Posted by psgels on 25 October 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews

I really liked the original Area 88-OVA, so when I learned that there also was a 2004-remake of the anime, I just had to add that one to my to-watch-list. Unfortunately, I should have known: the OVA already was amazing, so what could an extra TV-series possibly add? Instead, it just went into its own direction. While it’s a capable series on its own, you don’t want to be watching this as a fan of the OVA.

With most of the background of Shin, Kanzaki and McCoy was gobbled up by a female pilot, a pilot who can’t seem to decide whether he’s male or female and a nosy photographer, you really can’t call this a realistic series about manly men who do the duty that’s being asked of them in a setting where only the strongest ones survive. Instead, what we have here is a compassionate war-drama in a setting where only the unimportant side-characters have a chance of dying.

The result is more of a heart-warming series. I can’t say that I’m exceptionally happy about the woman and the gender-confused pilot, but at least the two of them are well-fleshed out. The two of them are nice and like to socialize, and so the whole series gets a different tone from the very dark OVA. There’s also one thing I can be very positive of about the TV-series: the soundtrack. It was quite daring to come up with a selection of techno-songs for the fight scenes, and it really works along with the lighter tone of the rest of the series.

However, this series isn’t without its problems. As a fan of the original OVA, I was a bit disappointed that the series would turn out to be really different, but on the other hand, it would be quite boring to watch the same thing all over again. However, if you indeed diverge from your original source-material, do so consistently, and don’t chicken out at the last moment, like this series did. Through the entire series, Shin’s background was only a mere side-plot, which only popped up twice or trice, and instead the majority of the series focused on the bond between the major characters. In the final two episodes, however, Shin’s story suddenly became the main focus of the series. There’s just no way to get some proper development out of that, and it leaves the series with an overly cheesy ending that will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Because of that, the series completely ruined Ryoko’s character: she went from a headstrong woman to someone who’d just wait and do nothing. It’s good for a side-character, but you don’t want to turn her into a main character right at the last episode!

Along with that, I also have one big complaint against this series, as a fan of the original Area 88-OVA: Makoto, the photographer, was ruined even more by the series than Ryoko was. The guy was a really memorable character in the OVA, simply because he knew how to keep his distance, and yet wanted to get involved. The Makoto in the TV-series keeps sticking his nose into everything, annoys everyone with his overly cheesy morals, and his added background is downright ridiculous.

Overall, the TV-series just doesn’t have the potential to live up to the OVA, even when I remove my bias as a fan, there is just too little to impress. However, if you see it as a standard, unrelated series, then you’ve got yourself a decent war-drama that for once doesn’t have any mecha in it, but instead focuses on fighter-planes. Still, I’m going to keep recommending the OVA. So what if the drawings look old, it’s got an amazing and thought-provoking story.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 7/10
Setting: 7/10

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