Mon. May 23rd, 2022


Hello everyone, and welcome to Wrong Every Time. Today we stand on the precipice of battle, with Shin and his few remaining squadmates having been assigned an impossible task. They are intended to fail this mission; as we’ve recently learned, Spearhead is actually a dumping ground for all those 86 who’ve survived too long, and risk putting the lie to the Republic’s promises of freedom. There will be no freedom for the 86; their persecuted existence is a stain on the honor of the Republic, and thus they must be wiped out so completely that even their memory will cease to exist.

Lena may not have the power to halt the Republic’s campaign of genocide, but at the very least she is no longer blind to it. She has seen the true face of former friends like Henrietta and her uncle, and understands that they are not simply blind to injustice, but willfully complicit in its continuation. Willful tyranny will not dissipate merely by being exposed to the light – it must be challenged, and will fight tooth and nail to preserve itself. Tyranny may dress itself in justice, but appeals to justice will never depose it; those who believe in the primacy of power will never answer to anything else. Lena’s high social position and frankly unmerited faith in human nature make her one of the few people that could answer the Republic’s challenge in its own language; as the final battle approaches, I’m eager to see how she at last makes her stand.

Episode 9

We open on September 28th, with Shin’s team already in the field

The roar of dead minds screaming in pain and fear is overwhelming. 86’s brain-stealing conceit is pretty audacious in terms of its scifi improbability, but it makes for a useful thematic flourish. Like so many of this story’s choices, it seems intended to make the ugliness and human cost of war inescapable even in the heat of battle – it’d be easy for these robots they’re facing to feel like meaningless drones, but when there are pained human voices attached to each one, it’s much harder to ignore the profound human cost and senseless suffering inherent to any large-scale battle

The camera centers on Shin’s neck, emphasizing the scar his brother left. Shin essentially already “died once,” when his brother nearly killed him, and he thus lost his initial innocence

Shin’s brother is here, and calls out to Shin as the bombardment begins

This sort of fractured, patchwork rendition of Shin’s brother is an effective way of conveying his instability and mental deterioration

Shin’s allies note the enemy are acting with more specific intentionality than usual, attempting to create a private meeting for Shin and his brother

Excellent use of blur effects to draw the viewer’s eye through this battle sequence. By blurring the foreground objects and drawing the camera slightly upward, combined with the glint of light on the sniper in the distance, 86 is able to simulate the effect that racking the focus would with a traditional camera, making a visual connect between effect (the explosion in the foreground) and cause (the tank we then highlight in the background)

And Lena arrives at last, dropping a clearly unapproved fleet of mortars on their enemy. Gorgeous color work and effects animation as the mortars light up the sky. 86 takes care not to make battle seem glamorous or beautiful most of the time, but for a moment as joyous as “Lena arrives with the artillery,” it makes sense for the battlefield to seem momentarily beautiful

Her contribution here is framed in a common style: “I’ll take care of the reinforcements, you handle the forces on the ground.” She’s removed the inevitability of failure, but their mission is no less harrowing

“Shin’s fighting his brother. He can’t hear our voices now.” Shin’s destined reunion with his brother essentially symbolizes his fatalistic attitude towards this entire war: “I’m just trying to survive until I can die while completing my task as Reaper.” This battle is the death he chose long before meeting Lena, but if Lena can reach him, she might be able to replace that fated death with some genuine hope. The phrasing “hear our voices” seems very pointed – he might physically not be able to hear their communications, but metaphorically, they’ve lost him to his obsession with his brother

A brief, crucial exchange between Lena and Kurena, as Kurena accepts Lena’s orders for the greater cause of saving Shin

Shou is essentially represented as a pair of fluid metal arms – all of his humanity reduced to those arms that choked his brother

Oh, I love this. Lena actually relies on Shou’s determination to finish this himself in order to defeat him, by firing shells he must block in order to protect Shin. Both an incredibly bold and mercilessly cynical tacit – precisely the sort of thinking she needs to be adopting at this point

Also great fusion of their memories here, as Lena’s formative incident with Shou is essentially in communication with Shin’s harshest memory

Some nice dynamic camerawork ratchets up the tempo dramatically as Shin makes his counterattack

This musical track is so clumsy and ill-fitting, though. Whatever deal this show’s committee struck with a record label has done the production no favors; all of the insert songs are tuneless math rock or generic butt rock. When I hear “cathartic goodbye to your lost brother,” the accompanying soundtrack does not sound like a lesser Evanescence number

And with Shou finally at peace, all of Shin’s memories are no longer tainted by his feelings of guilt. He can at last celebrate the brother he loved, and mourn the brother he lost

And see, here’s a music track that works, largely because it doesn’t insist on overwhelming the sound design. Please exercise just a little restraint, people

…and just as I praise that, the beat drops and it becomes like three times louder, hammering in the tone of the moment with all the grace of a cement mixer. 86’s sound design exemplifies the show’s most reliable flaw: its insistence on overtelling and overselling

Granted, I can critique shows for lacking subtlety all they want, but directness is certainly profitable. People generally connect with media that flatters their ability to connect the dots, while being on-the-nose in your points and payoffs only alienates weirdos like me

Ah, so Henrietta was actually the one who got Lena into those mortar systems. Not too surprising – unlike Lena’s uncle, Henrietta clearly can’t sit peacefully with her decision to support the Republic. Her very anger at Lena was the result of how much Lena was provoking her underlying feelings of guilt and responsibility

“The boy you abandoned… his name was Shin, wasn’t it?” Oh yeah, that’ll do it

This scene is also demonstrating the new Lena, a Lena who’s willing to be calculating and cruel in order to serve a greater good. Rather than appealing to Henrietta’s better nature, she’s essentially daring Henrietta to prove she’s the monster she claimed to be. Key choice here of making sure we can’t see Lena’s eyes, a classic method of visually dehumanizing someone

“You abandoned him twice. Are you going to abandon him a third time?” Only now do we see Lena’s eyes, which are all cold steel, not a hint of sympathy in them

“You’re the devil.” “I am, and so are you.”

Nice, organic dialogue as Lena reconvenes with the team. I like the choice to hold this in a perspective shot aimed at these squad member doodles, presenting the members of Spearhead as Lena has come to know them

At this point, Lena has no home in the Republic. The familial banter of Spearhead serve as a counterpoint to the now-foreign landscape of the capitol

And Done

And so Shin’s duty is complete. 86 generally tends to stumble the most when it comes to the big dramatic moments, and this episode was no exception – the resolution of Shou’s story was equal parts moving and clumsy, marred by what I’m going to call 86’s “tonal overenthusiasm.” On the other hand, it was delightful seeing Lena evolve into a more war-ready version of herself, and I can’t wait to see how she deals with the fallout of this episode’s clear rebellion. This definitely wasn’t 86’s finest hour, but it steered us into a fascinating narrative trajectory, and I’m eager to see what happens next. Great work, Spearhead!

This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.

By admin