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 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.
The TV version of Area 88, in short, doesn't hold a candle to the 80's OVA. That being said, if you enjoy fast paced action, serious drama, stories about the psychological effect of warfare, and modern visuals, thus anime will suit you well. Some fairly realistic fighter planes are always a nice alternative to mechs, which we've become accustomed to being, generally, the centerpieces of this type of tale in the anime medium.
The TV version is a little more light-hearted than the OVA adaptation, and maybe easier to get into for that, but it suffers for the same reason. It's also not paced nearly as
well. If you find yourself interested, think less "Legend of the Galactic Heroes" or "Armored Trooper VOTOMS" and more "UC Gundam".