The Spring 2021 anime season has given us the long-awaited adaptation of Asato Asato’s light novel series 86. This dystopian sci-fi war story interweaves sobering depictions of systemic racism and death on the battlefield with the decadent lifestyles of the Alba and lighthearted camaraderie among the Spearhead Squadron, giving viewers a nuanced look at what life in the midst of a pointless war is like. You can catch new episodes every Saturday on Crunchyroll, but if you can’t wait and you’re looking for recommendations of similar anime to watch in the meantime, here are six anime that remind us of 86!
Similar Anime to 86
1. Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2006 – July 2007
Perhaps the most obviously similar anime to 86 is Code Geass, the bombastic mecha political drama that was all the rage back in the mid-2000s. Blessed/cursed with the power to give absolute orders that can’t be refused, disgraced prince Lelouch vi Britannia dons the alias of “Zero” and positions himself as the leader of a people’s revolution to take back the conquered nation of Japan in the hopes that it’ll create a better world for his disabled sister to live in. Major Lena from 86 is also a member of the privileged imperialist class who strives for peace and equality in the world, although she’s a lot more naïve than Lelouch and her troops don’t initially take her seriously as a result. She could learn a thing or two from the Britannian prince... but hopefully not too much.
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Trailer
2. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2013 – September 2013
Despite their aesthetic differences, 86 and Attack on Titan are actually a lot alike. Attack on Titan trades sci-fi for monstrous horror and historical imagery, but the central idea of an oppressed group of people struggling to find meaning in their lives as they fight a losing battle against an insurmountable foe for generations on end is still there. The Survey Corps’ ongoing war against the titans and the later conflict between Eldia and Marley are both shown to be nowhere near as black-and-white as they seem, just like how the members of Lena’s squadron have more than just a simple hatred of the Legion that they kill day in and day out. If you’re looking for an anime that will really challenge you, especially in its later seasons, check out Attack on Titan if you haven’t already!
Attack on Titan Trailer
3. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2015 – March 2016
While the Gundam franchise has explored the horrors of war in many of its installments over the years, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is the closest match to 86 because of its focus on the racism that the Martian citizens (specifically the ones with cybernetic enhancements) face from their Earthly overseers. The aristocratic Kudelia is much like Major Lena in that she is appalled by the conditions these people face and uses her influence to try to make their lives better. Of course, Kudelia benefits from the Martian child soldiers who protect her and Lena sends her squadron out to the battlefield from behind the safe walls of Magnolia, so both of them have some growing up to do before they can be considered true allies of the oppressed groups they want to help.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans Trailer
Any Anime Like 86 ?
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2014 – September 2014
Aldnoah.Zero may be yet another sci-fi war drama about a fair-haired young woman of privilege teaming up with/being protected by a squad of child mech pilots from an unfairly demonized cultural group, but we promise that it’s still worth watching! The Martian princess Asseylum and the Earth troops (Earth and Mars have the exact opposite relationship in this anime than they do in Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans) put up a spectacular fight against the invading Martian forces, the mecha designs are instantly recognizable, and Hiroyuki Sawano’s soundtrack is probably the best part of the whole anime. 86 has taken this basic concept and refined it to a mirror shine, so if you’re curious about its inspirations, give Aldnoah.Zero a shot!
5. Darling in the FranXX
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: January 2018 – July 2018
Darling in the FranXX is a decidedly more stylistic approach to the mecha genre than 86 is – the cutesy FranXX mechs have an entire arsenal of techniques to use against the massive Klaxosaurs and can even fight in space, while the Spearhead Squadron struggles to make a dent in the endless waves of Legion forces with their outdated spider-like rigs. Still, both anime spend significant time exploring the complex relationships between their cast members and how the chaotic nature of war forges fast and emotionally volatile friendships that could end at any moment. You might get tonal whiplash trying to watch them both at the same time, so try to binge this one all at once before diving back into 86!
Darling in the FranXX Trailer
6. Mars Red
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2021 – currently airing
Lastly, we have another anime from the Spring 2021 season – Mars Red. In the early 1920s, a covert unit of vampire soldiers keeps the streets of Tokyo safe from rogue members of their own kind. However, they’re quickly becoming part of a bygone era as cheaper and more effective solutions become available, and they begin to suspect that the government is keeping the vampire epidemic going on purpose. The poetic direction in both this series and 86 portrays bloody battles as tragic works of art, making you mourn for the ordinary people caught up in such pointless political messes. We hope that at least some of the characters from both of these anime have happy endings.
Mars Red Trailer
If you’re looking for more anime like 86, check out WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?, as well as Vinland Saga. You can also try the light novel All You Need is Kill or even the Western book Ender’s Game (just be sure to buy it secondhand, since the author isn’t the greatest person ever). But are there any more that you can think of? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!