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Eighty-Six Episode 23 Review: The Finale Was Beautifully Cathartic

Eighty-Six Finale

I’m sad that the anime Eighty-Six is over now, but the ending was so beautiful that I’m also happy that I was there for the entire journey. The 86 anime ended with Episode 23, “Handler One.” From beginning to end, the episode was so beautifully cathartic. I can only hope this show is renewed for a second season. 

This is a review of Eighty-Six Episode 23, “Handler One.” As such, the review will have spoilers. Please note that this is an 86 anime ONLY review, with no light novel spoilers.

I thought my heart was going to break while watching last week’s Episode 22. Shin’s journey from despair and suicidal ideation to finding joy, hope, and love again just pulled at my heart the entire way.

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I couldn’t help but want to cry for this character as he was pulled down a dark path once he finally destroyed his enemy. And then I wanted to cry for joy for him when he found his deepest prayers answered — his friends were still alive and Lena not only alive, but now standing right in front of him, telling him the very words he needed to hear in order to carry on. 

This was pure emotional catharsis, and the finale carried on right where Episode 22 left off. 


A Year Has Passed & They’re Celebrating the Holy Birth Again

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President Ernst is one of my favorite characters on the show, so it was nice to see the episode opening with him throwing a Holy Birth Festival party for his adopted children, who are now back safe and sound from the war. It was sweet to watch them all come home and each individually tell Ernst, “I’m home.” After everything he has lost, he has found a family again — and they need him just as much as he needs them. 

We’re treated to a fun montage of the crew enjoying life as it’s back to normal, even though we know that this is just temporary. 

After some time has passed, Ernst tells them that he has put together a proposal to have them form an Independent Mobile Force that fights on the front lines. A foreign officer will serve as their commander (and as I suspected, we later learn that is Lena.) Ernst has grown a lot since this half of the season began. Although he’d rather not have them fight in the war, he also knows that they have the right to decide how they want to live their lives. So he is going to support them and give them the best shot possible, even if it’s not his personal preference for them. 


The War Is Not Going Well

Despite the decisive victory they experienced when Shin destroyed Morpho, the war is not going well. The Legion is massive, and the Federacy (and its allies) have lost significant manpower. The Legion also lost combat forces, but their manufacturing facilities were untouched. They will soon be able to create new combat forces again. 

Ernst realizes that unless something changes, “humanity will slowly be worn down until we finally lose.” That’s where the independent force comes into play. 

So while the rest of the episode focuses on healing and moving forward from the scars of the past, this brief scene serves to remind us that the war isn’t over. And things just might get harder in the months or years to come. It’s a harsh, dark backdrop to an otherwise peaceful, healing tone. This is just a brief respite, not an escape. 


Shin & Lena Are Both Healing & Moving Forward

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The show took pains to remind us of the strong parallels between Shin and Lena (which, of course, lie partially in how much Lena has admired Shin and modeled herself after him.) They both still carry the names of the 86 dead with them, until they are both able to let those names go at the same location. 

Both visited graves of the fallen who were close to them, telling them goodbye before moving forward.

Shin in particular has experienced a great deal of healing compared to where he was just one episode prior. He visits Eugene’s grave, and is able to make peace with Eugen’s sister and Marcel. Even when Marcel confesses to Shin that he is the one who prompted Eugene’s sister to send Shin the letters that almost killed him, Shin takes the news with a quiet, peaceful acceptance. He’s a far different man than he was just a few episodes prior. 

He also admits the things he is still trying to determine. He doesn’t have a reason to fight like Eugene did, and he’s felt lost since freeing his brother. But he promised to take his comrades with him to the end, and that means moving beyond the battlefield. His goal, in the end, is to bring them to the sea, even if he doesn’t particularly care about seeing it  himself. 

It’s beautiful to see how much Shin has grown and healed over this season, and what a different person he is now that he has found hope again. His friends, Ernst, and Lena are helping to fill an emptiness in his heart that was ravaged by war. 

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We also get to see what Lena’s journey has been like for the past year. How the Republic fell to the Legion but is still fighting. How she was ultimately recruited to continue the fight, and her friend ended up also going with her. 

I love the scene where she is shown the same memorial to the fallen 86 that touched Shin so deeply, and she also rests her hand on the memorial, feeling the immensity of it. Then she drops her box of names right next to Shin’s, not realizing that she is still following in his footsteps. But as she leaves her box, she cries, believing that all the 86 she knew and loved have died. However, she still has that same fierce determination to never forget them and to keep fighting, even in the midst of her grief. 

There’s a scene just before the reunion where we see some of Fido’s memories again. It’s a touching moment, seeing the world through the mysterious Fido’s eyes. (And is anyone else just so happy that Anju was reunited with her cat, as she had hoped?!) 

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In the midst of Fido’s POV, we see flashes of Shin as a child. It’s a beautiful scene, but it also makes me wonder if there’s a deeper meaning behind it, touching on Fido’s past. 

Crunchyroll
Crunchyroll

But for today, that is not to be explored, because there are more important scenes to view… The moment when Shin and Lena finally meet for the first time. 

Honestly, I can’t imagine the show and animators could have captured this scene any better. 

Lena’s tears as she realizes that Shin is still alive, and the slight blush to Shin’s face as he meets Lena for the first time. Seeing that moment after we saw all the characters — including Ernst (but not Kurena) — fully on board for the “Lena Shin” ship was just the perfect touch. Then there’s even a small extra moment, where Shin is already protecting Lena. Be still my heart.

At that point, the episode ended far too soon, but also at the perfect moment. 

This has been wrapped up so that if the show is not renewed, it is still the perfect ending. I want more, but the ending was just a beautiful work of art. 

I’ve been told there is a lot left to explore in the light novels. So I can only hope that the 86’s adventures are not yet over, and the series will be renewed. 

10 out of 10 for the last two episodes. Great job, 86. 

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Stephanie Dwilson started Post Apocalyptic Media with her husband Derek. Her favorite shows of all-time are Attack on Titan, Battlestar Galactica and Lost, and she's always happy to talk about her cats. 🙂 She's a licensed attorney (currently not-practicing) and has a master's in science and technology journalism.

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