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[Keywords] Eighty-Six and Aesthetic

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I did not enjoy Eighty-Six.

I honest-to-goodness tried to read the light novels over a year ago, before the TV series started airing. But I could hardly make it through the first two chapters.

It felt like the narrator was under contract to remind me every three pages of how horrible its premise was, and that isn’t its fantasy-classism oh-so unfair. And, given how thoroughly actual classism rears its head in real life, the thudding-aesop version felt frankly exhausting.

Being clubbed over the head just isn’t my idea of a great reading experience.

Full Disclaimer: I also love me some pretty darned obvious stories – no shade to you if you dig Eighty-Six. I’m sure the anime comes across better – just about any action series benefits visible-not-prose action. The novels probably even have redeeming qualities further in. I just couldn’t stick around to find out.

That said, I’ve totally got a model kit of the Regenleif sitting across the room from me right now.

Corps Appeal

Spider-Mecha are just radically cool.

But you don’t have to take my word for it – sci-fi artists figured that out ages ago:

As much as I adore me a big, stompy mecha, something just feels right about a four-legged one. This heavy-set machine that feels properly stable, like a chunky bit of mobile artillery. It’s just such a more natural evolution of a tank than the Jaegers and of the Sentinels of the (fictional) world. And if a story is going to play around with military vehicles, they gosh-darnit they should feel chunky in my mind.

Which is why I built my current Warhammer 40K squad around having two of them in a game where just one is costly. Spidey Superiority.

Speaking of – even when they’re not hefty war machines, the creepy-crawly versions are just so cool, in the unbridled elementary-school sense. Who doesn’t love the Iron Spider suit – or its sinister counterpart?

And that unbridled, elementary-school sense of “cool” admittedly drives a lot of the Gunpla I build. I do have a few internal rules – notably only building mecha from series I’ve actually seen. But the biggest “rule” has always been, more or less, “does my inner eight-year-old want this action figure?” I mean, yeah, the original Gundam has some really in-depth kits. But have you seen the gattling-gun backpack on the Jesta?

Which is exactly why I’m all-in on these guys:

A full rack of missiles on one, a cannon two steps short of a railgun on the other. A red, glowing “cyclops” eye. They even have little “mandibles” that spring down and visible hydraulics holding the legs up!

This is a very mech-y mech.

Building Brigade

And so here I am, breaking one of my few “don’t overspend” rules to buy merchandise for a series I dropped after fifty pages. At least with a limited-run game preorder, it’s on the assumption that I’ll likely play and eventually like the story. Almost no chance of that here.

And, honestly, that’s kind of fine?

Just go watch CapsuleJay build the V-Siren Prominence on his Twitch channel. It’s from Five-Star Stories, a series with a vanishingly-tiny chance for non-Japanese fans to see it. But it plays into so many gaudy anime-robot design tropes that you can’t help but love it. Lanky, CLAMP-like limbs, high shoulder spikes, and oodles of itty-bitty vents and panels to fill in with color.

Context be darned, it’s just a fun robot.

And, context be darned, the process of building is fun.

I was an engineer-y kid – I played with LEGO and spoke-and-hub bits and littered the family basement with all manner of modular construction projects. Took apart and rebuilt pens (and often destroyed them in the process). Doodled totally-implausible “schematics” of fantasy planes when I really should’ve been paying attention to Biology.

Systems are complicated, and machines make that delightfully-tactile. Breaking them down and re-assembling them only makes it all the more apparent, And applied to fiction? That’s model kits to a tee.

No wonder it seems like a billion new people took up the hobby over the last two years.

Eighty SIx Inserts
These design-doc pages are easily the best part of the Eighty Six novels.

Support Unit

So, does the idea of sitting down with tools and parts and putting together a cool machine outweigh the love of the actual machine you’re building?

Trick question! I dunno, I can’t speak to that opinion for you. Apparently I can barely speak to it for myself, given the scales tipped on that fairly recently.

All this is to say:

Hobbies are supposed to be fun. Don’t overthink them.

Unless overthinking them is a fun exercise for you. Though, in that case, the above argument is pretty moot, huh?

And that’s kinda just what model-building is in particular. There are kits out there that you’re explicitly expected to spend half an hour on and never need to think about before or since. Or you can pick a thousand-piece Perfect Grade kit, etch in some extra details, 3D-print a bespoke shoulder pauldron, prime and paint the pieces, pick a fusing cement, and… when do we build the dang thing, again?

The bar is as low or high as you set it.

And for me, right now? I saw a set of spider-robots that look pretty sleek.

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