Shin Kazama, tricked and forced into flying for the remote country of Aslan, can only escape the hell of war by earning money for shooting down enemy planes or die trying. Through the course of the series, Shin must deal with the consequences of killing and friends dying around him as tries to keep his mind on freeing himself from this nightmare.
Simply put, the Area 88 OVA is a highly underrated anime series that does nearly everything right.
Story: I don't need to explain the concept too much since it's already on the page. It has two parts to it, an anti-war story and a long-distance romance story. The war story aspect revolves around Shin Kazama's life at Area 88 doing whatever mission he feels like doing. He never wanted to be a soldier, but he got tricked into it by Kanzaki and his whole personality has changed for the worse because of it. He went from a pacifist who just wanted a normal life being an
airline pilot and dating the boss's daughter Ryoko. to a man who's learned to accept that he has to kill for a living and has gotten used to his life on Area 88 as he earns his 1.5 million dollar ticket back home to Japan. This comes into play in part 3 in a heartbreaking, yet realistic way. A couple of the missions are unique as well, including the tunnel sequence which was done even better than in the TV series.
The second part of the story revolves around Ryoko trying to find out where Shin is located and bring him home. All the while, Kanzaki is putting his master scheme to take over Yamato Airlines and steal Ryoko into play. Shin cares deeply for Ryoko and she is the driving force that keeps him alive, but the Shin that Ryoko once knew was gone and she doesn't realize it. Kanzaki, on the other hand, is a shrewd businessman who will do anything with money and power. This section of the story provides the emotion behind the story and it works excellently.
The story is attention grabbing with Shin's detatchment with the war and his love for Ryoko, and it only gets better from there.
Characters: Shin is the opposite of the mega manly character that the 80's possessed. (Kenshiro and Goku, to provide examples). He's a caring soul who was hardened and changed by the experienced in the war. He despises the fact that he kills people to survive, but he's the best pilot at Area 88. Mickey Simon is another pilot who knows the effects of war all too well and he's the more lighthearted character foil to Shin. Kanzaki is easily one of the cruelist villians in any anime I've seen. He'll hurt anyone and everyone in the way of his goals. The other minor characters have personalities all their own, from the cocky weapon/other item salesman McCoy to the comic relief character Greg.
Art: Despite the OVA being nearly 25 years old, the animation still looks excellent. The landscapes are well designed, especially in the cities. The dogfights were also well animated, with a great attention to detail placed into all the pieces of the plane that get blasted around once a plane was shot down and the flight sequences also look great considering how old the OVA is. I do think that the character designs are inferior to the TV series and the series does show it's age compared to the newer series.
To wrap up this long review, I've got few complaints with this OVA. The story was full of real emotions, the action was well animated, and each character had something to add to the story. I highly recommend watching this and running at only three hours, it's could hardly count as a waste of time.
You're a fit and young Japanese man who has managed to work through the ranks of a prestigious airline company known as Yamato Airlines, earning large amounts of respect from your peers and your boss. Not only that, you have a beautiful and caring girlfriend whom you will be marrying soon but who also happens to be the daughter of the company chairman ensuring your heritage into the company. Life is swell and dandy but while you're out for a night on the piss with your dickhead of a friend, the twat gets you so intoxicated with the Devli's nectar that
he tricks you into signing a document that ships you off to place called Area 88 located in the heart of a huge war in which the only ways to escape from this place is to do one of the three following things:
A: Survive three years of pilot combat
B: Pay a penalty of 1.5 million dollars which is earned by shooting down the enemy planes
And that is the story of Area 88 in a nutshell. While the narrative is rather simple in design and not all too complex what makes this short three part OVA shine is the characters and the psychological aspects of them. The show spends a considerable amount of time dealing with the main character's state of mind and through Shin we see the dehumanising effects that war has on its soldiers. Shin is a person who is forced to spend each day constantly killing people he doesn't even know just to survive and to garner enough money to make his way back home and free himself from Area 88. The constant death and killing Shin has to endure and the way this effects his mental state is easily the most interesting part of this show and despite the short run time overall, it manages to present and develop Shin's hang-ups very well as we see him evolve and become used to the idea of killing to the point in which he can't return to normal civilisation again since he has gained a hunger for war after experiencing it first hand.
One of the most interesting scenes comes from the third episode in which Shin is speaking to a fellow Japanese man who will be killed soon because he attempted desert from Area 88 on the grounds that he did not want to kill anyone. The man who is soon to be dead challenges Shin's ideology and new way of life which only add to Shin's already broken mental state that war has inflicted onto him. Shin's arc and character are both easy to understand from a narrative standpoint and have a lot of development and time to breath through the show.
While most of the spotlight is exclusively on Shin, the other characters in Area 88 who Shin works alongside with also have their own mental hiccups too with each one dealing with their mental fatigue in a certain way. Each character has a reason for being at Area 88, whether that be because they were tricked into doing so like the main character Shin or simply because they love the sensation of killing. On top that, the tension is rather high since many of the characters in the show are killed off raising the narrative stakes and making each aerial plane battle seem all the more intense and exciting.
Speaking of the plane battles, even after thirty years they still are amazing to watch. This OVA was released in 1985 and still stands up incredibly well today. The beautiful hand-drawn plane designs and fights are some of the best choreographed and directed dog fights in the entire medium with huge amounts of detail in every frame. The fights and general war are both presented as gritty and real making the deaths of the characters all the more impactful.
While Shin is busy battling in Area 88, we have another plot involving Shin's girlfriend attempting to cope with the loss of her love and trying to make sense of what happened while trying to track down Shin once and for all. The insane lengths she goes to for Shin made their relationship feel more organic and stronger which acted as one of the driving forces for Shin's struggles as well as the motivation from an audience to see them reunite once again. Irony is used pretty often in the show such as in the case where one of Shin's missions focuses on him having to shoot off bombs from a moving air plane - a plane his girlfriend was currently on.
Shin's ass-hole of a friend also has a fair amount of screen time with him overtaking Yamato Airlines but seeing his entire world collapsing around him. It's bittersweet to watch after all the shit we see he has put Shin and his girlfriend through but a good amount of development and exploration was implemented into explaining why his friend acted the way he did and his motivations as a character making him less of a one dimensional dickhead.
If I do have one complaint about the narrative, that would be the ending. Without spoiling too much, it can feel kind of anti-climatic considering what all the characters went through and for some, Shin's final decision can feel off putting and confusing but I was generally all right with it. I just wanted a bit more in terms of the final meeting between Shin and his girlfriend at the end, which he hardly got.
The music is also fantastic too and each one fills me with so much manly energy and testosterone that my shirt would easily blow off my chest in the same way the clothing in Ikkitousen gets blown off a woman's body if the wind so much as blows a little too hard. My favorite track being the wonderfully composed Kanashimi no Destiny which never fails to fill me with happiness on each listen.
In conclusion, Area 88 is a great OVA with fantastic characters, brilliant plane battles and a wonderful OST. Even after all these years the show still holds up very well and I would highly recommend it. There was a TV anime sometime in the early 2000s which I haven't seen yet but I've been hearing rather mixed views on that version so I'll be checking that out in due time.
Also, holy shit, I praised something for once rather than being a cynical ass hole and hating everything I watch. Feel strange man...
Hey! Hey, you! Over here! Let me ask you something. Do you like watching jet fighters dogfight Top Gun style? You do? Great, I got just the thing for you!
Area 88 is a war drama filled with sweet, sweet dogfighting. It's actually quite the anti-war story and focuses on the dehumanization of the soldiers fighting in wars. If this is not up your alley don't worry! If you like dogfighting movies, for example Top Gun(just that Area 88 is an anti-war story and Top Gun is... well Top Gun) you're in for a treat! This got plenty of kick ass dogfighting!
Since I've already made
the Top Gun comparison I will just say this: Area 88 is inferior due to lack of shirtless Tom Cruise playing volleyball.
The story takes place in the middle eastern nation of Aslan. Our main character Kazama Shin, a former rising star for Yamato Airlines is in the middle of Aslan's civil war as a mercenary due to being tricked into signing a contract which forces him to serve in Aslan's foreign legion. Each time he destroys an enemy jet he is given money and this money will be used torward the goal of being able to pay your way out of the contract. The premise sound a bit cartoony, but the rest of the story is very mature. It deals with Shin's struggle to win his freedom and him clinging to his humanity as he keeps killing and doing inhamane acts.
The story is also very good in portraying no side of the civil war as good nor evil. It's just another pointless war without any defenders of justice. This is quite refreshing and I applaude it for it's grey morality.
This thing is from 1985 so one would think the animation wouldn't be that good. That's where you're wrong. The characters looks cartoony(just like the premise), but the jets themselves looks very realistic (just like the story's themes). The jets are drawn in very high quality and the attention to detail is borderland ridicilous. The cartoony characters standing next to the highly realistic jet fighters looks a bit weird, but not a major complaint.
The dogfights also looks amazing. They are high octane with much movement and action. The jet's movements looks very good and smooth and the used cartridges coming out of the jets looks marvelous as well.
First off: f*ck the end song of the first ova. It's ages since I saw this ova and I still can't get that song out of my head. The soundtrack is quite fitting at all times. The soundtrack is split into two parts. Rock and pop. The rock is played during the dogfighting and fits perfectly. The pop is mostly played during the emotional moments and also fit quite well. Nothing beats seeing jets blow eachother up while listening to guitar riffs.
The voice acting and sound effects are also top notch. Shin himself sound very well and is quite emotional. His voice fits his sympathetic character. All the supporting actors are also good, but nothing that stands out.
The sound effects of the jets is very well executed. They all sound realistic and a jet fighters engine is surprisingly soothing to listen to. If you haven't figured it out yet I like jets.
The bread and butter of every story: the characters.
What? I can't add the jets as characters? Dammit! Anyhoo the characters are as the rest of this anime, well done. Shin's character is all about his struggle for freedom and his dehumanization. He is sympathetic and fun to watch. His struggle to cling to his humanity and return to the girl he loves is very intriguing to watch.
The side characters are hit and miss. They all serve the plot in a good manner and even the guy we are meant to hate is rather pitiful. Shin's love interest feel like she exist so Shin can have something to return to. The other inhabitants of Area 88 are all well good and helps Shin's development. Shin's best friend Mick is fun and so is the base's supplier of goods. They all feel like they exist to serve the plot, but they do so very well so I got no complaints.
Area 88 is an anti-war drama filled with kick ass jet fighting action scenes. The fights are allways entertaining and the character development is excellent. This is in my opinion an underrated jewel. If you like dogfithing and war dramas Area 88 is a must watch. It's just a shame there is no shirtless volleyball scene.
The story of Area 88 revolves around a young pilot named Shin Kazama whose life was going great, he had friends, a girlfriend, and was supposed to get a job at the prestigious Yamato Air Lines but Shin’s life takes a nose dive when one day to celebrate his achievements Shin’s buddy, Satoru invited Shin to go with him to a bar. Once Shin got drunk Satoru tricked him into signing a contract and selling him away to fight as a pilot for the distant country of Aslan, which is in the middle of
a civil war. The only way to out of the military for Shin is to earn money by killing others in aerial combat, trying to run away, or just dying. The anime takes a look at the horrors of war in the eyes of solider wanting to escape, we get to see Shin struggle to keep his humanity as he slowly becomes desensitized to the horrific nature of war, being forced to kill people just like him and watch his own friends and acquaintances die in combat. What I find unique about this anime is that it places most of its emphasis on the aforementioned desensitizing effect war has on people, we see Shin over time getting used to killing people and seeing other die. This is what terrifies him the most and we see him begin to hate the person he has become and question if he can even live in society again after killing so many people. The anime uses a variety of basic motifs and symbols to reinforce the idea that no matter what he tries to do Shin cannot escape the horrors of war, not just because of the fact that he can’t leave the military but because he slowly lost his humanity to the war. The anime ends on a fairly ambiguous note and while some may find this frustrating as they want to see what happens to Shin I feel like this finale was completely intentional as its spontaneous nature is more impactful than it would have been if they ended it differently.
The characters in Area 88 are fairly strong for the most part, Shin is by far the highlight of this anime in terms of characters in the sense that he undergoes the most clear and interesting change over the course of the series, Shin starts as a young optimistic pilot and by the end becomes an empty husk of a man, this development is very well handled as we get to see the events that cause this change unfold in a very gradual manner. The entire cast in this anime lies in an area of grey morality as they can’t really be characterized as good or evil, even the pilots that Shin must kill aren't really evil, the war in this anime is not one between a good side and a bad side but one between two differing opinions, however there is one exception to this and that’s Satoru who leans more towards being evil, while he does have motivations behind him betraying Shin I don’t feel as though they are strong enough to justify him being a gray character. While Satoru never comes off as completely cartoonishly evil watching him does feel a bit jarring because of how he contrasts from the rest of the cast.
Area 88 was animated by Studio Pierrot and considering this OVA was from 1986 it looks amazing, the animation is crisp, detailed, and very fluent for its time. The proportions on the characters look amazing considering how old this anime is, and the backgrounds look great, I have no complaints.
Area 88 has a very powerful soundtrack filled with tense orchestral pieces to compliment the many life-or-death battles, and uses a lot of refreshing vocals. My favorite song from the OST is How far to Paradise, Dog Fight, and Blue Mirage.
I had a lot of fun watching Shin struggle with the horrors of war and seeing the well animated areal battles, there was not a single dull moment.
Area 88 is an anime that has managed to stand the test of time and is one I would recommend to any fan of war dramas.
Do you have an older game console sitting in the cupboard, basement or attic? Perhaps it's time to dust it off, plug it in and start enjoying it once again. We're about to discover some fascinating retro games based on anime franchises we've grown to love over the years.