"No country would ever consider it an act of evil to deny a pig human rights.Therefore, if you were to define someone speaking a different tongue, someone of a different color, someone of a different heritage as a pig in human form, any oppression, persecution, or atrocity you might inflict upon them would never be regarded as cruel or inhumane." ― Vladilena Milizé, MemoirsThis is the first volume of 86 -Eighty Six- light novel series.
A War Without Casualties
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... 
Coquelicots Blooming Across the Battlefield Edit
A squadron of Juggernauts prepares to engage an approaching Legion force. The squadron Handler transfers command to the field commander, Undertaker. Once the radio cuts off, the Processors joke at the platitudes and apologies the Handler gave as she relinquished command. The battle commences as the squadron clashes against 210 Legion units. Several Juggernauts are lost in rapid succession. By the end of the battle, only Undertaker is left. The Handler returns, timidly asking for how many Processors will be returning. Undertaker cuts off the transmission without answering, noting that it was a useless question. He observes the setting sun over the battlefield, casting its red light across the field of coquelicot poppies filled with burning wrecks of Legion and Juggernauts.
It is not stated but heavily implied that the Handler is Vladilena Milizé, while Shinei Nouzen is clearly the field commander. It would appear that Shin and possibly his squadron are assisting Lena's squadron. It is certainly not the squadron Lena was assigned to prior to being transferred to Spearhead as this squadron is completely destroyed. Lena's timidity towards the Processors also hints at her inexperience, compared to the first chapter of the novel where she is noted to have often communicated with the Processors under her command. She also appears to not remember the name Undertaker in Chapter 1, which is unlike the fastidiousness of the current Lena. It is possible she forgot the name after an unknown period of working with other squadrons.
Chapter 1: A Battlefield with Zero Casualties Edit
The chapter begins with Lena walking down a main street of the capital city Liberté et Égalité as the repetitive reports of an Alba newscaster again declare that there have been no casualties on the Republic side in recent battles. Lena notes with muted anger the hypocrisy of the Republic citizens, who are enjoying peace when a war is going on, and the fall of the Republic's ideals of democracy and diversity, as there are only Alba citizens to be seen in all of the eighty-five sectors.
Lena enters the Palace Blancneige, a former royal estate turned into the military's headquarters. Catching a group of officers leaving the control room after an alcohol fueled party, she is about to reprimand them when she is interrupted by her friend Henrietta Penrose, called Annette by Lena. While the drunkards escape, Annette and Lena chat. Before Lena leaves for her command room, Annette tells her to get her information terminal checked and to not get too attached to the drones.
Putting on the Para-RAID, Lena connects to her squadron's leader, Pleiades. The Eighty-Six Processor responds to Lena's greetings with faux politeness. She commands the squadron into battle. Seven Juggernauts are lost before the red blips of the Legion begin to retreat from Lena's radar screens. As the squadron retreats from the area and hands over lookout duties to another squadron, Lena apologizes for the deaths of the seven Processors. She is met with resentment and contempt from Pleiades, which she can feel from their connection through the Para-RAID.
The next day, the same announcements of bloodless victory and the same praises of the Republic are made. While the newscaster describes a military downscaling in the seventeenth ward of the southern front due in preparation for the assumed cessation of hostilities in two years, Lena knows that the downscaling is probably because the seventeenth ward has fallen to the Legion. Over their breakfast, mostly synthesized food with the rare exception of a raspberry compote made using the Milizés' garden, Lena and her mother argue over Lena's continued service in the military. Lena's mother believes that Lena should find a husband from a wealthy family rather than spending her time commanding the Eighty-Six. Lena defends herself by arguing it is her duty as a citizen to serve her country, when in reality Lena is fuming that her mother could be thinking of marriage in a time of war. When asked if she is only doing this in her father's memory, Lena hesitantly denies it. She instead recalls an Eighty-Sixer with a headless skeletal knight crest who had saved her. Her recollections are broken when her mother asserts that the Eighty-Six are mere livestock who are incapable of understanding human ideals and nobility, making it fitting that they should be confined to cages, to which Lena reacts by wordlessly finishing her breakfast and leaving defiantly.
Once at the headquarters, Lena learns from Commodore Karlstahl that her squadron is being changed. She is offered command of the eastern front's first ward's first defensive unit, the Spearhead Squadron. Due to the squadron's previous Handler resigning, this critical defense unit needs a replacement Handler immediately. While Lena initially tries to refuse, arguing that the responsibility is too great for a newer officer such as herself, Karlstahl admonishes her for putting down her own achievements. Karlstahl admits that she is the last candidate for the squadron's Handler, as all other candidates have been scared off by the rumors of Spearhead's leader, Undertaker, who is known to make Handlers resign or request transfers. Some of the resigned Handlers are even rumored to have committed suicide. Despite Karlstahl assuring her that she does not need to feel obligated to take command since a squadron composed of veterans can take care of itself, Lena accepts the position. Karlstahl asks her to do the bare minimum and not communicate with the Processors, to which Lena retorts that she needs to know her subordinates and that the Eighty-Six's exile is no longer justified with the fall of the Empire. Karlstahl softly warns her against being so impassioned in her ideals before formally assigning her to the Spearhead Squadron.
While Annette performs a medical inspection and adjusts Lena's Para-RAID settings, the two discuss Lena's new position. Annette confirms the story of the Handler committing suicide after resigning, as she was tasked with investigating if the Para-RAID had any part in the suicide. No abnormalities were found in the Para-RAID and the logistics unit refused to bring Undertaker back to be tested, leaving the investigation dead in its tracks.
Annette tries to convince Lena to join the research division, arguing that Lena would be out of a job once the war is over. In two years, the Republic predicts that the Legion would shut down as their processor units are designed to have a limited lifetime of six years. The Republic assumes that the Empire fell four years ago to unknown causes, meaning that the Legion cannot be replenished. Despite Annette's proposal, Lena refuses, stating that the Republic remains at war and so she must serve. In her continued attempts to convince Lena, Annette tries to scare Lena by telling her that the Undertaker and Para-RAID are dangerous. In doing so, Annette lets slip that the Para-RAID is not completely safe, contradicting the Republic's statements. Lena questions Annette, revealing that the Para-RAID research is still not understood because the lead researchers were Eighty-Six and were confined to the concentration camps. Annette's father, who had worked on the original project but mainly only replicated results, was killed in an accident with the Para-RAID. With the conversation becoming tense and awkward, Annette diverts the topic to a chiffon cake she recently made and her love troubles.
Once Lena returns home, she connects to the Undertaker through the Para-RAID. Though Annette's words have left her somewhat shaken, once Lena hears Undertaker's voice she reaffirms her conviction that the Eighty-Six are humans: not monsters like the Republic makes them out to be.
- Shinei Nouzen
- Vladilena Milizé
- Henrietta Penrose
- Lena's mother
- Jerome Karlstahl
- Josef von Penrose (mentioned)
- Kujo (mentioned)
- Lev Aldrecht
- Theoto Rikka
- Kurena Kukumila
- Kaie Taniya
- Anju Emma
- Daiya Irma
- Raiden Shuga
- Vaclav Milizé (flashback)
- Shourei Nouzen
- While the illustrations of later volumes depict the red flowers mentioned as the red spider lily or higanbana, a flower that is closely associated with death and martyrdom in Japan, the novel's descriptions are of the corn poppy. The corn poppy became a popular symbol of the dead during World War 1 after the publishing of the poem "In Flanders Fields" by Canadian soldier John McCrae. In the prologue "Coquelicots Blooming Across the Battlefield," Asato also references a Chinese legend associated with corn poppy about the death of the Consort Yu, who committed suicide when she and her liege were besieged at the Battle of Gaixia. The legend states that poppies grew where the Consort fell and the corn poppy has since become a symbol of loyalty to the death.
- The order that declares the Colorata as enemies of the Republic and confines them to the concentration camps is Executive Order 6609, the numbers of which are reversed from the real Executive Order 9066 that labeled Japanese-Americans as enemy aliens and allowed them to be confined in numerous camps on the West Coast of the United States during World War 2.
- The name Shin gives to the cat is Remarque, the name of the author of the book he is currently reading. Erich Maria Remarque was a veteran of World War 1 and is widely known as the author of the World War 1 historical fiction novel All Quiet on the Western Front, a novel which details the horrors of war from the perspective of a disillusioned recruit of the Imperial German Army. Chapter 1's title, "All Quiet on the Skeletal Front," is a direct reference to Remarque's novel.
- In chapter 2, Raiden muses over the line "Man shall not live on bread alone," which spoken by Jesus Christ in Matthew 4:4. The full line is, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." Raiden notes, without stating a name, that the line was spoken by "some patronizing messiah."
- Also in Chapter 2, Shin recites a famous line from the New Testament, "Dicit ei Legio nomen mihi est quia multi sumus," which translates to "I am Legion, for we are many." A fitting line for the introduction of the Legion and foreshadowing for some similar qualities between the robotic "Black Sheep" Legion and the Biblical demons that call themselves Legion. The line returns as the title of Chapter 4.
- The title of Chapter 6 is the famed Latin legal phrase "Fiat Justitia Ruat Caleum," or "Let justice be done, though the heavens fall." Relates heavily to Lena's actions within the chapter.
- In the fan-translation by Hellping, the title of Chapter 7 was "Shalom Chaverim," a Hebrew phrase meaning "Peace friends, till we meet again." The official translation has changed the title to the simpler "Good-bye."
- The Republic of San Magnolia has clear similarities to several republics such as France, with the capital being named Liberté et Égalité, which is taken from the French national motto "Liberté, égalité, fraternité." The United States is also alluded to in the form of the aforementioned Executive Order 9066. Asato also clearly indicates Nazi Germany (which itself was the Weimar Republic prior to Hitler's rise to power) and the Final Solution as a template for the atrocities committed by the Republic.
- Magnolia flowers, which are presumably the national flower/symbol of the Republic of San Magnolia, are also the state flower of many states in the American South and is the national flower of North Korea. A possible reference to the historical use of slavery of the South and the authoritarian regime of North Korea.
- Asato Asato has stated in interviews that one of her inspirations for the novel was the Obama administration's use of drone bombings in the Middle East. The Handler position can be compared to that of a drone operator.