Wings of Honneamise -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A+

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: C
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A++
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Wings of Honneamise

Wings of Honneamise

By Chris Beveridge     November 28, 2000
Release Date: November 28, 2000

Wings of Honneamise
© Manga Entertainment

What They Say
An epic tale of a civilization's first faltering steps into space, set in an alien world that is strangely familiar to our own. When cadet Shiro Lhadatt signs up with the Royal Space Force, he encounters ridicule and apathy from manipulative leaders and a cynical public. A chance encounter with a devout young woman spurs Shiro on towards his destiny - to become the first man in space.
While military leaders conspire to use the space program to spark an all-out war, Shiro and a team of aging scientists race against time to complete the first launch. The countdown has begun in a spectacular feast for the senses. Breathtaking animation, sumptuous design and a great vision combine to ensure that Wings Of Honneamise will become a classic in the anime hall of fame.

The Review!
For those who know me well enough, or have read this site since close to its inception, they'll know that Wings of Honneamise is the one film in my life that I have placed above all others, be it Hollywood, independent, anime or anything else. Like many, Star Wars was a movie that changed my life at a young age and is still highly and fondly remembered. As I went into my twenties, Wings of Honneamise surpassed that and all others to become the film that I found myself indentifying with like no other had. The closest similarity to it in novel form that I've found was Russian Spring. Suffice to say, Wings of Honneamise is the movie of my collection.

There's three language tracks on this disc and they all sound pretty decent. The original Japanese 2.0 language sounds as good as it has since the 13 years its been available. Manga went and remastered their English language track into a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which during the spot checking we did sounded pretty good. Manga unfortunately wasn't able to acquire the Japanese 5.1 track that was used for the DVD release a couple of years ago in Japan. This really isn't all that big of a deal, as the majority of the show is so hugely dialogue driven that only the final twenty minutes or so really get any use out of the sound upgrade. The final track is a commentary track by the Japanese director and one of the assistant directors, which we'll go into much later in the content area. The dialogue is pretty clean and clear in all tracks.

This is going to be one of those discs that will cause a variety of discussions about its video quality. While the main portion of this review will be via my main theater setup, we did play this disc on a total of four different setups. And each setup produced a different result. Unfortunately, none of them looked as good as the Japanese disc which we used for comparison.

On our main HDTV setup, playing in anamorphic mode, the video looks pretty good, but there are several noticeable issues. There's a minimal amount of grain in various scenes, some more obvious than others. There's a lot of print damage throughout in the form of nicks, scratches, dirt and a few hairs. There's a decent amount of deinterlacing line noise in a lot of the more complexly drawn scenes. During one of the periods where the characters are checking the huge computers with the wires and cabling coming out of them, it looks like its almost alive with how it moves and shimmers. Panning sequences cause the most problems, but with this movie so complexly drawn and with such apparently poor source materials available, the combination is not good. There's also a fair amount of jitter throughout, causing the image to shift up and down or left to right slightly. It's immediately noticeable during the studio logos at the beginning for Bandai and Gainax.

Initially, we looked at this disc on our Apex 600A player connected to the 19" TV we have in our office. The Apex was unable to handle the downconversion of this movie in any decent form. Scan lines were massive, edge enhancement all over the place and jaggies like I've never seen. A character would turn their head, and only half of it would look like it was turning with the rest turning into multicolored lines.

Taking a peek on our laptop's DVD-ROM drive in 16:9 mode, the problems from the Apex were gone, but the soft transfer was more visible and a lot of artifacting. We also gave it a spin on our Sony S3000 using the Toshiba 36" we did most of our reviews on prior to the HDTV. The Sony definitely handled the downconversion issues with ease, but it also accentuated the softness of the transfer. The Sony also had a couple of 2-3 second freeze-ups during the first 15 minutes or so.

So, four completely different setups and four different results. This'll be interesting.

The other problem we noticed during our primary viewing on the HDTV is something we've seen in most other recent Manga discs this year, the dreaded layer switch. Again, when this is hit, at approximately 91:05, it's dramatic and takes you out of the picture completely, dropping the audio and inserting a quick black screen. Very jarring, especially in a movie such as this. I believe the common thread among the recent string of discs that did this is that they came from Rainmaker, a company rather infamous for their participation as the (sole?) authoring house for the now defunct Divx.

Being a bit of a Wings junkie, I wasn't terribly surprised to see the same cover artwork that Manga has used for past releases with the DVD. What I did notice was a subtle shift though in the size of the font for the title. Yeah, call it nitpicky, but over the years, the Wings of Honneamise title has always been much larger and prominent. The Royal Space Force section, which was always much smaller, is now more prominent. The back cover gives a good rundown of things in terms of content, features and the crew. They also list the number of Best Picture awards it won in Japan when it was released back in 1987. The insert, which contains some new artwork, has a two page foldout that talks about the two gentleman who participated in the commentary in a sort of "this is your career" moment. Very interesting reading.

The menu design used for this release is pretty nice, with some interesting use of animation and style to create a fairly in-movie type of interface. Selections are accessed quickly and everything goes to exactly where it's supposed to.

On the surface, there doesn't appear to be too many extras here, depending on your tastes. Dip in a bit further, and it's pretty substantial. The first and most important one to me is the directors commentary track, which we'll cover in the content section. The second is a 1 minute deleted scene, which I don't believe was included in the first release of the Japanese DVD. When the creators were originally trying to get a big studio to help fund this project, they created a small group called Gainax to produce a four minute promotional piece to help sell it. This is an extremely fascinating piece in seeing what was kept in the end product, what changes were made to character designs and to see just how much more it looked like an action movie at times. The final piece is the Art & Music gallery. Instead of the static screens that you skip across, Manga's done it up as a video gallery and used some great pieces of the original score by Ryuichi Sakamoto to play over it. And this isn't your short little 5 minute gallery we've seen on some recent releases. It runs just over 70 minutes! There are some really amazing pieces of conceptual artwork here and seeing the transition from concept to film is wonderful.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
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 this release as a consultant and worked on the liner notes. 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.

With this release by Manga, I learned a ton of new things about it thanks to the commentary track provided by the director Hirouki Yamaga and the assistant director, Takami Akai. Depending on how much of a fan you are of this movie, this commentary track will probably be one of the best things you'll ever find on an anime DVD here in the US in terms of an extra. Having two of the instrumental people in this project providing nearly two hours of background information on a movie as already detailed as this one is simply amazing.

And for those interested in anime film making in general, there is a lot of great information. One of the most interesting aspects of it is hearing how the movie was received by other animators, such as Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), Mamoru Oshii (Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell) and Hayao Miyazaki (most everything Ghibli). These two do have a sense of humor about it all ("We inspired Otomo and Oshii. We're pretty sure they liked what we did and copied it" to paraphrase a bit), but they also go into the differences of style, technique and talk extensively about the use of computers in animation back then and today.

The insights into the various characters, the discussions about the voice actors and how they interacted and grew with the characters and the character designs themselves are all talked about. I had to laugh when they mentioned one minor character was modeled after Kitokubo, one of their fellows in Gainax. It immediately jarred my mind to the Otaku no Video show of theirs, with one of the main characters of Kubo. And wouldn't you know it, they looked almost identical.

Throughout the commentary, there's very little dead space where the two don't talk, which is quite good as those who listen to a lot of Hollywood commentary tracks have probably experienced some significant dead space during certain commentaries. They differentiated who was talking by one being bold (Yamaga) and the other in italics (Akai). The unfortunate aspect is that they went right into the commentary without any introduction, so it did take a bit to discern who was who.

To me, this commentary track, the deleted scene and the promotional short are all the selling points to this disc (which was originally slated back in 1998, but naturally without any of the above extras). The overall poor video quality really brings down what otherwise could have been a truly top of the line title and one that fans of this show would be proud to have and to push on others. With it as it is, I can see a lot of die-hard fans passing this up. Which is a shame, as the commentary track alone is something every fan should listen to at least once.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Directors Commentary with English Subtitles,Deleted Scene,Original Gainax promotional short,Art & Music Production Stills Gallery

Review Equipment

Review Equipment:
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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