Wings of Honneamise (BD+DVD Combo) (of 1) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, August 02, 2007
Release Date: Friday, July 27, 2007

What They Say
Experience the classic anime masterpiece in the highest visual and audio quality ever with this ultimate Blu-ray & DVD Two Disc Set! "I will not give up. I will realize my dream...even if it means death!" Acclaimed by anime fans all over the world, Royal Space Force-The Wings of Honneamise comes back to life 20 years after its original release! The stirring odyssey created by nascent anime masters at GAINAX is still unsurpassed for its meticulous artistry and heartfelt drama of a young man's coming of age in a turbulent world!

[Blu-ray disc]

BD50G (single sided, dual-layer disc) / AVC / COLOR / 16:9 (1080p Hi-Def)
Subtitles: English & Japanese

1. English Dub - Dolby Digital Plus (Dolby Surround)
2. Japanese Dub - Dolby TrueHD (5.1ch) & Linear PCM (Dolby Surround)

DVD-9 / MPEG2 / Region 1 & 2 / COLOR / NTSC / 16:9 (Anamorphic, 480i Std-Def)
Subtitles: English & Japanese
1. English Dub - Dolby Digital (Dolby Surround)
2. Japanese Dub - Dolby Digital (5.1ch)

The Review!
Making its high definition debut, Wings of Honneamise becomes an even more detailed experience and one that is radically changed by its audio presentation.

This feature has seen a couple of different audio tracks over the years and this release has a good variety of them that will have audio fans interested in. For starters, the English language track done by Animaze for Manga Entertainment is present here and it's a good 5.1 mix that maxes out at 640 kbps, which I believe is higher than the DVD release was. The original Japanese theatrical mix from 1987 is included here in a stereo PCM mix that maxes out at 1.5 mbps and captures what was seen during that run. When the film was released on DVD in Japan some years ago, a new Sound Renewal version was created which also saw a theatrical run, which means we have two "original theatrical mixes" on the release. This has been presented here as a Japanese TrueHD 5.1 mix which means it's bitrate is all over but maxes out around 4.9 mbps depending on the scene.

This mix has completely changed how I've viewed the film. The previous incarnations of the show has always had its powerful moments, such as the opening and closing music scores and the final ten minutes of the film. This Sound Renewal mix is simply amazing in how it comes across as it reaches around all the channels at different times and really immerses you into the film. This is the definitive sound mix for it in my mind as it gives everything so much more impact in the big scenes but also a great amount of clarity in the quieter scenes with incidental effects and music. It was like listening to the film for the first time in how different it sounded in so many ways.

Originally in theaters back in 1987, the inaugural film of Gainax is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is encoded using AVC. Depending on displays, this may appear to be slightly pillarboxed as I believe the original presentation was about 1.66:1 and overscan may eliminate said bars. Using a dual layered 50gb Blu-ray disc, the bitrate for the show typically runs into the mid twenties with several bursts into the thirties. What is most apparent with this transfer is that the dust and dirt on the cels are all the more apparent. I'm torn between wishing that they'd taken the time to clean it up and make it more presentable and being glad that this looks pretty much like I suspect it did when it was first screened in theaters. The grain from the film looks good and doesn't overpower the visuals after the first couple of outdoor scenes and the amount of very minor nicks and scratches fades away after a few minutes as well. Colors are vibrant and bold when required, such as with the uniforms, and the detail is all the more apparent and rich here. Every time I've seen this film I feel like I find some new little detail in the backgrounds that I missed before and this presentation is like a treasure trove of that. In the end though, the issues with the dirt and dust are what kept this from being graded higher.

Bucking the trend of every other Blu-ray release out there, this box set release of the BD and DVD are done in standard thickness keepcases. The heavy chipboard box has a good classic feel to it as it uses soft white borders around the original illustration work that's so familiar from the film. The back cover provides another illustration from the film of the rocket in its gantry along with several shots from the actual animation. All of the packages technical details are kept on the obi around the box as it has two technical grids to cover both the BD and DVD details. The Blu-ray keepcase has a new piece of artwork I hadn't seen before with a cast shot of most of the main characters huddled together, including Riquinni, that has a very rough but pleasing feeling to it. The back cover has a simple illustration of one of the vehicles from the show against a lot of white space while the bottom has the technical grid that's relevant to just this volume.

Inside the keepcase is something rather interesting, a small plastic sleeve that contains some very neat little items. The first is an Honneamise branded trading card of the box cover artwork with the TrueHD logo on it. The second is a small pamphlet that talks about Dolby TrueHD and showcases the players that can use it and a schematic of how to hook it up. I am amused that in the BD release they have pictures of the couple of Japanese Toshiba HD DVD player models that can handle TrueHD. It's not a surprise considering the same booklet will be in the HD DVD release as well. The final thing in this packet is a large sized sticker from Dolby with their TrueHD logo and the phrase "High Definition Sound" below it. Essentially, this will be put into a small frame to go on my wall in the home theater so that I can show just how geeky I can be.

Included within the box is a good sized full color booklet that covers a lot of visuals from the show and numerous pages of text, presumably interviews with the staff. This is likely to be translated for the US release.

With this being a dual language worldwide release, albeit staggered, the disc is designed to work both in the US and Japan. Upon load, a static screen comes up asking you to select your language of choice. If you select English, you get the FBI warnings before it starts into the movie proper. If you select Japanese, you get those warnings but you also get a Dolby TrueHD logo as well before it starts into the movie. The top level menu has a beautiful piece of static artwork that has Shiro watching a plane taking off from a carrier in the water as the sun sets off in the distance. The bottom has the standard navigation selections with a very simple design to it that doesn't really evoke anything from the film itself. The submenus load quickly but you do have to select them, you can't push up and have them pop-up above the main menu as they get swapped out instead. The pop-up menu works in the same way during the film with the exception of an extra button to close out the pop-up menu.

The extras for this release essentially mirror just about every other Japanese release I've seen from it so there aren't any real surprises here. The first is the short promotional trailer for the film before it came out and it's very interesting to see how it was marketed at that time. In some ways it doesn't even seem like it's the same film. The other extra is a short four minute long pilot film which contains a lot of animation that didn't make it into the actual movie itself. Both extras are presented with removable English subtitles and are encoded just like the main video in AVC. The audio mixes are kept to 640 kbps Dolby Digital however.

Not too surprising but certainly disappointing is that the new director's commentary that was done for Manga Entertainment's release back in 2000 wasn't able to be added to this. The inclusion of that would have made this the definitive version of the film.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bandai Visual's adoption of high definition when it comes to its theatrical features is rather surprising. They're seemingly intent on releasing a lot of their classics into a small but anime starved market both here and in Japan. The release is for the most part a fantastic piece of work but it's been criticized on both sides of the Pacific for its packaging of the Blu-ray and DVD together. Those who want one of them aren't likely to be interested in the other at this point. That said, considering I paid the same price for the Japanese DVD release several years ago and for the Laserdisc release as well, I can only view the DVD as an added bonus, particularly since it's coded for region one and two.

In it's most basic form, Wings of Honneamise is about a world, similar to our own, and their first attempt at manned space flight. The people pushing to do this all have their various reasons for it. Those pushing to stop it all have their reasons as well. The storyline is set against the backdrop of two competing empires, and the group of soldiers and scientists who are trying to bring this dream alive end up being played like pawns.

The movie opens with a young Shiro, watching the planes fly off the deck of an aircraft carrier. Through his inner monologue, he tells of his family and his life (both quite ordinary and unexceptional). He seems to want to strive for something more, but is unsure of just what it is in his life that he needs to do. As he can't fly jets due to his grades, he ends up enrolling in the Royal Space Force, a group that is more a joke than anything else.

At this point, the movie takes a turn from the animation to do a series of wonderfully done pieces of still images while the opening credits play. The rough charcoal style images show the history of this world, its people and its leaders. The style used to do this, combined with the stunning music of Ryuichi Sakamoto sets the tempo for what this film is.

It's not just about the characters and their goals. It's about a near fully realized world, sometimes quite odd, and its inhabitants and their goals. The sheer amount of detail that goes into the backgrounds of each scene, to the uniforms of various people to their casual clothes. And that's without the stunning amount of detail that the space craft is given. This is a film where the environment is just a big a character as the human cast. To ignore this aspect of it is to not really understand the characters.

Honestly, I don't think I can in any way truly do this film justice in a content review. The best reviews I've seen have already been done, most notably by Carl Horn, who helped out with the US release years ago and is still listed as a consultant in the credits. Reading Carl's in-depth review of this many years ago after I had seen the movie helped illuminate much of it. Not need much incentive to watch it again and again, I believe I've seen this film close to twenty times and each time I find something new and interesting about it.

Watching it in high definition for the first time however has been a revelation. While the film is extremely familiar it still felt like it was new and fresh in a lot of ways. The richness of the animation is all the more apparent as are the details to the backgrounds. As much as I enjoy shows that come out today, there is simply something to traditional animation that feels so much more alive. The presentation of the film here really shines even with the dust and dirt that you can see throughout it. Yet what really makes this film feel so radically different is the audio mix. I've become a convert in the last year to PCM uncompressed tracks but have been enjoying a few TrueHD mixes as well. This Sound Renewal mix is nothing short of amazing with its clarity, depth and placement. I'll even go so far as to say that until you hear this mix on a proper setup you haven't really seen this movie properly.

In Summary:
Wings of Honneamise is a movie that even to this day still cuts right to my core when I finish it. For hours after I finished this release of it I felt as if I wasn't in the right frame of mind as what they accomplish here in two hours is powerful, simple and incredibly detailed. There are few films that really take you into another world and immerse you in it but Gainax did just that with this feature. Bandai Visual's release of the film has its problems to be sure, but the end result is what has become the definitive viewing experience for it. For those that adore this film like I do, it's going to be impossible to pass this up and it has me eagerly interested in the other "crown jewels" that Bandai Visual has set for the rest of 2007. Very highly recommended.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language,Japanese Linear PCM,English Dolby Digital+ 2.0,Japanese Subtitles,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: All
Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
Released By: Bandai Visual
MSRP: ¥10,290
Running time: 120
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 1080p
Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
Series: Wings of Honneamise