Studio Pierrot/King Records, 1985 U.S. Manga Corps., 1994, 1999 Directed by Eikoh Toriumi. Rated 13-Up for violence, mature situations and strong language. by areaseven - http://areaseven.net/ They abandoned God, shook hands with the devil and became mercenaries of Hell. Based on the manga by Kaoru Shintani (published in the US by Viz Comics). Shin Kazama had everything going for him: an aviation career at a top Japanese airline and an engagement with the airline president's daughter. That all changed when his best friend tricked him into signing a contract with the government of Asran. Under contract, Shin was now a member of Area 88, a band of ruthless mercenary pilots. There were only three ways to get out of Area 88: 1) serve for three years, 2) earn US$1.5 million, or 3) escape without getting killed. More than a year has passed since Shin joined Area 88. He is close to fulfilling his $1.5 million goal, but despite his exceptional piloting skills, he no longer wants to kill. Making matters worse is his plane getting totaled, resulting in him losing $500,000 for a new one. It will be a long way before Shin can go home. Story: A- Like Mobile Suit Gundam, Area 88 is a very anti-hero story. There are no real heroes or villains here; just mercenaries killing others merely to get their pay. Despite some slow moments, the story is excellent. Too bad only one episode is out on DVD. Animation: B The animation style may be very dated, but the artwork still looks impressive. Characters look very much like Leiji Matsumoto's (Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express 999) art and the fighter planes are well-detailed. The dogfight scenes paved way for other great fighter plane anime titles like The Cockpit, Macross Plus and Sento Yosei Yukikaze. Soundtrack: B Area 88 uses an adequate orchestral score mixed with some early '80s music. It sounds good, but just doesn't really warrant a CD purchase. Sub vs. Dub Area 88 features the late Kaneto Shiozawa (Rei in Fist of the North Star, Kirin in Ranma 1/2: Big Trouble in Nekonron, China) as Shin, Kei Toriyama (Susumu in Space Battleship Yamato, Tochiro in Arcadia of My Youth) as Mick, Sakiko Tamagawa (Natsumi in You're Under Arrest, Yoshito Yasuhara as Satoru, Sakura in Blue Seed) as Ryoko, Toshio Furukawa (Ataru in Urusei Yatsura, Kai in Mobile Suit Gundam) as Bucksey, Tessho Genda (Sanders in Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, Dastun in The Big-O) as Boris, Iemasa Kayumi (Puppet Master in Ghost in the Shell) as McCoy, Takumi Kamiyama as Greg, and Mikio Terashima (Zanzibal in Voltes V, Berg Katse in Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman) as Ryoko's father. Majority of Central Park Media's English dubs suck, and Area 88 is no exception. DVD Extras: C- As with other CPM titles, Area 88 includes a "Meet the Cast" section. There's also a section where you can view explosive scenes from the OAV episode. The script and other production notes can be accessed on your DVD-ROM drive. The Bottom Line The original Top Gun of anime, Area 88 is one of the better anti-hero titles out there. Highly recommended for any aviation buff. Unfortunately, Central Park Media only released one episode on DVD. You can either wait for them to release the other two episodes or pick up the bootleg DVD (which seems to be better).