Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise

Oritsu Uchugun - Oneamisu no Tsubasa; animated science-fiction drama, Japan, 1987; Hiroyuki Yamaga, S: Leo Morimoto, Masahiro Anzai, Goro Naya, Hirotaka Suzuoki, Koji Totani, Mitsuki Yayoi

In an some alternate world, Shirotsugh Lhadatt joined the space force because his grades were too weak to become a pilot. When his country announces it's preparing to send the first man in space, he volunteers and starts a heavy training, while his friend Matti keeps motivating him. He also starts a "relationship" with a young woman, Riquinni, a religious fanatic who adopted a little girl. When the neighboring enemy state tries to assasinate Shirotsugh, he starts questioning his mission. When his rocket is about to launch in the demilitarized zone, the enemy state starts an invasion of the area in order to capture it, but the rocket starts and flies off to space anyway.

"The Wings of Honneamise" is a very opulent anime version of Kaufman's "The Right Stuff" set in an alternate universe: already from the funeral ceremony set somewhere at the beginning of the story, where the headstones look like poles with round rocks on them and the members wear bizarre blue-red uniforms with a long feather on top of their hats, can the viewers notice that the director and screenwriter Hiroyuki Yamaga ensured that no traces of any kind of traditions from our world can be recognized on the screen. He placed the whole story revolving around the obvious rivalry between US and Soviet Union during the "space race" in a hermetic, unknown planet in order to avoid any kind of blatant accusations - from the unusual clothes, a game that looks like a mix between monopoly and poker, bizarre design of the streets and buildings, an airplane propeller that looks like a hook, and even utility poles, every little detail is animated to look original and different on that world. It's something almost never seen before.

However, the authors didn't spend their energy only on details in set-design and costumes, but also on details of the characters, which seem alive and easily to identify with, giving the story precisely the stuff it needs. Overlong and overstretched, but with enthusiastic power that gives a portrait of a fictional nation preparing to launch the first man in space, "Honneamise" is a cult anime, wonderfully animated, shot in a crystal clear cinematography and designed to give contemplative messages about life - when the main astronaut protagonist hears that his country is spending a fortune to finance the space race while it's poor citizens are starving on the streets, the messages become very clear, and little humorous moments are there to give it more color, like in the scene where Shirotsugh finds out the little boy adopted by a religious woman is actually a little girl. The finale where the enemy state starts an invasion in order to capture the launching site of the rocket in the demilitarized zone is pure genius, and in the end there is simply something special in this slow-burning, yet complete film to give it that final special power to become a pure classic, not "just" a very good achievement.


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