In the early 1980s, a war is raging in Arslan, a fictional Middle Eastern kingdom. Mercenary fighter pilots from all over the world are hired or shanghaied to fight. They live in a secret desert airbase called Area 88.
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A young pilot who is the fiance of the daughter of the owner of a airline is tricked into enlisting as a mercenary fighter pilot for a small nation's airforce by a malicious false friend. Now he battles to earn the money necessary to buy his freedom before he truly loses his humanity in the horror of war.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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"Area 88" (1985) is a four-part anime series, totaling about three hours, that was one of the very first wave of OAV (Original Animated Video) series in Japan. Based on a manga series by Kaoru Shintani ("Cleopatra D.C."), it's a Foreign Legion-type tale updated to cover a civil war in a middle eastern kingdom ("Asran") and focusing on Shin Kazama, a young pilot from Yamato Airlines who's been shanghaied and forced to serve out a three-year contract with Asran's mercenary air force. While he spends his days shooting rebel planes out of the air (the more kills the sooner he gets out), his girlfriend Ryoko is back in Tokyo, baffled by his disappearance and courted by Shin's former best friend and fellow Yamato pilot, Kanzaki, who engineered Shin's abduction.
The series' chief draw is the action animation, particularly the aerial combat. While the character design is fairly simple, the fighter jets are meticulously detailed and animated frame by frame with painstaking efforts. This is all done in full-blown 1980s hand-drawn-and-painted anime style with bold lines, bright colors and intricate action. The results are quite breathtaking and rival the best mecha/giant robot animation of the decade. And, thankfully, there are enough such sequences throughout to keep viewers enthralled even during the slow spots. One memorable sequence has two of the mercenary pilots fly up to meet a jumbo jet and figure out how to disarm--in mid-flight--a pair of bombs strapped to its underside.
Also impressive is the level of detail applied even to the interior scenes. There's a scene at a corporate cocktail party in Tokyo where Ryoko and her father's secretary take a moment to relax and, in the process, notice a photo spread in Life Magazine that gives them a clue to Shin's whereabouts. Every detail in the scene--the fashions, the decor, the magazines, and the way the women move, sit and relax--is just so well executed that one dares to call the scene realistic.
Act I, "The Blue Skies of Betrayal," establishes the characters and provides flashbacks to their various backgrounds. Act 2, "The Requirements of Wolves," thickens the plot, involves the characters back in Tokyo more, and gives Shin the hope of finally getting out. Act III, "Burning Mirage," combines the original Japanese Parts 3 & 4 into one release and shows things coming to a head between Kanzaki and Ryoko in Tokyo while Shin undergoes a climactic crisis in the desert.
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