86 –Eighty-Six–, Vol. 10: Fragmental Neoteny

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

First of all: yes, it’s a short story collection. And, for the most part, it’s entirely about Shin, so if you’re looking for the others, well, you’ll only get them as we get closer to the end of the book. These stories are meant to fill in a bit of the gap between Shin being sent off t war and where we joined his story in the first volume. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t this just an excuse to write a bunch of grimdark stuff where people are nice to Shin and then die horribly?” And hey, that’s just rude. There are also people that are mean and nasty to Shin who die horribly. That said, I was pleased that not EVERY story in this volume ended with the entire cast dead except for Shin… but most of them do. That said, it’s an excellent look into Shin’s mind, and into how he got to be the person he is today, even though everything but the final story and a few interludes takes place just after the events of the first volume.

The stories show us a freshly recruited Shin, already going far too hard into everything he can, being worried after by his commanding officer Alice; Shin being used as a scapegoat to attract the hatred of the rest of the unit so that it doesn’t spread to others; Shin getting the help of the mechanics to save a scavenger he found that seems to have a mind of its own; Shin discussing the nature of the afterlife with his comrades, as well as coming up with the handle of Undertaker; The Spearhead Squadron’s daily life just before they got Lena as their handler; and Shin, Raiden, Theo, Kurena and Anju marching off to their deaths, only to find that there is still life worth living out there, however dangerous and difficult.

I’ve left out two stories which are the best of this group. The story of Fido, told in several parts, is deeply heartwarming and tearjerking at the same time, and also gives us a much closer look at shin’s family before everything went to hell. Fido’s backstory is a revelation that will put a smile on most people’s faces, I think. The other interesting story is the final one, which appears to be a shared dream between Annette and Shin showing us what life would have been like if they really had managed to find unmanned units to fight the war for the Republic, and Shin and the others could have a normal life. It’s deeply bittersweet, and requires remembering what everyone looks like to get the most out of it (the main cast appears, but dream Shin doesn’t know who they re, so we only see their description), but it also shows us a Shin who regrets a lot of things but is ready to move forward. It’s a Shin prepared for the end of the series, which the author assures us is coming soon.

to sum up: this is how you do a short story volume. We get a lot more about Shin here, some backstory that wouldn’t really fit elsewhere, and yes, a lot of dead people. Come on, it’s still 86.

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