Some people can’t stand anime and don’t see the appeal to anything animated at all. Some people aren’t into most animated things out there due to subject and content, but aren’t intrinsically against animated features. If you’re in the second category, you might appreciate The Wings of Honneamise

Honneamise is a fictional nation in a fictional world trying to embark on its world’s first space program. The nation of Honneamise has had a Royal Space Force for several years by the start of the movie, but it’s mostly manned by people without the skills to get into the traditional air force. That includes our hero, Shirotsugh Lhadatt.

Lhadatt is something of a well-meaning but unmotivated slacker at the start of the film. He’s been in a philosophical funk. A search for meaning after the death of a colleage has him turning up on the doorstep of Riquinni, a young religious fanatic that spends her days passing out pamphlets in the town square. Riquinni doesn’t realize that the Royal Space Force is something of a joke and expresses upmost admiration for Lhadatt and his organization. This in turn pushes Lhadatt into volunteering to be the country’s next astronaut (the previous being the now-dead colleague).

Most of the movie is following Lhadatt through his training, tracking the ebb and flow of the friendship and potential romance with Riquinni, and the technical and political challenges of the space program. That may sound tedious and boring, but the devil of the story is in the details. The visuals, to start, are phenomenal. The creators of this movie created a different-but-same-as-ours world with great care to detail. The people of that world created many of the same things we did, but in slightly different ways. One example is that their coinage are actually little rods, their formal soldier uniforms have poofy skirts, the dominant religion seems to take elements of Christianity and Prometheus, and the entire world has a slightly cockeyed feel to it but without the sense that the authors were doing it just to be neat or grab your attention.

The characterization is also stellar. Shirotsugh and Riquinni compliment each other very well, the former as someone that has seemingly lived his life as a pedestrian thinker suddenly pushed to contemplate the deeper meanings of life and the latter as a woman that has lived in utter devotion to her faith that has never bothered to think about the day-to-day things such as paying the bills or making friends. Unlike in many movies, the relationship between the two of them isn’t a seemless connection but rather a series of jerky motions where you’re going back and forth as to whether or not that’s where it’s headed at all.

The plot itself is mostly predictable, though with enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. The space project becomes something of a political football with an enthusiastic crown prince facing off against a cynical parliament. You don’t see any of the discussions, but hear about them in newsreels and the word coming from On High about the current direction of the program. The disconnect between those with the power making the decisions and the ones putting their lives on the line carrying them out is an interesting one. A constant message is to never believe in what you’re being asked to do. It’s one that resonated with me.

The movie is a touch over two hours long and the pacing is slow and deliberate. If you’re looking for something with great animated explosions and aren’t interested in much else, you’ll fall asleep before you get to them. What Wings of Honneamise does manage to accomplish, though, is to utilize the surreal nature of an invented animated world and sew it in with relatable, common characters wading through uncharted territory.

A few interesting tidbits:

  • The name “Honneamise” is mentioned only a handful of times throughout the film and has an unexpected pronunciation. I did not know that Honneamise was the name of a geographical place until my third viewing.
  • The nation’s rival is only referred to as “The Republic”. At some point in the past Honneamise and The Republic went to war against one another and there are allusions that The Republic is occupying portions of Honneamise. The only Republicans you see are the defense minister and his aides. In the original Japanese version, the Republicans speak English.
  • I saw both the dubbed and subtitled versions and either are worth seeing. There are only a couple major deviations. One philosophical conversation about right and wrong between Shirotsugh and his friend Mati is changed. The subtitled version of Riquinni is a little more evangelical in tone than the dubbed version. The dub voice actors are quite good, though.
  • This movie introduced me to the phrase “Before you were an itch in your daddy’s crotch”, which I’ve been using variations of ever since.

Category: Theater

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2 Responses to Review of Wings of Honneamise (1997)

  1. Smoothvirus says:

    An excellent film, one of my all-time favorites. A running theme throughout the movie is that spaceflight is an important milestone in the advancement of human civilization. Shiro’s flight makes the wars and troubles of his fictional world trivial.

    Also, it’s one of the most technically accurate films out there in terms of spaceflight and how rocketry works. The production got advice from NASA in making the film, and it shows. This movie is far more accurate in portraying spaceflight than this years Astronaut Farmer.

  2. trumwill says:

    A running theme throughout the movie is that spaceflight is an important milestone in the advancement of human civilization. Shiro’s flight makes the wars and troubles of his fictional world trivial.

    A very good observation. Especially in parallel with the events wherein the petty governments and wars wanted to use this great achievement for strategic advantage and almost squandered it doing so.

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