What They Say:
Japanese ace Shin Kazama was staring at a cozy future at Yamato Airlines, where he was dating the presidents daughter. Instead, hes tricked into signing on as a mercenary and now must serve a three-year hitch or raise $1.5 million to buy his way out.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The third round of episodes 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 in this batch 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 has some great action sequences to them with the fighter craft that are simply exciting. The ninth 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.
While I would have preferred a bit more time spent on Shin and what he’s doing there and working towards resolving it, these episodes 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.