Shirotsugh "Shiro" Lhadatt may be a cadet in the Kingdom of Honneamise's Royal Space Force (RSF), but he has never been in space before—in fact, nobody has. The RSF is often regarded as a failure both by the country's citizens and a government more interested in precipitating a war with a neighboring country than scientific achievement. Following the funeral of a fellow cadet, an unmotivated Shiro is walking in the city one night, when he bumps into Riquinni Nonderaiko, a young, pious woman, genuinely enthusiastic about the significance of space exploration.
As the two gradually bond, Riquinni's encouragement inspires Shiro to volunteer as a pilot for a prospective rocket ship, potentially becoming Honneamise's first man in space. Shiro and the RSF are soon joined by a team of elderly but eager scientists and engineers, and together, they embark on a mission to mold their nation's space program into a success. However, their efforts soon catch the attention of the government, which seems to have a different plan for the RSF in mind. Even as the odds are stacked against them, these men and women continue to stubbornly look to the sky, because somewhere among the frontiers of space may lie humanity's last chance at redemption.
Wow. I can't believe no one has written a review for this movie yet. I'd have to say that, based on its current 7.8 rating, it's slightly underrated. I myself would call it a masterpiece, but keeping other people's tastes in mind, I give it a conservative 9/10. (See bottom for a quick summary)
What makes this movie stand out is its spot-on storytelling. For me, there's not a single dull moment from beginning to end. Fans of action may be put off by instances of character development in the middle, but the movie always picks
up and gets right back to forwarding the plot. I myself found the character development engrossing and mostly believable. (I also think it was crucial to let the viewer feel out the world of Honneamise by developing the main character, but that's just my opinion.) The movie has such good writing that it wouldn't have mattered much if they glimpsed over the side characters, but they're given their own time in the sun, and it adds a nice touch to the realism.
Speaking of realism, the alternate universe of Honneamise is so finely tuned that you'll hardly catch all the details on your first viewing. The world will seem so familiar that you'll want to connect it back to our world. I think that's what the director intended, because I felt invested in the unfolding events of the movie, as if the history of Honneamise were somehow my own.
Most importantly, the ending of this movie is epic. And that's all I'll say, because I don't want to give anything away. If you're watching this with your enjoyment meter at 5 or 6, PLZ try to make it to the end.
This movie had an insane budget - I think that's all I have to say. It has great art and fluid action scenes. Sure, it's a little dated (which is why I gave it a 9), but you can't ask for anything that much better even nowadays.
The score is amazing. It's far-above-par soundtrack is one of only two anime soundtracks Ryuichi Sakamoto (of The Last Emperor fame) composed (source: fatalist17 on Youtube). However, its sound is fresh from the 80s, and some people may not like it. Still, it shouldn't get in the way of enjoying the movie. Also, the seiyuu is excellent!
I've already talked about character development when I talked about the plot, but let me just repeat that the main character's easygoing nature was easy for me to relate to, and really helped me immerse myself in the film. I'd have to say every character is believable, even stereotypical stock characters like the quirky scientists. I gave the movie an 8 because there were two characters who annoyed the heck out of me - but that may be just a personal grudge. I won't say who, because I don't want to bias you before you watch the movie.
A great story. Solid characters. Awesome artistry and soundtrack. A nice dose of action. The very recipe for enjoyment. Now, enjoyment is subjective, but I still can't see how anyone would NOT enjoy this unless they were only in it for the action.
The production values (art and sound) for this movie are phenomenal! They really tried to make the characters believable - I found it easy to root for the main character. Of course, the storytelling is what really brings this film together. If you like well-rounded works, this is a must-see. If you get bothered by things like the slow scenes in The Godfather, you may not enjoy it as much, but I still highly recommend this masterpiece.
Wings of Honneamise is a perhaps one of the most underrated and under-appreciated animes ever made. It is clearly made for adults, not due to vulgarity or gratuitous violence, but due to its moral ambitions and its seriousness.
Ahead of its time. Amazing storytelling, a cut above almost every other anime out there, save for maybe Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon. The young director of this film really knew his stuff.
The art style is a bit old, but by no means is it bad. It is extremely detailed at times, and the animation is very fluid and stunning. I'd say it's around AKIRA quality.
Sadly, the weakest link
in WoH. The music, while trying to sound otherworldly, fails to enhance the scenes most of the time. There are two memorable songs, though, near the end.
Some of the best character development you'll ever see in an anime. This is the kind of movie that even non-anime fans will like. The characters are very well handled, and grow after each scene.
Extremely entertaining, well directed, amazing climactic action scene, what else do you want?
An extremely underrated classic. I don't know why the rating is so low. Seriously, go watch this movie. Buy it even, it's not that expensive on VHS. The fact that this movie is so underrated really depresses me, and makes me think twice about the taste of most anime fans.
Wings of Honneamise is a great film, but it also has some serious flaws. For me though, an anime can do lots of things wrong if it also does some things really well. Wings is a loveable underdog story. It's an anti-war film. It's a coming of age movie. It's a steampunk, alternate history retelling of the early Space Race from the POV of the Soviet Union. It also has at least 2 plainly stupid scenes that detract from the film and have no business being there. It can be more than a little sappy and it is happy to trade realism for emotion, which
I will explain later in this review. This was written by a 23 year old kid with no writing experience, who after this dedicated his career to writing and directing pure schlock like Mahoromantic Robot Maid. I will warn you that this film is NOT like Mushishi or a Yuasa anime where it has an ironclad defense and is impermeable to critic snark. It is however worth your time!
Plot and characters: (Spoilers ahead! Skip this next section if you don't want anything spoiled!)
There is a Cold War brewing between 2 super powers in this alternate dimension. Honneamise is an authoritarian, poor, industrial power while its rival is a wealthy and powerful democracy called "The Republic". The government of Honneamise wishes to create a space program and send the first man into space in order to uplift their people and score a propaganda victory. However, they have a shoestring budget and most people don't even believe that human spaceflight is possible. A hero is needed who is willing to throw safety to the wind in order to achieve a truly beautiful feat for all Mankind. Our hero is a man named Shirotsugh Lhadatt. Yeah...this is an alternate history so everyone has silly fantasy names like Zap Rowsdower. I'm just going to call our hero Yuri Gagarin because this film leaves ZERO doubt of who he is supposed to represent.
Just like the real one, our Yuri at first is an aimless youth from a nowhere town. He comes from nothing, but he has big dreams and balls of steel. One day he meets a highly religious woman, which is seen as unusual because Honneamise cracks down on religion and is very dismissive of faith. This woman gives Yuri a new sense of purpose in life and now he starts to take his job as a Cosmonaut seriously and has an unquenchable thirst to reach the stars. All appears to be going well, but tragedy strikes and Honneamise's chief rocket engineer is killed in a freak accident. This is seemingly a reference to the death of chief engineer Sergei Korolev during the middle of the Space Race. Nothing will deter Yuri though from his dream. Yuri becomes a famous celebrity and is used as a propaganda figure by Honneamise, always forced to smile big in public despite how he may actually be feeling. He is also promoted to the rank of colonel. You know, just in case there are 5 people left in the theater audience that haven't figured out who he is supposed to be.
Now we get to last 3rd and things get a little rough. Yuri gets increasingly frustrated with Jesus freak, because she ain't given none. One night, he just loses control and flat out tries to rape her, but she knocks him out with a statue. The next morning, he's a bit embarrassed and tries to apologize for the whole rape thing, but she says it is her fault for not putting out. She says that Yuri is a nice guy and deserved her body, but she was being selfish. Yuri is forced to accept her apology and she walks off. She is a little passive aggressive for about 10 minutes and then it's like the scene never happened. Yeah... I can see why Ebert wasn't very gentle in his criticism of this scene. Next we follow up with another stupid scene. The dastardly Republic decide that Honneamise must not be allowed to win a propaganda victory and send an octogenarian assassin to kill Yuri! The old man at first tries to kill Yuri with a pistol, but he has the worst aim in the history of anime. Then the old man tries to run Yuri over with a street cleaner, which is only slightly less silly than the steam roller from Austin Powers. Our hero kills the old fucker with a knife and we enter the final act.
Honneamise is FINALLY ready to launch the rocket, but the Republic refuses to see them succeed. You would think the Republic would pool their superior resources and send their own guy into space. They would probably end up beating Honneamise to the moon, but that would make too much sense. Instead they decide to launch an all out invasion of the Soviet Un- I mean Honneamise and try stop the rocket from taking off! Yuri rallies ground control to launch the rocket anyways and the Republic is so awe struck by this beautiful moment that they throw down their arms and stop fighting! Yuri reaches the heavens and sends a transmission to Earth telling Mankind to stop fighting and unite as one. If we can send a man to space, then we can accomplish anything! Yuri then begs God to forgive Mankind for our many sins. His beautiful act of courage, determination, and heroism achieves a level of redemption for Man. This is an anime that essentially ends with Yuri Alekseyivich Gagarin becoming the Second Coming of Christ and rocketing for our sins!
The art and animation is actually quite spectacular for 1987. The chief animator on this product was Hideaki Anno, so they were in good hands. He restrained himself from adding giant robots to this film, but I could have done without the full frontal nudity and giving Christ freak such massive boobs. I know you love titties Anno, but this was NOT the right time! Unless the scene was intended to be erotic...which would actually make it even worse.
The music adds well to the powerful emotion and both English and Japanese dubs are spectacular. I personally like the Enlglish dub thanks to the presence of Bryan Cranston, who plays Yuri's best friend. If your casual buddies start getting bored by this film's run time, you can start adding Breaking Bad quotes every time he's on screen.
Is this the perfect anime? Well...no. However, I would rather love something flawed with lots of heart and soul than something immune to criticism that feels boring, cold, and sterile. This anime has some truly beautiful moments. Yeah the rape scene and old assassin scene were dumb and should have been cut. Yeah the Republic's reactions to Honneamise's space program made little sense and weren't realistic. Yes, the level of Russophilia is SO high this film is probably banned in Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic States. Despite all of this, it's a good film and I'm NOT a Gainax fanboy.
Now. Let's end this review with a good old Church of Gainax hymn!
What would Yuri Gagarin do if he was here right now?
He'd make a plan and he'd follow through!
That's what Yuri Gagarin'd do!
When Yuri Gagarin was in the Olympics
Skating for the gold,
He did two salchows and a triple lutz
While wearing a blind fold!
When Yuri Gagarin was in the alps
Fighting grizzly bears
He used his magical fire breath
And saved the maidens fair!
(Guitar rift) Yuri! Fight! Yuri! Fight!
So what would Yuri Gagarin do
If he were here today?
I'm sure he'd kick an arse or two
That's what Yuri Gagarin'd do!
When Yuri Gagarin traveled through time to the year 3010
He fought the evil robot king and saved us all again!
When Yuri Gagarin built the pyramids
He beat up Kublai Khan!
Cause Yuri Gagarin doesn't take shit from ANY-BODY!!!
Yuri Gagarin was born on the planet of Krylock
He came to Earth to save us all from war and death and suck!
Yuri Gagarin's here!
So round up all your lasses and tell 'em to have no fear!
Say, "Come over here my honey
And come and I'll take off my pants!
And I'm gonna make dirty love to you
Cause that's what Yuri Gagarin'd do."
Cause that's what Yuri Gagarin'd Do!
I’ve never actually been compelled to actually sit down and write a review, until now. I simply cannot fathom how a seriously flawed movie such as Wings of Honneamise could have pretty much universal 9s and 10s here on MAL.
For the positives: the animation is top tier and holds up even today; on level with works such as AKIRA. The art and design also seems to have had a lot of care taken into them, with distinctive designs for especially the clothing and vehicles. The sound for the film is also great, although unfortunately, apart from a few pieces of music,
such as during the OP, the soundtrack leaves a lot to be desired, and fails to swell the emotions. The film also has one scene which was nothing short of phenomenal.
This would be Lhadatt flying an airplane for the first time. In this scene, the sense of sheer speed from the airplane is conveyed better than I have ever seen done in any anime, and I was yearning for more scenes like this, however, unfortunately it is the only scene in the film like it. Even the climax doesn’t match it in my opinion.
While the climax itself is undeniably well-choreographed, it ultimately had me yearning for more. Out of a 2 hour film, only a mere 7 minutes is dedicated to this scene, and honestly doesn’t do enough to build up the tension.
I can’t deny that the film has a lot of relevant commentary on political corruption and war; however this doesn’t necessarily make for an engaging movie, which leads to my biggest gripe with the film. There are few thrills to be had, which would be fine, but it needs to engage the audience in a different way such as with compelling characters and character development, that make you care about each scene that is happening. Unfortunately, this is the area in which Royal Space Force is lacking the most. While the characters can be amusing in a comedic way, they rarely reached the status of becoming truly likeable which is what would make a movie like this shine.
Lhadatt, who starts out of a character with absolutely no interest in space travel, (so little in fact, he arrives late to a dead comrades funeral), runs into a girl who spends her free time preaching on the streets. After a meeting with her, he suddenly has all the motivation in the world to actually do something. I'd perhaps get what the movie was trying to do if this motivation was a gradual thing, but here it comes out of nowhere, and it makes you wonder why the words of this girl had such a profound effect on Lhadatt.
It does mention in the prologue that he had always wanted to fly, but it doesn’t exactly give a lot of explanation as to why he lost this desire; and giving his character a complete 180 twenty minutes into the film cheapens the development that he could have had, and makes him seem more of a joke than when he actually didn't care about anything.
Later on in the film, Lhadatt does go through a small crisis over whether or not it's morally right to fly into space when people on the ground are starving. Which is an interesting dilemma. However Lhadatt doesn't seem to come to much of a rebuttal except running away from his problems and seeking refuge with Nondreiko so he can rape her.
Now the main girl of the film, Nondreiko, similarly offers very little character development or reason to like her. Her main characteristic is that she is shown as a devoutly religious girl, however there’s no debate or discussion occurring with her beliefs.
A tragic event happens to her midway into her film, which she brushed it off, stating that the church would help her, depicting her strength of character and belief. However, I was expecting during the film for her to crack and have her beliefs be tested, (provide some actual conflict, due to the shit the world kept giving her), but when Lhadatt finally returns her generosity during his crisis by attempting to rape her she didn’t snap at all but rather forgave him, and pushed the blame onto herself. Strong character development, yes.
Additionally, the child she takes care of, Manna, is annoying as fuck. While her unwillingness to smile is funny at first, it grows tiresome very quickly, and becomes borderline frustrating. However, at least when she does finally smile, due to Lhadatt, there is some symbolic nature, but it's ultimately a pretty poor development, especially when it comes right off the heels of trying to rape Nondreiko.
Meanwhile, the movie is trying to convince the audience that these characters are struggling in the face of condemnation; everyone thinks the Royal Space Force a joke. However, it doesn't do much in the way of making us actually want to root for these people for a good portion of the movie (besides the inherent fact that space travel is awesome.) They're often displayed as incompetent, unenthusiastic shmoes.
The other side characters, while amusing, are also complete baboons. The movie constantly tries to build up ideals only to destroy them later on. For example, during a chase scene, where Lhadatt is trying to be assassinated, his friend, rather than help him, yells at Lhadatt to stop following him, as it was putting him in danger. A character, who supported Lhadatt during the tussle with the pilots has to sully that integrity for comedic affect by acting like such a cock here. Here is a scene that could have been serious, and further shown the resilience and comradery of the characters ends up divulging into silly comedy, made even more stupid when the assassin appears to be an old lady.
There is enjoyment to be had with this film, I wasn't particularly bored at all during the film, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled either, with the truly exciting moments coming few and far between. Ultimately, its true let down are the disappointing characters. This definitely isn’t the pinnacle of storytelling or anime, especially considering other films surrounding its release. However, it does hold historic merit as it is Gainax's first film, and because of this I can recommend it to those who are interested in other Gainax productions. For others that only have a casual interest in anime or a plot of this kind, you won't be missing out if you skip this one.
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