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A War Without Casualties
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86 EIGHTY-SIX is a Military Science Fiction Light Novel series by Asato Asato note , illustrated by Shirabii, and with mech design by I-IVnote  which began publishing in February 2017.

The Republic of San Magnolia has long been under attack from the neighboring Giadian Empire's army of unmanned drones known as the Legion. After years of painstaking research, the Republic finally developed autonomous drones of their own, turning the one-sided struggle into a war without casualties-or at least, that's what the government claims. In truth, there is no such thing as a bloodless war. Beyond the fortified walls protecting the eighty-five Republic territories lies the "nonexistent" Eighty-Sixth Sector. The young men and women of this forsaken land are branded the Eighty-Six and, stripped of their humanity, pilot the "unmanned" weapons into battle...

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Major Vladilena "Lena" Milizé is given command of the veteran Eighty-Six Spearhead Squadron which, for some reason, goes through handlers like crazy, including some that committed suicide, and it is suspected the unit's leader, Captain Shinei "Shin" Nouzen, might have something to do with that. All the while Lena has to battle institutional racism and gaining acceptance with the squadron who, understandably, does not recognize her as one of their own even as she's trying to keep them alive.

Ten volumes have been released in Japanese so far. The web novel side stories can be found here (in Japanese). Yen Press has licensed the series for English release beginning March 2019.

A TV Anime Adaptation was confirmed for 2020, done by A-1 Pictures, directed by Toshimasa Ishii and with music by Kohta Yamamoto and Hiroyuki Sawano. It was then delayed but eventually premiered in April 2021. After the conclusion of the first 11 episodes, a special Recap Episode aired on June 27th. The second cour began airing on October 2nd of the same year.

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Not to be confused with the Youtube short animation Eighty-six (2012) or the Steam puzzle game 86 (2020).

Warning: Unmarked spoilers for Volume 1 below, due to many First Episode Twists required to discuss any future volumes.


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86 EIGHTY-SIX provides examples of:

    # — D 
  • Adaptive Ability: As the Spearhead Squadron has discovered, the Legion's drones are slowly improving in tactics and design, and unlike what analysts say, their production is not slowing down.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Self-Propelled Mines show up in Episode 6 in an anime-original sequence. While they are mentioned to exist offhandedly in the first volume, they don't actually make a proper appearance in the story until Volume 4, as confirmed by Asato Asato herselfnote . They make another appearance in Episode 11.
    • Episode 11 also has shows an early look at Frederica Rosenfort via a single-frame flashback.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Quite a bit:
    • The second episode creates an anime-original scene where Lena tries to speak up about the maltreatment of the 86 to a class of new San Magnolian recruits as she goes over the truth of the wartime legislation that was used to discriminate against them. In the light novel, this information was originally given to the reader in the first chapter's narration as a long Infodump.
    • The anime adds multiple original scenes showing Lena's growing attraction to Shin, such as in Episode 2 when she lightly blushes at Annette's questioning her about her frequent Para-RAID calls with him, and in Episode 5 when she witnesses a couple kissing on a staircase and begins imagining the man and woman as instead Shin and herself. The end of Episode 6 shows another anime-original scene where she has another talk with Shin as they reminisce about his brother, and she ends up saying something very affectionate to himnote  that turns her into a blushing & squirming mess when she realizes the emotional weight of what she just said. These can also be considered Adaptation Relationship Overhaul since in the light novels, there's not much hint of her being romantically inclined towards him until Volume 4 at the earliest.
    • Similarly, the anime has also added plenty of extra scenes showing Lena and Annette's friendship as they eat desserts on their breaks, as well as details on Annette's constant Arranged Marriage woes.
    • The manga goes into the most detail showing how Kaie died to the Legion, and the failed attempt afterward by Anju to destroy her body before the Legion can scan it. It also had additional scenes with Kaie that were not in the light novel, just to make her death sting even harder.
    • Episode 4's scene when Lena asks Shin to tell her Spearhead Squadron's names shows her to be at a war memorial (modeled after the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C.) that honors the Albans (and only the Albans) who have died against the Legion, with her father's name Vaclav being the last one recorded. In the novel, she's simply at home as usual.
    • Episode 6 is almost entirely anime-original. The first part of the episode is a flashback showing how Spearhead Squadron was formed as they get to know each other and speculate on what their new Handler will be like (much of the dialogue is taken from the Black Tag Daily Life short story). The second major part shows the battle where Daiya dies to a swarm of self-propelled mines, along with another squad member named Lecca; this was actually not shown or even explained what happened at all in the light novel, which skipped the battle and simply showed the aftermath.
    • Episode 7 begins by showing how Lena was able to smuggle a package of celebratory fireworks to Spearhead Squadron by bribing a supply officer. This was implied in the novel but not explicitly confirmed.
    • Episode 8 has a lengthy sad musical montage of Spearhead cleaning out their barracks before they embark on their suicide mission to unknown Legion-held territories. This is another thing that was mentioned they had done in passing in the first volume's epilogue but not outright shown.
    • Episode 9 ends with Lena dramatically running out of the military HQ in a futile attempt to stay connected to Spearhead as they are about to head out of Para-RAID range into the unknown. All the dialogue in this scene was taken from 3 pages of original material Asato Asato wrote for this episode. In the light novel, the link shuts down after Shin bids her farewell, and the scene ends as she cries at her desk instead of out on a bridge in the city. That same episode also showed that Annette was present in Lena's command center for the battle hacking into the interception cannon control network; she was not there in the light novel, as Lena took control of the cannons on her own.
    • Episode 10 is another episode that is mostly drawing on material from sidestories, which essentially expand a few sentences worth of description from Volume 2. Most of the episode's front half when Spearhead explores an abandoned Giadian town and finds a badly damaged Legion tank in a zoo is from the short story "By the Lethe River" which is Chapter 8 of Volume 10, and the back half of the episode featuring Fido's memories is drawing upon the "Fido" short story as its foundation. The only thing directly taken from the main story novels is the last 30 seconds of the episode, which shows Fido destroyed as the start of Volume 2 Chapter 2.
    • Episode 11 has an anime-original scene where the five members of Spearhead spend the night at a schoolhouse in an abandoned Giadian town and have fun pretending to be students. It also ends on an anime-original image of Shin seemingly beheaded in a dream sequence, with his head scribbled out.
    • Episode 12 starts off adapting Volume 2's prologue, but goes on to expand on it by giving us a much lengthier conversation between Lena and her new squadron leader Cyclops. It also shows she's been gathering some support among fellow like-minded Alban Handlers in HQ, and that she and Annette have mostly patched up their friendship.
    • Episode 14 starts off by showing the "Legendary Zero" incident when Shin managed to make a Vanagandr jump during a training exercise, much to the total shock of the Giadian military. This was covered only in a Volume 2 sidestory. The anime dials it up a notch by showing it do a backflip off a slope, not just a jump.
    • Episode 16's ending with Lena builds off of the earlier original scene from Episode 12 when it shows a new scene of her using a special device created by Annette that allows her Para-RAID to sync up with all remaining 86 Processors to prepare for San Magnolia's last stand against the Legion all-out offensive.
    • Episode 17 begins with a montage of the Legion invasion of the Republic's capital and Lena's desperate attempts to stymie their advance. The end credits then show the aftermath of the battle, with Legion and Juggernaut wreckage littering the streets of the city along with dozens of dead 86, and also showing Lena's own bedroom at home was destroyed in the fighting as well.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The anime skips over the prologue of the first light novel, which shows one of Shin's previous units getting completely wiped out leaving Shin as the Sole Survivor. Surprisingly the unit's Alba handler was actually upset about losing so many people and repeatedly apologizes for sending them to their deaths, showing that Lena wasn't the first handler to grow attached to the 86. In contrast, the anime shows a different engagement where Shin "breaks" a different handler who had been purposely trying to get the 86 killed.
    • Kaie's death was heavily glossed over in the anime, only focusing on the aftermath and showing the death itself as a very quick flashback that only lasted a few seconds.
    • The anime skipped the scene when Lena calls Shin while he's in the shower after her first experience hearing the Black Sheeps' voices. This is because Episode 5 sets her call to him earlier in the evening when the entire squadron was still in the lounge after dinner, rather than how in the light novel, it took her longer to work up the courage to call him back and she ended up doing so late at night.
    • In Episode 7, when the Alban officer delivering Lena's fireworks insults Shin by implying he seduced Lena over the comm, Shin's sarcastic threat to do that to the man's wife was cut. He simply ignores him.
    • In general, the anime and the manga both greatly simplify the complex racial groups of the setting's people down to just Alba and non-Alba, with not even the word "Colorata" used in either series script, to say nothing of the myriad names of the races in the 86 setting. It also does not even hint at the existence of sub-races, such as the fact that even the Alba are divided into three sub-races of Celena, Adularia, and Alabaster. It takes until Episode 17 for a report to list the races for Shin, Raiden, and Theo, and even this only appears for a few seconds.
    • The circumstances of Spearhead Squadron's rescue by Federacy are only vaguely alluded to in the anime. The only real clue the anime provides is the wrecked Dinosauria that the Federacy recovered alongside the Spearhead members. The Dinosauria in question was Rei's backup unit. The anime never revealed that a badly corrupted copy of his mind had been partially transferred to a spare unit after Shin destroyed the original. This second Rei then proceeded to shadow Spearhead Squadron as they moved through Legion territory. He would ultimately rescue Shin's unit from certain death at the hands of the rest of the Legion and carry their unconscious bodies into Federacy territory, which resulted in his destruction. The strange circumstances of their rescue were the main reason why some Federacy officers feared that Spearhead was being used as a Trojan Horse for some Legion bioweapon, because Rei's actions made it seem like the Legion deliberately let them go.
  • An Aesop: A major moral of the story is that even democracies are capable of committing horrible acts against their own people as long as the majority of their citizens acquiesce to these actions. The 86 wouldn't have been stripped of their rights if the majority of San Magnolia's citizens hadn't tacitly agreed with this treatment.
  • A.K.A.-47: The story takes quite a bit of cues from World War II, so some of the machines in the series are futuristic versions of World War II vehicles. The most notable is the Morpho, which is basically the Schwerer Gustav with the cannon being a railgun instead of a conventional gun. There are this trope's versions of more modern equipment as well, like the Nachzehrer being the Korabl Maket/Caspian Sea Monster fused with the An-225 Mriya's cargo capacity and B-2 Spirit's stealth and flying wing design.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Legion drones end up growing beyond what the Empire anticipated (Although that might be a deliberate choice by their head developer) by developing the ability to copy the last memories and thinking of their victims. On another level, once the Empire collapses due to internal rebellion and is replaced by the Federation of Giad, the Legion also begins targeting the Federation solely on the basis of being "not the Empire." This is played with, however, since the Legion's still technically following the Empire's orders.
  • The Alleged Car: The Juggernaut was originally intended to be an unmanned drone, which is why it has almost no pilot survivability features due to it being converted into a manned vehicle on very short notice. With its paper-thin armor and lackluster main armament, it's no wonder that the majority of pilots consider it to be little more than a walking coffin.
  • Always Female: Lena tersely asks Vika why the Sirin are all women with a rather disapproving glare. While he jokes making male Sirin would be disgusting, the more serious explanation is that when the project was new, the soldiers serving on the frontlines were all men, so using only women served as an easy way to distinguish them. Now that the war has gone on for so long, the unofficial policy to keep the Sirin as females lives on through inertia, even as female soldiers become more common.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Brísingamen Squadron, led by Shiden Iida. From the sounds of its description, it wasn't intentional that it be made up solely of women, but it just happened to form that way as surviving female Eighty-Six gravitated together of their own accord.
  • Anachronic Order: Volume 2 has this a bit early on, where it jumps from the 2-year skip in Volume 1's epilogue to Lena getting demoted and commanding another Processor unit, to Shin doing his job as a Federacy officer, and then back to right after they destroyed AI Rei's Dinosauria, where the story continues in normal order.
    • Episode 11's first half follows Spearhead on their recon mission throughout October 30-31. The second half then jumps back in time to October 13 to show Lena arriving at their old base and exploring their living quarters.
    • Episode 12's first half follows Lena and how the aftermath of the recon mission has affected her on December 2, 2148. The second half jumps back a month earlier to how Spearhead was rescued by the Giad Federal Republic. After a month-long timeskip, however, the timeline matches up by the end of the episode.
  • Anti-Air: The Legion doesn't seem to have their own air force other than solar-powered EWACS aircraft and jammer swarm, however, their Stachelschwein Mobile AA is good enough that flying any kind of aircraft into their territory is basically suicidal, relegating aircraft to support and logistics role. Lena and her father were shot down when she was still a child after he took her on an observation trip.
  • Armored Coffins: The San Magnolian Juggernauts, for a sufficiently loose definition of the word "armored." As part of their complete lack of anything resembling a support system for their pilots, Juggernauts have no automatic ejection system — the only way out is to pop the hatch and manually disembark. The mech is actually referred to in-universe as an "aluminum coffin" at one point.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: During his battle with Shin, Rei's guilty conscience manifests as a young Lena who slaps him in the face for trying to kill his brother a second time. This occurs right as Rei's Dinosauria receives a literal Armor-Piercing Slap from the dud artillery shells launched by the actual Lena.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: After the annihilation of the regular military at the beginning of the war in Stellar Year 2139, the government had to rebuild it hastily and ended up drafting the absolute dregs of society who had little education or discipline and not having the slightest understanding of what it means to take pride in being a soldier. In the present day of 2148, the San Magnolian military is made up of a bunch of idiots and drunkards who get sloshed on duty and spend more time chasing women than attending to their duties.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: The whole "chain of command" of Eighty-Sixers being extremely lax, generally who is considered as the leader is decided through unarmed combat or agreement by most parties present. Shiden tried and failed to usurp Shin's position in Volume 4 for field leader position (despite the fact that they were now under a formal chain of command in Giad's military) and ended up in a Friendly Rival position instead.
  • Author Appeal: The author really likes garter belts and the Latex Space Suit. The former was incorporated into Lena's uniform (and said that that description had to be cut out from the original story when she sent it to Dengeki Novel Prize), and Lena wears the latter in Volume 5 & again in Volume 8.
  • Badass Family: The Nouzen bloodline is notable for producing exceptional warriors who often served as personal bodyguards to the Giadian royal family.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The first cour of the anime pulls off a rather devious one for those who haven't read the light novels. The end of episode 11 seemingly implies that Spearhead Squadron was killed and possibly assimilated by the Legion, with the unspoken assumption that the Lena would now be the main focus of the story. In reality Spearhead survived due to Rei's last minute intervention, which the anime quietly hints at. The next arc will be focused almost entirely on Spearhead. Lena on the other hand gets Put on a Bus for most of the arc with Shin ironically now having to worry about her ultimate fate.
  • Banana in the Tailpipe: Besides their AA, the Legion deals with enemy aircraft by clogging the planes' air intake and exhaust with their jammer swarm.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: All 86 carry pistols when going into battle, because blowing your own brains out is the only way to ensure you don't get taken by the Legion. Even corpses can have their brains harvested, so not even death can prevent someone from being added to the Legion's ranks. Being taken alive by the Legion is even worse, as this only ensures a much more gruesome death via painful vivisection. The same applies to Federacy pilots who carry a small pistol exclusively for self termination purposes.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • In Volume 1, when the fight against Dinosauria and its escort goes badly, Lena suddenly came out of nowhere and dropped multiple artillery shells onto groups of Legion drones, giving them a fighting chance. Then she saved Shin's life by hitting the Dinosauria with dud shells which gave Shin enough time to wake up and put it down. Turns out the reason that she didn't say goodbye to them earlier isn't because she's too sad or angry to, instead she's busy having Annette giving her some Para-RAID modifications to allow sight-sharing and access code to interception cannons.
    • In Volume 3, Lena pulls this again when her unit, being unidentified to Shin at the time, unleashes a large number of mortars at the Morpho that AI Kiriya's using, immobilizing it and destroying its explosive reactive armor panels, and gives Shin another chance to beat it. She then follows up with napalm missiles that disable the Morpho's close combat electrified whip and destroy its legs and railroad tracks, then when it's trying to do a suicide attack, Frederica distracts it long enough for Shin to put in a final shot.
    • In Volume 6, it's Lena's turn to be on the receiving end of this trope as she is staring down certain death through a Dinosauria's 155mm cannon, until Kurena destroys the super-heavy Legion tank with only two shots.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The anime's first cour seemingly ends on an example of this trope, with Spearhead Squadron making a hopeless Last Stand against the Legion that leaves the fate of its members unknown. Subverted for light novel readers who know that Rei rescued the survivors. The anime's official website even spoils this by not listing the remaining Spearhead members as DESTROYED. Rei on the other hand has had his status changed to DESTROYED, which indicates that his Heroic Sacrifice has already occurred. This was also later subverted for anime viewers as well since the second season's trailers all showed everyone in Spearhead is alive and well.
  • Border Patrol: Volume 8 shows why the world's setting is confined to a single continent. The seas around the continent are teeming with a hostile species of Sea Monster known as "Leviathans" (Gensou Kaiju in the original Japanese), enormous beasts that have a Breath Weapon as powerful as a heavy laser. The Regicide Fleet Countries have dedicated their navies to hunting these Leviathans and opening up the seas for mankind's exploration, but after centuries of attempting to make it out to the ocean, the Legion War has finally put an end to those dreams.
  • Brain Uploading:
    • Legion's neural pattern assimilation is basically a hostile version of this trope, with Black Sheep being assimilated from damaged neural patterns, Shepherds from completely intact brains that would retain human mind and personality, and Sheepdogs which are basically improved Black Sheep/Shepherds without human mind after Legion got access to large number of intact brains from San Magnolia invasion to experiment on.
    • At the end of Volume 4, it's speculated the the head developer of Legion, Zelene Birkenbaum, might have uploaded her brain into one of Legion's Ameise unit (being the only unit developed prior to her "death"), given that Giad's government Never Found the Body.
    • Roa Gracia has their own version with Sirins, human neural patterns being scanned, memory-wiped, and uploaded into female-shaped robots to serve as shock troops, though unlike Legion they're done with consent from patients: They scan only volunteers, specifically those with black triage tag. They won't even scan volunteers if said volunteers have any chance of survival. Even then, Shin notes that their souls are like those assimilated by the Legion: volunteered or not, in the end they all begged to move on.
  • Broken Bird: Shin is a male version of this. All the events that happened in his life, from being a Child Soldiers to nearly getting killed by his brother turned him into an extreme cynic who couldn't see humanity as anything beyond their lowest point and could not care about anything beyond immediate survival and his close comrades. He can't understand how can Lena even managed to hold onto any shred of idealism even though she had to be in the horrific battlefield condition like him.
  • Butt-Monkey: Quite a bit of the humor in the side stories are at Lena's expense, which isn't helped by her Sheltered Aristocrat upbringing.
  • Cain and Abel: Rei was so angered by his mother's death that he tried to strangle his brother Shin to death for it, blaming him for her death. He ends up regretting it immensely and tried to find Shin again to apologize, which was cut short by his death and assimilation. Shin also tries to find the Legion unit housing his brother's memory and kill it to put his brother out of his misery.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Lena gambles that the 86 won't take bloody revenge on the Republic after she lets them into the 85 districts because they still need the Republic's factories in order to continue fighting the Legion. This gamble seems to have paid off, as the 86 seem to have largely refrained from carrying out revenge killings against their former oppressors. Still Lena wasn't confident that this fragile truce would last very long. Fortunately, the arrival of the Federacy relief force two months later prevented the situation from reaching that point.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: While it takes persuasion, Annette eventually changes from being apathetic to Eighty-sixers' plight (due to not wanting to suffer the pain of losing Shin due to prejudice again) to fully supporting Lena and help secretly boost Lena's Para-RAID's capabilities, and is one of the few people involved in Lena's plan to continue fighting when San Magnolia falls.
  • Childhood Friend: Annette and Shin turn out to be this, which Lena eventually uses as leverage to get Annette to help her save Shin and the Spearhead Squadron from their suicide mission.
  • Child Prodigy: Lena is such a good Handler she has the rank of Major. Annette is a tech genius who is in charge of the development of Para-RAID after her father dies. Shin is probably one of the best Juggernaut pilot of the whole Republic. All of them are only 16. Prince Viktor may or may not count, since while he developed the AI model that would eventually become the Legion at the age of 5, he also has Super Intelligence from his bloodline.
  • Child Soldiers:
    • A lot of Processors are this due to staggering casualty rates suffered by adults. Shin himself starts being a soldier at 11. It also shows how much it can affect the psyche of the soldiers, since the Spearhead Squadron, even after they managed to escape to Giad and finally able to leave the battlefield behind, chooses to return to the battlefield because they simply cannot adjust to the civilian life due to the fact that they have been soldiers for a large part of their lives and have no idea what to do after.
    • By volume 4, Frederica went from a noncombatant mascot to an assistant control aide to Lena. While she won't be in the battlefield directly, she's now officially in the chain of command. She's 10.
  • Code Name: Processors aren't allowed to have names, but they eventually receive Code Names if they survive long enough. Shin's is Undertaker, Anju is Snow Witch, Raiden is Werewolf, and so on.
  • Crapsack World: From the very beginning it's obvious things are horrible for everyone, especially the Eighty-Six, who are dehumanized and forced to fight a losing war against a mechanized horde that seemingly never ends, while the Republic of San Magnolia acts as if things aren't horrible when in fact they live in a Gilded Cage with no way out. The situation in other nations isn't much better either.
  • Colonel Badass: Lieutenant Colonel Grethe Wenzel is the head developer of the Reginleif, and is one of the few remaining aircraft pilots left in active service in the Federation, which she proves by being the one skilled/crazy enough to pilot the Nachzehrer into Legion airspace.
  • Condescending Compassion: Played With: while several characters outside of San Magnolia do display this towards the Eighty-sixers, the others do display more normal compassion that we know of. The problem is that this is filtered through an incredibly damaged worldview and psyche that Eighty-sixers had to adapt as a survival mechanism, which ends up with most forms of compassion being viewed by them as this trope.
  • Continuity Snarl: In the light novel, Kujo was said to have died ten days before Lena took command of Spearhead. In the anime, his death happens on the same day, just a few hours before she synchronizes with them for the first time.
    • In the manga, the scar on Anju's back says "Bitch." It was "Whore's Daughter" in the light novel and anime.
  • Contrived Coincidence: How likely was it that Lena would end up handling the Squadron led by the younger brother of the man who saved her and her father when they crashed in the warzone nine years prior? And that said brother was a childhood friend of her friend?
  • Cool Ship: The Orphan Fleet is headed by the Stella Maris, a massive supercarrier built to hunt the leviathans that rule the world's oceans.
  • Curtains Match the Window: All pureblood Albans have silver eyes and hairs. Lena herself eventually subverts this at the end of Volume 1 when she starts partially dyeing her hair red which is then played straight after Shin told her to revert to her natural color. Anju, who has distant Alban ancestry, has silvery-blue hair and eye.
  • David vs. Goliath: Shin's fight with Rei's Dinosauria is a textbook example of this, with his miniscule Juggernaut facing off against the heavily armored Legion monstrosity. An even more ridiculous matchup occurs when he fights the Morpho, a thousand ton railway mounted railgun that needs several tracks just to support its massive weight.
  • Defector from Decadence: The remaining Spearhead Squadron managed to survive the "Special Reconnaissance mission" and joined up with the Federated Republic of Giad. Lena and the other surviving Processors joined later, after the Republic was destroyed and her remaining forces were rescued by the Federacy.
  • Dehumanization: As explained by Lena's epigraph, San Magnolian government did this to non-Albans (or even part-Albans) by reducing them to pigs wearing human skins, thus cannot be subjected to human rights. And since they're not considered to be human, Juggernauts piloted by them aren't considered manned. Roa Gracia's Sirins are a more literal version of this since they're brain-uploaded robots, they literally aren't humans anymore despite being one before. They're also used for the same reason as Eighty-sixers.
  • Democracy Is Flawed: One the one hand, San Magnolia betrayed its very principle when it stripped non-Albans of their citizenship, and most Albans went with it. On the other hand, Giad is slowly trying to implement a stable democracy in place of its old monarchy/oligarchy.
  • Desecrating the Dead: The reason why Prince Viktor is disinherited from the succession line is that at the age of 5, he removed his mother's brain from her cryonically-preserved corpse in an attempt to upload it into a machine and resurrect her. While that failed, his attempt ends up creating the Marinana Model AI that would later be developed by Giadian scientists into the Legion.
  • Determined Defeatist: The Eighty-sixes knew that the Republic would never give them back citizenship. They still fight because if they're going to die, it's going to be on their terms.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: The XM-2 Reginleif is not kind to the majority of pilots, who have trouble handling its insane maneuverability. Its lack of armor compared to other Federacy mechs also means that pilots have little room for error in combat. Still, in the right hands it can be a brutally efficient killing machine. This is especially true for the 86 who originally had to pilot the Reginleif's vastly inferior Republic counterpart.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Presidential Order that stripped Colorata-descended people of their citizenship is numbered 6609. Reverse the number order, and we get...yes, this is basically parallel to the US setting up internment camps for Japanese-, German-, and Italian-Americans. note 
  • Don't Look at Me!: Shin and Lena's meeting after the destruction of Morpho has both sides not knowing each other's identity. Even when Lena blurt out her name, Shin still refuses to give his name, because learning Lena's hardships and sacrifices she suffers in order to meet him again, he doesn't want her to see him in another battlefield, but rather somewhere better. Frederica happily states that Shin finally found a reason to live.
  • Dramatic Irony: Lena's resolve to continue the fight against the Legion in volumes 2 and 3 was motivated by Spearhead Squadron's apparent "deaths" at the end of volume 1. Light novel readers, on the other hand, know that the remaining members of Spearhead survived their suicide mission and reached the safety of the Federacy. In a similar vein Shin nearly suffers a full on emotional breakdown when he becomes convinced that Lena died when the Republic fell to the Legion in volume 3, an event which light novel readers already knew she survived.
  • Driven to Suicide: Annette's father committed suicide due to the guilt of human experimentation needed to be done in order to make Para-RAID work by setting Para-RAID synchronization to the maximum.
  • Dwindling Party: By the end of the first volume only five members of the Spearhead Squadron manage to escape San Magnolia; Shin, Raiden, Kurena, Anju, and Theo.

    E — P 
  • Enemy Mine: Despite fears by the higher-ups, a surprisingly large number of Eighty-six units chose to fight with the Republic when the Gran Mur fell and Lena asking for their assistance, reasoning that having access to surviving infrastructures like power plants, food processing factories, and such increase their odds of survival. The rest chose to hold up in the internment camps that they lived in.
  • Everyone Can See It: Shin and Lena were probably the last two people to realize that they had romantic feelings for one another. Every other character appears to have caught on long before they did.
  • Evil Counterpart: Not evil, but Sirins are basically Eighty-sixers if they really are not humans. Both are used by their respective nations as disposable shock troops, but while Eighty-sixers are humans being denied human rights, Sirins are former humans being brain-uploaded into android bodies. Narrative-wise, they are there to show the Eighty-sixers what their mentality and actions look like from the outside.
  • Evolving Credits: The anime's opening sequence changes from episode to episode, showcasing different characters in different places as members of the cast rise to prominence or get killed off.
  • Expansion Pack World: New story arcs gradually introduce new countries to the series as time goes on. In-universe, the reason is that the remaining countries are gradually able to break through the Legion's Eintagsfliege swarms and re-establish contact with their neighbors.
    • Volume 1: The Republic of San Magnolia, where the story begins.
    • Volumes 2 & 3: Federal Republic of Giad
    • Volume 4: Return to San Magnolia
    • Volumes 5 & 6: United Kingdom of Roa Gracia
    • Volume 7: Alliance of Wald
    • Volume 8: Regicide Fleet Countries
    • Volume 9: Holy Theocracy of Noiryanaruse
  • Experienced Protagonist: Spearhead Squadron already has 4 years of experience on the battlefield by the time the story starts, with Shin being the most experienced at 5 years. Lena herself, while a Naïve Newcomer compared to them, is not a total newbie either since she's already commanded a different squad of 86 prior to being assigned to Spearhead.
  • Fantastic Racism: A large part of human-human conflict in the first Volume is due to this: as San Magnolia needs a way to quickly fill back the ranks of soldiers lost after initial battles against Giad and the Legion, they start demonizing the non- and non-pure Albans, reducing them to pigs in human skins, stripped them of any citizenship, and used them as Battle Thralls against the Legion while the newly-trained officer corps controlled them from the First Sector. After the first volume there's still exploration of aftereffects of San Magnolian racism, how it shaped the Eighty-sixers' mentality, and how that affects Eighty-sixers' relation with other nations. In Federacy service, Shin and his group still are subjected to some racism from some Giadian soldiers who viewed Eighty-sixers as monsters forged from hell that is San Magnolia, given how much military skill they're displaying and how willing they are in heading back into the battlefield even after they could have settled down in peace.
  • Fantastic Slurs: Alba call the Eighty-Six pigs or cattle, and the Colorata in return refer to Alba as "white pigs."
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • San Magnolia is an unholy combination of World War II United States, the Confederate States, France, and Nazi Germany. More details revealed about the government's hatred of organized religion due to monarchs claiming a divine right to rule in later volumes also give it similar parallels to Maoist-era Communist China as well. The country's flag also has a heavy similarity to the pre-war Beiyang government's "5 Races Under One Flag" standard of Republican-era China.
    • Giad is Imperial Germany and later West/modern day Germany with the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire thrown in for good measure. Its flag also uses the Reichsadler, or "Imperial Eagle", a design commonly associated with the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
    • Roa Gracia is an autocratic monarchy with a history of serfdom akin to early 20th century Tsarist Russia (their mechs, the Alkonost and Barushka Matushka models, also have Slavic names). They seem to be 86's version of England as well, because they are officially known as the United Kingdom of Roa Gracia. Their flag is also clearly based off of the real world United Kingdom's coat of arms.
    • The Alliance of Wald is a mountainous country with a history of armed neutrality similar to Switzerland.
    • The Regicide Fleet Countries are a loose alliance of clans who have dedicated their lives to sailing the seas and reaching the open ocean to find new continents, and and have spent centuries hunting the mighty Leviathans. This is quite similar to the Scandinavian countries and their Viking heritage, particularly Norway which is the sole country in Europe that practices whaling.
  • Face Death with Dignity: The 86 are all aware that they have all been consigned to a fate of death in battle without any chance of getting out. Despite that, they'd rather go down fighting as warriors, preserving some sense of honor, rather than turn on the San Magnolians who put them in that position.
  • First-Episode Twist: It's practically impossible to discuss anything from Volume 2 onward without knowing the massive number of spoilers within the first volume. These twists do fit well into the first volume if it's a standalone novel, which it was originally: it was written for a competition, namely Dengeki Novel Prize, and the rule is that the story must be self-contained. The author expands it into a series when the first volume sold very well. The twists are as follows:
    • Shin's ability to hear dead people assimilated by the Legion.
    • The Empire of Giad falling to revolution and changed the government structure to a Republic, thus turning the war into a full-on Robot War.
    • The Legion's assimilating human nervous system and got past its own time limit.
    • The Legion having full-on assimilated human personalities inside Shepherd units.
    • The San Magnolian government never having planned to give any Eighty-sixers back their citizenship.
    • San Magnolia's eventual destruction.
    • The remaining Spearhead Squadron's survival and subsequent reunion with Lena as Federacy officers.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • The very first page of Volume 1 already reveals that Lena will survive the entire series and live a long time since she publishes a memoir of her life.
    • The epilogue "Reboot" of Volume 1 also spoils the fact that all 5 members of Spearhead Squadron survive the suicide mission and reunite with Lena in person roughly 2 years later. This particular epilogue has become a major point of contention among the fanbase, with readers hotly debating whether people should skip reading this epilogue until after finishing Volume 3.
    • The first page of Volume 2 is also similar to Volume 1, as it shows Frederica will also survive into adulthood when she too publishes a book reminiscing about the war, although this comes as much less of a surprise.
  • Fragile Speedster:
    • The M1A4 Juggernaut is this, being weakly armed and poorly armored but has high agility partly due to its grapple system.
    • The Federacy XM-2 Reginleif, being reversed engineered from M1A4 (due to their difficulty creating their own high mobility units), retains the mobility but was given substantially better weapons and proper biological and chemical protection. Most Federacy pilots hated them, due to being more used to Mighty Glacier units. Not to mention that it was created from Shin's combat data, and given the extreme moves he pulled with his old Juggernaut that result in some serious damage to the mech itself, the prototype Reginleifs ends up injuring several test pilots.
    • Roa Gracia has Alkonost, which is even faster than Reginleif since it has even less armor and they're constructed without caring about pilot's survival, since they're supposed to be piloted by Sirins, who have robotic bodies and are created via Brain Uploading, thus are replaceable.
    • The Alliance of Wald's Stollenwurm is designed to quickly navigate the country's mountainous terrain. As a result it is fairly lightly armored. Fortunately this is less of a problem for them, as the aforementioned mountains also prevent the Legion from using anything heavier than a Grauwolf.
  • The Grim Reaper: One of Shin's job is this: he helps Mercy Kill dying teammates and carry on their memories.
  • Hair Antennae: Lena has a pair. This is probably to highlight her Sheltered Aristocrat upbringing.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Black Sheep are created using the brain scans of a recently deceased individual. As a result, they are constantly replaying their last thoughts at the moment of their death. The insane ramblings of these cybernetic ghosts can be extremely unsettling for anyone unfortunate enough to hear them over the para-RAID.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Lena readily accepts her nickname of "The Bloodstained Queen" and "Bloody Reina" because she feels she earns it for throwing away lives of the people under her command, because whatever she do she can never save them. This is despite the fact that her unit suffers one of the lowest casualty rates of all units in the Republic.
  • High School A.U.: School IF is basically this, being lighthearted short stories setting the cast in a Japanese high school. There's also Operation Highschool, which is a manga adaptation of School IF.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Republic, not wanting to admit to the world that the Juggernauts are manned, forbid any kind of body retrieval or burial/cremation of dead Processors. This leads to the Legion having an ample amount of bodies to harvest for human neural patterns, prolonging the war that they will lose instead of their hope that the Legion will shut down in 2 years.
    • The Legion also falls victim to this after assimilating 10 million brains from San Magnolia and increasing the intelligence of their units. An unexpected side effect is that this also makes the Legion more susceptible to tricks that can fool humans which wouldn't have fooled their previous incarnation as dumb A.I.
    • A more typical example comes in Volume 6 when the United Kingdom is able to reverse-engineer several of the new Zentaur catapult launchers the Legion used in the battle for Revich Citadel, and they use these catapults for their own purposes in the Dragon Fang Mountain battle.
  • Honorary Princess: Lena's reputation as "The Bloodstained Queen" ends up with her new subordinate Shiden always referring to her as "Your Majesty" when talking to her. She's also referred to with this a few times before she got her moniker, but it's used to mock her for her naivety.
  • Hopeless War: The Legion are able to continue operating beyond their 50,000-hour system lifespan by scanning and copying the brain activity of any human corpses that have their heads intact on the battlefield, and can continue to operate by copying these basic personalities across their units (the advanced ones have a much bigger limitation, see Only One Me Allowed Right Now). This essentially means the Legion is a self-sustaining, infinite army, at least on the software side. The only way to defeat them would be to destroy the hardware side, i.e. taking out the automated factories that continuously build these machines. But that is impossible for the San Magnolia Republic as they are too weakened to strike inside enemy lines.
  • Hope Spot: The Republic's scientists have discovered by studying Legion wreckage that they are bound by a 50,000-hour system lifespan (roughly 6 years) that will deactivate if they stop receiving updates from HQ. Since the Empire of Giad mysteriously collapsed 4 years ago, this means the Republic only needs to hold out for 2 more years and all of the Legion will deactivate at once once that threshold is passed. Spearhead Squadron, unfortunately, knows that the Legion has developed a way to get around this limitation and continue operating indefinitely.
  • Human Resources: As Shin grimly notes, the Legion compensates its missing materials by salvaging the corpses of Processors, including his brother Shourei. It gets even worse in volume 4 as the fall of San Magnolia has allowed the Legion to start harvesting brains on an industrial scale using captured civilians. The first mission of the 86th Strike Passage has them destroy a facility where the Legion were carrying out these operations. Said mission is easily the biggest source of Nightmare Fuel in the entire series and a horrifying example of what happens when humans are reduced to nothing more than "spare parts" by unfeeling machines.
  • Inappropriately Close Comrades: Lena and Shin start becoming romantically involved, though it's a slow burn romance that takes a long time to get going. Spearhead starts noticing the latent feelings between them in Volume 4, things pick up slightly in Volume 5 when Lena runs up to Shin and hugs him tightly in the epilogue, and it starts becoming truly obvious in Volume 6, with Lena finally kissing Shin in Volume 7's ending. Anju also had feelings for Daiya before the latter's death, and Dustin is in turn in love with her.
  • Interquel: Volume 2 and 3 serve as this, expanding on the 2-year gap mentioned in Epilogue 1 of Volume 1 (mostly from Shin's perspective, since Epilogue 1 is from Lena's perspective) and how Lena and Shin meet again as Federacy officers in Epilogue 2. This is due to the first volume originally being written as a self-contained story for a Light Novel contest, thus it has to be expanded when it was serialized in order to show how Spearhead Squadron survived and reunited with Lena.
  • I See Dead People: Due to nearly being strangled to death by his brother Shin can hear the memories of the dead that are stuck in machines, both on Legion units and Sirin units. His former handlers either resigned or killed themselves when they hear those voices via Shin's Resonance. It's also useful since he can use this scout Legion drones' locations much better than with radar, especially given how good the Legion's signal jamming is. Which means his unit doesn't need to go on patrol and can have extra free time.
  • It Can Think: The Legion isn't able to do this at first, since their limited intelligence means that more than a few times Empire troops have to be deployed to cover their weakness, but after they start assimilating human neural patterns, the Legion gets a lot more intelligent, even start changing directive from just killing everything to start capturing some humans alive in order to copy their intact neural pattern instead of a degraded one. This gets to the point where the Legion, specifically AI Kiriya, managed to draw Shin's group into an ambush by exploiting his ability's weakness. The Legion's discovery on how to destroy a brain's individuality but keeping their cognitive function by destroying the hippocampus makes things even worse, since now even lower-level units have near human-level intelligence.
  • I Reject Your Reality: The entire nation of San Magnolia delude themselves into believing things aren't as bleak as they seem, that the Colorata are nothing but animals and the war will be over very soon. In fact, by the time the story starts, the civilians are even calling for demobilization. When the bubble inevitably bursts, the only forces that make a meaningful defense are Lena's forces. Even after they have to get help from the Giadians and the Eighty-sixers to take their homeland back they're still deluding themselves that they can still build a pure Alban nation, and continue the racism.
  • Kill All Humans: Kiriya is this, due to being driven mad being deployed into combat constantly during the Giadian Civil War making him develop a big case of misanthropy, then he gets assimilated and being put in command of a Morpho. The only thing that can override this is him wanting to reunite with his princess, Frederica, again, which Frederica happily exploits in order to stop AI Kiriya from pulling a suicide attack long enough for Shin to kill him.
  • The Last DJ: Lena is one of the few Albans left that still treat the battle against the Legion seriously and treats the Eighty-sixes as humans instead of subhumans. In fact, her treatment of the Spearhead Squadron (including sending them fireworks illegally) and unauthorized use of interception cannons ends up getting her demoted from a Major to a Lieutenant after Volume 1 (she got promoted again after the wall falls).
  • Latex Space Suit: Introduced in Volume 5, Cicada Thought-Support Device is a suit that helps lighten the strain that Para-RAID makes on the user's brain, and it takes the shape of this trope. Lena was forced to wear it in order to command a large number of soldiers at once, and after she emerges from changing into it everyone in the room has to look away from her due to the sheer sex appeal she's oozing (and that Shin would have their head otherwise since everyone in the room knew that Shin seems to have feelings for Lena). Even its creator Prince Viktor apologizes for how much the suit is making Lena look since its other nominal user Lerche isn't as well-endowed as Lena.
  • Lethal Chef: The rest of Spearhead Squadron doesn't allow Shin to be the cook since his cooking tends to be extremely rough. He's good at prepping ingredients, however.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Kurena is in love with Shin, however by Volume 2 the rest of the squadron told her that Shin's feeling for her is this trope, so her love is unrequited.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Chapter 2 of Volume 1 is named "All Quiet on the Skeleton Front". Fitting, considering that 86 draws a lot from All Quiet on the Western Front on the theme of how war causing soldiers to become detached from civilian life. The anime went ahead to feature the book itself as something Shin reads during his downtime (and naming Spearhead's Team Pet cat "Remarque"), to it being the book the last five of Spearhead leave their mementoes for Lena when she visited their camp.
  • Magical Girl A.U.: The Japanese release of the 86 Blu-ray Volume 1 includes a short story written by Asato Asato herself starring Lena and Annette as magical girls on the space battleship San Magnolia.
  • Market-Based Title: The Chinese title for the first volume of the series is not "Eighty-Six" but is rather "不存在的战区" (Bù Cún Zài De Zhàn Qū, "The Non-Existent War Zone").
  • Mascot: Empire (later Federal Republic) of Giad always have a young girl (up to 12 years old, then they are pulled out of the role and put into military school) serving as a unit's mascot attached to them, as a way to keep units in cohesion and hold the combat unit hostage, since if they broke and die, the mascot dies with them, because the mascot cannot retreat. Frederica eventually becomes one in Volume 2, being attached to Shin's unit.
  • Meaningful Name: In American English, to "eighty-six" something is a euphemism for "to dispose of" which is exactly what the Republic intends for the denizens of District Eighty-Six. The author confirmed in Volume 2 afterwords that this is a deliberate choice.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: The second season of the anime sees the survivors of Spearhead Squadron switch to the Federacy's newly developed Reginleif. Although heavily inspired by the design of the Republic's infamous Juggernaut, the Reginleif makes a number of notable improvements. These include better armor, a heavier gun, and more pilot survivability features. All of this comes at no cost to speed and maneuverability thanks to a superior powerplant.
  • Mildly Military: The Eighty-six units tend to be pretty lax in terms of military discipline when not in battle, since the Handlers generally don't care about them enough to worry about that, and they don't come into the field for direct inspection. Spearhead Squadron has some trouble adjusting to the fact that Lena takes her job very seriously, and encounters the same problem when adjusting to the more disciplined Giadian military.
  • Mirroring Factions: When the Eighty-Sixth Strike Package is dispatched to the United Kingdom of Roa Gracia to assist in their battle against the Legion, it turns out Roa Gracia is almost like a strange mirror image of San Magnolia: it is a racially diverse nation that also practices universal conscription along racial lines, with the difference being that it is the majority race that is forced to fight, while the minority races get the option to volunteer. Spearhead, and Theo in particular finds this state of affairs oddly uncomfortable in their first days in the Kingdom.
  • Moment Killer: In Volume 5, after Dustin and Anju had to take shelter from an avalanche created by one of the Legion's traps, Dustin starts confessing that he loves her (and tries to console Anju after she says that she thinks her lingering feelings for Daiya means she won't be able to love anyone again), but is interrupted when Shin finally finds them. Worse, Shin picked up their communications starting from the point Dustin says he wants to see Anju in bikini and transmitted that to the rest of the rescue team, causing extreme levels of embarrassment for both of them.
    • In a bit of karmic irony, this happens in the reverse in Volume 7, with Dustin interrupting Shin and Lena on the verge of the latter's Love Confession. In this case, though, it was unintentional, and the rest of the squadron chew Dustin out for his incredibly poor timing.
  • Mythology Gag: The anime-exclusive scene in Episode 11 of Spearhead Squadron play-acting at being students at school is likely a reference to the High School IF AU sidestory, where the entire cast are just regular high school students.
  • Nanomachines: The Legion's CPU used this to simulate a mammal's central nervous system. Later the Black Sheeps, Sheepdogs, and Shepherds get human's central nervous system. Some Legion drones can use them to create arms to manipulate objects or even block some projectiles.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Lena comes from a wealthy noble family, but rather than hiding behind the walls and pretending everything is alright, she joined the military academy and did her best to ensure the Eighty-Six remain alive as long as possible.
  • Nonindicative Name: San Magnolian Juggernauts are lightly-armed, lightly-armored Fragile Speedster rustbuckets. The impressive, intimidating name is emblematic of the country's immersion in propaganda and detachment from reality.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted and Invoked: there are plenty of documents and such regarding Legion's design and construction by the Empire, however, they seem to mostly been destroyed during the Giadian revolution, and only limited documentation are recovered by the new government. The attempt to reverse engineer the Legion by the Federacy wasn't too successful either, only managed to make unmanned scout units (which is the only type of AI the population tolerates), due to the combination of the original creators dying before the war, higher education being restricted mainly to the aristocratic class and the post-revolution world being dominated by the middle class with a lot of the educated elites dead during the revolution, and that the population is against using armed combat drones due to the Legion.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Lena's epigraph at the beginning of Volume 1 makes it seems like she's endorsing San Magnolia's racism. The end of Volume 1 shows that epigraph again but expanded with her real thoughts on the initial epigraph itself: that that embracement of racism is the start of the end of the Republic.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: In Volume 1, Shin and AI Rei toward each other. Sensing their conflict is about to begin, the two of them order their respective units to stand down. Rei even blows away one of his own subordinates who dares interfere in the battle.
  • Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap: During the war, most of the food in the Republic, both inside and outside the wall, are synthetic food. Giad averts this due to them still controlling large amounts of farmland.
  • Only One Me Allowed Right Now: Shepherds, who have full human personalities, seems to be unable to withstand having more than one of it being in existence, unlike Black Sheeps which, since they don't have personalities, can exist in multiple. This becomes a problem for the Legion if a Shepherd is getting destroyed since they can't have backups, they don't seem to transfer the personalities until it's way under emergency, and trying to transfer full consciousness in that condition, and in short amount of time is impossible. Thus, even if the personality is transferred over, it's heavily damaged.
    • Averted with the Sirins. Unlike the Shepards, there can be multiple Sirins of the same identifier, such as Ludmila.
  • Orphaned Etymology: The series is absolutely full of this. References to "Swiss cheese," "Greek fire," and even the name "Legion" are all references to our real-world despite the world of Eighty-Six not being Earth. The first volume's afterword says to not think too hard about this.
  • Out of Focus: Lena is mostly out of focus in Volume 2 and 3, only appearing in the prologue and epilogue of Volume 2, though she plays a crucial role in Volume 3's climax.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Volume 8 has a MASSIVE one in the form of a Musukura. These 300 meter long oceanic leviathans are quite possibly the most powerful things in the setting. They don't give a fig about the outcome of the Legion War and will attack either side if they feel threatened.
  • People of Hair Color: This is how the Albans separated themselves from the Colorata. Albans are easily identified by their silver hair and eyes.
  • Portent of Doom: Used symbolically in the anime. Kujou and Kaie, the first two members of the Spearhead Squadron to die in the story, were shown interacting with objects associated with ill omens (a black cat and a card with the Grim Reaper, respectively) moments before they bite the dust.
  • Powered Armor: Federacy of Giad soldiers employ powered exoskeletons on the battlefield so that regular infantry can carry heavier weapons that are capable of destroying Legion forces. 12.7mm (.50 caliber) machine guns are standard-issue for Federacy soldiers, which are effective against Ameise and Grauwolf models.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Vargus were originally subjects of the Giadian Empire tasked with defending its borders from external threats. When the empire was overthrown and the Legion turned on the newly formed Federacy the Vargus held them off long enough for a proper defense of the former empire's core territories to be organized. Since then they have been employed as mercenaries by the Federacy and are frequently deployed to areas of fierce fighting. Due to their history as a warrior caste they are one of the few groups who work well with the 86, as they both share an affinity for life on the battlefield.

    Q — Z 
  • Rape as Drama: Obliquely alluded to at the start of Volume 3 without actually saying it when Commodore Karlstahl attempts to convince Lena not to contact the Eighty-Six squads who are their only hope at slowing down the Legion forces pouring through the destroyed Gran Mur. While Lena at first thinks he's just being inhumane to them, she gets a figurative dash of cold water across the face when he reminds her the Eighty-Six absolutely despise the citizens within the walls of the 85 sectors, and there's no telling what might happen to a young woman like her if they want to do more than just let the Legion kill a bunch of Alba. Despite hearing this, it's a risk she's willing to take as Lena still presses onward with her original plans.
  • Royal Brat: Frederica shows a shade of this with her haughty yet oddly mature attitude, even after she and the Giadian royal family's dethroned. She does show a lot of care for her adoptive family despite her behavior, however, even acting as Shin's sort-of therapist.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something
    • Prince Viktor Idinarohk serves as commander of Roa Gracia's southern front, head developer of several of the nations' technological projects, and on occasion even pilots his own Barushka Matushka unit into the field.
    • This applies to Roa Gracia's entire royal family, who see military service as the sacred duty of the ruling class. They also don't seem to mind leading from the front either, as it's mentioned that a number of them have already died in the Legion War.
    • Frederica Rosenfolt, or rather Augusta Frederica Adel-Adler, despite her age, joined Shin's unit as mascot, and after that she becomes Lena's aide who used her seer ability to help monitor troops in the field.
  • Red Baron:
    • Shin's nickname among the Processors and Handlers of the Eastern Front, the Reaper, is both feared and revered because of his ability to hear the voices of the dead. This ability had been used in the past to force Handlers who had tried to toy with Processors to retire by linking the Para-RAID at a higher Resonance level, thus allowing the Handler to also hear the horrifying screams of the Legion Black Sheep. Among Processors, the Reaper is rumored to use his squadron to prolong his own life; however, those who worked with the Reaper respect his compassion to the fallen and his use of his ability to create a better life for his fellow Processors.
    • By the first volume's end, Lena is most widely known across the continent as "The Bloodstained Queen" and "Bloody Reina" due to the fact that she will not hesitate to sacrifice her squad to achieve her objectives. And yet in spite of the name, her squad still has much lower casualty counts compared to the rest of the military, leading to them being called the "Queen's Knights." This is due to the fact that Lena is actually trying to accomplish offensive missions against the Legion instead of the rest of the military that simply uses 86's as stationary cannon fodder on a shrinking and hopeless defense line. Shin and his squad members all think that it doesn't fit her at all.
  • Redemption Equals Death: AI Rei, as the Dinosauria, after realizing that he nearly killed his brother again due to wanting to liberate him from his human shell, and nearly got destroyed by Shin in return, managed to barely hold his memory together and used the backup Dinosauria he was transferred to to save Shin when the latter was nearly captured by a Lowe when Shin tried to serve as a decoy for the rest of his unit to escape. In their shared dream, Rei finally manages to apologize to Shin and wishes him a better future, and carry the five to the Federacy border before the Federacy destroyed the Dinosauria, killing Rei permanently.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The plan to take out the Morpho railgun involved three nations launching a massive combined arms offensive across hundreds of kilometers of front line. In reality this was all just a ploy to distract the Legion and prevent them from noticing the real strike force of 15 Reginleifs being airdropped behind enemy lines by an experimental ekranoplan.
  • Rags to Royalty: Inverted and Downplayed: Frederica was the last Empress of Giad before the government was toppled. Now she's attached to Shin's combat unit as a mascot. However, she is now the adoptive daughter of the Interim President, who's trying to protect her from witchhunt, and her job as the mascot is with his consent.
  • Riches to Rags: A number of wealthy Colorata families are hit by this when Presidential Order 6609 hits, including Shin's family, especially given that his father was one of Para-RAID's co-creators, and that his Nouzen family is a split branch of the Giadian Royal Guard Nouzen family that emigrated to San Magnolia. Averted in the Federacy, where the new government elect to keep the aristocrats who are controlling important industries in place because trying anything otherwise would be extremely bad for the economy for a country still fighting a Robot War. Those that aren't important are pretty much demoted, however, which proves to be a problem for them to adapt to, especially since they're loathed by the now-huge middle class.
  • Robot War: The war has become one of these as of the end of the first volume. With both the Empire of Giad and the Republic of San Magnolia fallen, the Empire's successor nation the Federation of Giad is left to absorb the remnants of San Magnolia and continue the fight against the Legion drone army, which is now running rampant across the continent following its programming to fight for a country that no longer exists.
  • Safety in Indifference:
    • A lot of San Magnolian Albans who aren't into racism are mostly this, due to the fear of being ostracized by their peers. Annette acts like this due to losing Shin when they were children, until Lena convinced her otherwise.
    • Eighty-sixers also did something similar: they throw off everything that would allow them to feel pain in order to survive the discrimination and the war they're thrown into. Even when they're free from the Eighty-sixth sector, they still are not truly free due to this.
  • Science Fantasy: Individuals from certain bloodlines possess seemingly supernatural abilities at odds with the otherwise hard science fiction setting. Dragons also apparently existed in the setting's distant past, with humans hunting the last ones to extinction in the aptly named Dragon's Corpse Mountain range. Volume 7 even has the main characters visit the remains of one such creature.
  • Sea Monster: The oceans of the world are ruled by massive leviathans that can sometimes reach hundreds of meters in length. These highly territorial creatures have restricted humans to the shallow coastal waters around the main continent.
  • Seers: Frederica has the ability to see into the past and the present of a person, as long as she knows their name. This even works on humans assimilated by the Legion.
  • Separated by a Common Language: While the Republic of San Magnolia and the Federal Republic of Giad use the same language, there are some differences when it comes to vocabulary, particularly in military terminology, which results in Lena brushing off Shin calling her Major when she refers to herself as Lieutenant near the end of Volume 3 when the two initially don't realize each other's identity, merely thinking that Shin called her Major due to this trope and not the fact that he knew her identity and rank when she was in command of Spearhead Squadron.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat: Lena is quite sheltered. The short story in the special edition of Volume 1 shows she doesn't even know what sewing is, and assumes that buttons are naturally stuck on clothes. Another short story has her being so unfamiliar with bicycles she falls off of one with training wheels.
    • Less humorously, she's very slow on the uptake that Eighty-sixers will never get their citizenship back, never realizing that she never sees any Colorata within the 85 sectors after the war started, even though some of them should have survived long enough to finish their 5 year service. Not to mention that her upbringing means that Lena, despite trying her best, still displays some subconscious form of prejudices, with the big one being that she doesn't even ask for the names of people in Shin's unit until almost a month later.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The story arc title of Volumes 2 & 3, Run Through the Battlefront, is a reference to the song "Run Through the Jungle" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. This very song is listed as the background music to Volume 2's Afterword.
    • Volume 4's title Under Pressure refers to the classic song by Queen.
    • Volume 5's title Death Be Not Proud is the first line of John Donne's Holy Sonnet X.
    • Volume 6's Japanese title Akeneba Koso Yoru wa Nagaku (明けねばこそ夜は永く) roughly translates to "The Rising Sun Does Not Rise for the Eternal Night." According to the official English translator, this is likely a reference to Act IV of Macbeth, "the night is long that never finds the day."
    • Volume 8's title Gun Smoke On the Water references the legendary song "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple.
    • In the Black Tag Daily Life short story, one of the books Shin reads is called Second Variety, a story by Philip K. Dick. The entire basic plot of 86 is essentially a reimagination of that novel, which is about a war between the Soviet Union and the United Nations that ended in a worldwide apocalypse when the UN used automated drones to fight back but they went out of control, destroyed them, and then proceeded to rampage across the world. Another book he reads in that same short story is The Mist, which Kujo thinks is aptly appropriate for their situation being surrounded by enemies on all sides.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • In the anime Shin's pistol is clearly based off of the SIG Sauer P226, which is a Swiss manufactured pistol used in some parts of the French military. In universe Shin's pistol was produced in the Alliance of Wald and adopted for use in the Republic of San Magnolia, two countries that are cultural dead ringers for Switzerland and France respectively.
    • In Episode 3, after Daiya is caught peeping on the girls at the river, they all draw guns on him in a split second. The girl on the far left is in straight Isosceles stance, next to her is Kurena who is in Modified Isosceles stance, while Anju and Lecca are both in Weaver stance.
    • Lena's notebook in Episode 5 has diagrams drawn up using proper NATO Joint Military Symbology to depict mechanized platoons engaged in combat across bridges.
    • Episode 9 shows the ammunition used by the Republic's interception cannons are CBU-97 cluster bombs with explosive formed penetrators (EFPs) that cut through Legion armor like a hot knife through butter. EFPs of Iranian manufacture were infamous for inflicting severe casualties on American forces during the occupation of Iraq in the mid-late 2000s.
    • Episode 11 shows some expert firearms handling that pays close attention to gun safety, especially on Shin's part, reinforcing his status as the most experienced combatant. He is careful to control the direction of the muzzle of his rifle even when slung and stays in a low ready position when exploring an abandoned building. All the FN FAL rifles that Spearhead uses also have folding stocks on them, which would be expected for them to use considering the cramped conditions of their Juggernaut cockpits.
    • Grethe's chart in Episode 15 during her briefing showing the Giadian ORBAT (order of battle) is drawn up using the correct Joint NATO Symbology format.
    • The afterword of Volume 4 shows that Asato Asato used Hiroki Tokugawa's Railway Corridor artbook as reference when writing the subway battles. It also mentions she used Iori Tomita's Transparent Silence artwork, most likely for inspiration when designing the Legion units specifically the Phönix's bizarre structure.
  • Sinister Subway: The plot of volume 4 centers around the attempt to destroy an underground subway station that the Legion had converted into a factory. Inside the Strike Package is horrified to discover that Legion has been mass-producing Shepherds using captured civilians. The true horror comes when they find a chamber filled with thousands of rotting corpses that the Legion had callously disposed of after removing their brains.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: The Spearhead Squadron as a whole has this after their survival of the suicide mission: they hadn't planned to actually survive the ordeal. Shin has an especially bad case seeing that he only really plans to die after killing his brother. After Shin successfully did that at the end of Volume 1 (or rather, he finally gets to chat with his brother in early Volume 2...it's complicated), he is at a complete and total loss on what to do after. At certain points, he becomes a full-on Death Seeker. It takes Volumes 2 and 3 before he finally found his answer.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": There are two major subtitling services for the anime, one provided by Crunchyroll and one provided by Muse Communication, Ltd. (primarily serving Southeast Asia and Hong Kong & Taiwan). These services disagree on whether to refer to the San Magnolian minorities as either "Eighty-Six" or "Eighty-Sixers." The Yen Press official translation of the light novels uses the former.
    • Some official translations can't decide whether Lena's last name is "Milizé" or "Mirizé." The official light novel English translation uses the former, further supported by one of the inserted illustrations in Volume 5 which shows a piece of paper that she has signed in cursive, and it's spelled with an l. Then there's the manga adaptation which somehow manages to misspell her full name as "Vladilenna Meilize."
  • Spider Tank: Both Legion drones and Juggernauts look like this instead of typical humanoid mecha.
  • Suicide Mission: Since the Republic never planned to give the Eighty-sixers back their citizenship, any Processors that somehow managed to survive to the end of the service will be sent on a Suicide Mission to kill them off. Shin and the rest of Spearhead Squadron only survived due to the intervention by Lena and later AI Rei. As noted by a character, this makes the whole war situation even worse by basically handing highly skilled soldiers to the Legion.
  • Super Intelligence: Roa Gracia royalty's bloodline tend to produce people with this trope. Prince Viktor Idinarohk developed the precursor model to AI using his deceased mother's brain that would be eventually developed into Legion AI at the age of 5.
  • Supernatural Elite: Some nobles' bloodlines tend to develop some supernatural abilities. For example: Pyropes (Shin included) tends to develop telepathic abilities, Giadian royalty develops seer abilities, while Roa Gracia royalty develops Super Intelligence.
  • Take That!: The big battle in Volume 4 in the underground terminal of Charité is said in the afterword to be based on the Tokyo metro lines, specifically Shinjuku, Otemachi, and Tokyo Stations, and Asato herself admits to having old feelings of resentment over how frequently she used to get lost in that labyrinth... which is why the terminal is pretty much wrecked to pieces in the battle.
  • Telepathy:
    • Para-RAID allows those connected together to communicate via what's essentially artificial telepathy by tapping into the human collective unconscious. Depending on synchronization level, the amount of info that can be shared can range from just simple voices to sharing images from each other's eyeballs. Turning the synchronization level to maximum is ill-advised. It also has limitations that it require recipients to be conscious in order to establish connection, so if the recipient is sleeping or fell unconscious, you cannot yet at them to try wake them up. Since it's unjammable, and the prevalence of Legion's signal jamming, it's one of the only technological edge the Republic has.
    • Volume 3 says that a natural version of this tends to develop in those with Pyrope bloodline, and they tend to be hired by the military for reconnaissance or interrogation work. Shin's ability is a specialized version of this.
  • Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: In order to stop AI Kiriya from pulling a suicide attack on Shin, Frederica willingly exposes herself, then points a gun at her own head, trusting that AI Kiriya would want her to be alive and stop the attacknote . It works.
  • This Is Reality: In the short story Brand, which takes place during Shin's first year on the Eastern Front, he asks the mechanic Seiya to disable the safety limiters on his Juggernaut. Seiya then proceeds to lecture him that safeties exist for a reason and that life is not a Super Robot anime or manga where you get more power by removing the safeties. Shin still insists though, since he wants more mobility to use the high-frequency blades on his machine, and Seiya reluctantly acquiesces.
  • Undying Loyalty: Fido is an AI created by Shin's father and is absolutely loyal to Shin, even wandering the battlefield by itself trying to search for Shin after he and his family is taken away due to Presidential Order 6609 being passed. After the scavenger unit it's housed in is destroyed and the AI core is recovered and reactivated by Giadian engineers, Fido won't respond to external stimuli until Shin's name is mentioned.
  • Uriah Gambit: When veteran 86 reach the end of their five-year service career they are sent on a "long-range scouting mission" deep behind enemy lines. In reality this a suicide mission they are not expected to return from. The Republic does this in order to hide the fact that they never intended to restore the citizenship of the 86 in return for their service. It also prevents these veteran 86 from becoming a symbol of hope and possible rebellion for the rest of the 86.
  • Vibroweapon: Juggernaut (and later Reginleif) pilots can choose to equip themselves with high-frequency blades instead of machine guns for melee combat. Very few pilots take them due to how risky it is to use them. The Legion has them equipped on the Grauwolf.
  • War Is Hell: Most of the main characters of the story are essentially disposable shock troops tasked with fighting an Hopeless War against an army of unstoppable machines by a government that has stripped them of any and all basic human rights.
  • Weather-Control Machine: By Volume 5 (after Legion's successful Sheepdog project), Legion is getting creative on how to prosecute the war. In that volume, it's using a jammer swarm to deflect sunlight away from Roa Gracia, prolonging winter and straining the nation's already poor food production to breaking point. And even that, it turns out, is a ploy to draw Roa Gracia's elite troops into counterattacking, so that Legion can draw them into a trap and annihilate them.
  • We Have Reserves: The main reason the Legion is winning the war is due to its ability to rapidly replace its losses. It doesn't need to train its troops and can deploy new units as soon as they roll out of the factory. In contrast, it takes months to train human soldiers in order for them to be combat-capable. As a result many of the victories won by human forces have been Pyrrhic in nature, as the Legion just replaced any losses they took in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile, their opponents are left struggling to fill in gaps in their manpower. So despite the success of recent operations to retake territory by the Federacy, United Kingdom, and Alliance the outlook of the war looks grim as the Legion will likely win by attrition alone if something doesn't change.
  • You Didn't Ask!: Shiden realized that the pilot Lena's talking to near the end of Volume 3 is Shin due to her being able to see Shin's personal mark on the side of his mech. She chose not to mention this to Lena after realizing that Lena never saw the mark before.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Albans have silver hair, Raiden has steel-green hair and Anju has silver-blue hair originating from a distant Alba ancestor.

 
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Alternative Title(s): Eighty Six, Eighty Six Eighty Six

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Warfare in the city

Legion mechs lay siege in the Republic of San Magnolia after they breached the capital, Liberté et ÃÃâ°galité. San Magnolian troops are currently trying to hold onto the city and prevent them from penetrating the interior.

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