Deep in the sandy plains of the Middle Eastern kingdom of Asran, Japanese photojournalist Makoto Shinjou travels to the remote airbase Area 88 to document the activities of the mercenaries who destroy the country's enemies for a living. Among their ranks is Shin Kazama, a Japanese ace pilot who was tricked by his former best friend into signing a contract with the Asran's fighter squad. Because of this, he lost his career as an airline pilot and the chance to marry his fiancee Ryoko Tsugumo. Now, Shin has three choices in order to leave Area 88 and return to Japan: serve the mercenary group for three years, earn US$1.5 million, or desert the base, risking imminent death.
I have been fascinated by fighter planes and dog fighting since I was a kid, and in that respect Area 88 was a treat! Top Gun fans will absolutely love this.
The plot revolves around a mercenary group of pilots fighting a war in a remote desert kingdom. In the midst of it all is an ace pilot Kazama Shin who was tricked into joining the squadron by his best friend - who also had eyes on Kazama's fiance. The only way to leave the war is to serve out three years or pay a $1.5 million fine - deserters are shot down
by their comrades. It's not a spellbinding story, but has enough substance to allow the artwork and the spectacular animation sequences to hold your attention.
From the detailed drawing of various aircrafts - Mirage 2AE, Crusaders, F-14 Tomcats, Tigershark AE, to the brilliant dogfight sequences and explosions, for action junkies it's very enjoyable. The characters too are sharply drawn, and the quality of the fight sequences are captivating.
The sound, well, like the Gundam franchise, Area 88 uses a blend of electronica and rock for the aerial battle scenes, so we don't really get a taste of the sound of aircraft engines, it's like watching F-1 races on mute. However, the music choice is quite appropriate and adds to the pulsating effect of the dogfights.
There isn't a lot of character development. Except for Kazama Shin, we don't learn a lot about the supporting characters. Yes, through the emotional turmoil of a war, there's scope for cathartic outpouring, and portrayal of the horrors of fighting, but it stops there. Just when you think you might find out more about a character, the storyline stops pursuing the train of thought. Nevertheless, there are some interesting side characters who add to the tension and even laughter!
Personally, I really enjoyed this anime, and the OVA series. The fighter jets, the technical precision, the dogfights, are quite realistic but drawn beautifully and is a treat to watch with booming sound on a large screen. If you liked Yukikaze, you'll like this too. It's no masterpiece, but it's short and excellent for a weekend viewing. The only complaint is that there isn't any sense of closure. You'll need to read the manga to get that. A strong recommendation to action junkies, and airplane and mecha fans.
First of all, let me point to one thing I find important. This show is underrated.
Being ranked #1600+, it really deserves better spot.
That's not saying this show is greatest show ever, but it is really good at what it does.
When show first started I was kinda confused with happenings. It's about area 88, a base for mercenary pilots fighting in some war. Which war it is is never told. Some might find that stupid, but the whole war is only second to true story, which is about a pilot Shin Kazama and photographer Shinjou.
Well, show is aired in 2004, means graphics could have been better.
They are still awesome at some moments, when portraiting the sun, the deset and the emotions. Dogfights could have used more polishing though. Every fight seemed the same. There are few different scenes, but mostly repetition of the same.
If you like action-techno stuff, you will love this show. Show had great opening, and mediocre ending song. Soundtrack was mostly good, but suffered from same problem art has. Repetition. Also, I must point out to one problem with soundtrack. Sometimes it was completely out of place.
Strongest part of the show in my opinion. Shin is portraited just as he should be: strong, smart, yet somewhat sad person. And art does its job on him perfectly. Other bigger and smaller characters grow more and more as show progresses. There are no sudden changes or unexpected turns from them. They are the same people they were from beginning to the end, with only their life experience changing them. There are no one-time speaches in this show to turn someone around. There are speaches, but nothing that would change a person. Much more like a real world situations.
I enjoyed in this show most of the time. As always, I'll leave this category without saying much because each person has different tastes and enjoys in different things.
Great show with only some flaws such as repetitiveness, not so good art and missing story parts. If you like dog fights, not really realistic, but still, with characters which are great pilots but still need help when faced 1vs3, so they're not Gods, than this show is for you.
If you like main characters which are badass in what they're doing, but are still both nice, gentle and caring, this show is for you.
Give this show a try, you might find yourselves pleasantly surprised.
I adore the original 80's OVA version of this series. To me it's one of the greatest Anime ever made. So to say I went into this version nervous would be an understatement. I mean could it live up to it's predecessor or would it pale in comparison?
Well after having marathoned the series well inside 24 hours I can honestly say this version at the very least captures the spirit of the original. The tone of the series is much the same but it's not without some issues. The main issue I had is this TV remake is missing a bunch of the high
points in the original OVA's story and alot of the details. The original OVA crescendo's at many points throughout and this version simply does not. To give an example take the Canyon mission, in the OVA this is a really big event and the tension ramps up moment by moment from mission reveal all the way to completion. In this series it just does not receive the same buildup, the incredibly risky venture of flying through this Canyon at night and the reasons why they must do this are all just left out. Even the difficulty of the mission is mostly not touched upon, at least not in the same way. In a microcosm this example sums up most of the problems I have with this version, it's less dramatic moment to moment.
But its clear the series had a different vision in mind, and in many ways a different tale to tell. I've not read the Manga so I don't know if this series is more accurate or neither adaptation matches it. I do know though that Area 88 2004 is not quite the same as Area 88 1985. The structure of the story is much different, the OVA is very melodramatic and the TV series is more of a character study. There are many other changes too, the TV series has a few new characters and leaves out many others. Similarly entire events just don't happen in the TV series that happen in the OVA, this goes so far as certain characters remaining alive. Even the events that do happen across both are often altered to present the same event but in a very different way. The ending to the TV series is also drastically different, not just in story but also in characters actions and motivations, leaving a very different aftertaste.
I'll just touch quickly on these things also... The CG planes were actually pretty good and certainly better than I expected. I was very worried about this aspect of the show prior to viewing but I think the team they got to do them did a good job, especially for early 2004. Next the sound design on the planes also seemed to be on point which really adds to this version just like it did in the original OVA. But I wasn't so hot on the character design changes, I mean yeah obviously this series was made almost 20 years later but Shins hair and overall design is much better in the OVA compared to how he looks in this series where he looks like he just walked out of an episode of YuGiOh at times. Finally there's the OST and this was a pretty big disappointment, I knew going in that the OST was now mainly electronica but that didn't change the fact that it was pretty underwhelming. Not terrible but it's a HUGE downgrade on the OVA's OST. In this version the OST is just sorta there, occasionally adding to the atmosphere but very rarely. The Opening/Ending themes were also both pretty lackluster.
So yeah there are many changes and I will say now that the original OVA is still the superior series, in fact if I hadn't seen it my opinion on this new version may have been drastically different from what it is. I believe the 2004 version is still a great series, the characters are still very interesting and likable, the action is still mostly great and as someone with adoration for the OVA I still enjoyed seeing the series through a different lens. The changes while not for the better in my opinion were not bad, just different and that was fine in the end.
I did kind of expect a little more from Area 88 in the story department but the aircraft detail is quite remarkable. In one episode were Shin narrowly misses hitting a 747 with his F-104 suggest that weight turbulence don't have any effect, also it does leave the question if a collision could be avoid in that way.
The story has likable characters but has un-clarified story lines like why a mercenary air base exists and why they only ever seem to go up against Russian mig's. The Area 88 airbase acts more like a conventional airbase with regards to operation but mercenaries are
suppose to work for who ever pays but this is not the case according to the story-line at least.
This could have been a very good series but it does not gel very well so you get a disappointing series to watch, its not totally bad that you could watch it if it was on but you would not want to spend money on adding this to your collection.