Wings of Honneamise (Mania.com)

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Wings of Honneamise
Text by Joe McCullochOnce upon a time, the American media had barely heard of anime. The entireconcept of the word was hazy, and only mild whispers were heard of thoseJapanese cartoons, supposedly filled with sex and violence. How could anyoneappreciate such things? Why was there a growing fan base for such trash, suchperversion? Surely it was just a passing interest for American youth, and wouldfade away soon. But it did not, and even as more and more anime broke through,the perception of "gory porno" remained. It would take a largersuccess to stop such thoughts, or at least stall them. The Wings of Honneamisewas that success. Playing in theatres in various cities, the film (the first by Gainax,the studio behind Neon Genesis Evangelion, among other classics) gatheredcritical praise, first from anime fans, and then mainstream reviewers, RogerEbert among them. The eventual video release sealed it as one of the classics ofanime. And after years of delays and restless waiting, the DVD is here. Is itworth having? No, it is essential you have it.Wings revolves around a young man, Shirotsugu Ladhatt (Shiro for short), whoonce dreamed of becoming an air force pilot. He never had the drive to study,though, and his grades were poor. Needing work, he joined the Royal Space Force.You see, Wings does not take place on Earth, but on an alien world similar toours. The nation of Honneamise, where Shiro lives, is a militaristic one, andthe concept of space travel without a military purpose is a joke. Honneamisealso suffers from rampant unemployment and a slagging economy, the Space Force beingone of the few jobs left. And so Shiro coasts through life until, after a nightof drinking, he meets a young religious fanatic among the brothels. Her name isRiqunni, and Shiro is drawn to her passion. Slowly, Shiro becomes moredetermined in his work, but is it out of a need to impress her, or to fill hisown spiritual void? Soon, Shiro is well on the path to becoming the first man inspace, and becomes even more torn as he is made a political icon to salve thenation's dissent, and also an icon of government waste by rebellious factions.And as the launch draws near, it becomes clear that the Honneamise military hastheir own plan to jump-start the economy, and the Space Force must choosebetween possibly giving their own lives for human progress, or returning totheir status as a cog in the gears of the militaristic machine.Aside from being an interesting and involving story (my description cannot doit justice, there are too many subtleties), Wings of Honneamise features astunning depth of emotional conflict and thematic maturity. Shiro, as he becomesa celebrity, is confused as to whether or not he is doing the right thing; he issuddenly aware that his actions effect not only his own life, but others' aswell, and possibly history itself. It is a credit to the film's maturity thatShiro is not a flawless hero. He makes mistakes and does bad things (one scenein particular will not have anyone rushing to join his fan club), but this makeshim a more authentic person, and his growing enlightenment is all the morerewarding for it. The themes are also superbly handled. Aside from the characterthemes of self-actualization and finding your place in the world, there is thewider theme of progress vs. spirituality. On one side, Riqunni tells Shiro aboutman's sinful nature, about how man has spoiled all God has created with hismachines of war and emotional lies. On the other, Shiro's commander drives himto succeed, saying that a stop in progress would lead to stagnation of the humanrace, and a lack of motivation for human existence. This deep, almost (dare Isay it!?) Miyazakian theme carries the most resonance, as Shiro knows the answerlies in between... but where?Controversy rages over the video quality of the DVD, with individual setupsoffering varying levels of quality. But the extra material makes this discspecial. First and foremost is the director's commentary, a first in anime DVD(and no, the WB guy on the Pokemon Movie DVD doesn't count). Then comes Gainax'sfirst work, the 4-minute short version of the film used to sell the film toBandai. A deleted scene, which further shades in the military's role in thefilm's society is also included. And if that isn't enough, virtually the entiresoundtrack and 75 minutes of production art are also crammed in. Needless tosay, Japanese and English tracks are included, and both sound fine, the English5.1 being especially good, if you don't mind the early dub quality.And so, there can be no doubt. This is one of the most challenging, deep,involving, and technically astounding (the animation quality is stunning,considering it was the first film for nearly all involved) anime films evermade. The DVD offers supplements that enhance the film as well as inform. Youmust own this DVD. Let me say it again.YOU MUST OWN THIS DVD.Screenshots appear courtesy of the Ultimate Animanga guide: http://the.animearchive.org/index2.html