86 started off with a bit of a weird pace, as a lot of the action happened during calls between Lena and Shin, and scenes were repeated through different viewpoints, but this worked well in the long run as we felt so much more for the main characters when huge plot twists unfolded.
86 Episode 11, the finale of the first cour ended in a cliffhanger that left fans worried about the main characters' fates; below, we break down the ending. As always, spoilers ahead:
86 Anime Ending Explained: Did the Main Characters Survive?
So far, the entire 86 anime has been heartbreaking and the ending didn't see fit to give us a break. The last episode – for now – leaves the fate of Shin and his companions unclear, though it's strongly hinted that they're dead.
Since Episode 9, when Shin, Kurena, Anju, Raiden, and Theo left their base for abandoned legion territory on a mission with no chances of survival, Shin had become much more expressive. Neutralizing the mecha where his brother's spirit was trapped allowed him to move on and finally become himself.
This is not to say that he doesn't still hear the voices of the Legion, at a huge personal cost. While he and the rest of the Spearhead Squadron have some carefree, if bittersweet time together, he breaks off to fight without letting them know, in order to buy them sometimes.
Of course, even if you haven't watched the episode, you shouldn't need spoilers to know that the rest of the team is having none of it. The anime ends ambiguously at best, with Shin's Juggernaut destroyed and him injured and about to be beheaded, while the other characters also seem injured and their fate is uncertain at best.
Lena, who finally visits the former base of the Spearhead Squadron and sees what they left behind, seems to think they are dead, a fact supported by the heartbreaking post-credit scene. In it, a younger Shin reunites with his brother, Rei, who apologizes for what Shin went through because of him.
More perplexing and alarming is the fact that Rei appears as a knight in shining armor, perhaps to indicate the way Shin used to view his brother before Rei attempted to kill him. We'd really like to hope this is merely an indication of Shin making peace with his brother's memory, but we can't deny that things aren't looking good for him.
Then, there are the last words we hear from the Legion mecha; the voice of a dead soldier, speaking about protecting a Princess. The Republic of San Magnolia isn't known to have a Princess, so we might have to wait until cour 2 to find the meaning of the dying person's word – and Shin's fate.
86 Anime Ending Explained: What Does the Future (aka Part 2) Hold?
It might be best to keep light novel spoilers away from this article, but let's be honest; this is Shin's story as much as it is Lena's and with at least another cour of 11-13 episodes, it wouldn't make sense for him to die already.
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Of course, Lena would most likely keep fighting for equality in the Republic of San Magnolia, but if the first cour told us anything about her, is that she still has a lot to learn. A lot of the first episodes were about her unlearning internalized prejudices, understanding her privilege, and finding better ways to help others.
Even so, Lena is still in a privileged position and another 11-13 episodes of her fighting on behalf of others aren't exactly what the show needs. The anime is titled 86 for a reason, so, while unlikely, the survival of Shin and at least some of his friends seem spoiled by the very format of the anime.
Plus, after all these para-raid calls between Shin and Lena, it would be a huge letdown if they never got to meet in person.