Only the Strong Survive In every life there comes a moment when skill is pushed to the limit, when the only thing that stands in the path of death is the strength of the spirit and the shear will to survive. Out numbered and overpowered, Shin is forced to ditch his plane and parachute into the barren, unforgiving desert where he is haunted by memories of his past as he struggles to survive. Back on base a new pilot is turning heads, and she yes, she has the skill of an ace and the beauty to match. But Shin is oblivious to her obvious advances as he impatiently waits for his new plane to arrive. Amid thoughts of the life, and love, he left behind, Shin is confronted with the face of the friend who took it all away, and in the last place he would expect it, in the cockpit of the 747 barreling toward him through the clouds. Truly innovative animation and heart-pounding suspense transport you to a world where every breath could be your last. At area 88, theres no such thing as a normal day.
As the airborne drama Area 88 continues, the filmmakers begin to develop the main characters more fully. Ace fighter pilot Shin Kazama, who has "eyes like a wounded wolf," is shot down in battle and parachutes into a sandstorm. Wandering through the desert, he recalls how his friend Kanzaki had him shanghaied into the mercenary corps. Shin rarely communicates beyond flashing a thumbs-up sign, so flashbacks are the only way to learn anything about him. Photographer Makoto Shinjou remains at the base, taking pictures of Shin. They're joined by Kitri Parvaneh, a daredevil female pilot who asks such improbable questions as, "Do all Asian men have such mysterious eyes?" Kaoru Shintani's original manga was written decades ago, and his cold war-era story of a taciturn hero battling an unnamed foe feels dated. (Rated TV PG, suitable for ages 12 and older: violence, tobacco and alcohol use) --Charles Solomon