Title: The Wings of Honneamise
Format: Movie; 125 minutes.
Dates: 14 Mar 1987
Synopsis: The Royal Space Force is a shambles. Frequently used by the powers-that-be as a political pawn, it has yet to actually send anything into space. However, this is about to change when a single chance appears to fulfill the hopes and dreams of a distinctly ordinary man: fired up by the death of his comrade, and by a chance encounter with a young religious woman, Shirotsugh Lhadatt decides to do whatever it takes to be the first man in space – though little does he know that the cost may well be his life.
Characters: Grittily human.
Art: Rough, ready and beautiful.
Design: Intricate and deep.
Story: Complex yet flowing.
Gainax‘s premiere into the medium of anime was always going to be something spectacular. Infuse the project with a cadre of prospectively famous directors, a vast team of talented animators and 800 million yen, and The Wings of Honneamise is born.
Set in a world which appears as a fusion of Japanese and Western influences – yet is neither – amid boiling political intrigue and nations locked in a cold war, the atmosphere is never anything less than unsettling. On this vivid backdrop, the characters would have to be something truly special to stand out, and they do not disappoint.
The first thing that will go through your mind is that the entire cast is ugly. Racked with the cowardly, greedy vulgarities which make us human, they are a million miles away from the clean-cut, huge-eyed peacocks which preen and strut through the majority of modern productions. Here we see character development in a corporeal way: never do we resent the cast for thinking of themselves first – instead we relate to them, which in turn makes us care for them all the more, flaws and all.
I could spend hours comparing the sublime, fluid animation to Western masterpieces such as Snow White, and mention how the comic timing and expression reminds me of early Chaplin. I could express the gorgeous way the artists use light and shadow, and the special effects which are all the more stunning due to the fact that they lacked the use of modern computer techniques. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll simply say that the massive budget was well spent.
The entire production grasps an epic feel which is nicely toned with an elegant soundtrack of electronica and strings which blends with but never overpowers the onscreen action. The large seiyuu cast tackle their job with authenticity and gusto, pulling off some tricky character comedy with dash.
If you prefer the safe world of pretty, clichéd characters then for you, this is where the review ends. If however you can handle an epic fusion of flawed characters and hokey science-fiction wrapped in an exciting story with a fundamentally political message, The Wings of Honneamise will not disappoint.
The Rating: 9
Reviewed by: Scoot