RECS: Anime You Need To Watch If You Love 86 EIGHTY-SIX
Hello everyone, and welcome back to Why It Works. Have you all been enjoying 86 EIGHTY-SIX? Well, “enjoying” might not be the appropriate word, given how the show tends to play out. 86 EIGHTY-SIX’s first season offered a poignant and expansive war drama, portraying battle not as a glorious adventure, but a lamentable tragedy. Its “heroes” are forced to battle against their will, with the production offering a scathing portrait of how underclasses are dehumanized and exploited. 86 EIGHTY-SIX feels angry in the best possible way, and though the second season is basically upon us, I’m guessing many of you would appreciate more 86 EIGHTY-SIX-reminiscent entertainment. Today I aim to slake that thirst as I present a variety of promising post-86 EIGHTY-SIX productions!
I generally tend to break these recommendation articles into a few different areas of influence, depending on the various things audience members might have connected with. While no two shows are exactly the same, plenty of shows share core strengths, and that’s what I tend to focus on. Firstly though, I’m going to break that rule and tell you that the most directly 86 EIGHTY-SIX-reminiscent property you’ll find is something from the Mobile Suit Gundam universe. From its robots and child soldiers to its firm anti-war messages, Gundam is a clear predecessor for 86 EIGHTY-SIX, and the recent Mobile Suit GUNDAM Iron-Blooded Orphans entry matches 86 EIGHTY-SIX even more closely. Not all shows have an immediate genre parallel, but 86 EIGHTY-SIX has the good fortune of resembling one of anime’s most enduring franchises.
With that settled, let’s move on to some of 86 EIGHTY-SIX’s more specific strengths. First off, on a purely aesthetic level, 86 EIGHTY-SIX is one of the few shows still carrying the banner of giant robot action. Robot shows have become a bit of a rarity these days, but along with the aforementioned Gundam, Crunchyroll’s still got a few choice ones. I’d recommend SSSS.Gridman and Full Metal Panic!, though if you’re in the mood for something a bit more lighthearted, both Star Driver and Symphogear are also keeping the robot spirit alive. For an interesting miniseries that mixes sci-fi hardware with a military tone, Blue Submarine No.6 is a quick and distinctive watch.
But frankly, “it has robots in it” feels like a pretty superficial appraisal of 86 EIGHTY-SIX’s appeal. More fundamentally, the show is empowered by its political intrigue, along with its pointed themes and sense of genuine, often fatal consequences. If you’re looking for more politically involved anime, I’d recommend something like ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept., which focuses on the sneaky machinations of public officials across an entire country. Or if you want something with more of a fantasy twist, you could try out Maoyu (wherein the heroes attempt to build a coalition government in a fantasy world) or Log Horizon (ditto, except in a gamified setting). Finally, the film Jin Roh might be the greatest animated elaboration of 86 EIGHTY-SIX’s fundamental despair and understanding of war’s terrible consequences.
There’s also plenty of shows that mirror 86 EIGHTY-SIX’s gruesome stakes, imbued with a sense of death lurking around every corner. Attack on Titan serves as an obvious example, but you could also check out the terrifying Parasyte -the maxim-, which transposes the immediacy of death to our own mundane world. If you’re just in the mood for brutal action with clear consequences, battle royales tend to fit the bill — I’d recommend JUNI TAISEN: ZODIAC WAR and Fate/Zero as two well-executed battle royales with violence to spare.
Personally, I think what most appeals to me in 86 EIGHTY-SIX is its anger — its fury at the injustice of war, a fury borne of thoughtful engagement with the roots of jingoism and fascism. I love stories that directly engage with our world and challenge us with arguments about the nature of society. Gatchaman Crowds is one of the very best such shows, interrogating the nature of heroism in the world of the internet and questioning how much we can trust our digital future. Kaiba stands as another forward-thinking theme piece, reflecting on how even in a transhumanist future, the shackles of commerce will still bind our dreams. Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) explores some of the same issues of dehumanization as 86 EIGHTY-SIX, presenting in the context of a vivid dystopian fantasy. And most recently, ODDTAXI absolutely thrilled me this spring, offering a brutal interrogation of social media in our age of isolation. Fiction is uniquely capable of imbuing intellectual arguments with emotional power, and many of the greatest anime are built on this powerful union.
Finally, perhaps you’re just looking for some more war dramas, shows that convey conflict on a countrywide scale. I’d first recommend Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which marries a vast, slowly building conflict to a bunch of satisfying episodic adventures. For a darker, more war-weary angle of approach, I’d also recommend the Saga of Tanya the Evil, whose title already gives away its opinion on wagers of war. If you want something a little lighter, Izetta: The Last Witch centers on a witch who flies around firing an artillery cannon. So, there’s that.
On the whole, 86 EIGHTY-SIX is a distinct enough show that it’s a little tricky finding direct parallels outside of the obvious Gundam/war drama lineage. Frankly, it’s in some ways a relic of the past — sci-fi shows that dug into the horrors of war were far more common back in the ‘70s and ‘80s during giant robots’ golden age. For further research, I’d recommend diving back into that history and checking out works like Armored Trooper Votoms — but for now, I hope you’ve found a show or two to enjoy among my recommendations!
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