These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
In the manga and OVA, are the mercenaries tormented souls who became soldiers of fortune to escape their tragic pasts? Or are they hypocrites who are using their dark and troubled pasts as cheap excuses to engage in warfare they know is immoral? Or was entering the Asran foreign legion more exciting that just getting therapy for their traumas?
Is Shin a reluctant warrior with a heartbreaking backstory, or a jerkass who abandoned his girlfriend and threw away his moral compass in the end?
Is Ryoko a beautiful example of undying loyalty and love, an immature idealist who is loving a shadow, or a disturbed young woman with a pathological obsession with her absentee boyfriend?
Is Saki a patriot who is defending his beloved homeland from Abdael's predation, or an angry son who would sacrifice his people to lash out at his father? Is he an elitist who refuses to relinquish his power, or a realist who understands why his backwards country is not yet ready for democracy?
Although most of the changed trance music in Area 88's release in English sucked, this music piece rocked. Although no one knows the name of this music piece and are still looking for the name of the music piece and/or the artist/s who created it.
Designated Hero: The Area 88 mercenaries, who engage in war for pay. Despite being the protagonists, they're deliberately shown to be morally grey or even evil (i.e., Nguyen).
Do Not Do This Cool Thing: The lesson of the manga and OVA is that war is hell because it devastates countries and reduces soldiers to broken men. The problem is, the mercenaries look great as they're waging aerial battles.
Esoteric Happy Ending: At the end of the manga, Soria, Rishar, and King Zak are left to transition Asran from a monarchy to a modern republic. While Asran's civil war is over and the people are jubilant, Asran's future is far from secure. First, the country's infrastructure and finances have been devastated by years of war. Second, the civil war has probably left Asran's people with deep resentments. Finally, the whole mess has been inherited by a conservative monarch, a wide eyed idealist, and an amnesiac who spent the previous two decades in cryogenic suspension. Suddenly, Asran's future doesn't look so bright ...
Also at the end of the manga, Ryoko reunites with Shin. Shin suffers from amnesia due to head trauma and does not remember his experiences at Area 88. On the surface, this appears to be a happy romantic reunion, until you realize that Ryoko will need to explain to Shin why he's in Asran and why years of his memory are missing. To boot, Shin will undoubtedly suffer from unconscious war trauma, even if he can't consciously recall his time at Area 88. Finally, Shin broke Ryoko's heart several times throughout the manga, suggesting that he has cold tendencies. In short, Ryoko has chosen to marry a deeply traumatized, amnesiac jerk, raising questions about what their life together will be life.
Considering Ryoko's personality, Shin's not exactly getting a good deal either ...
Family-Unfriendly Aesop: In the OVA and manga, the message is that taking part in war will turn you into a traumatized basketcase who cannot function in normal society ever again.
Harsher in Hindsight: Civil war in a north African country? In which a family of autocrats deploys foreign mercenaries against opponents who want to oust them? The plot of Area 88 bears a resemblance to the 2011 civil strife in Libya, down to alleged use of mercenaries.
Hilarious in Hindsight: In later manga that did not make it stateside, Mickey once put on an American colonial-era costume. Tea Party supporters would wear the same kind of costumes over two decades later.
Ho Yay: Mickey. In the TV series, Mickey can be seen reading Playgirl magazine (pics on the Characters page). In the OVA, he and Shin wind up playing tourist while on special assignment and end up in a place that mostly attracts couples. In all versions, he is at Area 88 because he could not adjust to civilian life after his return from Vietnam and had to break off an engagement. Did we mention that he was in the Navy?
Ho Yay between Shin and Mickey is even more pronounced in the manga. When Shin wakes up in the infirmary of Farina's land carrier and believes that Mickey has been shot down, he sheds enraged tears. When the two men are reunited in a holding cell aboard the carrier, the first thing they do is clasp each other's hands. Finally, when the two escape from the land carrier using stolen jets, they land in the Asran desert. Since Shin's feet were broken in a prior jet crash, Mickey offers to carry him, but Shin politely declines. They just don't write romance like that anymore...
Mickey and Rishar's first encounter in the manga also brimmed with ho yay. When Rishar first enters the infirmary, Mickey is shirtless and lying in bed. Later, the two engage in conversation while Mickey is getting dressed. At several points, Rishar gazes at Mickey almost affectionately.
Jumped the Shark: Widespread fan consensus seems to feel that this is what happened since the manga lasted seven years which is more than twice as long as Shin's original contract. Also, as the manga progressed, Shintani's love for military hardware got out of hand and he started borrowing too many cues from G.I. Joe, turning what was supposed to be an isolated, low budget, small scale, obscure conflict into an international byzantine conspiracy. More and more gimmicky sci fi elements (robot planes, air fortresses, a Human Popsicle just to name a few), were introduced undermining the realism of the premise.
Strangled by the Red String: Shin and Ryoko in the manga. In Ryoko's flashback, she falls madly in love with Shin with little explanation as to what attracted them to each other. She also comes across as obsessive over Shin throughout the manga. Less so in the TV series, in which Ryoko is depicted as more emotionally grounded.
Unfortunate Implications: Italians are not presented favorably in the manga. Farina and Julianna are both evil, and Mario is an arrogant jerk.
Also, the three black Enforcers versus the mostly caucasian Area 88 mercenaries.
McCoy has a large nose, behaves unscrupulously, and cares only about money. Even though he's never directly stated to be Jewish, his characteristics bring some unpleasant Jewish stereotypes to mind.
What an Idiot: Ryoko goes flying in a Cessna with Shin. While flying, they hit an air pocket, dropping a few hundred feet in the air. Ryoko pries one of Shin's hands off the controls!
Also Saki for putting a man with no depth perception in charge of leading jets through a narrow canyon.
Writer Cop Out: The "War is Hell" message is undermined by the ending (which didn't make it to the states) Shin is shot down in his final battle, gets amnesia and forgets everything about Area 88. He and Ryoko get married and live happiily ever after. Amen. The manga was still in production when the OVA series was produced, so the OVA writers were free to come up with an ending of their own or leave it open ended for more sequels. They managed to do both somehow. This is why many consider the original OVA series ending superior in every way It heavily suggests a Bolivian Army Ending.
The Area 88 video games (aka U.N. Squadron) contain examples of:
Adaptation Displacement: The arcade game, which in turn got Adaptation Displaced by the SNES version. Not helped by both games' American name, U.N. Squadron.
Bowdlerise: The arcade and SNES games contain none of the tragic ambiance or anti-war messages of the manga and OVA.
Viewer Gender Confusion: Shin looks even more androgynous in the arcade game than in other adaptations, leading some players to mistake him for a woman. See thearcade game intro.