Monday, July 30, 2001

Wings of Honneamise

Wings of Honneamise
(Oneamise no Tsubasa)


5/5 Stars

Producers: Ken Iyadomi, Keiji Kusanao, Yutaka Maseba, Taro Yoshida
Director/Screenplay: Hiroyuki Yamaga
Animation Director: Hideaki Anno, Yuji Moriyama, Fumio Iida, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
Animation by GAINAX

Theatrical Release Date: May 1995
Run Time: 124 minutes

Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise is an amazing story of mankind's first leap into space, on a beautifully imagined fictional world. One of studio GAINAX's (of Evangelion fame) early works, Honneamise beautifully depicts the struggle of a world entering the modern age, and the narrow line it walks between salvation and destruction.

The two main characters are Shirotsugu Ladhatt and Riqunni. Shirotsugu had always dreamed about being a pilot, but his lackluster abilities and poor attitude about work landed him in the Royal Space Force. In an amusing turn on real life space programs, the Royal Space Force is a joke populated by flight school washouts. More of a PR campaign for the government, not even the leadership of the Space Force expects humanity to ever reach orbit. Shirotsugu has resigned himself to being something of a joke to the rest of the military, and spends most of his time goofing off. This changes after a chance meeting with Riqunni. Riqunni is a young missionary, trying to bring an uncaring world back to the religion of the past. Shirotsugu is intrigued by her passion for her religion, and her perseverance despite being ignored and dismissed by the rest of the world. Interested more in her and her determination than her religion, Shirotsugu begins to spend more time with here, developing an odd platonic relationship that's more than friendship. He becomes determined to do something with his life, and begins to turn the Royal Space Force into something more than a joke, and makes the the dream of space flight more than just a dream, despite the misfits in the Force, the machinations of politicians and generals, and a steady march toward war by the two opposing superpowers.

The art and animation of Honneamise is spectacular. Crisp and clean, it possesses a realism that adds to the believability of the world. The design of the world is excellent, the attention to detail works to make a world that is both alien and familiar, and utterly believable. A great deal of effort was put into creating the world, from buildings to fashion, to funeral customs. Even the opposing superpower has had effort made to give it a personality, despite it's largely background role. The soundtrack is also excellent, and fits in well with the rest of the film.

There are few downsides to the movie. The pacing is slow in parts, but it works well with the film. If you prefer your anime to rush at you like a madman, then you might find this film tedious. My main gripe with the film is the ending. I found it disappointing and abrupt. It's very similar to the endings of 2001: A Space Oddessy and Neon Genesis Evangelion, but less satisfying. As unnecessary as the ending is, it doesn't detract from the movie much at all.

Hands down, Wings of Honneamise is one of the best anime films out there. It's well developed characters, plot, and detailed world place it head and shoulders above most other animated works. It has a broad appeal and can be enjoyed by those who don't usually watch anime or science fiction of any sort.

Royal Space Force - Wings of Honneamise (DVD)

Thursday, July 12, 2001

Outlaw Star

Outlaw Star

StarStarStarStarHalf a Star

4.5/5 Stars

Director: Wendee Lee & Hongoo Mitsuru Writer: Katsuhiko Chiba
Distributor: Bandai
26 episodes in 3 volumes

At first glance, Outlaw Star might seem your run of the mill space adventure. However, it's much more than that. Sure, it's got great space battles, gunfights, bounty hunters, and pirates. But it's also got some great comedy an extremely likable crew of characters.

Outlaw Star is the story of a young outlaw, Gene Starwind, on a journey to find his place in the universe. Accompanying him is Jim Hawkings, a young boy who's something of an electronics wizard and Gene's business partner. Along the way they add to their group an android named Melfina, a catlike alien warrior named Aisha, and an assassin named Suzuka. Together, they are trying to find the "Galactic Leyline" while avoiding pirates and making a little money on the side.

It's hard to find any one thing that stands out in Outlaw Star. The action sequences are superb, and many of them feature starships equipped with grappler arms, allowing some very unique hand to hand combat in space. The background setting for the series is also very interesting. It has a distinct Asian feel to it, from the architecture to the planet names. Besides the high technology of any science fiction setting, there is also magic present in the form of "Tao Masters" many of whom work for the pirates. Magic is treated as fairly ordinary, even though few people possess it. A special technology has sprung up specifically to counter Tao magic, embodied in Gene's "caster pistol".

The animation and art are excellent, and the English voice cast does superb work, though some of the extras are a bit forced. The series will seem to meander a bit in the first half, but it works well with Gene's character who is struggling to find his place. The only downside is that this isn't the deepest series, so don't go looking for any great themes. Outlaw Star is definitely the story of Gene Starwind, while the other characters are well done and enjoyable, don't expect to see any great changes to them during the series. It would have been nice to have seen a bit more of Melfina's character, as she plays a central role in the development of Gene.

The series has been aired on the Cartoon Network, but was edit for content and time. The DVD version is definitely worth getting, it includes the original opening cut by CN, as well as edit scenes. The nice thing about Outlaw star is that it was released in three two disc volumes, of 9 episodes each. The cost is very reasonable as well, $35-$40, especially considering 9 episodes of another series could easily run you $80. Hopefully this trend will catch on.

Outlaw Star (Collection 1) (DVD)

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