Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (Honneamise no Tsubasa)

Genre: Action / Drama
Parental Guidance Recommended
1987 Hiroyuki Yamaga, Bandai Visual, GAINAX

Wings of Honneamise DVDs
Wings of Honneamise Books
Wings of Honneamise Posters
Wings of Honneamise Merchandise

Cover Description:
An epic tale of a civilization's first faltering steps into space, set in an alien world that is strangely familiar to our own. When cadet Shiro Lhadatt signs up with the Royal Space Force, he encounters ridicule and apathy from manipulative leaders and a cynical public. A chance encounter with a devout young woman spurs Shiro on towards his destiny - to become the first man in space. While military leaders conspire to use the space program to spark an all-out war, Shiro and a team of aging scientists race against time to complete the first launch. The countdown has begun in a spectacular feast for the senses. Breathtaking animation, sumptuous design and a great vision combine to ensure that Wings Of Honneamise will become a classic in the anime hall of fame.

It's just not for me. >>> by skysenshi (09.18.2001)
I wonder if I'm supposed to like this anime. The details of the surrounding artwork are truly breathtaking and I commend the creators for that. Yamaga did bring me to a new world and I was in awe of what I was seeing.

However, he left me stranded in that new world. I noticed that around half an hour had gone by and the pace still hasn't gotten anywhere so I sort of spent my "watching hour" playing with my baby brother and getting more food while the DVD was running. Speaks a lot about my enthusiasm, huh? In fact, I was even able to finish Blood: The Last Vampire and Bakuen Campus Guardress in between. Imagine that? First 30 minutes wasted when I could've done more if I just spent it working and finishing my work deadlines. Sorry, but I just don't have the time nor the inclination (nor the luxury of a schoolgirl) to take my eyes off work and yet still find myself feeling like I never left the boring office in the first place.

There's no other word for it. Boring is boring. And ennui is a result of this movie's attempts at overintellectualizing itself, thereby robbing any viewer of true entertainment value. It is apparent that, like most pseudo-intellectual anime out there (ahem, Lain), Wings of Honneamise has a point. Getting there is a tough road, however. Make no mistake, ideas are good, but if they are not delivered well, your point will be lost. Why make an anime with such a great concept if you can't get people to be awake long enough to understand it? It's the same thing that differentiates a writer from a grammarian. Good grammarians write correctly, but good writers send messages across effectively.

Well, anyway, I've remembered enough to know which people I'd like to pinch in the nose, though. Shiro is one -- that sex maniacal bast whom I wouldn't mind bashing on the head with a candlestick. Another is that freaky puritan girl and her equally freaky little brat friend who spends the entire time scowling. I don't know if that's supposed to be cute, but then again, I'm not such an avid fan of cutesy big-eyed stuff anyway. Funny, but they're the main characters, which now leaves me wondering why many people consider this anime a classic.

Maybe if I have all day, or if I were back in college where professors would twist our arms so we would watch films to review later? Maybe. Required reading? Only if you're so juvenile that you need to impress a professor by reviewing something that he himself would be struggling to finish.

Individual Rating: Art: 7; Story & Plot: 7; Characters: 8; Sounds: 6

The dreamer in us all. >>> by Mnemolth (12.10.2001)

Costing some 8 billion yen, this was, in its time, the most expensive anime project ever undertaken. Originally released by Gainax in 1987. Hiroyuki Yamaga's masterpiece is a contemplative blend of the serene and the surreal. Audaciously ambitious in terms of its themes and scope, it is largely successful. Much has been said about the slow pace of the film and its lack of focus. A lot of people do not even make it to the end, either falling asleep or switching to watch something more accessible like Ranma ½ or Ninja Scroll. Unlike most of the popular anime, there is no abundance of simple slapstick humour here, nor highly stylised violence or sickly sweet adolescent romance.

The story is about Shirotsugh Lhadatt, who dreams of flying but fails to achieve the grades that would have allowed him to fulfill his dreams. An average and aimless guy he falls down to earth, and joins the ridiculed Royal Space Force. Yet through his interactions with Riquinni, a deeply religious woman, he finds meaning and purpose again in his life, pushing himself to be the first man in space.

Written and directed by Yamaga when he was only 24 years old, there is no doubt this is one of the harder anime features to enjoy. It is interesting to note that Citizen Kane was also made by Orson Welles when he was the same age. This is not to say Wings is anything like as good as Citizen Kane, except to say that, in the annals of anime history, this is just about as good as any anime out there.

Yes, the story unfolds slowly, at a plodding and sometimes even ponderous pace. And yes, it sometimes does fall into a habit of preaching to the audience, but for the most part it remains reserved, respecting the audiences' intelligence, letting the audience figure things out for themselves. One may argue so much so that it confuses and frustrates many, who are used to cute girls, big round eyes, action heroes, tearful romances, and linear narratives that lead to final unambiguous resolutions and the like. After all, anime, at least in the western world, remains predominantly a universe inhabited by young adults, and as such, often preoccupied with the post-pubescent angst of the late teenager. And clearly there is nothing wrong with that.

But Wings is different. Mature and developed, Yamaga has created a world at once different and yet strangely familiar to our own. What people find boring and what they mistake for tedium is the painstaking and comprehensive way in which Yamaga shows us his vision of this alien land. The animation is superb. Yes, its true the frame rates may not be as smooth as Disney, but the animation is lovingly drawn to the tiniest detail. From the odd cylindrical coins used as currency, to the bicycles to the uniforms, the unfamiliar architecture of the houses, even the mics used, everything is shown to us as it is, immersing us in another world. With the exception of the ending monologue and its accompanying montage, nothing is explicitly stated. Everything comes through by way of inference.

The prologue has the protagonist explaining to us:

"How am I suppose to say... that if it was for the better or for the worse... I grew up all ordinary...middle class...countryside home...there were trees and streams...Being in the middle, I never suffered the hardships of the poor and I couldn't grasp the frustrations of the rich...But when I was young, I knew what I wanted...only the Navy had jets...fast jets...they flew very high and very fast...I -needed- to feel those wings...I'd have been a pilot and I'd touch the wind...The Navy could let me but they wouldn't accept me...My school graduated me but my grades told a different story...I wanted to achieve the -greater- heights...but I blew it...and I landed back in the middle...into the middle of the Space Force..."

In that somber and wistful voice, trembling with yearning and longing, which one of us can resist its soothing melancholic ache?

This is rare in anime, and Wings should be rewarded with more popular acclaim than it has been. It can be difficult to understand but if you put the effort in to watch this rather long feature, the rewards are exceptional.

For anyone who is adrift and lost, or paradoxically so focused on what they do that they cannot see the forest from the trees, this is required viewing. For anyone interested in animation and anime in particular, this film shows what is possible without resorting to cute talking animals or teenage romances.

A classic.

Not rated.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Copyright 1997 - 2010. The Kraiders Otaku Fridge. All content, except screenshots, belong to the webmaster.