Sunday, December 30, 2012

"The End" Week: Area 88 #42!

I don't look at a lot of manga here, but today we have from Viz, 1989's Area 88 #42, story and art by Kaoru Shintani, translation by James D. Hudnall and Satoru Fujii.

Sheer happenstance I even have this issue; I think I picked it up because I liked the Area 88 anime. (The title of one was "The Blue Skies of Betrayal," which is great!) Somewhat unusually, the story takes place in the late 70's or early 80's. (There may be a ton of anime and manga set then, but it's not commonly thought of or imported here!) Young pilot Shin Kazama has it going on: hot rich girlfriend, great job at an airline, good best friend--whoa, not so fast on that last one. Bitterly jealous, Kazama's friend Satoru Kanzaki takes him out drinking, gets him hammered, and gets him to sign up as a mercenary fighter pilot for wartorn Middle Eastern country the Kingdom of Aslan. Wait, not that Aslan...

Betrayed and disraught, Kazama has three choices: desert, and be shot outright. Serve for three years. Or shoot down enough enemy planes to earn a $1.5 million dollar buyout. Over the course of the series, Kazama has to kill or be killed; meets his fellow mercenaries, and wonders if he could ever go home again, literally and metaphorically. Meanwhile, his girlfriend continues searching for him, while the scummy Kanzaki tries to "comfort" her...

I thought Area 88 had a pretty good hook, but it wasn't a big hit here--the manga/anime fans of the day probably didn't want a Vietnam War allegory that didn't have giant robots. #42 was the last issue of the adaptation, although it continued in Animerica; I don't think it was completed in America. Still, Area 88 did have a tie-in videogame, released in America as "U.N. Squadron." That's a pretty good legacy.

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