In the deserts of the Kingdom of Aslan, mercenaries fight and die in the skies in hopes of making a quick buck using their piloting skills. Everyone has their reasons for being out there in the sands, but Japanese pilot Shin Kazama has reasons to get out.
Bound by contractual obligation, Kazama must either do three years of service fighting in the skies, or pay out of his contract with a hefty sum of 1.5 MILLION dollars.
Tricked into signing a contract when drunk on a pass in his airline pilot school by his "best friend" Satoru Kanzaki, Kazama is dragged away from a profitable life as an airline pilot and from the love of a beautiful girl, Ryoko Tsugumo to be assimilated in the band of mercenary pilots at Area 88.
Shin has only one choice! Kill without mercy until he gets his 1.5 million dollars.
Audio / Visual
Stunning CG work on the planes makes for awesome dogfight scenes. It is everything that makes kids fall in love with the movie Topgun, except with a ton more plot.
The score does well in reinforcing the moods of the theme, from the building dread of a mission brief, to the interludes of the memories of the Vietnam war.
The script is remarkably striking at times. It goes to show that sometimes the best way to convey what you want to say is not through veiled metaphor, but by being completely honest. War takes its toll on Kazama. Until he grows close to his goal, he loses as much of his humanity as any of the other pilots have. His single-minded determination is the only thing that keeps him from becoming an emotionless killer.
"I promise you: You will be the last person I have to kill. Please forgive me."
Shin Kazama is a tragic hero, from beginning to end, but in the middle, as adapted from a 2 part OVA series, are tales of pilots who have faced constant fighting, because it was the only thing they did well. The toll of war is apparent on everyone, from the man who is afraid to turn off the lights, to the ex-Navy lieutenant who is forced to shoot down his old wingman.
The show, as it progresses, becomes less about flying planes and shooting down other planes, as much as it is about finding the perilous balance between being an unwilling fighter, and trying to return home. One character comments oblivious to Kazama’s situation, in which "he tried to pull the trigger to get home, but the more he pulled the trigger, the farther from home he got". This triggers the feeling that Kazama, and in fact all of the pilots, are stuck in this desert. They will keep on killing, and being killed, moving them away from their civilian lifestyles forever.
If you like airplanes, drama, or action, this is a war drama you don't want to miss!