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86-Eighty Six Episode 21: Biggest Cliffhanger of the Fall 2021 Season

By: Eric Himmelheber Sep 04, 2022
86-Eighty Six episode 21 further proved that just when we think the series' bar can't be raised any higher it keeps going up. Ryo Ando out-..
86-Eighty Six Episode 21: Biggest Cliffhanger of the Fall 2021 Season
86-Eighty Six Episode 21

86-Eighty Six episode 21 further proved that just when we think the bar for this series can’t be raised any higher, it keeps going. A lot like episode 16, the second half of this episode left fans crying, smiling, and anxious all the same. But episode director, Ryo Ando, outdid himself this time around. And with the final two episodes of season one postponed until March, Ando made sure to leave fans with a cliffhanger they won’t forget over the next three months.

Ryo Ando Does It Again

Just as he did with episode 16 at the end of October, Ando left fans completely speechless with episode 21 this past Saturday. The episode left us with everything they could possibly want before the three-month hiatus began. But this week left me speechless in a different kind of way than episode 16 did.

While episode 16 gave us some of the best animations we’ve seen all year in anime that left our jaws on the floor, episode 21 left me in a different state of speechlessness. Whether it was the moment Anju’s life looked to be coming to an end, Raiden saving Frederica from a blast, or Shin being caught in the explosion at the very end, 86-Eighty Six fans everywhere either cried, smiled, or had severe panic attacks at some point. And a huge part of that thanks should be credited to Ando. Incredible animations on top of a heart-pumping Sawano soundtrack made the final moment of the episode the cherry on top.

86-Eighty Six episode 21
86-Eighty Six, Episode 21

Biggest Cliffhanger of the Fall 2021 Season

There are bad cliffhangers, good cliffhangers, and, once in a while, perfect cliffhangers in anime. 86-Eighty Six episode 21 brought us a perfect cliffhanger and here’s why.

For one, the episode builds up the final moment every step of the way. The entire staff has done a phenomenal job laying the groundwork for this cliffhanger all year, not just in this episode alone, which made it all the more impactful. Every time one of the squadron members stayed behind, the next one always noticed something bad happening behind them. So, in short, the episode executed the possibility of all the squadron members dying perfectly. Letting Ando take the reigns as episode director was undoubtedly the best possible decision.

86-Eighty Six Raiden
Raiden protecting Frederica, 86-Eighty Six episode 21

There’s no other way to describe the execution except by saying “perfectly” because it’s true. First, it was Anju. Then Theo followed suit. Kurena. Raiden. Then, finally, Shin. Every single moment left fans gasping and worried. There was no time for relaxation during episode 21 except at the very beginning.

And now that it left off with Frederica screaming for Shin, who was lost in the big explosion along with Kiriya, anime-only fans came away from that episode with the feeling that everyone but Frederica is dead right now. And that feeling alone instantly created even more anxiety in the process. But that’s okay. Why? Because that’s how it was supposed to feel like.

Don’t Ignore The Little Details

While the cliffhanger was the biggest point of the episode, the episode also had an incredibly emotional moment dealing with Frederica, Shin, Kiriya, and Rei (Shin’s brother) right before the big explosion. The moment that Frederica saw all three together was telling because at the end of the scene we see Kiriya and Rei both walking out the doors together. While all of a sudden we Shin standing beside Frederica.

86-Eighty Six episode 21
Kiriya, Rei, and Shin (from left to right), 86-Eighty Six episode 21

It was a powerful moment that, yet again, Ando nailed. And one of the most interesting parts of that entire scene was the butterfly flying around them—an extremely prevalent symbol during this second cour of 86-Eighty Six. Back in episode 20, a dead butterfly was a prominent piece of symbolism. While the episode is rather slow compared to the latest one, it cuts back to that same shot of the butterfly at very specific times, one of those was the butterfly being eaten away by a colony of ants. And the final shot of this butterfly is just the remains that are leftover being blown away by a slight breeze with tiny legion known as Eintagsfliege flying in the background.

Whether you think this butterfly represents Shin, Kiriya, or possibly even Frederica for episode 21, I’ll leave it up to fan interpretations. Regardless, it was a macabre piece of symbolism that only 86-Eighty Six could pull off. The underlying theme with this type of foreshadowing for episode 21 was almost bone-chilling.

86-Eighty Six anime
86-Eighty Six episode 20

Final Two Episodes Air Date

Unfortunately, fans are going to have to wait a few months for the final episodes of season one to air. Despite production issues with the past few episodes, the problem this time around was TV scheduling issues. So don’t worry, 86-Eighty Six fans, the next two episodes will be here before we know it and they will be glorious as every episode before them.

Episodes 22 and 23 are scheduled for March 12 and March 19. For more details on the situation, make sure to read our coverage of it here.

So what are your thoughts on episode 21 of 86-Eighty Six? What was your favorite moment? What was your reaction to the cliffhanger? Let me know in the comments below!

Images via Crunchyroll.
©2020 Asato Asato/KADOKAWA/Project-86

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