Area 88 TV Complete Collection (Thinpak) (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2007
What They Say
Shin Kazama is a gifted pilot with a bright future, a beautiful fiancée and a job with a prestigious airline - until a treacherous act of betrayal rips his world apart and sends him into the barren desert of the war-torn Kingdom of Asla. With escape only meaning death, he must now use his superior skills to become a cold-blooded aerial killer and with every kill, he paints a trail of blood in the sky back to the life that was stolen from him.
Area 88 pushes the boundaries of animation to the limits with a visual beauty that is rarely accomplished. You can almost feel the jet wash on the desert wind.
This is Area 88. In the desert the souls of men are either consumed by the fire or reborn from the ashes.
Kaoru Shintani's epic manga tale of mercenary pilots in the Middle East is treated to sympathetic direction and 3D CGI animation to create some of the most realistic and beautiful aerial combat footage ever to make it to anime.
For the purposes of this review, I watched this show in English. ADR director Scott McClennan used a large stable of masculine voiced actors to fill the roles. Chris Patton is cast as Shin Kazama, the quiet but highly skilled pilot who is the focus of the story. John Gremillion is Makoto Shinjo, a combat photographer who has come to Area 88 to take a photo only he can take. The rest of the cast is made of Houston's usual stalwarts such as John Swasey, Illich Guardiola, Rob Mungle, George Manley, Andy McAvin and more. The highlight for me was not one of the male characters, but one of the very few female characters. Nancy Novotny who has voiced characters such as Yomi from Azumanga Daioh, Hydra from UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie and the titular character from Madlax plays a young beautiful pilot with a delicious Middle Eastern accent. Another interesting role is Serena Varghese as Kim, a young African boy flying amongst the men of Area 88. She also adopts an accent appropriate to the character that adds to the multi-national make up of the mercenary force. The show is well-dubbed, giving a sympathetic treatment to he story and the characters. The sound mix was very well handled. being quite forceful with the sounds of the aircraft, cannon, missiles and other sounds of battle, while keeping the voices at just the right level to be heard.
This show is an interesting mix of old-school character designs and modern CGI animation. Kaoru Shintani's original manga began publishing in 1979, and both the character designs and story setting reflect that. The computer animation went almost entirely into the aircraft, creating some of the most realisticly portrayed aerial combat I've ever seen in animation. With the show being so new, it's no surprise that it is a very good looking transfer.
The front cover of the box features images of Shin and his fiancée Ryoko, separated by his two aircraft. The back cover features Shin with more action shots of his aircraft. The covers of the three DVDs follow a similar theme with characters and aircraft
The menus show a dial with the episode numbers on them, and more artwork from the show around the dial. It's simple, effective, and loads quickly.
As with almost all of ADV's thinpack releases, there are no extras in this collection. Unfortunately, that means we lose the interviews with the director and scriptwriter, as well as the technical specs on the aircraft.
Area 88 is an airfield in the deserts of the Kingdom of Aslan, a fictitious Middle Eastern nation torn by civil war. The government has taken the step of hiring mercenary pilots of fly dangerous missions, making things easier on their army. The pilots come from all parts of the world, some voluntarily, others through subterfuge. All pilots serve for three years or until they earn $1.5 million to buy their way out of the contract. Pilots are paid for every job they do, but they must pay for everything from their aircraft to fuel, ammo, missile, and maintenance.
Shin Kazama was tricked into flying for Area 88, losing his fiancée Ryoko and his job as a pilot of a major commercial airliner. So now he flies with a single-minded determination, taking every mission he can to earn the money to buy his way to freedom and Ryoko. Mokoto Shinjo is a photographer who has come to Area 88 to photograph the pilots and their lives as mercenaries. But he seems obsessed with Shin, taking photo after photo of him. His reasons are kept hidden at the beginning of the show, but are made apparent later. He is there to take a photo of Shin's dead body for Satoru Kanzaki, the man who tricked Shin into flying for Area 88.
He and Shin were friends, both flying for the same airline. But Kanzaki was jealous of both Shin's abilities and his impending marriage to Ryoko, the daughter of the president of the airline. He arranged to get Shin out of the way, and a photo of Shin's dead body would allow him to move in on Ryoko and marry her himself. The individual stories are an interesting mix of character studies and high-flying drama.
In one episode, a pilot must come to terms with the killer his protégé has become. In another, the psychological drama runs high as a sniper holds the entire base hostage. Shin breaking in a new fighter jet in Aslan and Kanzaki making his first major transcontinental flight in a 747 are highlighted against each other in another episode. The enemy aircraft are all Soviet aircraft ranging from MiG-17s to Tupolev bombers. The tension is ramped up by upgrading the enemy fighters from MiG-17s to MiG-19s to MiG-21s. Things come to a head in the final story arc, as Shin must make a difficult decision as the duplicity of several characters is revealed.
The premise is really just a way for Kaoru Shintani to gather all the combat aircraft of the world into one place so he can illustrate dogfights that have never happened in real life. For an Air Force veteran like myself, it's nothing less than aircraft porn. "That's a Dassault Mirage! Oh, he's flying a Blackburn Buccaneer!" The attention to detail in the design of the aircraft should suit the most demanding of aircraft otaku. But it's the characters that make the show worth coming back to. It does suffer from a bit of melodrama which can get tiresome after a while. However, the stories are well constructed and show an obvious love of the subject matter. I recommend this for anyone looking for a good war drama.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
NEC CT-2510A TV, Pioneer 440 codefree DVD player
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 300
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Area 88