For a long time, this country has been besieged by its neighbor, the Empire, which created a series of unmanned military vehicles called the Legion. In response to the threat, the Republic successfully completes the development of similar technology and fights off the enemy's attack, having managed to do so without casualties. But this is the official version. In fact, there were victims. Outside of 85 districts of the Republic, there was actually another one—"the non-existent 86th district." It was there that day and night continued the battles in which young men and women, known as Eighty-Sixers, participated—they fought in drones...
Shinn directs the actions of a detachment of young Eighty-Sixers while on the battlefield. Lena is a "handler" who commands the detachment from the remote rear with the help of special communication.
86 is a lightnovel that
revolves around a certain group of individuals, filled with different backgrounds, all fighting in the battlefield, in the hopes of being granted amnesty and freedom. Sounds familiar?
Well yes, but actually no.
Valkyr-I mean 86, weaves a story of racism and social discrimination in the form of "man vs machine" kind of setting, where the last hope for humanity, rests in the form of kids going all "neon genesis evangelion" on everything. Honestly, if that weren't enough to pique your interest then I don't know what will. Well, despite the decent theme of the story, the series is not without it's own fair share of problems. One thing that really stuck out to me, was the Para-RAID system. I mean, I get that the author wanted to incorporate the link between the handler and the operator in deep way, but still. Looking at it objectively, I really don't see it as something to write home about (It's literally just radio communication!). Nitpicking aside, I personally liked the way the characters were written. And while you might not feel a deep connection with the characters, as much as you did while playing danganronpa, the series still manages to do a decent job at delivering that warm fuzzy feeling we all know and love. /s
So with that biased opinion out of the way, here's the point-based tldr:
As a note, if you're into lightnovels with serious plot elements like world-building and garterbelts :) then this book is for you. But if you're into "battle-shounen" esque lightnovels, and light-hearted fun, then you might want to skip this one out.
86 is my ideal story. It has everything that you could want. Action, drama, mystery, thrills, romance(budding at this point, but it's obvious, it's Japan), etc. What I love particularly about the story is how damn real it feels. It does not feel like you're reading a future anime or a light novel, but that you're reading a genuine war memoir.
The story is heavily influenced by World War 2 and it shows, the author even mentions it in the afterword. It relies heavily on the themes of racism, discrimination and ethnic cleansing, things that I feel would make a future
anime adaption pretty controversial. However, this is a very realistic topic that we have had in our history very recently and must never forget.
The protagonist Shin is very reminiscent of some of the classic Mecha MC's, but he still is extremely well written with a solid backstory, good character motivation, character growth and a very realistic way of dealing with things.
Lena, the future love interest is also extremely well written and is sympathetic to the plight of Shin and the rest of the 86's(basically Jews), over the course of volume 1, we see their relationship grow from more of a commander/subordinate to genuine friendship and concern. Can't wait to get deeper in the story.
The side characters are also very well written and make you feel attached to them from the very beginning. Everyone is unique and offers diversity in terms of personality, characterisation and dialogue. No one is just a cardboard cutout like in many other LN's.
Pacing is great, story is original and well written and this first volume at least, has enough action to keep you satisfied and well entertained. Got volumes 2-6 and now off to binge them in Japanese.