Manga Reviews

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Area 88

Area 88
By Kaoru Shintani
Licensed by Viz

Topic: War

Shin Kazama was a foreign student who transfered to Japan to study flying at Yamato Airlines. In the process, he fell in love with the company president's daughter, Ryoko. Unfortunately for him, his "friend" Kanzaki is also interested in her because it's his ambition to one day own his own airline. After drinking on night, Kanzaki dupes Shin into signing an agreement to become a soldier. Shin's rudely awakened the next morning and dragged off to Area 88, a mercenary group in North Africa.

It is now two years later, Shin has been flying a jet and killing people for the last couple years. In the process he's come to learn harsh truths about the world, none more startling than the fact that any of his "fellow pilots" will leave him hanging if they get a shot at a bigger target. At Area 88, the mercanaries are paid based on kills, and they have to pay for their own fuel, ammunition, and plane. Shin has been desperately saving up money to earn his freedom and return to Japan. But will he manage to buy his freedom before he runs out of luck? And how will his experiences in each battle shape his outlook on the future?

Area 88 is a loose collection of stories about missions Shin has to go on, and the things he sees. It's dissimilar from your typical mangas which try to tell stories, rather it focuses more on social and psychological commentary. The reader gets to see the harshness of Shin's world, a world where the only person he can truly trust is himself. As various other characters are introduced then rapidly killed, the reader begins to feel the loss that Shin has to go through on a daily basis. Interestingly, Shin's personality does not change that much throughout the series (as he's already been there for 2 years). Rather, it's the reader's outlook on Shin's personality that changes as we begin to understand him. In some ways, this can be viewed as a bad thing (the character does not really evolve) yet in my opinion, it's necessary for this type of manga.

The character art is interesting, with very expressive faces but extremely plain bodies. The background art on the otherhand, is often elaborate with highly detailed pictures of the various planes Shin and his compatriots pilot. Overall, I enjoyed this manga but it's bittersweet at best. If you want to try a manga that does not try to escape from reality, give Area 88 a shot.

Rating: 8.0/10.0


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