Type: TV (12 episodes)
Reviews @ Archen's Anime Page
Area 88 - TV
Shin Kazama had bright future ahead of him. After years of training, he would soon be a commercial jet pilot. His girlfriend Ryoko also happens to be the daughter of the president of Yamato Airlines. It only took one night at a bar for all of that to be taken away. Shin's best friend tricks him into signing up as a mercenary for the Arslan air force for a full tour of duty. Arslan is a poor nation in the middle east. Training pilots is expensive, so they resort to hiring mercenary pilots in their on going civil war. Shin's new home is a military base only known as Area 88, but he refers to it as hell.
Every day Shin is forced to take lives. He can't run away. His only hope is that he'll be able to survive long enough to make it back. As Area 88's top pilot, he might be able to do that. More importantly, he needs to settle things with the friend who betrayed him: Kanzaki. Kanzaki figured Shin would soon die in a place like that, but with skill and determination it seems Shin may even climb out of hell to return to the love he left behind.
To this day I believe the Area 88 - OVA is one of the greatest anime ever made. Considering decades of anime that have followed since 1981, that's an impressive record. It's also a lot to live up to, so I didn't expect much of the TV series. Even so the TV series is disappointing, but it's not all bad.
The rise of computer generated anime didn't sit well with me, but even I have to admit it's done very well for rendering fighter jets and air combat.
Where did this one falter? Presentation in how a story is told can make all the difference. Shin's story is certainly a great idea, but how does it come across? In the OVA Shin's despair seeps into every part of the show. The longing he has to return to Ryoko, and his thirst for vengeance are unmistakable features. In the TV series Shin is certainly quiet.. and mainly has "a look in his eye". It's a far cry from the introspective look into Shin's pain in the OVA.
Due to expanded length, it does have a lot more to do with air combat. If you're into fighter jets, you'll certainly enjoy that part. A female pilot is introduced, which seems like an interesting love triangle setup, but Area 88 never does much with her. The show is ok for the most part, but the last episode improved my opinion. Like the OVA, the finish is open ended, but the TV series is much more positive. It hits on the big three points I wanted to see more of: Shin's struggle with his life at Area 88, Ryoko's commitment to a man she doesn't even know is alive, and Shinjo's redemption.
The result is a show which is ok, but nothing exceptional. That pains me to say considering my high esteem for its predecessor. A good anime if you're into fighter jets, but very average.
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