Volume 10 of 86 offered us a collection of prequel side stories, helping further develop Shin and explore his life before becoming the protagonist we know and love now. With Volume 11, it’s back to the present day, where the war against the Legion is about to take a horrifying turn…
This book opens with the Legion beginning a new assault, which involves dropping satellites from orbit onto the Federation and its allied countries. This results in massive losses both in terms of people and all the ground Shin and the others had helped retake from the Legion throughout the last several books.
Before the group can even come to terms with what’s happened, they get a request for help from the Republic, the country Lena and the Eighty-Six originally came from. They’re the only place to have not been hit in the satellite attack, so although the Federation believes the Legion are trying to lure them into a trap, they can’t just ignore all the innocents whose lives are at stake.
So with the support of the Federation, the Eighty-Sixth Strike Package heads to the Republic, back to the country that tossed them away and treated them worse than slaves: the people living happy lives while the Eighty-Six were sent to their deaths. It will come as no surprise to anyone to hear that the people haven’t changed, still living selfishly and looking for someone else to blame and sacrifice – anyone who isn’t them.
Between the present-day chapters, author Asato Asato has chosen to write short prequel pieces that show what happened both when the Republic was originally attacked (before they chose to make the Eighty-Six fight to protect them) and when the Second Great Offensive took place at the end of Volume 1. Thematically these tie in perfectly with what’s happening in the present day and they fill in some blanks that readers have been curious about, especially concerning Lena’s actions in the Second Great Offensive. If you watched the anime you’ll have seen some of these scenes already since they made their debut there.
While I wasn’t expecting the story to go in this direction, I’m pleased it did. I’m not sure anyone ever wanted to see the Republic again, given their treatment of the Eighty-Six, but for the characters, it’s an important step as they address their feelings toward the people and places they once saw as home. This is especially important for Lena who has complicated feelings toward her homeland.
In many ways, this could have been an opportunity for Asato Asato to show us that the country has changed, but I think that would have done a disservice to everything we’ve seen before. The fact that the people haven’t changed is more impactful, meaningful and realistic. While our cast has mixed feelings about helping their homeland, so too do we readers. This is a very engrossing book that you won’t be putting down until the end, that’s for sure.
One thing I will say without going into spoilers is that there is a lot of graphic and horrific violence in this book. 86 has never shied away from depicting that sort of thing, but what’s happening in this one will be staying with you for quite a while afterwards. I’m not saying this to be a negative either, I doubt the story being told would have worked as well as it does otherwise but it is worth being aware of going in so you can have something lighter prepared to enjoy afterwards.
This is a heartwrenching instalment of the series. By the end, the characters are exhausted, wondering what they’ve been fighting for (especially now all the advancements they’d made have been whittled down to nothing) and that feeling extends to us readers. Not in a bad way though; it’s no mistake that this is one of the better instalments of the series and one that will stay with you going forward. I hesitate to say this is a return to form for 86, given none of the books have been bad, but I think I enjoyed this on the whole far more than the previous present-day volume.
86 Volume 11 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press where it continues to be translated by Roman Lempert. As always the translation reads well and Lempert does well to keep everyone’s character voices consistent as we jump around so many different members of the cast in a chaotic but well-structured narrative.
With this release, we’re caught up to the Japanese releases, at least until Volume 12 comes out there this month. Because of this, there’s currently no schedule for the next book’s release in English (not even a placeholder), so I imagine we’ll be waiting until at least the end of this year now.
Overall, an unexpected twist in 86’s story leads to Volume 11 being one of the better releases as of late. It’s a difficult read given all the different emotions at play here, but also highly rewarding once you reach the end. As always I’m eager to get my hands on the next instalment and I imagine other readers will feel the same.