What They Say:
In a world eerily similar to our own, war between the Kingdom of Honneamise and its archrival, The Republic, seems inevitable. But even as the two nations’ rapidly evolbing technology creates new ways to wage greater and more deadly forms of warfare, a small group seeks to use those same advances to propel manking forward into the future and into space in their world’s first manned spaceflight program. For astronaut candidate Shirotsugh Lhadatt, it’s not just a journey beyond the reach of the atmosphere, but a personal odyssey as he grows from an aimless young man into a leader willing to put everything on the line in order to move the human race forward and away from the brink of Armageddon. Prepare to witness the legendary film that revolutionized the anime industry, launched the careers of dozens of today’s animaton superstars and put Studio Gainax forever on the map as one of Japan’s premiere production hourses. Staggering animation, brilliant storytelling and a scope that goes beyond epic combine to produce an emotional powerhouse that will send your spirit flying towards the stars with THE ROYAL SPACE FORCE: WINGS OF HONNEAMISE!
The movie is presented in two audio tracks: English 2.0 and Japanese 5.1. I listened to the English track and while there were no bells and whistles like directionality (at least that I could tell), the overall quality was solid, so I can’t complain. English subtitles are also provided.
The movie is presented in 16:9 aspect ratio and it’s gorgeous. While it does show its age in the somewhat muted colors and general character and background designs, it’s a very nice looking feature and an excellent transfer.
The front cover is a tableau of the main characters in a style reminiscent of classic movie posters. Lhadatt is centered at the bottom and Riquinni, Manna, and other main characters stand in the background behind him along with a fighter plane, a tank, and the rocketship. The majority of the spine is taken up by the movie’s title with the same image of Lhadatt as on the cover in a small inset at the bottom. The back cover features a closeup view of the booster rockets firing along with various screenshots from the movie, the feature’s summary, cast and crew listing, and DVD specifications. The movie and special features are all contained on a single disk.
The movie is packaged well and I especially like the cover. It gives the DVD a classic feel that I quite enjoy.
The main menu shows a scene from the movie. A person (Shirotsugh Lhadatt) stands beside a bike in a field. In the background there’s a water craft and a plane is launching from it. Sitting at the top is the movie’s title and the feature, scene selection, languages, and special features selections are listed at the bottom of the screen. Quiet, generic music from the movie plays in the background in a five-to-ten second loop. It’s innocuous enough that you can leave it playing without fear of it driving you crazy, for which I’m always thankful. Overall it’s a solid menu design with a gorgeous picture and easy to read options.
There are very few extras on this DVD, but I did like seeing the original Japanese trailers for the movie. Other than that, it’s just the standard fair.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
On a world very similar to our own two nations, Honneasmise and The Republic, stand on the brink of war. As both are highly militarized societies, the army rules with an iron fist and worth is calculated in terms of military usefulness. Shitotsugh Lhadatt is a member of the Honneasmise Air Force. All he ever wanted to do was fly jets, but due to his lack of motivation and general attitude, he drifts into the space program—an undisciplined, undervalued section of the Air Force under constant threat of being defunded. At first Lhadatt goes through the motions, just doing barely enough to get by while countless other members of the agency die in rocket experiments. His world changes when he meets Riquinni Nonderaiko, a religious woman who preaches nonviolence and salvation through God’s mercy. At first Lhadatt only cares about Riquinni because he’s attracted to her, and he steps up his efforts and volunteers as the world’s first astronaut to impress her. However, as he becomes more and more enmeshed in military politics, he begins to care about his country and the people living under the government’s yoke, and he begins to see his success as an astronaut as a symbol to the world that it can strive towards building something instead of engaging in pointless warfare. Unfortunately, his path is beset from all sides by an uncooperative army, politicians that use the space program as a tool for starting a war, and the general attitude of his countrymen who value military might above all else.
Royal Space Force is considered a classic, and rightly so. The characters, the story, and the animation are all excellent. This is as much the story of Lhadatt finally growing up as it is about a nation going to war, and his character arc is masterfully done. He goes from lovable slacker to leader and his example serves as a beacon for others. However, this is not to say he’s perfect. At one point, when his celebrity reaches its height and the pressure of the spotlight and the constant fighting with the government gets to him, he tries to force himself on Riquinni. It’s a horrible moment that he deeply regrets (I’d like to think he couldn’t have gone through with it), and it’s because Riquinni possesses the patience of a saint that they‘re able to move past it. Lhadatt is a flawed character in many ways, but the joy comes from seeing him overcome his flaws to be the man that he feels he needs to be: the man that the world may very well need him to be.
Like many classic anime, this contains a strong antiwar sentiment. I shared Lhadatt’s frustration at the way the citizens, military, and politicians treated him and his fellow space agency members. Honneasmise is a country that values military might above all else, and anything without a clear strategic military value is considered useless. All throughout the movie army officials openly deride the agency, politicians make the money the country is spending on the program a talking point, and regular citizens ignore or belittle the agency members. In fact, the only reason that the launch is okayed is because the government moved it to a demilitarized zone in the hopes that it would provoke The Republic into starting a war.
It’s during that launch that Lhadatt finally comes into his own. The Republic is attacking the launch site and the Honneamise Army has ordered the Space Agency to evacuate. Lhadatt refuses and talks the agency members into staying at their posts. As dogfights occur a few scant miles away, and as troops and tanks advance on the rocket, it takes off, and Lhadatt becomes the first human to go into space. In orbit he speaks to the entire world and offers a prayer to God for peace and forgiveness. As he’s doing this we see his journey juxtaposed with the journey of humankind and while there is no definitive change, there’s the sense that there may be hope in and for the world for the first time in a long time.
One of the reasons why this movie works so well is that it takes its time to develop the characters and story and for all the large themes that it tackles, it presents them on a personal, human scale. The story of Lhadatt and Riquinni act as a microcosm reflecting the larger events that transpire around them and in understanding their struggle we gain a better understanding of the struggles that their entire world faces. This is aided by the wonderful, small character moments throughout the entire movie. The director does a fabulous job of using gestures and facial expressions to convey character and enhance the story. Although it may seem a little odd to talk about the acting in an animated feature, it is superb here. I think a master class could be taught just using the lunch scene where Lhadatt, Riquinni, and Manna sit down together to eat for the first time.
On a larger scale, the designs for the planes, buildings, spaceship, and spacesuit are amazingly detailed without feeling cluttered. It’s hard to describe, but there is an attention to detail in this movie that is emblematic of classic anime. The little touches here and there the animators provide go a long way in making this a beautiful world that feels real.
The only part that was problematic for me was the scene between Lhadatt and Riquinni after his attempted rape. Lhadatt tries to apologize to her, but she ends up apologizing for leading him on (although she did nothing of the sort). It’s a very uncomfortable scene and I can’t tell if it’s intended to be that way or not. I don’t know if Riquinni’s attitude is supposed to be correct or incorrect (in the real world, of course, she incorrect as apologizing to your potential rapist is insane and denotes some deep seated psychological issues in her), and it’s just uncomfortable. I would have been fine if she had accepted his apology but told him she never wanted to see him again, but there is so much potentially wrong in her reaction to the incident that I wish that the attempted rape scene and the scene that followed had been cut from the movie. I feel like it diminishes both of them without good reason.
Those two scenes are blots on an otherwise excellent movie. This is a classic not just for the quality of the animation but for the strong characters, plot, and themes. Royal Space Force is a story of love, hope, and redemption set in a world ready to set itself on fire. It tells of the courage it takes to remake the world, and provides hope for all who watch it.
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise is a classic feature that is well deserving of a re-release. The quality of the animation, the attention to detail, the well-developed plot and characters, and strong themes make this an outstanding movie, and while there is a very uncomfortable attempted rape scene and problematic apology scene afterwards, this is ultimately a hopeful, amazing feature about the human spirit. Highly recommended.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Trailer Collection
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: D
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: October 29th, 2013
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection