Area 88 Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: All Region DVD
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 24.99
  • Running time: 50
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Area 88

Area 88 Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     January 31, 2002
Release Date: September 01, 1998

Area 88 Vol. #1
© Central Park Media

What They Say
Somewhere in the burning sands of the Middle East, the Kingdom of Asran is being torn apart by a bloody civil war. On the front lines of the battles lies a mercenary air force base - often the last refuge for pilots from around the world - a hellish pit known as Area 88.

Shin Kazama had everything going for him - a beautiful and wealthy girlfriend and a promising career as a pilot with Yamato Airways. That is, until the night his "best friend" Kanzaki, duped him into signing up as a pilot for the Asran Mercenary Air Force. With Shin out of the way - perhaps permanently - nothing will stand between Kanzaki and Shin's girlfriend, Ryoko!

As Shin soon discovers, there are only four ways out of Area 88: Survive for three years, pay the 1.5 million dollar penalty, desertion, or... death. Once a commercial airline pilot, Shin will have to become a cold-blooded fighter pilot if he ever hopes to buy out his contract and return to Ryoko's arms. Now, Shin's expert piloting skills will be put to the ultimate test as he attempts to survive long enough in the fiery skies above Area 88 to return home.

The Review!
"Sunset... and all I see is the color of blood."

"A mercenary pilot whose afraid of the dark?"

Watching Area 88, Part 1 was like rediscovering an old friend. This is the third time I've bought this series, from VHS to LD and now to DVD, and each time it's like getting back with old friends. Let's jump right into the technical aspects before we delve into the show itself.

The audio is a decent pro-logic mix, as the show was originally done back in 1985. The show itself is essentially mono, but that's not bad at all. It's a very engrossing show, so you notice less about the sound, though if this show was done today, I can easily imagine a very interactive 5.1 mix.

The video is pretty much clean and clear of MPEG problems, though there are several specks at times that are on the original film source. This rarely detracts from the show, but after watching so many crystal clear Hollywood shows, you tend to notice these a little more.

The packaging is in the much preferred Amaray keepcase with the bold "ANIME DVD" brand on the front right cover. While not as eye-catching as some other covers, it's well done.

The menu once again suffers a bit. The main menu is slow like the earlier M releases, due to the changing images, even though it's just text, when you move from function to function. The submenus are very fluid and well done, but the main menu brings the rating down a bit.

As for the show itself... it's great. Animated in 85, written a few years before, the storyline is about an airline pilot trainee who, on his last day of training, gets tricked into signing onto a mercenary air force somewhere in the Middle East region. The service lasts for either 3 years, accumulation of 1.5 million dollars in kills, or desertion. They don't mention death as an option though. Shin agonizes through parts of this show, as this was not what he saw his life to be. During a series of flashbacks, we see what led up to his current situation, the woman he was falling in love with, and more. Alternating with the killing he must perform as a mercenary pilot is very striking against it, and the emotion is very genuine, especially when you add in his young age.

One reason I enjoy this show so much, beyond the well done characters, is the fighter jets. These aren't the slick jets we're used to seeing on CNN or more recent anime. These are authentic for the time that it takes place in, 1979. There's an elegance surrounding the animation of these aircraft as they perform their maneuvers, never anything that cannot be done. As the show progresses onto the other discs, these aircraft really shine through.

While I'm disappointed that CPM didn't put all three episodes onto on dual layered disc, I'm back in this one for the full ride. A very well done disc overall, especially for those looking for something beyond the all flash and no substance that can be commonly found out there.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Aerial Combat Directory,Character Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.


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