Review by Mountain Monkey
SCUM Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I’m told by Topo Sanchez that Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise screened in Singapore during one of the country’s film festivals in the 1990s. For late-comers like myself, who weren’t fortunate enough to catch it on the big screen, the recent Blu-ray release of the movie by Maiden Japan is a savior. Released back in 1987, this fanastic anime should rank with Katsuhiro Otomo‘s Akira (1988) as one of the great animation films of the 1980s, or perhaps of any decade.
Painstakingly animated by hand in the decade before computers began to proliferate the movie industry, the attention to detail in the film is just plain scary, given the arduous labor involved. Imagine a propeller-plane starting up — in the The Wings of Honneamise it doesn’t just start up, it sputters to life, with a magical stuttering of sparks, smoke and sound.
Set on a parallel earth, with two nations — the Kingdom of Honneamise and The Republic — in a perpetual cycle of war with each other (think ‘1984’ or even the ‘Cannon Fodder’ segment in Otomo’s Memories), the film centers around Shirotsugh Lhadatt, a young man from Honneamise who’s become part of the Kingdom’s rag-tag space program. Run by a dedicated core of senior citizens, the Honneamise space program is stitched together with wood, steel and sticky tap, steam-punk style. Events slowly unfold during the 2.5 hour film, which gradually pushes Shirotsugh into the hot seat as the program’s launch date grows nearer, and The Republic threatens to invade…
Part sci-fi, part fantasy and part coming-of-age drama, The Wings of Honneamise features an intriguing plot that chugs along. But the slow pace of the film is more than offset by the soaring and fluid animation, which is a joy to behold in high definition. The film truly raised the art form to levels that we now only see occasionally from the likes of Studio Ghibli. A sequel to The Wings of Honneamise is reportedly in the works, with the original development crew in the driving seat. Let’s hope it lives up to the original.