October 1, 2016

Area 88 Shin Kazama fighter pilot helmet

Good afternoon everyone!

Just to be clear: this is a post about a future cosplay that I will make and to which I have started gathering materials. I haven't set a deadline or anything because this costume will most likely take a few years to complete, depending on how lucky I am with sourcing some of the military items needed. Yes, I know that I have several other costumes started/unfinished (I'm bad at this :'c) but they will all eventually get done – some are set to be long-time projects anyway.

Oh and yeah, feel free to scroll past the introduction at the beginning if you only want to see photos of the helmet and don't care about knowing why this cosplay (and game!) is really important to me.

U.N. Squadron/Area 88 (Super Nintendo game) complete OST.

Have you ever had a series or a game etc that you grew up with? One that, although it might not have shaped you into who you are today, you remember very fondly and smile at just the thought of it? One that is tied to a lot of good and precious memories?
I have.

For me it is a SNES game called U.N. Squadron, or Area 88 in Japan. For many the game is probably unheard of but, for me, it has a big and irreplaceable place in my heart. When I was really young (probably 6 years or younger) I used to play on my big sister's Super Nintendo upstairs during any opportunity that I got – after school/daycare, during weekends, vacations and so on. Playing video games was one of my favorite pastimes. Some of my favorite games included well-known classics like Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario Allstars, Mario Paint... and then there was U.N. Squadron. The hidden gem. For those not in the know U.N. Squadron is a 1989 side-scrolling shooting game released by Capcom for the CPS arcade hardware and, later on, for the Super Nintendo.
Oh and yeah, it's worth mentioning that Super Nintendo was the first gaming console I ever touched and thus it created –and sealed– my big gaming interest. Officially sealed by Nintendo, lol.

Many years went by and I had almost completely forgotten about this amazing game and, honestly, once the Super Nintendo was put away, in favor of newer game consoles, I even forgot the name of it! I only had some vague memories of a really good "airplane shooter game" with awesome musics and it took me many years until I, by a coincidence, rediscovered the game – you can only imagine the wave of nostalgy and extreme happiness I felt when I found this pearl again!
So yeah, some time after that I learned that my much beloved fighter jet game is actually based on a manga/anime series that's called Area 88. Guess how thrilled I was with the discovery and I, of course, immediately had to check it out!
I found the OVA and the TV-series, marathoned them both and fell in love all over again. I quickly decided that I need to cosplay someone from this game/series because it holds such a special and tender place in my heart, from times before my life went upside down and hell broke loose. When I was young I didn't think too much about the game (except that I enjoyed it a lot, the music was badass and that it was really hard) but afterwards I realized that it resonated with me on many more levels and now I cherish it maybe even more than all those Super Mario games that I used to spend more time with. U.N. Squadron (referred from now on to as Area 88, for convenience) reminds me of my blissful and troublefree childhood that I wish so dearly that I could relive at times... and it also reminds me greatly about my incredibly strong, brave and inspiring big sister, who loved collecting model aircrafts as a kid. 
So yeah, Area 88 makes me remember my first home and the good old times before my parents divorced and I had to move to a new town where I got severely school-bullied. It's incredibly important and bears great value to me and, while unknown to most, this game to me is something different. It's like a reminder of that worryless life that I had as a child and that was taken away from me too early.


Okay so, after watching the OVA and the animated series I decided on cosplaying Shin, even though, funnily enough, I used to play with Mickey the most in the game. I thought for the longest time that Shin was a girl because of his hair on the game image. xD Shin just appealed to me more and I loved his character and how human he was. I knew before starting that I wanted this cosplay to be as close to perfect as possible, because I wanted to pay homage to this very important game/series to me. I was sure that I'd rather wait for perfection than be quick and end up with something half-assed. I knew it could, and probably would, be a long-time project that would end up being very expensive.

I decided on doing Shin Kazama as he appears in the OVA.
I started looking around for a suitable helmet soon enough (because I decided it could be a good point to start at) and realized that my best chance was to check out military surplus shops and pray for good luck... ridiculously good luck. I managed to find a few other Shin cosplayers online whose costume descriptions helped me out in figuring out what helmet models would be suitable etc; I also learned that just sourcing a good-enough base helmet alone could take years. I had a hum on what I was looking for but, of course, I couldn't be 100% sure because I'm not an aviation collector, enthusiast or anything – but I do have a rising interest in the matter. I guess I've always had it inside me but didn't realize it; I've always been fascinated about flying and aircrafts.
By some miraculous luck I managed to find a HGU-33 US Army pilot helmet (that's what it was listed as, don't quote me on that) that looked decently similar to what Shin is wearing. Best part was that I didn't even have to look outside Sweden or Finland, booyah! :D I actually wanted to avoid buying from outside Europe because of high shipping costs and customs/taxes.

Front. With visor partly down.
As far as I've gathered this model is not in use anymore and thus fairly rare to source. I sadly don't know too much about it just yet (I'm waiting to ask at a military forum for more information) but I'll hopefully mention any new knowledge that I gather in the next helmet post! This post will just be to show you guys a bunch of detail photos of the pilot helmet, before I do any modifications. I thought why not share some photos of it, in case someone out there, one day, is doing this same cosplay (although rare/unlikely) and stumbles upon this post. :) Aviation fans might also be interested, hehe.

The thing is that I'm not even sure if Shin's helmet is taken directly from the real world or if there's some artistic liberties taken on its design. I do know though that the series is surprisingly realistic (portrays existing fighter jets etc) and based on the 1970's and 1980's – it's definitely worth a watch if you're into war/aviation series, especially the OVA. It's one of my personal favorites and yes, I'm biased because of my childhood but sssshh. Seriously, check it out if war drama and realistic portrayals about how war affects the human mind is in your interest.

Side view.
The other side.
Seen from above.
Visor knob closeup.
Closer look on the inside.
Ear cup closeup.
What appears to be a Gentex sticker on the inside.
Chin strap.
Chin strap, other side.
Closeup on the chin strap's adjuster.
What I assume is the holders for the oxygen mask.
Label on the backside.
Fun fact is that this helmet was waaaay out of my price range on what I'd ever be willing to pay for a single costume prop that's not even necessary for character recognizability. Honestly, it cost me 278 € on a sale (don't know if overpriced or not) and normally I'd never shell out that kind of money for a costume item – except for this one. Normally I don't even have that kind of money anyway, lol. That should tell you just how precious this cosplay is to me and how far I'm willing to go to make it look good and at least decently authentic; I just love Area 88 so much and I want to do it justice. ;u;

This is already my most expensive cosplay to date... and I only have the helmet at the moment, oops. This is one of those cosplays that I only have to briefly think about to get really happy, giddy and excited – do you know that feeling?
I can finally do a character from a game that played a big part in my childhood and it makes me so much more satisfied than any other cosplay from a come-and-go fandom. Area 88 stayed with me back then and will always stay with me – its place has been secured already in my heart a long time ago... and now it's time to show it to the world.


That's about all I had to say for this time. I'm probably forgetting to mention a thousand things but oh well, that's why I can (and will) do another blog post. ;) Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

Frozen Angel said...

I'm happy for you that you had such luck with the helmet! Best of luck with tracking down the rest of the items for the outfit. I have no idea about the helmet's price if cheap or not, but I do know that ex-military items can go really, really high with their prices.

I agree with everything you said about this hidden gem of a game and how impactful and emotional/realistic the anime is. I also love Shin a LOT as a character, as this guy moved me deep within. Now as you also plan to cosplay him, I don't know if I also do him or if I do someone else. I need time to think about this one, but I'd really like to do someone from Area 88 because hey; it's my childhood too and I have strong interest in the military/history overall.