ANIME TOP TEN (LIST #2) - #1: Royal Space Force: Wings of the Honneamise (1987)

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Director(s): Hiroyuki Yamaga
Screenplay: Hiroyuki Yamaga
Music: Ryuichi Sakamoto
 
"Reach for the stars" is a cliche motivational phrase denoting a desire to go as far as you possibly can to obtain your goals in life. In this movie, you can actually imagine the people who worked on it as desiring just that, not just the characters. It was an ambitious project for the fledgling studio Gainax and it unfortunately didn't really make too many waves in Japan. But it's a criminally underrated film that expresses its themes with thoughtfulness and doesn't try to sugar-coat or talk down to its audience. 
 
Royal Space Force is about a lost generation. Most of its main characters are a disillusioned, cynical bunch who don't hold a lot of respect for their lots in life. The huge undertaking of a space program is something they don't fully appreciate at first. In fact, it's not until towards the end that these characters even come out of the fog of their stagnation and steel their determination to make the project work. 
 
I love the details in the film. The studio clearly poured enormous attention into the film. The backgrounds are lush, the detail of the machines and the expressions of the characters and their movement are all excellent. The explosions are even well-drawn and have seemingly realistic physics to it. If nothing else, the movie is surely a visual feast, taking us into a world much like our own, with some slight, but vital differences. 
 
Of course, one would be amiss if one didn't mention a certain scene towards the end of the movie. It's not a pleasant scene. If you're any kind of decent person, you'll probably feel disgust towards our "hero", Shiro. It even seems a bit too sudden and probably a bit too far to take the situation. The movie could have skipped that scene entirely and it probably would have been fine. Shiro is still a guy who needs to turn away from his life of decadence and sluggishness. However, in the scene's defense, it creates a bigger need for Shiro to redeem himself, at the risk of his own life and well being. I also have an alternative view of the scene, if anyone's interested. Not that it excuses Shiro's behavior. 
 
Wings of the Honneamise is a triumph of Japanese animation about the triumph of a man looking for a purpose in his life as well as others.  It is as inspirational as much as it is well-crafted. It's a must see.