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Area 88 (TV)
(All in all, a "Buy" if you are both an aviation and an anime otaku, and a "Rent" if you are only one or the other)|
I went into this series with a strange mixture of eagerness and skepticism--eagerness for the awesome computer generated jet dogfights which I'd seen previews of, and skepticism about whether this remake could equal the overall quality of the excellent 1985 OVA series (if it's not broke...). When it comes to the characters and plot, I found something had definitely been changed from the OVAs. Whereas in 1985 the story was told by Shin, who acted as narrator, what motivates him in the remake is initially a mystery which is slowly revealed. Back then, he deeply regretted having to kill in order to earn his release from Area 88 and return to his girlfriend. Now, he puts it like this:
"Ryoko, know that I will make it back to you, no matter how much blood must stain these two hands".
Certain characters, like Makoto, Kim and Kitri, were created entirely for this remake and have no counterparts in either the OVAs or manga. It gradually dawned on me that I sort of liked this approach; instead of trying to improve on the already excellent OVAs, which would almost certainly have been a losing battle, this series provides some completely original stories which include both new characters and the old ones I'd grown to love. I hear the author of the manga granted the staff behind this TV series permission to make considerable changes (I haven't read the manga itself). As such, I came to consider each new episode to be a treasure, not to be watched while I was either tired or stressed-out, since that would rob me of some of my enjoyment. Of course, there was no guarantee they would completely live up to my hopes, and some were a bit disappointing. But one element which did meet my expectations were the aerial combat scenes--they were pretty good twenty years ago, but computer graphics are just the ticket for depicting fast moving, three-dimensional action. The maneouvres the pilots employ are often not exactly technically plausible (neither were they in the OVAs) but the awesome manner in which they are depicted makes them a joy nevertheless. One thing that I found unrealistic was the way planes tended to fireball in midair; it was as if the entire plane was vaporized instantaneously, whereas I expected to see chunks of blazing wreckage tumbling forwards, carried by kinetic energy (At least once, however, they finally got it right). Most of the time when planes fly in formation it's portrayed realistically--i.e., no two planes are moving in exactly the same direction or at exactly the same speed. At least once, however, there was some corner cutting and six planes were flying together as if some invisible steel bars had locked them together. Oh well... Kudos for the wide range of aircraft that are depicted, especially the manner in which the rebels upgrade from Mig-17s to -21s to -23s. Given the decidedly less tragic and dramatic tone of this series versus the OVAs, I was certain the conclusion would take the easy way out and go for a feel good, happy-ever-after ending. In fact, I'm impressed how well things wrapped up--no doubt more than a few people would actually prefer this ending over that of the OVAs. By the way, apparently ADV has bought up the 1985 OVA series as well, which suggests that Area 88 TV has been selling well.
Last updated Monday, February 04 2008. Created Sunday, December 25 2005.