Modern Visual Culture

Recommended Works

Area 88


Mangaka: Kaoru Shintani 新谷 かおる
Born: 26th of Apr, 1951
Original Publisher: Shogakukan
English Language Publisher:
Published: January 1979 to January 1986
Status: Finished
Number of Volumes: 23
Serialized: Shonen Big Comic 週刊少年ビッグコミック
Genre: Military, Drama
Demographic: shonen

    Area 88 is the story of mercenary fighter pilots fighting in a fictional North African country called the Kingdom of Arslan. The main protagonist is Shin Kazama, a brilliant commercial Japanese pilot who was tricked into enlisting in the mercenary force by a jealous coworker.

    Shin Kazama quickly finds himself with a Hobson's choice: fight with the mercenaries long enough to fulfill his contact, or else be executed. Isolated at the titular airbase Area 88, Shin has no chance of escape, and so he decides to earn enough fighting to buy his freedom, which proves difficult despite his success in the air, as the pilots must pay through the nose for everything, including lost jets.

    Quickly rising in the ranks as Area 88's ace pilot, Shin is torn between his hatred of the pointless civil war he is participating in, and his desire to prove himself in combat and protect his friends, chief of whom are Mickey Simon, an American Vietnam War veteran, Danish pilot Greg Gates, and Prince Saki Vashtal, the base commander.

    Facing death every day, Shin can only hope that he survives his contract to return home to his fiance.
    Background & Impact
    Kaoru Shintani's depictions of air combat are strangely beautiful., and serve the melancholy war theme well. Overall, the manga reflects the post-Vietnam period that it was written in, as well as Japan's ambivalence about its martial past and peaceful present. Contemporary readers will find the manga oddly prescient, given the current situation in the Middle East.

    Studio Pierrot produced a direct-to-video animated film trilogy in the mid 1980s, which was later license for North America by Central Park Media.

    An updated 12-episode anime television series that made use of extensive CG graphics was produced in 2003 and released in 2004.