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Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise
Gainax's first feature has got the right stuff
Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise
Manga Entertainment
Directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga
Japan, 1987
If your idea of science-fiction anime doesn't go beyond women with big eyes, bigger bustlines, and still-bigger robots, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise will come as either a rude shock or a pleasant surprise. If only casually reviewed, the movie could be (and has been) described thusly: "On a troubled, Earthlike world, layabout Shirotsugh Lhadatt volunteers to become the first man in space." Inevitable comparisons to The Right Stuff ensue.

While reasonably accurate, this description completely misses the point. What the creators of Honneamise have done is to fabricate a world and characters so textured, the film cannot be adequately described in 25 words or less.

In the unnamed country on Honneamise's unnamed world, the Royal Space Force is considered something of a joke, a near-useless organization run by crazy, dreaming old men. Its recruits are a lazy, unmotivated lot, only becoming serious when a technical screwup kills one of their compatriots.

Shirotsugh Lhadatt is one of these men; as he explains in the opening voiceover, his dream was to fly a jet in the air force--but he failed to make the cut, and joined the space force instead. During an evening's carousing, he meets Riquinni, a young religious woman. While some of his intentions towards her are less than honorable, Shiro finds himself touched by her sincerity and selflessness. She inspires him enough that he volunteers to be the Space Force's first astronaut, much to the surprise of his comrades.

Shiro's act reignites the spark and the pride in the Space Force's ranks--everyone pulls together to get Shiro trained, and solve problems both technical and financial. More importantly, it starts Shiro on the road towards self-discovery and growth. While it takes him a long time to get over his desire to take Riquinni's clothes off, he begins to learn more about her beliefs through conversation and reading her religious tracts. This leads him to thinking about humanity, and to looking inward. Along his journey towards understanding, he learns a little something from everyone he encounters, looking at their perspectives and seeing how they mesh with his own. Honneamise, then, is a story not only of the evolution of this world's space program, but of the evolution of a single man. And the two are entwined well enough that you sometimes miss where one story ends and the other begins.

Gainax originally produced Wings of Honneamise in 1987 as the then-fledgling company's first feature film. Intended to play to both US and Japanese audiences, Honneamise's first flight was short-lived as it received shoddy manhandling in the US: redubbed, re-edited, and retitled Star Quest, Honneamise died without a trace. In Japan, it received but scant commercial success.

Manga Entertainment has since picked up the rights to Honneamise, this time getting the job done right--the translation and voice-acting are more than competently handled. After a brief theatrical tour of the States, Honneamise is now out on video in both dubbed and subtitled formats. Hopefully, it's now time for Honneamise to garner the success it so richly deserves.

Originally printed in Sci-Fi Entertainment vol. 2, no. 4 (December 1995)
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