86 Eighty-Six made its long-awaited return on Saturday with episode 22. After being delayed for three months due to scheduling and production issues, fans rejoiced as Lena, Shin, and all the characters we’ve come to love made an appearance this past week in a truly remarkable episode.
But more than just our favorite characters returning, this episode felt like none of the others before it. With techniques used in some of the biggest films of all time, Director Toshimasa Ishii took episode 22 outside the box and turned a single episode into what felt like a cinematic experience.
Use of Letterboxing in Episode 22
From the very beginning to the climax of the episode, most of the scenes are cropped out with black areas on the top and bottom of the screen. This is a technique regularly used in movies called “letterboxing”. It’s one that is rarely ever seen in week-to-week anime episodes. However, 86 Eighty-Six used this technique to utter perfection.
In movies, the shots that are focused never pop out from these black areas. They’re all contained within the barriers to focus the shots. But letterboxing wasn’t used to just simply focus shots in episode 22 to make it feel like it was a movie. Instead, Ishii used the technique of letterboxing in ways we don’t see in modern anime.
Not only did characters step into the black areas, but the bars interacted with the characters in the shots as well. Take the shot above for example. With an overhead shot of Lena breaking the barrier and plowing her way through the red spider lilies, Ishii brings his directing and storyboarding genius to the forefront with just a single shot filled with metaphors everywhere. The gun. Stepping on the flowers that represent death. There’s so much to interpret just from this single shot. Another is an example below with Shin’s arm. The symbolism of having him drop the knife only to have his arm cut off by the bar – leaving Shin with a facial expression of loneliness and worry – was pure genius.
These kinds of shots can be seen throughout the episode and each one looks beautiful as the next. But, because this is 86 Eighty-Six, there’s always an underlying meaning for these types of moments that have been consistent in the series from the very beginning. There are many interpretations 86 Eighty-Six fans come up with after each episode and it was no different for this one. Some could say the multiple shots of Lena stepping into the black areas represent bringing light to the darkness. Others could say the shots of Shin are of him coming out of the darkness he’s been in all this time – especially since the black areas turned to white as Shin’s expressions changed from scared to relieved. Perhaps both interpretations are right. That’s one of the many beauties of 86 Eighty-Six. But one thing is for sure – the bars represent Shin’s state of mind deteriorating then coming back to light.
Climax Was Impactful
The big moment that stood out to me with episode 22 is the special moment between Lena and Shin that truly brought tears to my eyes and a giant smile to my face all at the same time. Fans have cried tears of sadness just as all of the characters in the series have up until this point. And in this episode, after all of the haunting moments of Shin’s past that Ishii made you feel at the beginning, the emotions during the climax became that much more powerful leaving fans everywhere feeling a great sense of happiness. Having “Voices of the Chord” (“Avid” English version) by Hiroyuki Sawano playing made the moment even more special.
Remember, the original “Avid” track was played during the moment Shin was crying after finally putting his brother to rest back in episode 9 – the most emotional episode of the series so far. Now, the chorus from “Voices of the Chord” drops with Shin smiling and the light hitting his face as if all the burdens are finally gone. This is one thing 86 Eighty-Six is known for – bringing moments like this around full circle. It’s a moment in this episode that shows both series creator Asato Asato’s perfect storytelling ability and Ishii’s creativeness to give it new life – a moment that felt like it was straight out of a blockbuster film.
Theme of “Keep Moving Forward”
The theme of moving forward and creating your own path in 86 Eighty-Six is prevalent from the very beginning. And episode 22 really made fans sympathize with Shin’s emotions in a way that it’s time for a new path to be paved. Despite having little screentime towards the end, Frederica brought up many good points for Shin – one being to create a path she wants Shin to pave himself that guides Lena. “She follows the path you create. So what is your destination?” was a line that Frederica said to him that seemed to hit Shin, and the viewers, deep. Now, it’s time for him to start creating that path.
This wonderful moment at the end of the episode gave fans a sense that the series is finally heading in a new direction. Everyone seemed happy, relieved, and was even joking around at the end about Shin seeing Lena for the first time. Well, except for Kurena. A perfect resolution to the beginning of Shin’s story.
Episode 22 of 86 Eighty-Six provided all the elements needed for exceptional storytelling. With incredible direction and storyboarding thanks to Ishii and his team, this episode felt like a cinematic experience found nowhere else in any other modern anime series.
Season 1 Final Episode Air Date
Ishii will continue to push the boundaries of anime production so long as he remains the director of 86-Eighty Six. With one more episode left, fans anticipate season one to end on a high note. Episode 23 will air on Saturday, March 19, on Crunchyroll.
Images via Crunchyroll
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