Before the success of Gunbuster and then Nadia (the profits of which I believe were devoured by NHK anyway) or Neon Genesis, Gainax was nearly buried by the poor (compared to its budget) financial performance of a film called Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise.
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (Ōritsu Uchūgun: Oneamisu no Tsubasa) 1987
Obviously, if you’re familiar with anime in general or the roots of Gainax specifically, you’ll be aware of this cult classic and it’s extremely high production values.
If you’re not, one glance at the cover and title – and knowing the studio’s other work around the late 1980s – will have you thinking, cool, space battles and action! Well, the film is actually a lot closer to a drama based on the space race of the 1950s. That and the personal journey of a kinda dead-eyed ‘hero’ whose apathy is not only a character flaw but a real chore to watch, as I found out last year when I finally saw Wings.
Does that mean it’s not worth watching? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what you’re looking for, of course. If you want a dull, even cruel male lead who eventually gains a spine and some purpose during the course of the film, then yeah this might be worth a look.
I had trouble with his emptiness, his bizarre choice of sexual assault at one point and cruelty towards children but Shiro maybe has a soul, I guess.
The film itself is again, really beautifully animated and on a par or exceeds the work of most other major studios of the day and of course, it holds up today.
There’s also a really impressive level of detail on the settings and establishing an ‘otherworldly yet familiar’ look to the places. The pacing is slower, as befitting a drama, and that’s not a problem, and the few action sequences throughout are definitely exciting, especially the assassination attempt, but overall the film left me feeling somewhat cold.
When I finished Wings of Honnêamise I was glad to have seen it but I doubt I’ll recommend it very often, despite its stunning visuals and attention to detail.