The Wings of Honneamise – The 80′s Space Bro

The series of collab film posts continues, and this time we get to analyze a long film called Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise, which was released in 1987. Joining me this time is Mira, who runs a blog called Hachimitsu! Now that the epic of our times (Tsuritama) is over, Mira is forced to blog about things like Kuroko’s Basketball and Hunter x Hunter instead. And, of course, Wings of Honneamise–a title that I’m tempted to just rename 80′s Space Bro so I don’t have to keep copying and pasting Honneamise.

Is This About Space Flight?

Cholisose: I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I started this film. I saw that for its time it was rather well-regarded not only for its animation, but also for its sense of realism regarding its plot and characters. I readily agreed that the animation was very good, with wonderfully-detailed backgrounds and a ton of creativity in the design behind pretty much everything in this fictional world. As for the plot and characters… well, I had a hard time really getting into the plot, and perhaps an even harder time really caring for the characters. Part of this is surely tied to the creators’ goals with this film, particularly with its protagonists who are not what we’d call heroic–but even with this in mind I had trouble really caring about what was going on from scene to scene, what with its somewhat disjointed pacing and transitions, and its sometimes sudden and forced character developments.

That said, this film is probably still worth watching for the topics it brings up. It’s a movie about a nation working to send a man into space, and said man’s reflections on what all this entails. So it’s not actually a film about space flight–or at least, this is no Apollo 13. Instead, the film brings up topics such as whether or not it’s worth having such expensive government programs such as its Royal Space Force, particularly when there’s apparently a lot of domestic issues to deal with (homelessness, lack of jobs, et al). Also, it delves into how the space program may exist for purely political purposes, but it ends up meaning a lot to all those who are actually involved with its lofty goals. Space flight is no small matter! As the film shows at the end, the very notion of it actually being possible turns out to be enlightening for all types of people, regardless of their relationship (or lack thereof) with the program. The way the film went about all this didn’t particularly click with me, but it left some things to think about at least.

Mira: As Cholisose puts it, this is no Apollo 13. Wings of Honneamise is a contemplative look at space flight. Shirotsugh starts out as an unenthusiastic member of the Royal Space Force, it isn’t until he meets Riquinni that his life takes direction. She speaks of having a dream where children fly off to the stars and leave the earth, finally finding peace. At that moment Shirotsugh makes his decision, he’s going to be the one person to find a place where mankind can experience a new freedom. This leads him to volunteer becoming an astronaut. The film chronicles his journey and how the first space flight came to be. The space flight takes on different meanings in the film: an unnecessary excess, a reason to go to war and to Shirotsugh, Riquinni and the rest of the Royal Space Force, it’s a dream they hope to attain. While I do appreciate this about Wings of Honneamise, but does it actually arrive at a satisfying conclusion? What is space flight to Wings of Honneamise? Riquinni’s dream foretells this. As Shirotsugh finally launches into space, he finds peace and prays. Regardless of what has been said of the space flight, it becomes an accomplishment that encompasses all of mankind. A testament to man pushing his boundaries and achieving what is thought to be impossible.

What Constitutes Progress and Human Achievement

Cholisose: The film brings up the question several times regarding whether or not humanity has really improved at a fundamental level over the millennia. The montage at the end of the film seems to show both the protagonist’s life as well as the “life” of the human race. Though technology may advance in many ways over the years, it seems that deep down individuals will always retain some degree of moral degradation. Are humans overall decent creatures or cruel ones? We’re generally quick to point out all the wars that have gone on throughout history, and indeed, there’s still senseless violence going on all around the world even today. Whether or not things are improving on a grand scale is certainly debatable–chances are things are improving in some ways, growing worse in others, and in some cases remaining about the same.

How do we measure progress? In the last couple centuries, humanity has seen previously-unfathomable progress in fields such as technology, medicine, and education. There may be downsides to some aspects of these inventions, discoveries, and innovations–but overall it’s good to help people live healthy, fulfilling lives, right? So where does space flight fit in all this? At the end of the day, what is the significance of putting a person into orbit? Does such a costly act really benefit humanity? I suppose it all comes down to how much meaning an individual decides to place in such an event. Is progress measured by the previously-impossible becoming possible? What events in the future will constitute human achievement at the same level as space flight, I wonder?

Mira: It’s hard to say what constitutes as progress for mankind. The definition is inherently subjective . Is it arrogant for man to reach towards space despite the troubled state of the world below? Wings of Honneamise doesn’t answer this question, but it does show us that despite the scrutiny and doubt, for the Royal Space Force, space flight is a journey worth making for in that one moment, the world is put into a standstill and warring nations watch the first space flight.

Religion’s Role in a Modern Era

Cholisose: I had difficulty really caring for either Shirotsugh or Riquinni in this film. On one hand Shiro had a personality that seemed to repeatedly change to meet the needs of the plot, and on the other hand Riqui just felt static and hollow. The film seemed to push for a concept of the two really needing aspects of one another’s personalities, but their interactions felt too forced to me. At the very least though there were some points regarding what has generally been noted as a clash between faith and logic, or religion and science.

It seemed that by the end of the film, the case was being made that there was a place for both in the world, and that indeed they could be considered two sides of the same coin. Riqui could have been upset with the space program, claiming it wasted money and resources that could have been given to the poor instead, and she could have pointed out all the ways it could (and indeed did) lead to violence, warfare, and self-serving political machinations. But instead she focused on the hope that Shiro’s journey into space represented, and in the end Shiro couldn’t help but share this “world without borders” message to the entire world. The film is ambiguous about what happens next, but during the space flight at least it was nice to see how the two sides of the battle stopped fighting in order to watch that dramatic moment in their world’s history.

Mira: Riquinni gives Shirotsugh a purpose in life. Upon rediscovering religion through her, it’s almost as if he becomes a new person. She’s the first person to speak of how wonderful it must be to go into space, and her words fuel his motivation. However, somewhere in the middle of the film, he finds that Riquinni too has been guilty of profiting from ‘spreading the word of God’, a scene implied by the money that is hidden inside her shoes. This somehow betrays Shirotsugh’s beliefs, and in a darkened state of mind, he attacks her. It’s only in the end where Shirotsugh seems to have found where his beliefs lie. Once away from the world, in a symbolic moment, Shirosugh and his spaceship is bathed in white light. He reaches enlightenment, something he accomplishes by pushing his limits and removing himself from the world. We all have to find our own truths, and it seems that for Shirosugh, he finds that in the solace of space.

Final Thoughts

Cholisose: Perhaps what I liked best about this film was its setting, and in relating that setting’s situations to those of our own world. The animators clearly went to a lot of work making this world feel different from ours, but at the same time making it easy to draw comparisons. The architecture, the clothes, the coins, the guns, and even the governments and cultural practices of this film’s world reflect a rather clever blend of real life with elements of fantasy and sci-fi. I think this sort of world-building was more common in the eighties and early nineties in fiction in general, as there has since been a shift to place sci-fi and fantasy settings within the construct of the real world. There are exceptions of course, but it may worth analyzing this trend at some point.

The execution of the plot and its characters left more to be desired on my part, and there are a few sequences in particular I really could have done without (eg the protagonist’s random narrations, some of the more plodding transitory scenes, and the [infamous?] attempted rape scene). It was unfortunately a story that simply did not engage me, which can likely be traced to a wide variety of reasons (such as a different target audience, perhaps). I’d say feel free to give this film a try, but be prepared for a long haul.

Mira: The first minute in Wings of Honneamise had me stunned at how meticulous the world-building was, coupled with a hypnotic soundtrack penned by Ryuichi Sakamoto, it was hard not to fall in love. However, the middle section of the film is rather tedious. The film goes from tangent to tangent without properly establishing its characters. With the exception of Shirotsugh, Manna and Matti– everyone else felt more like caricatures than actual people so keeping myself invested was very difficult. Thankfully, it does redeem itself with a conclusion that ties together the spiritual aspects of the film. It was a fine way to spend two hours but I don’t think I’ll be rewatching it any time soon.

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8 responses

  1. Pingback: Wings of Honneamise Collab Post with Cholisose | Hachimitsu

  2. For some reason this looks really…really familiar, but then again, everything Gainax produces looks like I seen it before. Might try giving this a shot myself.

    August 26, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    • From what I understand, it is Gainax’s very first project. Certainly not a bad start, especially in the technical department. Had to be especially impressive back when it first appeared in the eighties.

      August 31, 2012 at 11:43 pm

  3. jreding

    Thank you, Cholisose and Mira, for reviewing this movie and motivating me to watch it as I had planned since long ago! I hope you’re going to continue your film collab, Cholisose! You already noted most of what I had to say about the characters and plot so I’m going to focus on another aspect:

    For me, as it seems for both of you, as well, one of the strongest points has been the setting. I particularly liked the “old-school” look of the very detailed backgrounds (like in the second pic of your post) which somehow reminded me of American 1950s or 1960s comics (not that I know much about these, though). Maybe the movie was deliberately made to also visually remind of the space age?

    For some reason I’m very much drawn to depictions of war times from the viewpoint of a bystander or civilian. So I quite enjoyed how the movie for most of it’s time continued to remind of us imminent danger of war, e.g. by the frequent ruins in the background. I was also very impressed by the war scenes at the end when the frontline fighting came closer and closer to the towering launch site. Again I felt remembered of space-age cold war propaganda and (without having experienced it myself) the threat of invasion. The launch itself, of course, was awesome, as well.

    Like with Angel’s Egg the aesthetics already made this movie worth watching for me.

    By the way, when I saw the plane for Shirotsugh’s practice cruise I immediately felt reminded of the awesome movie Sky Crawlers which also features rear-end propeller machines, characters in war times and slow-moving plot. Sky Crawlers btw is partly set in a city much reminiscent of the Angel’s Egg one. I you haven’t seen that movie it may be of interest for you.

    Postscriptum: Some time ago I read in a review that Shirotsugh decides to pursue his path even though it’s pretty clear that he’s going to die in space (as a “human satellite”). The end titles suggested to me, though, that he safely returns to earth. What do you think of it?

    August 29, 2012 at 3:14 am

    • Glad you’re liking these film collab posts, jreding! The next movies will be Loups=Garous and the latest Shinkai film.
      I see what you mean about the 50′s feel to some of the setting details. The atmosphere of Honneamise definitely seems reminiscent of the whole “pushing past the boundaries of this world” and “venturing out into the great unknown of space” themes found in the golden age of science fiction. The whole space race of that time proved to be fertile ground for all sorts of creative world-building in the realms of fiction.
      Sky Crawlers is a film I have seen, and I’m pretty sure I did a brief blog post on it (you can find it on my anime page linked at the top, or with the search bar at the bottom). It’s definitely an artistic film, and much like Angel’s Egg I didn’t really see it as a film meant to entertain in any way. Unlike Angel’s Egg though, there wasn’t much imagery that captured my attention, and I didn’t really care for much of what was going on plot-wise. I still felt it was worth watching though, since it presented some interesting concepts.
      I personally did not get any vibes from the ending of Honneamise that hinted at Shirotsugh dying in space. But perhaps a second watch with that possibility in mind would prove otherwise?

      August 31, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      • jreding

        Just read your blog post on Sky Crawlers. Agree on everything safe that the (abundant) scenes where nothing happens were the most enjoyable parts for me (and this is saying something as the dogfights were gorgeous!). For some reason I thought it must be nice to have so much time at hand, zero stress and nice and green scenery all around… I also think it adds a lot to the melancholic wartime feel of the movie; I guess in RL wartime people spent most for their time not fighting but sitting around killing time. I’d also like to mention the awesome soundtrack of that movie! Besides I loved the many open threads, e.g. the officer’s daughter whose very existence isn’t explained at all (or did I miss something?).

        Re Honneamise: As I recall the initial reaction of Shirotsugh’s comrades when he volunteered was the he was choosing his own death. Also, later on the head of the project at one point mentions that they were saving on the life maintenance systems. Finally, the idea of a “human satellite” reminded me of that dog the Russians shot to space in the 50s which also died up there. So I was prepared to see S. going on a no-return trip but admittedly nothing indicates that at the end.

        Btw, have you already watched Jin-Roh? If not, this would be a good candidate for you collab if I should suggest one.

        September 1, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      • Sky Crawlers was a bit of a tricky movie, as I recognized the artistic merit of the film (in its animation, music, themes, style of storytelling, and even its very ambition), but the viewing experience (for me) was truly dull. I think my main issue with it may have been just how unclear it was with its rather in-depth and ambiguous plot. For me this is probably the biggest difference between Sky Crawlers and Angel’s Egg–the latter is certainly vague and takes effort to draw meaning from, but the storyline was very simple and easy to follow. I didn’t get what was going on in Sky Crawlers half the time, since all the characters went to as much effort as possible to not talk about anything that was going on. XP
        Those all sounds like good points regarding Shirotsugh’s fate. The idea of him dying in space would certainly affect one’s interpretation of the film! The fact the launch was rushed in the first place could perhaps add to that possibility as well.
        I haven’t watched Jin-Roh before, so I’ll probably take a look at that the next time I start another set of these movie collab posts. Thanks for the suggestion!

        September 4, 2012 at 10:01 pm

  4. Pingback: Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Kokoro Community, Fairies Invent Religion, and Exorcising Anime Demons «

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