ADV Films // 2004 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // October 13th, 2005
At Area 88, there's no such thing as a normal day.
The life of aerial combat continues for the mercenary pilots of the desert airfield known as Area 88. As was the case with the previous release, three episodes of this anime series are included on this disc. Here's a brief synopsis of each:
* Episode 4: "The Treacherous Sky"
After finding himself overwhelmed by superior enemy forces, Shin is shot down. He manages to eject, but inadvertently parachutes into the middle of a raging sandstorm. Makoto and Gustav take a jeep into the desert in order to search for the downed pilot. After the storm subsides, Mickey and Kim hop in their planes and take to the skies to search for their missing friend. As he wanders through the desert, Shin flashes back to the betrayal that brought him to Area 88.
* Episode 5: "An Unyielding Spirit in Lipstick"
The pilots of Area 88 are thrown for a loop upon the arrival of Kitri Parvenah, a hotshot female pilot who just so happens to be the cousin of base commander Saki Vashtar. Kitri quickly proves herself by rescuing several pilots who have run out of ammo (and are close to running out of fuel) while battling enemy MiGs. Saki later issues mandatory orders to all of the pilots, with the exception of Kitri and Shin. While the other pilots are away on assignment, Kitri and Shin are called upon to protect Area 88 from a small squadron of enemy planes.
* Episode 6: "A Lonely Crossing of Paths"
Shin's new plane arrives; he takes the fighter up for a shakedown flight. In Tel Aviv, Shin's former friend Satoru Kanzaki (the man who betrayed Shin and sent him to Area 88) prepares to co-pilot a commercial airliner back to Tokyo; knowing he is in line for a promotion, Kanzaki attempts to impress the flight's captain. Flashbacks detail the first time Shin and Kanzaki met Ryoko, the woman who would eventually come between them. Back at Area 88, Kitri asks Makoto why he is so interested in Shin; Makoto asks Kitri the same question.
My primary criticisms regarding the first three episodes of this anime were aimed at the threadbare plotting and episodic nature of the installments; having said that, I felt the dynamic flight and combat scenes compensated for these flaws to a certain degree. Well, the episodes presented on this volume tend to advance the storyline better than their predecessors, which means the aerial sequences take a back seat this time around. In other words, I enjoyed this volume just as much as I did the first release, albeit for different reasons. While I do believe the series has taken a step in the right direction, it's not a large enough step for me to hike up my rating. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how things progress.
The technical presentation here is just as impressive as that of the previous volume. The anamorphic transfer is absolutely stunning; the traditional cel animation and CG-enhanced sequences both shine. The audio options are just as impressive. The 5.1 English dub is expansive, immersive, and brimming with low-end activity; as I mentioned in the earlier review, though, some of the dub's voice acting works and some of it doesn't. The Japanese stereo track is densely packed; I once again applied Pro Logic II decoding and was once again rewarded with an aural experience almost as dynamic as the 5.1 mix. Extras include the standard clean opening/closing animated sequences, previews for other ADV releases, and a brief preview for the next release in this series. There is also another gallery of production sketches, technical specs for two more of the fighter planes employed by the pilots of Area 88, and short text bios for five of the characters. You also get two creator interviews this time around. Each runs about 27 minutes in length, and, as was the case before, each contains massive spoilers (I once again watched a few minutes of each before bailing).
There are only six more episodes to go, so I'm hoping the latter half continues to build on the modicum of promise exhibited in these three episodes. Area 88 is once again most highly recommended.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Opening/Closing Animation
* Aircraft Specs
* Character Bios
* Production Sketches
* Director/Character Designer Interview
* Director/Supervising Producer Interview
* ADV Previews
* Volume 3 Preview
* Official Site
* Anime News Network Page
* Volume 1 Review