When I originally looked at the promo-art, I thought that Area 88 was another one of the works of Matsumoto Leiji. Turns out it wasn’t, though I can imagine how the creators did get their inspiration from him. Area 88 is a realistic war-story about war-mercenaries in a poor African country. Make no mistake; even though there are only three OVAs, the total amount of airtime for this anime is over three hours. Due to this relatively long size, this turned into one of the least rushed OVAs I’ve seen in a long while.
There are a lot of battles in the sky for this OVA, but the real purpose of the movie is to show the fighter-pilots themselves. What goes on in their mind when they fly? Why do they fight and kill? How does the war change them? All questions get sufficiently answered, and are nicely packaged around the story of one of these pilots, who basically gets blackmailed into joining the mercenaries. There are a few coincidences here and there, but overall Area 88 has turned into quite a memorable OVA for me. I can understand why fifteen years after the original production, a television-series-remake was made (seriously, more movies and OVAs should get that treatment. Battle Angel Alita, Akira, Please Save my Earth, etc)
While I haven’t seen anything of the original Gundam Universal Century-storyline, I can imagine how anyone who liked it will like Area 88. Both the main and side-characters have been sufficiently developed, considering the length of the OVA, and there are no overpowered teenagers who stand in the centre. I must say that after seeing more and more of the genre of realistic war-stories, I’m beginning to like it more and more. It’s OVAs like these that show that you can be manly, even if you don’t pilot a mecha that throws galaxies.