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They are back, and they are alive!

The pilot episode for 86’s season 2 begins eerily similar to the first season, with a squadron holding off a Legion army. But this time, Lena is once again the Handler, and there’s a new leader in place of Shin: Cyclops.

Things have drastically change for Lena ever since the Spearhead Squadron’s fateful last mission. Their apparent deaths has obviously taken a toll on her, evident by the black uniform she now wears, as well as a part of her hair being dyed red, leading to her new nickname, Bloody Reina. But more than that, she’s quite different now in terms of personality. While she still values the lives of those under her, she has become too formal and quite detached, even though Cyclops and her squadron treats her amiably.

Moreover, she is more blunt and rebellious against her superiors, and doesn’t hesitate to call them out for their performances. This stems from one simple reason: out of all Handlers, Lena has the lowest casualty in her squadron while having the best performance, making her an asset to the Republic. Naturally, she would get every thing she needs for the sake of survival.

Things seem to be going well for our favorite Handler, but it is quite a different story with Shin and the others who has miraculously survived thanks to the intervention of the country that created the Legion: the former Empire of Giad, now a Federation led by President Ernst Zimerman.

Ernst, and the entirety of Giad itself, is a stark contrast to San Magnolia. They are compassionate toward fellow humans, to the point that they have immediately supported Shin’s group as soon as they have learned of their experiences. However, there is something a little odd about this; Ernst’s ideals are just too… idealistic and too good to be true, and he could be simply using Shin and the others for his own gain, especially since the Eighty-Six have often repelled the Legion’s onslaught. Of course, this could be a red herring in the story as well, and Ernst might just really be a kind and honest leader.

As for Shin and the others, their lives are peaceful and free of bloodshed—they even live in a mansion now thanks to Ernst. But it is clear that they still want to fight the Legion, evident in their desire to enlist in Giad’s military. And we can see it in their lackluster reactions to their newly gained freedom; in fact, they looked more happy during their last mission than now. Of course, this could simply be due to being inside an unknown, and possibly hostile, territory.

Perhaps the highlight of this episode is the introduction of a new character: Frederica Rosenfort. And while she initially appears to be the typical outspoken and arrogant little sister-type of a character, there is something different about her. For one, she is quite intelligent and perceptive for her age, and she seems to have a similar tragic backstory as Shin.

For another, she is none other than the Empress of Giad.

Overall, Eighty-Six’s return is off to a great. It is gearing up to be another epic season, and now that Shin and his friends have survived, we can expect more action from the best of Spearhead Squadron.

Episode score: 9/10.

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