Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: A
- Age Rating: TV PG
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 75
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Area 88
Area 88 TV Vol. #3
By Chris Beveridge
October 31, 2005
Release Date: November 15, 2005
Area 88 TV Vol. #3
What They Say
© ADV Films
All supply transports to Area 88 have been cut off by the enemy. With the base running low on fuel and ammunition, supply costs have soared. The task of freeing the base from the enemy's stranglehold falls to Shin Kazama and a couple of unlikely pilots.
As if all that weren't enough, a sniper holds the base hostage. The pilots are willing to fight, but they have to locate the sniper first, so Makoto Shinjou decides to help out with his photographic skills. The thanks he gets is the ride of his life in a cavorting fighter jet on a dangerous roller-coaster ride through a narrow canyon. The well-protected enemy base lies at the opening to the canyon, but who will make it - and who will fail?The Review!
More tales from the front lines showcase both the human element and the beauty in violence of what these people do. .Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The shows included stereo mix does a solid job overall of providing a good full soundstage for the battle sequences in the air and when the bombs drop and hit the ground targets while also doing a good job at handling the various levels of dialogue and placement. This is a fairly busy mix in general though it does have its quiet moments, which helps everything else stand out more. My only real disappointment and I know I'm in the minority, is that lack of inclusion of the Japanese DTS 5.1 track that was available on the commercial release and not just the rental version. Otherwise, dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problem with dropouts or distortions.Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With little time between its original airing and release, the materials here look really good and the show overall had a decent budget, though it looks like a good chunk went into the CG design and modeling which pays off nicely throughout. The series has something of a distinct look to it since a lot of it takes place either in the sky or around the base so there's lots of blues and yellows which translate nice and solid here. There are a few areas of some noticeable breakup in some of the tans but this amounts to a few seconds out of three full episodes. A couple of scenes showed off some edge enhancement, which was very much visible with the characters against the blue sky, but it wasn't something that was showing up consistently throughout the release.Packaging:
The pairing of man and machine is the subject of the cover again as Mickey takes this volume with a nice shot of him as well as a pair of aircraft set against the night sky above the clouds. The back cover goes with a quasi military color palette and has the top quarter with the summary of the premise, though it gives away numerous plot points not revealed in this volume. Lots of shots from the show are included as is a listing of the discs extras. The full production credits and technical grid round out the bottom area of the cover. The insert features the artwork from the Japanese cover Makoto looking out into the desert from the base at sunset while the reverse side has a pair of translated comments about the series from two of the Japanese voice actors.Menu:
The menu layout is done up in a very in-theme manner with the interior panel shot of one of the aircraft with all its dials and buttons and knobs. The selections are laid out fairly wide and with the episode numbers for starting to play it may not be easy to find all that quickly but it looks good and access times are fast in general. The disc did however read our players' language presets properly and we had no problems with navigation or setup.Extras:
The extras continue to be piled on here though again with the usual warnings that they may provide spoilers. Just like previous volumes, There are a healthy selection of extras here. This volume has an interview segment with the director and the sound director that covers what went into that aspect of the show as well as another new interview with the director and the director of photography. In addition to these pieces we get the standard clean opening and ending, a new series of production sketches and the aircraft specs and character bios section. This series continues to be nicely loaded with extras.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The third installment of Area 88 brings three more episodes out and though we avoid most of Shin's problems and reasons for being where he is as well as Shin in general, we do get some really good stories that push the series forward with some great flying action sequences. The show has come a long way since its manga origins as well as its old OVA series and these episodes manage to retain the same kind of feel as those but with slicker animation, direction and overall storytelling.
Each of the stories stands alone as they paint the broader picture of life at Area 88. The opening tale lets the light shine on young Kim for a change as he takes Kitri around the area to show her various tricks and tips to survive outside of the base. Kitri's attitude continues to rub him the wrong way since he's been around so long and has survived so well yet she considers herself superior to him. Kim's issue with being considered too young for things is usually an issue in a lot of ways but he handles it well for the most part. He's a decent pilot, not exceptional, but he's got that extra bit of luck and skill that continues to allow him to survive. Life at the base is tough now due to the overall military campaign which has caused Area 88 to not receive its fuel supplies so costs of that and everything is high now.
With the idea that the entire flight squadron is down for the count, the enemy uses the opportunity to launch a sizeable raid on the base with a series of heavy bombers and fighter support that will be able to turn it into nothing more than a memory. Naturally, Shin gets assigned to this and takes on the lead for it which means he picks the team. Most are shocked when he takes Kim along with Kitri for the attack but the realization that Kim has VTOL means they can extend their fuel time even more since Kim can just land after the attack, so he can take on more weapons. Kim's surprised to say the least that he's chosen and chosen by Shin but it does put him in the limelight again and lets him have a chance to prove once and for all that he's worth his weight.
The episode on this volume that really surprised me though is the middle one. The base is back to normal after the last raid but everything turns to chaos as one well placed sniper has made his way into the surrounding desert and is picking off targets one by one. A well placed shot at a plane just before take-off at their front wheel and there is nothing but wreckage on the runway, slowing down other planes. Shots through the window, picking off mechanics that stray into sight, nailing fire trucks that are doing rescue ops and so forth, the sniper is able to freak most of the people out and keep them hidden out of sight. We only see the smallest part of the sniper, typically just his rifle tip or the time he uses to take people out with, but it's a fantastic episode that shows the power of such a person as well as the creative ways that need to be taken in order to eliminate him. Anyone who has done sniping in multi-player games knows just what kind of power this kind of character controls.
Each of the episodes on this release have some great action sequences to them with the fighter craft that are simply exciting. The last episode goes with the tried and true canyon run with the series of jets flying down through some tight areas before launching into the mission proper and while they are things we've seen before, it's something that's just done so well and runs so nicely that it's exciting to see it every time. The combat missions themselves are a lot of fun such as the first one as the team has to deal with the arrival the bombing fleet coming to take out Area 88, though I'll let others debate whether a VTOL fighter can pull off those moves.In Summary:
While I would have preferred a bit more time spent on Shin and what he's doing there and working towards resolving it, the episodes on this volume are solid entries into flight combat stories that are all well mixed and avoid really repeating any themes. The attention to detail is fantastic with the jets, the animation looks great and the stories are fun and engaging. A number of characters get a chance to shine here, especially Shinjo getting a bit more of his background used in order to help out for once, while the scope of the show in general is widened and we start to see more of the larger military picture. While it's plainly not high art or storytelling, Area 88 is a very fun show that's shiny and thrilling a lot of the time.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Interview with Isamu Imakake (Director) and Satoshi Yano (Sound Director),
Interview featuring the director and Shinichiro Tachi (Director of Photography),Production sketches,Aircraft specs,Character bios,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.