Progress is indeed a wonderful thing. Nevertheless, humanity’s inexplicable desire to conquer nature comes at a cost. Do we truly better ourselves simply by dogmatically following our dreams? And is that dream worth the sacrifices we make? These are just some of the questions Wings of Honneamise throws up in the air. Moreover, it shies away from answering them, preferring to touch lightly upon each through the personal adventures of a disillusioned man at the centre of this fascinating human struggle.
First and foremost, Wings of Honneamise touchingly captures that powerful human ambition to fly and reach the final frontier – space. Viewers may be familiar with more recent works of a similar nature like Macross Plus and Planetes. I won’t insist that Wings of Honneamise captures this theme better in comparison, but neither does it do it any worse. A lot like Planetes, actually, Wings of Honneamise begins with a thorough but sympathetic look at the protagonist before casting a more dispassionate eye upon wider society and the double-edged effects of scientific progress. It is first and foremost a characterisation tale of Shirotsugh Lhadatt who desperately wants to fly but finds his efforts so frustrated that his very spirit diminishes and his sanity crumbles.
At the same time, Wings of Honneamise offers a unique fantastical setting (local cuisine includes staples like muuk and terrish, and the kingdom of Honneamise has a tongue-twisting language to rival Klingon) as well as one or two scenes of absolute splendour. Shiro’s first flight is an emotional, uplifting visual sequence during his training which defines his sense of fulfilment better than any lines of dialogue ever could. Finally, the scripting evinces an ironic sense of humour that makes it more accessible to those unfamiliar with meditative sci-fi dramas. In particular, slapstick scenes like the Space Force’s brawl with the Air Force will elicit a few chuckles.
If the movie has a significant weakness, it would be its waning sense of direction. The narrative at various junctures introduces several elements which could each sprout a story of their own and take the movie in different directions. There’s the awkward romance between Shiro and the cult girl whose culture is under threat, there’s a domestic government that wants to manipulate the Space Force in some vague international politics, also the inspirational tale of small-time scientists flying in the face of authority to put man into space, and lastly the friction caused when bloated military spending comes at the cost of social welfare. These subplots clearly matter to Wings of Honneamise’s core message but they simply don’t come together well enough at the end to give the audience a comprehensive moral picture.
What will instantly strike most about Wings of Honneamise’s world setting is the loving detail with which Gainax crafted it. This is a richly textured milieu with costumes, props, and buildings that don’t look much like ours but still feel incredibly lifelike and, I suspect, present a sort of precursor to the later milestone feature, Akira.
Even better, rather than vomiting impenetrable scientific gibberish that nobody but the scriptwriter will comprehend, Wings of Honneamise prefers to show its love of technology through awe-inspiring images. Prepare for meticulous panned shots of machinery and engineers fixing clunky, wiry gadgets, as well as training montages which are almost as fun to follow as the story itself.
The soundtrack offers music as unique and varied as the world it complements. One cheerful piano piece accompanies the key training flight while outlandish, discordant tunes blare out during a psychopathic chase scene. At intervals there will be mild instrumentals stuck somewhere between electronic and indigenous beats. All in all, this is a soundtrack perfectly suited to its subject matter and viewers will find much delight in it.
Initially, Shiro is the quintessential disenfranchised protagonist whose dreams of being a pilot have long withered thanks to banal misfortunes of the past. Later, when he finally renews his enthusiasm, he inadvertently finds himself grappling with the indirect consequences of his space project. The general gist with Shiro seems to be his powerlessness and apathy when caught between forces much larger than himself. While this makes him understandable, it also means he’s difficult to like. After all, the expectation of a protagonist is that he heroically saves the oppressed classes, defies the government, and gets the girl simply by never giving up.
In fact, Shiro is uninteresting, unremarkable, and really doesn’t care. Allegorically average, he’s frustrated with the status quo and harbours a painful desire to reach for that indefinable something up above. His frustration on one occasion takes an utterly reprehensible and disturbing turn, which might undo any sympathy the audience musters for him up to that point. And yet Shiro remains Wings of Honneamise’s most perfect creation. Tired, afraid, indecisive, and passionate, he brilliantly represents humanity in all its contradictory glory.
On the other hand, since the movie focuses predominantly on Shiro, the supporting cast are transiently amusing at best and instantly forgettable at worst. The ragtag team of the Space Force, eccentric and humorously hopeless, probably represent the best of them.
While Wings of Honneamise gives the impression by the end that it might be somewhat undecided about what it wants to be, it’s still a very unique feature that occasionally verges on disturbing and often approaches its socio-political subject matter with humour and inventiveness. As such it comes highly recommended to anyone who has a spare two hours.
Honneamise is a movie of antitheses. Everything about it has two sides, and it wasn’t done intentionally for the sake of keeping things grey. The production team was simply insecure and that shows everywhere in the film. You could say that’s what gives it an identity, but it’s surely not to its benefit. It’s like those movies where you see they did a lot of reshooting and last moment editing. You spot the insecurity and that’s a bad thing.
It’s not that obvious in Honneamise, but it’s still there when you know it was made by the Gainax crew. It’s not zany and energetic, which is what they got to be known for. And it’s not something they began doing later on either. The sole reason they were given a lot of money to make this film was because they impressed the bigshots with Daicon, their anime convention animated shorts. “Hey, can you make us something that looks like that?” they asked. “Sure, but not with your money and not in that movie” they replied.
What I mean by that is how it doesn’t have the energy of what we came to expect froms Gainax. It looks pretty, but it doesn’t have the energy of Guren Lagann, the psychological pressure of Neon Genesis, or the sex metaphors of Fooli Cooli. It’s just a typical coming of age story. Take any generic sports plot and you get pretty much the same stuff.
And it’s not like it doesn’t have something interesting going on. There is a space program, there are protesters, there are religious fanatics, there are politics, there is romance… There is a whole multilayered civilization in this movie, with its own history and type of unique-looking technology and we barely get to see anything, because it’s a movie focusing on the training of one guy at the expense of everything else. It wouldn’t be a problem if there was a series after the movie that would explore the setting, but that didn’t happen, we were stuck will a hundred interesting ideas that do not get looked into and a hardly serviceable plot.
Also, the characterization is unacceptably weak. There are only a handful of important characters and they are super generic. You are not given something to remember them for, since they are that basic, and because the setting looks so magnificently exotic, they get completely overshadowed in a coming of age story. The reason these types of stories work best in contemporary settings is because you get to focus on the characters for doing things more interesting than the setting they are part of. That’s not the case with Honneamise. It’s a character-focused plot thrown in a world-centric story.
Furthermore, the only memorable thing the protagonist does in the whole movie is a sexual assault. Despite being somewhat excused as the result of anxiety, it raised a lot of eyebrows back when it aired, and alienated a big portion of the mainstream audiences. And this was what they thought back in the 80s. Nowadays, this can be considered attempted rape. So basically, you have a movie where you are more interested in the setting, and instead you spend your time watching a generic guy trying to rape a woman. Yeah, not a very pretty image in your mind.
By the way, anyone who doesn’t like shonen protagonists for being spineless when it comes to women, this is what happens when they are not. Why do you think most stories have sexually inept heroes? For not disliking how spineless they are in comparison to one-dimensional evil rapists. It’s cheap but it works, because sex is evil, didn’t you know that after watching Honneamise?
So if you sum it up, the visuals are amazing and the themes can be quite motivational, but everything else is disappointing. Watch Planetes instead. And this planned sequel is totally not necessary.
Synopsis: In a time of technological growth, historical texts and events speak of glory and vast discoveries. Shiro, a cadet in an underground organization known as the Royal Space Force, ponders about his role in the universe in comparison to the texts of long ago. Shiro’s grueling lifestyle forces him to be unattached to the world he lives in. But one day, he meets a struggling young woman, who advocates the word of God, and Shiro becomes inspired to fulfill his purpose in life of becoming an astronaut. His dream of obtaining the glory of the first man in space pushes him to his limits. But obstacles threaten Shiro’s goals as well as his own life. To soar beyond the sky and enter an unknown realm tests Shiro’s gumption and his hope for humanity.
Story (10.0) I’ve only known about this film based on the trailer I saw long ago when I first watched Ninja Scroll from Manga Entertainment. At the time, I dismissed the movie, since I was new to anime. But I’m glad I managed to locate a copy Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise. The movie tells a tale that engages viewers into the setting when reaching the stars was only a fantasy. Anime fans appreciate the title more when comparing technology of today and the narrating viewpoint of the past that the protagonist’s relays.
Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise’s centralization on Shiro allows fans to see a character develop into a man that knows his true calling. Many people struggle to discover the reason for existence, but Shiro’s placement in a low economical society serves as a test for him. When he decides to accept the position of becoming an astronaut, his friends do not agree. His friends recall the events of the previous rocket launches that ended in failure. I think it is refreshing to see the possibility of failure that this anime projects as people often fantasize about fame rather than the risks. Shiro’s thoughts of reaching the stars compliments the wartime setting that demonstrates the harshness that reality often presents. The film’s theme of pursuing a person’s passion and seeing it to completion drives the viewer to empathize with Shiro.
Animation (10.0) The film’s conversion into Blu-Ray format compliments the artists’ vision of creating a masterpiece that speaks to the world through real-time events. The crispness of cell shading and the environment shows the research and dedication of the artists’ skills. The detail of rockets launching demonstrate the precision and effort of the production team. There are a few moments where the Blu-Ray format shows the age of the movie when the background is black and white specs appears like an old film reel. But I think it adds to Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise’s charm.
Sound (9.8) The Dolby Digital output adds a nice touch. The film’s presentation becomes enhanced through the clarity of the vocals and the fantastic music. The music in the two-hour film comprises of wind instruments, reinforcing the whimsical notion that a viewer might experience upon watching the anime.
Characters (9.7) Shiro’s role communicates the underlying themes of self-discovery and change. Shiro’s appearance of a lazy cadet in the beginning serves as a starting point for his evolution into a character that knows his place in the world. The protagonist’s ideals conflict with the war and the social poverty that occurs around him, yet he seeks to better himself and the world by becoming an astronaut. Shiro’s interaction with the world emphasizes his desire to change the world and end violence.
Overall (10.0) A stunning film! Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise is a movie that all anime fans must watch. The trailer from the Ninja Scroll spoke of the film in high regard, which I agree with. Some fans might find the ending skeptical, but the anime’s portrayal of a man following his dream, while struggling with social poverty, enlightens viewers by allowing an interpersonal connection with Shiro. Shiro’s journey resembles the feeling of being free by finding one’s place in the vastness of space.
This is the story of a pilot in a (relatively) newly created branch of the military, known as the space force. Growing up he had higher aspirations, but fell short and settled for his current position.
He goes on living his life of mediocrity, barely doing enough to get by, until one day he meets a women who preaches the word of god. He takes a liking to her and she becomes his motivation to straighten out and fly right. She also takes a liking to him based on his career, due to her disdain for humanity, and her fascination with the Stars, which have yet to be touch by civilization.
Just as the hero finally regains his vigor for life, behind the scenes, his government has lots interest in the space force, and is threatening to shut it down. Even going as far as to try and sabotage it by making its secrets easily accessible to a rival nation.
At times this anime can be thought provoking. The story is grounded in borderline reality which is something I appreciate. There isnt a whole lot of action, however the plot was interesting enough that it didnt necessarily need multiple fight scenes and epic battles with uber explosions and death.
However I feel it could have been better. I didnt find myself getting attached to any characters. I kind of had a soft spot for the preacher lady, but in the end she was just a supporting character, so she didnt get too much fleshing out or development.
And there was a lot of plot lines left open. The show spends a fair bit of time building up a potential romance between the main character and the preacher woman. But the second to last encounter they have gets pretty dark, and you'd assume he blew it, yet the last time they see each other, she appears to have forgiven him. This part makes no sense. And then they dont even provide any closure on the relationship between the two of them.
Another thing that would have been nice to have cleared up, was the ramifications of the climax of the movie.
In the end they appeared to just be focusing on the theme. Human nature and the effects humanity has on itself and its environment. That was made clear by the final monologue from the main character. I however thing they could have tried up the loose ends, and still accomplished what they wanted.