Area 88 (Eria Hachi-Jū-Hachi) is a Japanese manga, or comic, that was created by Kaoru Shintani. Shintani is known as a very impressive science fiction mangaka, and was widely recognized for his work in creating Area 88. Area 88 was first published in Big Comic Spirits in 1979. It ran until 1986, and was turned into three original video animations (OVA’s). It had the distinction of being one of the first three animes to be translated into English for an American audience.
The story mainly takes place in the late 70’s and the early 80’s. It is mostly set in a country in the Middle East that is known as the Kingdom of Asran. In this country, there are mercenary fighter pilots who come from a desert air force base that is hidden secretly deep in the desert. This base is known as Area 88. Satoru Kanzaki is friends with Shin Kazama. Kanzaki, however, wants Kazama’s girlfriend, Ryoko Tsugumo. He figures that if he tricks Kazama into signing up for Area 88, as he is an excellent pilot, he will be free to take Ryoko. He manages to trick Kazama, and Kazama realizes that he will be killed if he deserts Area 88. He decides to stay on and serve his three year contract.
There are a number of mercenaries at Area 88, including Mick Simon. Mick is an American soldier who was unable to adjust to life after Vietnam. He becomes Shin’s best friend. A man named McCoy is the dealer who gets things for mercenaries, and no one wants to know how he does it. He can come up with a roll of toilet paper to a huge battle plane. Saki Vashtal is the prince of the Kingdom of Asran and runs Area 88.
The only way to leave Area 88 after you have signed up is to survive your three years, which hardly anyone manages to do, or to buy out your contract for a half a million dollars, which is difficult for any mercenary to come by. Shin starts fighting and taking down enemy planes, changing with every person that he kills. Eventually he is able to earn his way out of Area 88, but is changed to the point that he can no longer fir into his old life.