Mar 26, 2008
Area 88 Volume 1: Treacherous Skies. Episodes 1-3. ADV Films. Running Time: 75 minutes. Directed by Isamu Imakake. Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi, $29.98.
Makoto Shinjo is a war photographer that shows no fear when it comes to capturing the essence of his subject, even if his life is on the line. He's come to the desert of Aslan to document the lives and battles of the mercenary pilots fighting against anti-government forces. It's pretty easy to sign up as a mercenary but very hard to get out after you agree to a 3 year tour of duty. You can break the contract early IF you pay the sum of 1.5 million dollars. Even though the pilots are paid very well for every enemy they shoot down and various missions they fly, they are also required to pay for room and board, food, weapons, and maintenence of their aircraft. So it's very hard for them to save up any amount of money. And that's just how the government forces like it. To have the mercenaries underfoot and in debt. Even if they allow them to break the contract they still get a million dollars to hire another one. Makoto is focused on one pilot in particular, Shin Kazama, the only Japanese pilot on the base, and one of the most enigmatic. He doesn't have much to say but he is possibly the best flyer of the whole group. The only things we know about him is that he is utterly miserable working for Aslan and is desperate to get back to a woman in Japan.
As is the problem for most first volume anime dvds that only contain 3 episodes, there is a shortage of material to truly judge the merit of the series. If you enjoyed movies like Top Gun or Stealth or the anime Yukikaze, you'll most likely enjoy Area 88. If dogfighting jets are not your cup of tea, then you would do best to avoid Area 88. The jets are all CG and look quite nice, if a little cold and flimsy, but they make you feel at times as if you are watching a promo video for the latest Ace Combat videogame. The main characters are not given enough space in these episodes to breath and show much individuality. That was Volume 1's main weakness. We don't learn enough about the characters to care about their dreams or hopes for the future or the extreme dangers they find themselves in. I will wait till I watch the other volumes before making an overall judgement about the series.
My Grade: C