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Manga: Area 88

"It's not just a job, it's an indenture."
Tagline for a showing of Area 88 at the MIT Anime club.

Area 88 is a manga by Kaoru Shintani that ran from 1979-1986. It is the story of Shin Kazama, a brilliant Japanese pilot tricked into enlisting in the Foreign Legion mercenary air force of the generally Middle Eastern or North African kingdom of Aslan, sometime in the early 80s or late 70s. Aslan is in the middle of a civil war between two brothers contending for the throne, and Shin and the other pilots at the titular airbase are at the front lines of the war.

The story starts with the arrival of a Japanese photojournalist (Goh "Rocky" Mutsugi in the manga and OVA; Makoto Shinjo in the TV series) at the isolated base. He has been pursuing rumours of a Japanese mercenary pilot and finds him along with some great photographs. Shin's story is told as he remembers how he came to be trapped in this hell on earth.

Shin and his childhood best friend, Satoru Kanzaki, were trainee pilots for Yamato Airlines, and both of them seemed to be headed for the top. Shin had even caught the eye of the beautiful daughter of the CEO, Ryoko Tsugumo. But one day, while celebrating the end of a training trip to France, a jealous Kanzaki tricks a drunken Shin into signing a contract to join Aslan's military. He is picked up by 'recruiters' the next morning. Now he's forced to risk his life every day in a war that means nothing to him, and he has only three ways out:
  1. Serve and survive the three years of his contract.
  2. Buy out the contract by earning $1.5 million from the bounties on the targets he destroys — while having to pay for his fuel, ammunition, and the repairs to his fighter. And new fighters, more than once.
  3. Desert from the base in the middle of the desert, and face pursuit and execution if caught.

Along the way, he must deal with the blood on his hands and the horrors of war.

Among Shin's comrades at the base are: Mickey Simon, an American Vietnam War veteran who flies an F-14 (until it was shot down in the manga); Greg Gates, a masochistic Dane; and Saki Vashtal, the base commander, and a member of Aslan's royal family. These are the longest lived of the pilots still at the base.

Back in Japan, Kanzaki begins courting Ryoko in Shin's place. He also rises through the ranks of Yamato Airlines, eventually managing to acquire control from Ryoko's father through an underhanded business deal and stock purchased by proxies. Ryoko, by chance, sees a photo of Shin in a magazine and embarks on a quest to find him. Kanzaki becomes determined to either stop Ryoko or ensure Shin's death.

Area 88 was one of the earliest manga to be released Stateside. Eclipse Comics and VIZ Media published the series as single chapters each about the size of standard comic book, but stopped after 42 chapters (perhaps a quarter of the whole series), though it continued (but was not completed) in the Animerica magazine. A fan translation of the final twelve issues is available here.

Shintani started his career as an assistant to Leiji Matsumoto, and the influence clearly shows in his character designs and more humourous panels.

A three-episode OVA was produced in 1985; the first two episodes were also released as a compilation movie in Japan. Central Park Media released the OVAs on VHS, but only released the first episode on DVD before their license expired. ADV Films finally released both the compilation movie and the final OVA on DVD in 2006. There was also a 12-episode TV series released in 2004. ADV also released this version. But with the disbanding of ADV, both the OVA, the TV series are unlicensed in the English-speaking world.

A arcade Shoot 'em Up (Horizontal Scrolling Shooter) featuring Shin, Mickey, and Greg was made by Capcom and later ported to the SNES. The game was released Stateside as U.N. Squadron and shares very little with the series (although it did use bounties as a way for the player to buy Power Ups between levels). The arcade version featured three different types of planes assigned for each character: Shin flew the F-20, Mickey the F-14, and Greg the A-10. The SNES version differentiated characters by how quickly they leveled up the main weapon and how quickly they recovered from damage; all characters started with the same plane (the F-8E Crusader, Shin's starting plane in the series). It also eschewed the arcade's linear stage progression with an expanding mission map, the ability to buy other planes (including the Tomcat and Thunderbolt), and moving stages such as supply convoy raids and bomber interceptions. It got an Spiritual Successor in the shape of Carrier Airwing, when Capcom lost the rights of the manga along the way.


Area 88 contains examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaksfrom Reality: Even at the time of this story's setting, the days of the Foriegn Legion just accepting anyone off the street, No Questions Asked, were long over. There would have been no story if the Foreign Legion worked in this manga the same way it does in real life.
    • In real life, it's not so easy to be tricked into signing up for the Foreign Legion. They have to actually "accept" you before you sign anything. In the real world, they would have noticed that the man who brought them a signed contract isn't the same man that they are picking up to collect. For such an important contract, the instant you sign your contract is usually the moment that you go through the gates. And that's usually not done in a bar with no witnesses or notary present. It's typically done at the Legion's office, albeit we should take into account this is the Aslan Foreign Legion, not the French one, so they maybe had their own different rules over the real one.
      • They very much do have different ones. The French absolutely would not tolerate a good half of what goes on in the book, both morally and certainly in terms of professionalism and performance. The Aslan factions on the other hand are nowhere near as good.
    • Planes and ammunition don't cost a whole lot in this story. Albeit they are using dated aircraft much of the time, but in real life, even older aircraft will cost at least a few million dollars. Missiles each can cost tens of thousands of dollars, some (like the Sparrow or Sidewinder) a few hundred thousand apiece. So for the real world price of a replacement, missiles, and ammo, Shin could've easily bought out his 1.5 million dollar contract many times over. It also raises the question: since mercenaries are required to buy all their equipment, how was Shin, a mere airline student, able to afford to purchase the plane and armaments he started with in the first place?
    • In the manga, Area 81 is destroyed by a nuclear missile. Later in the manga, Area 88 is abandoned after Farina's nuclear weapon detonates nearby, forcing the pilots and staff to relocate to an undergound base. In 1979, the successful use of nukes would have made the news worldwide, turning all eyes in the world to Asran, and probably putting an end to their civil war. No nuclear weapon has ever been used in war since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the first and last time since. The anime adaptation, instead, depicts Area 81 as being wiped out by the Wolfpack squadron in a conventional bombing/strafing run.
    • A real life Mafia Don would have handled Kanzaki's assasination request by having him go through an intermediary underling, not directly Farina himself. The real Mafia has levels of insulation to keep the boss from being directly accountable for any such criminal activities.
    • Given what Abdael was trying to accomplish, a putsch or a junta would have made far more sense. The common people would have most certainly gotten behind any plans to make their country a lot richer. And he could have seized Asran from his brother with little effort. Of course, this would have involved mostly forming his own political party, making speeches and drawing the support of the common people with his vision for the future (after all, it worked for Hitler). But these are not as dramatic and drawn out as a civil war.
  • Ace Pilot: Shin, Mickey, Saki, many, many others.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Shin is a blonde in the manga, TV series, and video game, but brunette in the OVA. Ryoko's hair also turns from lavender to more pink.
  • Airstrike Impossible: That base with the Fang and the canyon mission, among others. The mercenaries are often assigned such missions to keep regular air force casualties down.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Near the end of the manga, Saki finds Abdael dying outside of Soria's tomb. Abdael tells Saki that Soria was put in a cryogenic chamber after Rishar's birth, when she was near death. Abdael dies thinking that his beloved wife died when the tomb was set on fire. Saki carries his father's body into the tomb, then shoots himself.
    Abdael: Saki ... I wonder what on earth we have been doing ...
    • In manga that did not make it stateside, Nguyen tells Mickey about his traumatic birth and violent life while he is dying. Mickey is moved to tears.
    • After Mickey fought against his ex-wingman in the TV series.
  • All That Glitters: One manga chapter (and an episode of the TV series) has the pilots excited over radio transmissions that mention an enemy convoy carrying gold. It turns out to be a General Gold, the enemy's top tactician. Also, Greg burned half of the man's papers and blew his nose with the other half. Saki is not amused.
  • Alternate Character Reading: Shin and Makoto have names written with the same character in the TV series. Both men comment on it in the first episode.
  • Alternate Continuity: The manga, OVA, and TV series all have different endings and plotlines. The video games have no continuity.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: In the 2004 TV anime, Shin speaks only when necessary and has a blunted affect. He's socially awkward, as seen with how he interacts with Ryoko in flashbacks. Finally, he's aloof and detached from the other pilots at Area 88, and only slightly less so with friends such as Kim and Mickey. He demonstrated this behavior before his time at Area 88, so it can't be attributed to depression or war trauma.
    • In the TV anime, Mickey has a somewhat bipolar temperament. He can be cheerful and gregarious in some situations, and extremely angry at other times. He's prone to violence, as demonstrated when he punches Makoto Shinjou in the first episode and beats him within an inch of his life in the last episode. It's not clear if this is Mickey's default personality or a result of his war trauma.
    • In all continuities, Kanzaki demonstrates a complete lack of empathy, disregard for the lives and rights of others, disregard for the law, a lack of remorse, and a talent for lying and deception. He fits the DSM-IV diagnosis for antisocial personality disorder, but he is never given a diagnosis in the story.
  • Anyone Can Die: Area 88 has a very very high casualty rate.
  • Arms Dealer: McCoy and Farina.
  • Attack Drone: The Harriers and F/A-18 Hornets launched by the desert carrier (see Military Mashup Machine below) and the tanks supporting it are all robotic.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: Rocky is picked up by one after his chopper crashes in the manga. Sorta...he has to fight the chief, who suspects him of being a spy for the anti-government forces that killed half his tribe. Rocky wins with a Barehanded Blade Block, badly cutting his hand in the process.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: In the final issue of the manga, Kanzaki dies in an aerial duel with Shin as Julianna gives birth to Kanzaki's son.
  • Bishōnen: Saki and Shin to varying degrees across the adaptations, as well as Kim in the manga and TV series. And Saki's brother Risaal in the manga.
  • Bland-Name Product: Yamato Airlines (not Japan Airlines).
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The trio of African mercenaries who specialize in hunting down deserters is known as the "Escape Killers". One speculates they actually mean "Escapee Killers" but it still sounds awkward. This is probably why the VIZ/Eclipse translation just decides to call them "The Enforcers".
  • Blood from the Mouth: Used in the manga and OVA to denote serious injury among the pilots.
  • Bodyguard Babes: Saki's private soldiers in the manga.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The OVA; the Area 88 pilots refuse the chance to flee the conquering rebel forces in favor of one last battle.
  • Boom, Headshot: In the third episode of the OVA, one of Shin's subordinates loses his sight and goes into a berserk rampage. A 20mm round happens to fly through his head for a Boom, Headshot.
  • Calling Your Attacks: In a slightly odd example, brevity codes (Fox Two, Guns, and Splash X, most often) were added to the English dub of the TV series, possibly to fit American expectations from other media. The Japanese dialogue omits them.
  • Canon Foreigner: Makoto and Kitori from the TV series.
    • Kitori may have been an expy of Sela from the manga.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: The manga, thanks to its shojo art style. Shin, Mickey, Saki, Rishar, Kim ... it's easy to lose count.
  • Captain Crash: In the manga (and to a lesser extent, the OVA), Shin manages to crash just about every plane he flies: the Crusader, the Draken, the Kfir, and the Tiger II all wind up in pieces. And that's just in the part that managed to get Stateside.
  • Christmas Cake: Yasuda Taeko, Ryoko's loyal secretary, who is unmarried at 28 and quite sensitive about the fact. Pursued by bald cake eater Sawa.
  • Civil War: Asran is in the throes of a civil war between pro-government forces led by King Zak and anti-government forces led by his brother, Prince Abdael.
  • Colonel Badass: Saki is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Aslan air force.
  • Coming In Hot: While it's not an aircraft carrier, pilots regularly try to land damaged fighters at Area 88. It typically doesn't end well; about the best that happened in the 2003 series was that Kitori went off the runway, collapsed her nose gear, and damaged her Mirage. The worst was a classic Disaster Dominoes when a damaged A-4 tried to land without jettisoning his ordnance: he blew up on the runway, spewing live 250lb-bombs everywhere, which also blew up, destroying most of the base's supply stores.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Many of the Area 88 mercenaries.
  • Conflict Ball: In the manga, it seems implausible to have Shin enter temporary psychosis because he learns that Kanzaki is flying a civilian plane in the vicinity of Asran. Nor is it plausible to have him attack said plane, then attack Saki and Mickey after he's detained back at Area 88.
  • Conspicuous CG: The fighters in the TV series. Varies somewhat, they actually are cel-shaded.
  • Cool Boat: In manga issues that did not make it stateside, Asran government forces acquire an aircraft carrier. Mickey is right at home.
  • Cool Plane: Quite a few drawn from the Real Life list, though it should be remembered that the F-15, F-16, F-18, and A-10 were the latest aircraft and had just entered service at the time.
  • Cool Shades, almost to the point of Sunglasses at Night: Saki in the TV series; other characters flirt with them in other continuities, including Sawa in the manga.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Kanzaki later in the series.
  • Dodge by Braking and Aerial Canyon Chase
  • Downer Ending: the OVA shows two, because one is not enough. Shin, free at last, is so unfit for civilian life that he forfeits his romantic plans on Ryoko and returns to Area 88 in his warplane... just as, after the war is lost, his companions charge into a last desperate battle. The tragedy of Ryoko, left alone against Kanzaki, remains implied.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: It's hinted in the TV series that Shin does this privately. In manga issues that did not make it stateside, Shin drinks heavily to cope with his war trauma after leaving Area 88 and returning to Paris.
    • In the manga, Greg does this once after the deaths of several fellow pilots.
    • In the manga, Kanzaki gets drunk after a Yamato Airlines plane crashed into Tokyo bay.
  • During the War
  • '80s Hair: Well, Seventies. Justified in that the original series is actually set in that period.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: In manga that did not make it stateside, Area 88 is abandoned after Farina's nuclear weapon detonates nearby. (It's reoccupied later.) The pilots and staff are relocated to a subterranean base inside a mountain.
  • Evil Cripple: Farina, who is confined to a wheelchair.
  • Evil Old Folks: Farina in the manga and OVA.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Roundel in the TV series; Hoover and Ryoko's father in the manga.
  • Fanservice: Ryoko gets a nude scene in the OVA, not to mention several nude scenes in the manga. Several other female characters, including Taeko and Sela, deliver fan service in the manga too.
    • Mr. Fanservice: Several male characters have shirtless scenes in the manga, namely Shin and Mickey. Mickey is sometimes shown with his shirt partially unbuttoned.
  • Fighter Launching Sequence: Shown from time to time in all continuities whenever a large-scale sortie is ordered. Direct attacks on Area 88 itself are relatively rare.
  • Flashback
  • Foil: In the final OVA installment, Shin encounters two characters fitting this trope. First, there's Nguyen, another Asian pilot who enjoys committing acts of brutality and calls Shin out when he objects. Then, Shin gets called in to visit another Japanese pilot who unwillingly signed on with Asran and is on death row for an escape attempt; he requested to see the face of his countryman who agreed to go along with this before he died.
    • In the manga, Mario serves as a foil for Shin. Mario is a cocky, arrogant pilot who thinks battle is glorious, whereas Shin sees war as anything but. Mario and Hoover are also foils for each other.
  • Germanic Depressive: Hoover Kippenburg in the manga, who blamed himself for the accidental deaths of several pilots during a training exercise back in Europe. Played with in that he can have a pleasant demeanor.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Saki has a large X-shaped scar on his forehead. He carved it himself as penance for certain actions early in the war. On the evil side, Nguyen has a face full of scars.
  • Guy in Back: Mickey flies his F-14 solo because he never uses the long-range weapons and therefore doesn't need an RIO. Something similar might be in effect for the F-4s that fly out of Area 88.
    • Mickey actually does carry and fire Sparrows in the 2003 series, so apparently his F-14A has been modified to allow it.
    • One episode has Rocky flying in the back of one of the F-4s to get combat footage with his camera (works better in the Manga than the Anime).
  • Handicapped Badass: "Iron Hand" Campbell, who flies his jet with a hook hand and a prosthetic leg.
  • Heel-Face Turn: In manga issues that did not make it stateside, Julianna was romantically involved with Kanzaki and a member of the Project 4 arms network. However, when she discovered Soria's cryogenic chamber, she could not bring herself to harm the unconscious Soria. Julianna made it appear that Soria's tomb had been burned, then fled with Soria's cryogenic chamber and abandoned Project 4.
    • Also in manga issues that did not make it stateside, Sela. Originally a Project 4 mercenary pilot, she abandons Project 4 and joins the Area 88 mercenaries, even becoming Mickey's love interest.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Mickey and Shin develop this kind of dynamic. Most visible in the manga, when (after a Shin has a momentary Heroic BSOD during an encounter with an airliner carrying both Ryoko and Kanzaki) Mickey gives Saki (who is considering executing Shin) a very thinly veiled threat about the consequences of doing so — i.e., friendly fire.
    • Ryoko and Taeko as well.
  • Highly Conspicuous Uniform: Several of the pilots wear brightly-colored flightsuits in the OVA and TV series.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: Doesn't always work and the G forces involved wind up killing Mario.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Base quartermaster McCoy sells everything from fighter jets to toilet paper — and is not above shady practices. Like leaving Rocky's bag out in the sun to spoil his film, or selling defective Sidewinders at $20 each.
  • Human Popsicle: In manga issues that did not make it stateside, Soria (Saki's mother) was placed in a cryogenic chamber until a treatment for her blood cancer became available. The public was told that she died in childbirth.
  • I Don't Know Mortal Kombat: From the flashback scenes with Ryoko. Shin screams like a little girl on roller coasters (Ryoko even calls him on it).
  • Informed Attribute: Asran is said to be a poor country, hence it's need to hire already trained mercenaries. However, in the manga, they seem to be able to easily afford at various times, 10 KFIR fighters, Saki's personal F-15 Eagle, a B-1 Bomber, and an Aircraft carrier. Also, at the beginning of the Wolfpack story arc when all the bases planes are destroyed by a suprise attack, when Saki is trying to convince his ten handpicked pilots to obey his orders unquestionably for two months, he offers them free replacement aircraft (the Kfirs), the usual prize money for kills, and to pay for all of their fuel, ammo, and maintenance costs for that period. For a country that prides itself in not capitalizing on its potentially lucrative oil deposits, Asran's got a lot of money to spend on state of the art military hardware, many of which, at the time, would have been out of the reach the of even the more established nations in the area, such as Egypt, Chad, and Libya.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: At one point in the manga and OVA, Shin and Mickey shoot bombs off the underside of an airliner. While flying upside down to keep their tails from hitting it. In an episode of the TV series, the entire base is nearly locked down by a single sniper. Shin also shoots down an Atoll missile with his fighter's cannon. Kitori lampshades the improbablity of this with her wondering remark after she lands. And then does it herself later on.
    • That being said, targeting the Atoll with his guns was an act of desperation on Shin's part; arguably, it was more luck than skill. Ditto for Kitori.
  • In Medias Res
  • Intrepid Reporter: Rocky
  • Jerkass: Kanzaki in all versions and Makoto Shinjo (the TV series' photographer)
    • The jury's out on Makoto, who ends up turning on Kanzaki and ratting him out to Ryoko.
  • Karmic Death: Nguyen, who killed an ejected enemy pilot with gunfire and died the same way after running out of ammo for his guns.
    • In the manga, Mario was an arrogant aerobatic pilot who constantly bragged about his skill. He died while performing an outer loop for which his aerobatic training failed to prepare him.
    • In the last issue of the manga, Shin kills Kanzaki in an aerial duel in his capacity as a mercenary pilot. This was fitting, since Kanzaki tricked Shin into signing a mercenary contract in the first place.
  • Kill 'em All: Many of the characters are dead by the end of the manga, including Saki, Mickey, Sela, Greg, Warren, Kanzaki, and Abdael.
  • Legion of Lost Souls: If the series was not inspired by the French Foreign Legion, This Troper will eat his comics. And some of these souls are seriously lost. Naturally, Shin was in Paris when he was tricked into signing his contract.
  • Liberty Over Prosperity: In the OVA, Saki tells Shin that his grandfather was a progressive, but objected to using foreign capital to develop Asran.
    • In the manga, Saki explains to Mickey that Asran doesn't export its oil because of the problems that would erupt from foreign capital.
    • Abdael rejects this approach. Part of the reason why he initiated Asran's civil war was because he wanted to use foreign capital to develop Asran.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: In the manga and OVA, Asran's pro-monarchy forces are not the good guys. The Asran monarchy lives in luxury while Asran struggles with poverty and a poor educational system. Saki is willing to use nuclear weapons in the country's civil war. Many of the mercenaries at Area 88 are amoral or outright sociopathic. However, members of Asran's monarchy have sympathetic moments, as do many of the mercenaries. With the exception of Rishar, the anti-government forces are depicted as much worse, committing atrocities against civilians and collaborating with Farina's mafia.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Fortunately, most do not live long enough to need remembering.
  • Lost Aesop: The initial message in the manga is that war is senseless, destructive, and traumatizing to everyone it touches. In manga issues that did not make it stateside, however, when pro-monarchy and anti-government forces team up to war against Project 4, it's depicted as glorious.
  • Love Hurts: Shin and Ryoko are deeply pained at being apart. Ironically, Shin abandons Ryoko in favor of returning to Area 88 in the OVA, and breaks her heart several times in manga issues that did not make it stateside.
    • After Mickey returned from Vietnam, his then-girlfriend Tracy could see that he was not the same man. In a manga flashback scene, she delivers a tearful exposition about the tormented man he's become. They break off their engagement, and Mickey becomes a mercenary soon after.
    • In the manga and OVA, Mickey feels very conflicted when he meets Tracy and her new husband, years after their breakup.
    • In the manga, Sawa is heartbroken when Taeko turns down his marriage proposal and slaps him.
  • Lowered Recruiting Standards: The Asran foreign legion is desperate for fighting men, so it tends to overlook flaws in potential mercenaries, such as inexperience, criminal backgrounds, or psychopathology.
    • They're not too concerned about lack of consent (in Shin's case) or age (in Kim's case) either.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The planes, at least in the OVA; they're usually destroyed in unique and lovingly animated ways.
  • Meganekko: Yasuda Taeko
  • Macross Missile Massacre: some head-on large engagements in the OVA look remarkably like one, but most missiles are shown being shot at most four at a time from specific planes and followed in their individual flight.
  • Military Mashup Machine / Base on Wheels: In the manga, the Mafia builds an aircraft carrier on tracks that can submerge itself in the desert sand. The arcade game features the land carrier and a couple of Airborne Aircraft Carriers.
  • Misplaced Nationalism: In one chapter of the manga, Shin needs a new radio, which immediately starts Mickey and Hoover arguing over the merits of American and West German technology. Naturally, Shin buys a Japanese model.
  • Missile Lock On
  • Mission Briefing
  • Mistaken for Servant: Ryoko first meets Shin at his flight school and takes him for a skycap, asking him to stow her luggage.
  • Mood Whiplash: The OVA goes from dogfighting to a date with Ryoko on a roller coaster, among other examples.
  • Multinational Team: Pilots hail from all over, though primarily from NATO nations. American, Danish, West German, British, and Italian pilots all show up. Also a Vietnamese (albeit from the former South) and a few Africans at one point. In the 2003 series, Kitori shows up to represent Asran and Kim from India. Shin is in Area 88 to represent Japan.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse by way of The Uriah Gambit: Kanzaki tricking Shin into signing the Area 88 contract. Doesn't help him much with Ryoko, though.
  • Mysterious Mercenary Pursuer: The Enforcers in the manga and OVA.
  • Nebulous Evil Organization: Project 4.
  • Noble Fugitive: King Zak at the end of the OVA.
  • Noodle People: Most noticeable in the manga, though some of it also carries over to the OVA. Shintani did start as an assistant to Leiji Matsumoto, after all.
  • Nuke 'em: In the manga, nuclear weapons are used against Aslan bases by the rebels at least twice (the missile aimed at Area 88 was shot down by Shin), and near the end of the American run, Saki is willing to resort to these.
  • Occupiers Out of Our Country: In later manga issues that did not make it stateside, pro-monarchy and anti-government forces both drive Project 4 out of Asran.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: In the manga and OVA, Nguyen kills an enemy pilot who has ejected from his jet. In the manga, Rocky witnesses anti-government forces slaughter an entire Bedoin camp. When Shin and Mickey fly over the desert carnage afterwards, they're both horrified.
  • The Ojou: Ryoko, of course.
  • Parental Abandonment: Shin and Kanzaki are both orphans and Ryoko's mother passed away some time ago. So did Saki's mother. Or did she?
  • Peek-a-Bangs: Shin, especially in the TV series.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The 80s OVA series left out all the hokey sci-fi, comic-booky elements that got added as the manga progressed: land based carriers, laser weapons, Project 4, cryogenics, Asran getting an aircraft carrier...ect. It also avoids the Writer Cop Out of the manga's ending. Fortunately because the manga hadn't ended yet at the time the OVA series were produced.
  • Private Military Contractors: The Wolf Pack. Everyone at Area 88/the anti-government forces to some degree in the 2004 series. Also Mickey's ex-US Navy wingman Patrick Reed.
  • Product Placement: In the manga and OVA, Rocky uses a Nikon camera, whose name is prominently shown a few times. Also, in the OVA, the base cafeteria has a Coke machine complete with red and white logo...which sells 7-UP for some reasonnote .
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The TV series used a techno remix of Bach's "Little Fugue in G Minor" for its opening theme.
  • Qurac: Asran in all continuities; Bambara in manga issues that did not make it stateside.
  • Ramming Always Works: Subverted in the manga when one pilot tries to ram the land carrier's elevator with his critically damaged plane. He misses.
    • Many years ago, Ryoko's father was a Kamikaze pilot in the War, but his plane failed to explode.
  • Rare Vehicles: Shin flies at one point or another an F-20 and an X-29, both prototype or experimental planes. Also, McCoy is somehow able to obtain even the newest and shiniest planes, including an F-14 (Iranian, impounded en route due to the Revolution) and (possibly) an A-10. The TV series cuts the more unlikely examples; Shin's F-20 is replaced by an F-5 (which he also flew in the other versions).
    • In all versions, Shin flies an F-8E Crusader at some point, which is at least two generations out of date when the F-14 is in service. In the manga, he also flies a Saab 35 Draken, a Swedish fighter about the same age as the F-8E (both planes made their maiden flights in 1955). The Crusader's ability to fly with its wings folded is a plot point in all three continuities (they love that Fang).
    • The setting is shortly after the Iranian Revolution, with the OVA showing a date of April 1979 for Shin's contract and takes place over the next three years, while the other continuities are a little vaguer. The Crusader served in Vietnam and had a very good kill record against MiG-17s and MiG-21s (the mainstay of the enemy air force), so it's not as outdated as you might think.
      • In fact the French Navy operated F-8 Crusaders up until 1999, when they replaced them with Rafales. The planes were extensively upgraded and modified (F-8Ps, with p as in "Prolong?-prolonged-; featuring RWR, ILS, new avionics etc...). They used it in actual combat operations (Beirut, Persian Gulf, Kosovo...).
    • A few Draken can also be seen in the TV series, flown by nameless Red Shirts. Somehow, Kim's able to fly and maintain a Harrier.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The F-8 Crusader can and has flown with its wings folded. In fact, it can take off, fly, and land with the wings folded. The first time this happened, it was because the pilot forgot to unfold the wings.
    • The same episode features a giant pop-up barrier being used against low-flying planes. While this is a (very) exaggerated example, stringing up cables to clothesline low-flying planes is a tactic with real historical basis.
  • Red Shirt: Pilots flying A-4 Skyhawks/MiG-17s doesn't always return from missions.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Saki and his relatives on the other side. Subverted for the 2004 series.
  • Sand Is Water
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: In the manga and OVA, Kanzaki's price for purchasing Yamato stock from Ryoko while she raises money to buy out Shin's contract. Fortunately, Taeko and the police intervene just in time, saving Ryoko from having to sleep with Kanzaki.
    Kanzaki (OVA): You're not a child. You know what I want.
  • The Scrounger: McCoy, especially with aircraft.
  • Setting Update: Area 88 can be seen as The Count of Monte Cristo WITH FIGHTER JETS!
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Several of the pilots at Area 88 joined because they were veterans who couldn't adjust to peacetime. Most notably, Mickey. Shin becomes one in the OVA.
  • Shoot the Dog: Shin has to shoot down a member of his own wing who panicked after being blinded at the beginning of the final OVA episode.
  • Shower of Angst: Ryoko when taking up Kanzaki's offer. Taeko manages to get her out of it.
    • In the TV series, Shin muses on his unhappy situation while in the shower.
  • Shown Their Work: Shintani is an avowed airplane otaku and this shows in his art. There are, however, some discrepancies concerning the early operational history of the F-14 and other minor details.
  • Shout-Out: When Shin flashes back to his Paris bender and Kanzaki's betrayal in the manga, the Yamato appears in the background with (presumably) a few of its crew members.
    • That would qualify as self-insertion, Matsumoto based one of the crewmen on his (then) assistant, Shintani.
    • During a flashback to Saki's youth, an airport scene with him and his uncle, has a background cameo appearance by a certain familiar Matsumoto character.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Nguyen in the OVA.
  • Spent Shells Shower: The OVA opens with Shin's Crusader scattering spent casings as he tears up enemy tanks.
  • The Squadette: Kitori from the 2004 anime; Sela from later issues of the manga which did not make it stateside.
  • Stepford Smiler: Mickey may be this in the manga and OVA, veiling his war trauma, regrets, and cynicism with a friendly exterior.
  • Succession Crisis with shades of Cain and Abel: The current King of Aslan is the younger of two brothers. His elder brother created the anti-government forces in response.
  • Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder: The Area 88 mercenaries are meant to fly highly dangerous missions to take pressure off regular Asran forces, as Bowman observes in the OVA. Since many of the mercenaries are veteran soldiers, they're very good at warfare.
  • Tank Goodness: The opening scene of the OVA shows Shin launching an aerial attack on anti-government tanks.
  • Tempting Fate: 2004 TV anime, "We flew with Boris 'The Angel of Death' and survived!" Boris became the only survivor 7 seconds after one of the 3 Mooks accompanying him on the mission said those words.
    • Mickey believes that his old wingman Patrick Reed is happily retired in Oklahoma working at the countryside after the two left the Vietnam War. He was dead wrong when he heard that one of the mercenary fighter pilots downed mentioned Patrick's personal emblem, the red lizard. It was later seen on a MiG-23 Flogger, which made Mickey fear the worst when the two fought each other.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: "How Far to Paradise" from the OVA series.
  • There Are No Therapists: After the Vietnam War, Mickey never got professional help for his war trauma, making it difficult for him to adjust to civilian life. Same with Patrick in the anime series.
    • In the OVA, war trauma left Shin distracted and emotionally disconnected after he left Area 88 and returned to Paris. In the manga, after leaving Area 88 and taking up residence in Paris, Shin drinks heavily to cope with his war trauma. In neither case did he think to seek professional help.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Sawa, who first appeared in the manga as a joke character, later returns throwing assasins off a balcony and carrying a katana under his coat.
    • For that matter, Rocky after his crash in the desert.
    • In the OVA, Shin is not particularly good at defending himself. In the Paris bar scene, the Asran military recruiter throws him to the floor after he denies signing a mercenary contract. Later in the OVA, however, Shin not only stands up to a trio of Paris thugs, but subdues a robber by throwing a knife into his arm.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Shin, who was betrayed by his best friend, forced to give up his lifelong dreams, torn from his girlfriend, forced to kill on a daily basis to survive, and the victim of multiple jet crashes and injuries. No wonder the poor guy has issues!
    • Saki also qualifies. He lost his mother when he was a little boy, but that's just for starters. As an adult, he was betrayed by his father, compelled to fight in a brutal civil war, targeted for assassination attempts, attacked by one of his most trusted men ( Shin), and forced to endure the slow deterioration of his eyesight. No wonder he commits suicide at the end of the manga.
  • True Companions: Somehow, the pilots end up as this in the final OVA episode.
  • Two Men, One Dress: In the manga, Shin (injured feet) and Mickey (injured hands) rob a guard and use this to escape captivity on the Mafia's desert carrier. The man in charge lets them go partly because it's so funny and partly because he's got the planes rigged to self-destruct.
  • Unfriendly Fire: The reason for Charlie the Phoenix's return to Area 88.
  • Violation of Common Sense: The pilots' reaction to a mission briefing that requires them to fly through a narrow, twisting canyon.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Farina, the Mafia boss who built the land carrier in the manga is essentially doing it for the money.
  • War Is Hell: The whole point of the manga and OVA. Shin tells McCoy that he's going to Hell for selling weapons. McCoy responds by saying that he's already there. Shin feels this especially strongly.
  • Wingman: Mickey.
  • X Marks the Hero: Saki isn't the main character, but he has that scar front and center on his forehead. In the manga, it's revealed that he put it there himself after a disastrous attempt to end the war.
  • Yo Yo Plot Point: In manga issues that did not make it stateside, Shin goes through several cycles of leaving and reuniting with Ryoko. The first time, Shin was parted from Ryoko under duress when Kanzaki tricked him into signing a mercenary contract. The second time, Shin broke up with Ryoko over the phone before joining Bosch on an escort mission in Africa. The third time, Shin leaves Ryoko shortly before their wedding to stop Kanzaki and Project 4 back in Asran. The two finally reunite in the last issue of the manga, when Shin's amnesia provides a relationship reset button.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: In the manga, Mickey meets Rishar Vashtal, Saki's brother and a leader among Asran's anti-government forces. Rishar explains the anti-government forces' reasons for engaging in the civil war, showing that both sides of the conflict have legitimate aims. Mickey feels conflicted after meeting Rishar but remains loyal to Area 88.
    Mickey: I didn't want to hear his problems. It'll be harder for me to fight now.

The Area 88 video games (aka U.N. Squadron) contain examples of:

  • Battleship Raid: The final boss of the arcade version is a huge battleship, fought in a way somewhat similar to the Cerberus from Thunder Force III. On a smaller scale, there's the naval battleship Minks and that carrier in the desert.
  • Flunky Boss: The SNES version has the cave boss, a strange machine on the ceiling with a weak spot on the bottom. Trouble is, it has a lot of flamethrowers and homing missile launchers traveling along the conveyor belts below, all of which will fire at you. It's definitely That One Boss for many players.
    • The Desert Carrier and Jungle Fortress launch fighters until the elevators are destroyed.
  • Homing Projectile: Phoenix missiles for the player, launched two at a time, and certain enemy missiles.
  • Horizontal Scrolling Shooter
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Your weapon armaments in the arcade version get pretty hilarious, especially if you're used to the SNES port. One stage lets you buy a pack of 140 missiles, and the final stage allows you to buy a pack of 200 Super Shells.
  • Infinity+1 Sword: The F200 in the SNES port. The most expensive ship, it can use any special weapon and gets more shots of them. Oh, and its main gun can be powered up to level seven, while almost every other plane is capped at level five.
  • Just Plane Wrong: In the SNES port the F-111 can carry the Phoenix missile, which the F-111 (primarily a ground-attack plane, the Phoenix being a dedicated long-range air-to-air missile) never carried. Strangely, the Phoenix is not available on the F-14, the only aircraft to ever utilize the missile in Real Life.
  • Life Meter: The arcade version has a more traditional life meter. In the SNES version, taking damage will lower your life, but not before shortly putting you into "DANGER" mode in which taking a hit will destroy you instantly. If your life drops too low, you will permanently remain in DANGER mode until you die, clear the stage, or restore your life.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Defeating the final boss causes the entire enemy base to start exploding, followed by the player-character having to Outrun the Fireball in the final cutscene.
  • Market-Based Title: The games, originally simply called Area 88, were renamed to U.N. Squadron for some unknown reason. It couldn't exactly be licensing issues, as the names of the characters were kept.
  • Precision H Strike: One of the post-stage quotes in the arcade version is "Go to Hell!"
  • Recursive Ammo: The Seavet submarine launches missiles that release smaller projectiles when shot down. If not shot down, they detonate off-screen and the projectiles rain down across most of the screen.
  • Rewarding Vandalism Deforestation: Destroying all of the destructible trees in the forest stage yields a shield powerup.
  • Smart Bomb: The Mega Crush in the SNES port. Most ships can only carry one of it, except for the F200, which can carry two.
  • Spell My Name with an S: The SNES version of the video game gives Mickey's surname as Scymon.
  • Spread Shot: The Bullup weapon throws out a lot of missiles, and the Thunder Laser is a three-way Lightning Gun
  • Spiritual Sequel: Carrier Air Wing, which had similar graphics, gameplay and missions.
  • Sub System Damage: A number of bosses have weapons that can be disabled by shooting them.
  • Vulnerable Convoy: A source of easy money in the SNES version.
  • Wolfpack Boss: The mission to take down the enemy Wolfpack mercenary squadron has three F-117s as the boss. They have an annoying tendency to sneak up behind you.


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Angel's EggAnime of the 1980sBlue Comet SPT Layzner
ApidyaHorizontal Scrolling ShooterAssault Suits Valken
Are You Alice?MadmanEntertainment/Anime & MangaArgento Soma
Allison and LilliaMilitary and Warfare Anime & MangaArmored Trooper VOTOMS
Arata KangatariCreator/VIZ MediaBastard!!
Arcade Gamer FubukiMangaArea no Kishi
Arcade Gamer FubukiAnimeArgento Soma

alternative title(s): Area 88
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