Area 88 for those who have yet to experience it in any of its many incarnations is a recent remake of a three-episode 1985 series of the same name, which was itself based on an earlier manga series. Like many, you're probably wondering what about the premise warrants so much attention. The answer, in its simplest form, is that it presents a clean, tightly focused tale about a pilot betrayed over a woman and the results of this life-changing twist of fate.
Yes there's enough of a story here to keep the plot moving smoothly along but at its core, Area 88 is an action show that borrows some from some of the more memorable moments in big budget films such as Top Gun and Behind Enemy Lines.
As a bit of a fighter aircraft buff myself, I was quite enthralled with the accurate aircraft specs/ renditions featured in the program but make no mistake, fighter plane knowledge isn't a requisite for enjoying the viewing experience.
The story is technically told through the eyes of a photographer who arrives to the mercenary Middle Eastern air base on a bit of an ulterior motive mission again involving the betrayal mentioned above. I'll refrain from diving too deeply into the plot as most of the fun in the series is following along as the story-layers are unraveled like a proverbial onion.
If you've read along this far in the review, hopefully the reason for revisiting this franchise as often as has been done is becoming clearer. The core of the show involves aerial combat scenes and a near constant dose of sheer dog fighting goodness. While advances in animation technology/ computer generated imaging benefit the industry as a whole, there is certainly ample opportunity to show off just how far things have come in Area 88.
Thanks to computer rendering, a great amount of detail has gone into the planes models, their weapons, and the explosions/ crash sequences. The sounds are especially noteworthy as well, almost offsetting the slightly out of place techno score.
ADV Films deserves credit for assembling a voice cast worthy of the Japanese source material. The English dub is just about flawless in dynamics and believability.
Complaints are very few. In fact the most common seem to be the desire to continue onward with a plot that ends fairly abruptly. Twelve 23-minute episodes are all we're given to begin, develop and conclude the tale. The concept of a full 26-episode run really boggles the mind with what could have potentially been accomplished in terms of character development. As it stands the story is short, sweet, and loaded with action. Viewers who enjoy anime for its methodic building and emphasis on human emotions first and foremost may want to skip Area 88 but everyone else should do themselves a favor by giving the show a try.
Area 88 is available in a Complete Collection (3-disc) set and sold separately across 4 volumes (each containing three episodes). Be cautious when purchasing should you decide to go for the 2008 rendition of the show as the original OVA series from 1985 (from US Manga Corps) often occupies the same shelf space and looks similar in terms of the cover art.