Shin Kazama had just graduated from the piloting academy with flying colors (no pun intended). His girlfriend, Ryoko, was the daughter of the president of Yamato Airlines, and Shin was in line for a high-paying pilot position at Yamato. Shin seemed to have it all. Until, of course, his ambitious friend got him drunk one night and tricked him into signing his life to the Asran Mercenary Air Force at Area 88.
Now, Shin flies for his life, fighting for a country he never lived in, and becoming an expert in killing. There are three ways to escape from Area 88 outside of getting killed in combat: spend three years in service, earn 1.5 million dollars, or desert. Shin swears that he'll never spend three years killing people he bears no grudge against, and "setbacks" continually keep him just outside of the 1.5 million dollars he needs to go back to Ryoko and Japan. Meanwhile, his ambitious friend continues to make moves to create a world of his own -- and make moves towards Ryoko.
Fans of the Capcom shooter "U.N. Squadron" will be familiar with the main characters in Area 88. The game actually bears little resemblance to the anime, except for the fact that Shin Kazama, Mick Simon, McCoy, and all the others are all there.
This anime is considerably older than the others reviewed here. This, however, doesn't keep it from being a darned good anime with an interesting story. Shin's character is very nicely rounded out and fully realized, and his struggle with the stain of killing is always present in this serious, Top Gun-esque story. You won't be bored, though, as subtle changes in Shin's character will keep you guessing until the end, and beyond. Unfortunately, though, Area 88 was adapted from a much longer manga series, and it shows at times. Certain story arcs are sometimes only partially resolved, making you wonder if a more complete, satisfying resolution to some of the conflicts could have been done.
Art is fairly decent, if a bit faded from age, and the animation is surprisingly good, especially in the air combat scenes. Some remarkable canyon effects are to be had in this flick. The soundtrack is pretty good and nicely represents the tension felt in the heat of battle, as well as the anguish and despair of the mercenaries bound to serve at Area 88.
All in all, a really good view. If you don't mind the older art and lack of glitz, Area 88 won't disappoint you. I'd like to see the original manga to this, though.
The only thing that kept me from giving this one five was the rushed nature of some of the scenes, and the ending. — Raphael See
Recommended Audience: The box that I read at the store said that Area 88 should be good for all audiences. I disagree. This is a series about war, and more than a few of the themes are ones that younger audiences wouldn't appreciate. The deaths are done somewhat graphically sometimes, and there is some minor profanity, particularly in the third Act. A scene of brief nudity appears in the third Act, but unlike scenes of nudity in other anime, this one has a definitely "adult" connotation. Better for teenaged audiences.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (3/3)
Area 88 © 1985 Shintani Kaoru / Shogakukan / Project 88 / Toho Co Ltd
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