Episode 23 of 86 Eighty-Six aired on Saturday, March 19, wrapping up season one of the hit new anime series. The finale brought fans everywhere to tears as the most anticipated moment of the entire season finally happened. But episode 23 was much more than a standard season finale.
When we usually think of a season finale, we think of either two things—this series is going to officially end or it will end on a cliffhanger with anticipation of another season. While it may sound far-farfetched, episode 23 of 86 Eighty-Six went beyond expectations and ended the season on the highest note possible.
The Perfect Season Finale
A lot of times, season finales feel like the falling action and resolution from the previous two episodes where the climax normally hits. These types of season finales are usually slower-paced and not as impactful. It will more oftentimes than not be used as a place to wrap everything up and either end the story for good or tease the fans with a possibility of another season. But as the series has done since the very beginning, 86 Eighty-Six has taught us to expect more than just the simple things we usually would from other series.
Throughout episode 23, we see Shin and Lena in either similar or the exact same places. But each has its own differences no matter how small or large. It was as if the episode was alluding to what Frederica told Shin back in episode 22, “She follows the path you create. So what is your destination?” And throughout, we constantly see Shin just slightly ahead of Lena at the same spots they end up going to. A path that led to a beautiful destination—by each other’s sides.
Shin was first shown in Ernst’s comfortable house, Lena was shown second in her torn-up bedroom. Shin was shown first at Eugene’s grave with a smile, Lena was second at her father’s with disgust and sadness. Shin was the first at the memorial leaving with a “Thank you” as his last words, Lena was the second leaving with “I won’t forget” as her last words. This consistency of Shin “paving the path” that Frederica wanted him to for Lena felt like it finally came to fruition. The ending of the episode wasn’t one of a final goodbye. Rather, it was one of a new beginning.
Director Toshimasa Ishii not only made it feel like a new beginning for the characters, but he made it so the viewers felt the same as well. The use of constant contrast throughout the episode only to have the two sides come together in the final minutes of the episode is a work of art only few could pull off. It was a truly special moment the fans, and the characters themselves, have been waiting a long time for.
The Journey Continues
The major theme of episode 23 of 86 Eighty-Six is obvious—to keep moving forward. As Shin said his goodbyes to Rei, Eugene, and all of his former comrades of the Spearhead Squadron one last time, he felt a sense of relief and happiness for the first time in the entire season. He begins to make promises he doesn’t even know he can keep, but he realizes that it’s what will keep him moving forward. He’s finally at peace with that as he says to himself, “I think if I can show them something new, something they’ve never seen before… That will be enough of a reason to fight for now.”
Lena’s reason for moving forward, on the other hand, was one of frustration and motivation all in one. She’s officially leaving the Republic behind with no intentions of ever returning while Shin made a fateful promise to return back to Eugene. But it was all in the name of those Lena finally met at the end of the episode. It was the weight all of the viewers could feel that was finally lifted off her shoulders as she couldn’t hold back the tears anymore—as everything that has happened to her since the very beginning is finally gone.
With both standing within arms’ length of each other, it was a moment of solace. Any past pain, regrets, lives, moments…they were all let go of in the final moments of the episode. A perfect finale—one of comfort and hope—that leads us into the next phase of the story backed by a beautiful soundtrack to emphasize the biggest moment of the anime so far. One story ends, another begins. That’s just the beauty of 86 Eighty-Six.
Anime 1-Year Anniversary Event
The official Twitter account for the series announced that there will be a special 1-year anniversary event for the anime on April 10. Nobody knows what to expect from the event, but fans are hoping for a possible season two announcement. Until then, make sure to vote for episode 23 in our weekly poll!
Images via Crunchyroll
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