Area 88 (1985): Hell In The Desert

I feel like I am doing some advertisement for a new app that made appearance with this first paragraph, but I watched this OVA series and two other shorter OVA series on the new RetroCrush app. It’s a brand-new app whose purpose is to just collect older anime together in one spot and it’s absolutely free. I think it’s only available in North America right now though, which is sad. It’s been noticed that a lot of these titles are on other streaming services, but I think putting them together into one free service means something though. If anything, it’s really cool just to have a designated place to watch older animes More retro anime appear on it everyday. This app appearing what what made me want to watch Area 88 after who knows how long? Now where is my check? Oh, I’m not getting one? Awww.

Area 88 takes place in the desert of the fake, warn torn country of The Kingdom of Arslan in the middle east. It’s a country torn apart in a large civil war and since the country doesn’t have the time to recruit and train a new air force, they’ve created a foreign legion of pilots fight for though. This specific foreign legion is cut into parts into areas and it just happens that the main one we focus on is Area 88. A place where men go to earn money, fight, and most likely die. There are other options to surviving. Killing enough planes to earn the $1.5 million to escape, last the three-year contract and then leave, or desertion. As you would expect, the last one is the most undesired because if you are found, you die for a capital offense. Still, that leaves you the left the most morally clean.

Shin Kazuma

With that, enter Shin Kazuma. A former, up-and-coming Airline pilot until he drunkenly was recruited into the foreign legion by his lifelong friend, Satoru Kanzaki. Or you know, Shin just casually signed a document which he thought was for him to just stay and sleep in the bar he was drunk in a foreign country. Very smart. This happened mainly out of jealousy for Shin having everything he wanted. A girlfriend named Ryoko Tsumugo who loves him, a solid career with Shin top of his piloting field, and everything else. So yeah, the story is about Shin Kazuma’s will to survive and trying his best to find a way home while having the morale decisions of whether killing for only monetary gain is right. It’s like taking one theme from a mecha show like Gundam and creating a plot out of it. It might have some predictable results, but it’s still interesting to watch for a lot of reasons.

That’s not what else is going on though. There is a large cast of colorful characters at Area 88 which provide a lot of screen time and also show how people are affected by this war and war in general. For instance, McCoy is a greedy dealer of weapons and everything else who uses every means necessary for funding to continue going his way. Prince Saki Vasuthal is a fighter pilot and leader of the people in Area 88. He has a very large, personal stake for his own side in the war represented by this base. The last main character of note at Area 88 is Shin’s best friend Mickey Simon. This series takes place in the early 80’s, so he’s an American Vietnam War vet who wasn’t comfortable with civilian life. Instead, he decided to live through fighting or dying. There are other characters, but they aren’t important. I do like their presence though.

The war does get more and more desperate for this group. Of course, that is only seen in the constantly raising stakes of the missions themselves and how much everyone is getting paid as a result of them. They did get attacked by another foreign legion once, but that was just used to show how good our pilot’s skills are. Nothing ever feels that desperate until the last two flights because base life stays the same. On the other hand, the home front that Shin Kazuma doesn’t know about gets worse. Kanzaki takes over the airline company through a foreign means and extorts everything he can for more money. Even Ryoko who just wants to know if Shin Kazuma is a live or can come home maybe. I’m just saying that there is a lot of moving parts in this OVA series.

The visuals themselves are where I question the morality of this OVA a little bit. I’m just going to say it now, there are some more then beautiful dog fights in this anime. There is so much effort to animating these realistic jets in all sorts of dog fights that it must be because it’s the animator’s fetish. Not that there is everything wrong or original about that considering 80’s animators love technology to death. Here is the question, do lovingly animated dog fights match up to the antiwar exploration and tone of the OVA itself? Can we blame these animators for wanting to draw these awesome dog fights with every single detail they can? A lot of moral questions being thrown in the mix here that can really move or push the boundaries of your likability for this anime? I try to go for both myself, but not completely sure here.

In general, this ova is good. It’s pretty obvious to see what the OVA is doing with its character writing and story, but that doesn’t in anyway make it bad. Predictable is ok as long as it’s interesting in my eyes and Area 88 is very interesting. In fact, I think the OVA actually makes it more interesting because of the realism of the jets in display. Satoru isn’t that interesting of a villain, but he doesn’t have to be. Or you know, just has it be realistic because some people are just jerks who just want more. The world has proven itself that bad people don’t need vastly strong backstory reasons to do what they do. Jealousy is enough to drive anyone crazy. The morality of the animation vs the story telling you have to decide yourself, but I am personally fine with it because it at least brings home how realistic this situation could be. If you can picture yourself flying in a jet and possibly d


  1. I’ve been hearing about Retro Crush recently and that’s one thing I would like to check out. Area 88 does sound interesting. I know there’s also a remake TV series out there, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Never watched this one, but I did play the arcade game based on it, UN Squadron. Not that I was any good at it, but I do remember it.

    Retro Crush unfortunately isn’t available in the Playstation app store yet, so it looks like I’ll have to wait and hope it gets there eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I keep hearing about this game thing and maybe I need to find it somewhere.

      Yeah, I feel like it’s always in progress because it’s new. I mean, the website just became available recently


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