how perfectly Volume 1 stands as a single story. Could 86 offer anything as exciting in the future? Well, today I’m here with Volume 2 to find out!
At the very end of the first volume we saw Shin and the Spearhead squadron reunite with Lena in the Federal Republic of Giad after Spearhead (minus Lena) successfully escaped from the Republic of San Magnolia. We didn’t know how they made it to the Federal Republic of Giad but we at least knew everyone was safe. This second installment takes a step back in time to show us how Spearhead made it there safely and why they ended up in military service once more.
Using Shin’s ability to sense the Legion, the Spearhead squadron headed deep into Legion territory, avoiding battles where they could and hoping to find civilisation on the other side. Eventually the group was found and rescued by the Federal Republic of Giad, who were shocked to discover that any of them were still alive after having had no contact since the war began. The squad are taken in by the nation’s temporary president, Ernst Zimmerman, who promises them a peaceful life.
Having never before been treated as human within the Republic of San Magnolia, the Spearhead squadron are shocked to find a nation where 86, those of different blood, are readily accepted. As they recover from their perilous journey they ponder what they’d like to do with their lives going forward. For those who have known nothing but war, the answer to that question isn’t readily found.
Volume 2 of 86 is somewhat of a mixed bag. While it’s still a great read, it’s not as emotionally gripping as Volume 1. Much of that comes from the fact this is a flashback story (a two-volume flashback at that) where we know nothing major can happen to the main characters, whereas Volume 1 always had you turning the page to make sure everyone was okay.
The other downside is that Lena is not in this volume much at all. Even when she is, she’s still in San Magnolia and thus not interacting with the Spearhead squadron. This is a shame because the chemistry between her and Shin was great in the previous book and issorely missing here. That said, I’m invested enough in this cast that having a flashback tale now doesn’t bother me too much. This is likely the only opportunity to tell this story without it feeling forced, and if it wasn’t told, we’d always be left wondering what had happened during this period.
This volume of 86 does a good job of balancing character development and action, too. There are some exhilarating battles throughout the book, which are reminiscent of the life and death sections of Volume 1. Moving the perspective from Lena solely onto Shin also allows us to get a better feel of his thoughts and personality, which is a welcome change.
I commented in my review for the first volume of 86 that you could read it as a single entry and be content with the story. Having now read Volume 2, I still stand by that statement. While this volume is by no means bad, it doesn’t necessarily add anything either. If you’re already invested in the series, then I’d definitely recommend giving this a read but until we move past the flashback arc it’s hard to say whether 86 as a whole will remain as memorable as the first instalment.
This volume of 86 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and continues to be translated by Roman Lempert. The translation reads well and appears to be problem-free. The release itself includes numerous colour pages at the beginning depicting the various members of the cast, as well as the mecha seen in the series.
Overall, 86 Volume 2 continues to offer a worthwhile and interesting read. It’s not quite as good as Volume 1 due to being a flashback story but hopefully this will be worth it in the long run. With Volume 3 being a continuation of this tale, I’m hoping we see more of Lena and how things come to be on her side.