Synopsis: Inspired by a young woman handing out tracts on the street, Shiro Lhadatt volunteers to be the first astronaut for a space project. No one else wants to be in Shiro's shoes for some had already died amidst attempts to venture into space. Shiro is determined however, and he's willing to sacrifice his own life if need be. But certain political factions have other plans for the space project...
Review: I always feel a sense of intimidation when reviewing something that's a. critically acclaimed; or b. considered a "classic". Just my luck that Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise happens to be both. With my younger brother's incessant warnings about falling asleep in mind, I watched the two-hour spectacle unfold. There's so much riding on this title. Renowned film critic Roger Ebert is all praises for it. Almost every online review I read gave it the highest ratings. It's one of the most expensive animated films ever made to boot.
Wings of Honneamise is set in a world much like our own. Everything's a lot like Earth -- the people, the culture, etc. but it's not Earth. It's a time where space travel still considered a fantasy by most, with only a few who are willing to try and make it a reality. Thus when Shiro volunteers for the space project, his colleagues are flabbergasted. After previous unsuccessful attempts (some even resulting in death), one would have to be crazy to volunteer. But Shiro had the vision and the open-mindedness to see past the bad, and he truly believed that what he'd be doing would help mankind advance into the future. There was no turning back, and so the story goes...
Wings of Honneamise possesses a certain realism which is not unlike what you'd experience when watching so-called "serious" titles such as "Grave of the Fireflies" or "Rail of the Star". It has a very mature approach to the subject at hand, and I can understand why younger viewers would not be able to appreciate it fully. I liked the way the main character Shiro gradually developed along with the situation, and I found myself rooting for him and the project till the end. It's a story about how man transcends various obstacles in order to progress. But I also read that in portraying a world without belief in space travel, Gainax (Yes, it is from Gainax!) also meant to portray a society without belief in the potential of anime. This film is open to so many levels of interpretation -- there are various religious, moral, cultural, and political issues to contend with amidst the basic premise of man's first journey to space. Yet despite that, no part of it is hard to understand. It's straightforward storytelling without cryptic dialogues and symbolisms.
The art and animation are quite impressive, especially for something that was originally released way back in 1987. The character designs are rather dour though, although Shiro strikes me as something of a great big teddy bear with his friendly face. Each scene is rendered in great detail, making it fairly obvious that no expense was spared in the making of this film.
Wings of Honneamise is an excellent piece, but I suggest you make sure that you like this kind of heavy stuff before grabbing yourself a copy.
Miscellanies: Wings of Honneamise was a box-office disaster in its original release.