86 –Eighty-Six–, Vol. 6: Darkest Before the Dawn

By Asato Asato and Shirabii. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Roman Lempert.

In my review of the last volume, I mentioned that my favorite scene was the argument between Shin and Lerche about the nature of being a soldier and why someone should fight. It turns out that that scene is the linchpin on which half of this volume turns, as Shin is having a bit of a nervous breakdown trying to reconcile this argument and his own hatred of the world with his deep-seated desire to show Lena the sea, which of course means actually trying NOT TO DIE. It’s easy to see why he’s having trouble, given his entire life to this point, the conditioning he’s been through due to the war itself, the way others treated him in the Federation, and his own teenage emotions, particularly his growing love for Lena and his terror and self-loathing of the same. Not that Lena is handling things much better herself, but at least she’s moving forward. Fortunately for Shin, the second half of the series gets to be an awesome James Bond battle, complete with active volcano. He’s better at those.

Things are still looking bad for our heroes at the start of the book, despite the cheerful-looking cover. The Legion are still very much in the driver’s seat, and the plans that they think up do not go well at all… until Lena comes up with an idea straight out of the A-Team School of Plans, though there’s also a bit of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress thrown in. After this, what remains is a harsh battle with the Eighty-Six, the Sirins, and the UK troops trying to stop the aerial machine cover killing their lands, take out as much of the Legion as they can, including a Shepherd who seems very familiar to Shin, and achieve what their goal was in the 5th book; capture the Merciless Queen. That’s not going to be easy, especially since the Phonix is back, and it really, really wants to kill Shin.

This book has more than one POV scene from the Merciless Queen, and it’s quiet fascinating, and shows off that they are not merely inhuman robots that just keep coming. The last quarter of the book is dedicated to a balls-to-the-wall battle between Shin and the Phonix inside the volcano, and it reminds you how fantastic the author is at writing action scenes – which bodes well for the upcoming anime, I hope. As for Shin, I think he’s finally turned a corner here, which is good, as he really was starting to get on everyone’s nerves – both the readers and the other characters. How this plays out in the future I’m not sure, but it is nice to see him actually make the effort to meet his grandfather at the end of the volume. On the down side, after seeing Kurena and Anju in the skin-tight plugsuits Lena wore last time, I fear this is definitely the work of the author rather than an editor.

The author promises – again – that the next volume will be a breather and more lighthearted, and the cover seems to bear this out. But war is never too far away from the Eighty-Six, and war is the reason this remains an absolutely riveting series – it’s still horrible, there’s still lots of deaths, and we need to do everything we can to work for peace.

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  1. “On the down side, after seeing Kurena and Anju in the skin-tight plugsuits Lena wore last time, I fear this is definitely the work of the author rather than an editor.”

    I did told you! The author says it herself that she loves garterbelts and skintight suits.

    But eh, it’s pretty small part.

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