Mania Grade: A+
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- Audio Rating: A
- Video Rating: A+
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B-
- Extras Rating: A+
- Age Rating: All
- Region: 2 - Japan
- Released By: Bandai Visual
- MSRP: ¥9800
- Running time: 120
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Wings of Honneamise
Wings of Honneamise
Wings of Honneamise
What They SayThe Review!
© Bandai Visual
The Royal Space Force is my favorite Anime film of all time, and one of my favorite movies, period. I personally have held this film in the highest regard ever since I first saw it, all the way back in the autumn of 1987, just a few months after it originally premiered in Japanese theaters. Indeed, I put this one right up there with other great films in my collection, movies from the likes of Bernardo Bertolucci and the Coen Brothers.
This is one of those unique Anime works that shatters the borders of genre and culture, and, like Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbors, the Yamada's, and Princess Mononoke is a film that an Anime lover can easily share with non-fans alike. There are no giant robots gallivanting around the Lagrange Points in this one, no cute, impossibly well-endowed girls bouncing and jiggling about, just the deceptively simple story of mankind's first step out of its planetary cradle, and the one man whose life changes more in a matter of months than most people's change in decades.
Visually, this film is gorgeous. By now, thanks to Manga Video's recent releases of this film on both VHS and DVD, many if not most fans have had a chance to watch The Royal Space Force, so I'm sure most fans know what I'm talking about. Set in some alternate reality earth, with a cultural ambience that borrows heavily from Polynesian, West African, Meso-American, Chinese, and of course Japanese, esthetics, with a level of technological sophistication roughly equivalent to that of the United States in the early to mid- 1960's, the amount of design work alone, mostly on the part of the now famous Sadamoto Yoshiyuki, made Studio Gainax's first major outing a breathtaking feast of visual sensuality.
Most Anime DVD reviews tend to leave out one very important part of any film, the music. Everything about this film is original and groundbreaking, and so the musical soundtrack is certainly no exception. Most of Honneamise's music was composed and performed by the trailblazing and world-renowned avant-garde musician and reluctant Japanese pop star, Sakamoto Ryuichi (Yellow Magic Orchestra, The Last Emperor, Gohatto). Sakamoto apparently threw all he had into the score, and the music definitely shows his unique and singular approach to composition and arrangement. The score and accompanying pieces are a combination of many of the now common musical genres Sakamoto helped to pioneer back in the late 70's and early 80's: techno, industrial, ambient, digitally sampled ethnic, all mixed together with extraneous (mostly African-American) influences like jazz, hip-hop, and funk. Honneamise's musical soundtrack is surely one of the greatest ever recorded, right up there with the scores to Akira, Night on the Galactic Railroad, and Tale of Genji.
The audio rating gets an A. There are three separate soundtracks on this disc: two-channel Japanese Dolby Surround, the two-channel English Dolby Surround, and a Japanese six-channel Dolby 5.1, which was re-mastered in 1997 for the tenth anniversary of the film's release. All three are crisp and clear and even on my modest little setup, there is some great directionality on all three soundtracks, especially of course the Japanese 5.1.
The English dub, which seems to be Manga's, is actually quite good in my opinion. That's saying a lot, as I usually loathe anime English dubs. Manga Video's English cast is quite good for the most part; the acting was solid, with lines delivered with such excellent timing and emoting that I actually found myself laughing out loud at the humorous scenes.
The video, as you might have guessed, is impeccable, especially considering the film's age. There is no pixellation, no breakup of colors, and no line noise. Even the dreaded and hated rainbows are absent.
The packaging is modest, but better than the average Japanese Region 2 DVD. The edition I bought is the more common regular edition, but it still has a nice little 13-page booklet, similar I presume to the original theatrical promo brochure, that features brief interviews with a couple of the members of the Honneamise creative staff. The keepsake case also has a great cover reproduction of one of Sadamoto's painting of the movie's characters.
The menus come in English and Japanese versions. From either one you can select from the three soundtracks, as well as view the scene that was cut from the finished product. There is the "neo-classical" version of Sakamoto's Riqunii's Theme wafting in the background while you make up your mind from the scant menu options. Curiously, there is no chapter select menu, though. So, for that alone, I give it a B-.
The content, as I alluded to above, is beyond reproach in my humble opinion. Wings of Honneamise is a film, in every sense of the word, and in every way that most Japanese Anime movies are not. The story takes the viewer on an emotionally profound journey through the rapidly changing life of one Shirotsug Lhaadat, soon to be, unbeknownst to him, the first astronaut of the planet Amemuga.
Lhaadat is just another member of the Onneamano Jikhean Mihnadan Kingdom's (try saying that three times fast) Royal Space Force, an army whose mission it is to defend the reaches of outer space from tyranny and oppression. The trouble is, no human being has gone into space, and the Royal Space Force itself is a complete joke, plagued by incompetence, no morale, and constant government budget cuts. And the men of the Space Force know what a joke they are in the eyes of their countrymen.
Shirotsug meets Riqunii, a young woman who stands on street corners, preaching about an ancient religion to anyone who will even glance in her direction. The lonely and dejected Lhaadat takes a pamphlet from the strange woman, and that begins his awakening.
It is an awakening to a life full of meaning and a newly found self-esteem. While his colleagues in the Space Force look at their service in the belittled and under-funded military branch as just a paycheck, Shirotsug continues to set his sights higher and higher, both spiritually and literally. One day, Lhaadat stuns his friends in the Space Force by volunteering to become its first "human satellite."
And therein lies the beauty of this film. It's really a story of change, metamorphosis really, as Shirotsug becomes more than what he was, but at the same time loses so much of what he used to be in the process. All the while, the scruffy-faced Riqunii retains an almost mystical hold over Lhaadat, simultaneously acting as his confessor, spiritual advisor, love (and lust) interest, and ultimately, as the film's writer and co-creator, Yamaga Hiroyuki once called her, the "catalyst" of the incredible changes that wash over the man on his journey to the stars. The transformations in the man mirror the changes in his world, as both lose their childlike innocence once the universe, in its infinite glory, is revealed to them by the film's climax.
Japanese Language,English Language,Deleted scene
29-inch Samsung Bio Vision Multi-System (NTSC, SECAM and PAL) TV, RCA 5220P DVD player with multi-region capability.