A groundbreaking Japanese feature by a group of young animators, THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE was released to US home video in 1995 in an English language version. This tale of a young man who volunteers to be his planet's first man in space offers breathtaking animation, spectacular design,
and a carefully constructed imaginary culture--although its deliberately paced, meandering storyline demands extraordinary patience.
The film posits an alternate world incorporating Japanese, American, European, and Third World cultural elements and a level of technological achievement on a par with that of the 1950s. Shiro Lhadatt, an aspiring pilot, enters into the Royal Space Force of Honneamano, a ragtag band of rejects
from the other armed services thrust into a fledgling space program marked by low morale and underfunding.
When Shiro meets Leiqunni, a poor, plain-looking girl who distributes religious pamphlets, he is inspired by her enthusiasm for the space program and volunteers to pilot the first rocket to orbit the planet. Put through extensive and expensive training, he becomes a public hero thanks to a
campaign carefully orchestrated by the royal family and the media.
When Shiro discovers that the rocket launch is being used to provoke a war with the neighboring Republic, he becomes disillusioned and goes AWOL. After Leiqunni fends off his fumbling attempt to rape her, Shiro returns to the city where an attack on him by an agent of the Republic convinces him to
return to the base and continue his preparation for the flight.
The launch is officially called off after enemy troops cross the border, but General Khaidenn, Shiro's commander, defies orders and begins the countdown. The rocket is successfully launched and the warfare stops temporarily. Looking out over the earth, Shiro proclaims the absence of borders and
makes a plea for world peace.
THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE is an ambitious animated feature that succeeds best at creating an elaborate alternate world in which a society stands poised between traditional culture and high technology. The detailed production design and intricate imagery of cityscapes, rural countryside, and the
primitive rocket base are imaginatively executed with numerous clever touches.
The character of Shiro, however, is never fleshed out enough to make the viewer really care about his frequent bouts with self-doubt and disillusion. His response to Leiqunni's enthusiasm is rather sudden and not convincingly motivated. In fact, Leiqunni remains the most interesting character in
the film. Her religious devotion is rather touching in such an uncaring society and it ultimately has a profound effect on Shiro. Also, the fact that she's drawn realistically and not in the kawaii (i.e., cute) fashion so favored by Japanese animators makes her stand out as a recognizable
character. However, the scripters' decision to block any potential romance between the two main characters reduces the film's emotional impact.
One final production note: The fact that the film was made by a small group of young animators who formed their own company and got a major toy company, Bandai, to bankroll its $50 million budget parallels the story's focus on a small group of young people who embark on a hugely expensive, risky
project financed in the film by the royal family. (Sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1987
- Rating: NR
- Review: A groundbreaking Japanese feature by a group of young animators, THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE was released to US home video in 1995 in an English language version. This tale of a young man who volunteers to be his planet's first man in space offers breathtaking… (more)