Wings of Honneamise

[a.k.a. Royal Space Force]
Dir: Hiroyuki Yamaga
Star: [voice] Leo Morimoto, Mitsuki Yayoi, Masato Hirano, Chikao Ôtsuka

Trash City
Top 50 Film
This is set on a meticulously-designed alternative world, where a fledgling space program is finding its budget squeezed, yet also finds its rocket set up to lure the state next door into invading. It is, however, a very human story, with its hero Shirotsugh Lhadatt (Morimoto), a conflicted young man who really wanted to be a navy pilot, and only ended up in the space program because his grades weren't good enough. After the death of a colleague in a test flight, he struggles with his faith, but finds it restored by Leiqunni (Yayoi), a young woman who accepts all that life throws at her, including Lhadatt, with love, compassion and forgiveness. Galvanized, Lhadatt's first mission proceeds towards takeoff - but will the countdown reach zero before war breaks out?

It's rare for an anime film to exhibit such a combination of beauty and brains. This is simply gorgeous to look at, with an entire culture re-designed: from methods of transport, all the way down to coins and cards, this is an astonishing work of imagination. It lacks the frenetic pace often seen in anime, content to unfold at its own pace while musing on topics such as faith, and why we'd want to go into space. It does get somewhat montage-happy in the middle, twiddling its philosophical thumbs, but picks things up in the final reel, generating tension wonderfully, as the foreign army heads towards the launch-site, while feverish preparations for launch are made. The film ends with more philosophy, and if it doesn't exactly offer any clear-cut answers, that the makers actually bothered to ask the questions, puts it above most film, live-action or animated.

December 2007

What we wrote then: Anyone who thinks Japanese animation is all tits 'n' tentacles needs to watch two films: 'Grave of the Fireflies' and this one. However, while 'Grave' may be the most powerful animated film ever made, its relentlessly depressing nature makes it more of an ordeal to watch than an entertainment. 'Honneamise' is just as complex and technically impressive, but is actually enjoyable rather that unendurable. It's set on an un-named planet where one nation is on the verge of getting into space, despite an underfunded and unappreciated space programme It follows in particular the man slated as their first astronaut, tracking his spiritual progress along that of the rocket, and the political machinations which bedevil the project.

The level of detail on view is astonishing, everything down to the cutlery has been designed from scratch, while Ryuichi Sakamoto's score is among his best. Though it's nominally a science-fiction story, it's more about the people than the technology, and so has much in common with 'The Right Stuff'. Gainax have put out more great work than any other studio, save perhaps Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli: not just this film, but the best TV series ever, not the vastly over-rated 'Neon Genesis Evangelion', but 'Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water', a 39-episode epic. However, it is 'Wings of Honneamise' that stands as their greatest achievement, and a piece of animation which is among the best ever. A

Wings of desire

Wings of desire
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