Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise

Japanese theatrical release poster
Japanese 王立宇宙軍 オネアミスの翼
Hepburn Ōritsu Uchūgun: Oneamisu no Tsubasa
Directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga
Produced by Hirohiko Sueyoshi
Hiroaki Inoue
Written by Hiroyuki Yamaga
Starring Leo Morimoto
Mitsuki Yayoi
Music by Ryuichi Sakamoto
Yuji Nomi
Koji Ueno
Haruo Kubota
Distributed by Toho Towa
Release dates
  • March 14, 1987 (1987-03-14)
Running time
119 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Budget ¥8 billion
Box office ¥3.47 billion

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (王立宇宙軍 オネアミスの翼 Ōritsu Uchūgun: Oneamisu no Tsubasa) is a 1987 Japanese animated science fiction film and the first film produced by Gainax and Bandai Visual. It was directed and written by Hiroyuki Yamaga. The film was released on March 14, 1987 and grossed only modestly in the box office.[1] Since then, it has received very positive reviews.[2][3][4][5]

A sequel was intended to be released set 50 years later, but due to lack of funds, Gainax abandoned it part way through production; former president of Gainax Toshio Okada cited a fundamental dissatisfaction with the script and plot.[6] However, it was announced in March 2013 that the sequel is in production once again.[7]


On an alternate Earth, an industrial civilization is flourishing amid an impending war between two bordering nations: the Kingdom of Honneamise and "The Republic".

Shirotsugh Lhadatt is an unmotivated young man who has drifted into his nation's lackadaisical space program. After the death of a fellow astronaut, he nurtures a close acquaintance with a young religious woman named Riquinni Nonderaiko. Seeing Lhadatt as a prime example of what mankind is capable of, and understanding the godliness and ground-breaking nature of his work, she inspires him to become the first man in space.

His training as an astronaut parallels his coming of age, and he and the rest of the members of the space project overcome technological difficulties, doubt, the machinations of their political masters, and a botched assassination attempt by the enemy nation. Amidst the debacle, Lhadatt becomes worn out by the overbearing publicity, prompting him to stay with Riquinni for a while; he then comes close to raping her one night while catching her undressing, causing a temporary rift between them that is later mended thanks to Riquinni's kindness.

These events culminate in the eventual space launch, which is taking place in a demilitarized zone, with the government's hope that the launch of the rocket will provoke the enemy nation into war. As planned, the Republic launches a vast combined arms invasion, resulting in a visually stunning finale as fighter planes duel high above an armored advance towards a defensive trench network. Despite calls to pull out, Lhadatt, already in the space capsule and determined to finish what he started, convinces the frightened and vulnerable ground crew to complete the launch. The spectacular launch stuns both sides into inaction as Lhadatt goes into orbit. With no more reference to the world below (beyond a slight suggestion that both nations' plans for war have been foiled), Lhadatt prays for humanity's forgiveness.

In a symbolic moment, Lhadatt's capsule is suddenly bathed in sunlight, and a montage of his own life and his world's history and achievements are shown. Meanwhile, on the planet's surface, Riquinni witnesses the first snow fall and gazes into the sky, thinking of Lhadatt.


Character Japanese English dub
Shitotsugh Lhadatt Leo Morimoto David A. Thomas
Riquinni Nonderaiko Mitsuki Yayoi Patricia Ja Lee
Manna Nonderaiko Aya Murata Wendee Lee
Marty Tohn Kazuyuki Sogabe Bryan Cranston
General Khaidenn Minoru Uchida Steve Bulen
Dr. Gnomm Chikao Ōtsuka Michael Forest
Kharock Masato Hirano Tom Konkle
Yanalan Bin Shimada
Darigan Hiroshi Izawa Stephen Apostolina
Domorhot Hirotaka Suzuoki Jan Rabson
Tchallichammi Kouji Totani Christopher de Groot
Majaho Masahiro Anzai Tony Pope
Nekkerout Yoshito Yasuhara Dan Woren
Prof. Ronta Ryūji Saikachi Kevin Seymour


Honnêamise was based on a story by Hiroyuki Yamaga. A four-minute short The Royal Space Force was funded by Gainax and presented to Bandai Visual who were planning to enter the film-making industry. Bandai president Makoto Yamashina approved an 8-billion yen budget for a full-length film, the record for an anime film at the time. The key staff travelled to the United States for aviation and spacecraft research, including the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery. Production began on the movie after their return in September 1985.[8]

All the characters were designed by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. Hideaki Anno worked as special effects artist and as part of the animation design staff. Both Anno and Sadamoto would gain notoriety after working together in Neon Genesis Evangelion years later. Famous musician and actor Ryuichi Sakamoto created most of the film score.


The initial advertising campaign in 1987 was structured to make the film seem like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Wings has been released in several versions in North America. The 2000 release by Manga Entertainment on DVD, which features commentary by Hiroyuki Yamaga and Takami Akai, was severely criticized for its poor quality.[9][10][11][12] Bandai Visual released a Blu-ray/HD DVD version during its 20th anniversary, 11 September 2007, drawing on the remastered 1997 DVD release in Japan. However, it lacks the commentary. It is now out of print. Maiden Japan re-released the movie separately on Blu-ray and DVD on October 15, 2013.[13] Anime Limited announced that they intend to release Wings of Honneamise on DVD and Blu-ray on March 23, 2015 in the United Kingdom.[14]


Cover art of the 2007 HD DVD release by Bandai Visual

Wings has received universal acclaim from film critics since its release in 1987. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it "a visually sensational two-hour extravaganza".[15] DVD Times said that the animation "gives the storyteller complete control over what you see and ultimately how the viewer interprets the directors dream...the astounding animation, the attention to detail seen in every frame is quite daunting, but allows the viewer to discover new subtleties on repeated viewing."[16] Helen McCarthy in 500 Essential Anime Movies called the film "marvellous" and added that nothing "can disguise the sheer quality of this film." She praised backgrounds and designs, noting that they "show a level of commitment that borders on fanatical".[17] In a discussion of original versus adapted anime,[18] Brian Hanson of Anime News Network goes on to say:

"It's set on a quasi-alternate-reality version of Earth, but without reams of bogus sci-fi hokum, and the screen is littered with wonderful art direction of a world that's sort of familiar, but wonderfully alien. Just look at, for example, the guns the characters use - they're not laser pistols or handguns, but these strange little things that still look like guns, but cleverly modified to fit within the rest of this wonderful universe that Gainax created.
And the story! Oh, man! It's not some spunky kid out to save the universe. It's not a band of merry adventurers battling an onslaught of demons. None of that. It's a tender story of a bored and broken man seeking redemption, pouring himself into a cause that he finds important that everyone else thinks is a laughable joke, and finding spiritual enlightenment in spite of his entire endeavor being twisted by corrupt politicians as an excuse to wage war. It's about one man coming to terms with himself. It's a story that's mature, resonant, and authentic. Every single thing in that movie is wholly idiosyncratic. It's wonderful. And not only is it unique, it is exceptionally well done. Every frame is teeming with detail."

Former president of Gainax, Toshio Okada felt in retrospect that it needed a stronger screenplay, that it was too niche and like an "art" film to be really mainstream and successful - the film did not recoup its budget at the box office.


In March 1992, Gainax had begun planning and production of an anime movie called Uru in Blue (蒼きウル Aoki Uru), which was to be a sequel to Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise set 50 years later (so as to be easier to pitch to investors[19]) which, like Oritsu, would follow a group of fighter pilots. Production would eventually cease in July 1993: a full-length anime movie was just beyond Gainax's financial ability – many of its core businesses were shutting down or producing minimal amounts of money:

"General Products had closed shop. We'd pulled out of Wonder Festival [a "flea market for garage kits"] and garage kit making altogether. We weren't taking on any subcontracting work for anime production. We did continue to make PC games – Akai had seen to that – but there wasn't a lot of work tossed our way. With mere pennies coming in, we were having a hard enough time just paying everyone's salaries. Finally the order came down for us to halt production on Aoki Uru. We were simply incapable of taking the project any further."[20]

With the failure of the project, Hideaki Anno, who had been slated from the beginning to direct Aoki Uru, was freed up. Legendarily, he would soon agree to a collaboration between King Records and Gainax while drinking with Toshimichi Ōtsuki, a representative at King;[21] with King Records guaranteeing a time slot, Anno set about making the anime. Unsurprisingly, elements of Aoki Uru were incorporated into the nascent Neon Genesis Evangelion:

"One of the key themes in Aoki Uru had been "not running away." In the story, the main character is faced with the daunting task of saving the heroine … He ran away from something in the past, so he decides that this time he will stand his ground. The same theme was carried over into Evangelion, but I think it was something more than just transposing one show's theme onto another …"[22]

Gainax has periodically attempted to restart Aoki Uru, such as releasing a 1998 CD with storyboards, a script, and several hundred pieces of art,[23] and a 2000 release of a mod to Microsoft Flight Simulator.[24]

At the 2013 Tokyo Anime Fair, Gainax announced that they are finally producing the Blue Uru film with Honneamise veterans Hiroyuki Yamaga as the director and screenwriter and Yoshiyuki Sadamoto as the character designer, but without Hideaki Anno's involvement in the project (given his present work completing the Rebuild of Evangelion for Studio Khara).[7]

In 2014 Gainax President Hiroyuki Yamaga announced at Anime Festival Asia in Singapore more details about Uru in Blue. Instead of the typical Japanese production committee, the sequel will be produced by Uru in Blue LLP, a Limited liability partnership composed of various investors and partners. This LLP is based in Singapore, and they are currently seeking investors. The projected budget is US$40 million, and Yasuhiro Takeda will be a producer. Hiroyuki Yamaga is writing and directing the project with designs by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. Both had worked together in the same roles in the original 1987 Royal Space Force.[25]

A preview short for Uru in Blue called "Overture" will be released worldwide in 2015. The project team members are also meeting production companies for potential collaboration in Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and the Middle East, aiming to release the final anime worldwide in 2018.[25]

See also


  1. "The Wings of Honnêamise is considered one of the top 10 films of 1987 by Japanese film critics and a bittersweet, introspective tale of an incompetent space program staffed by slacker astronauts who are despised by society at large. It was made by an iconoclastic band of talented twentysomethings who called themselves Gainax. The name is a self-mocking contraction of a Japanese word for great with the English word max." "Heads Up, Mickey: Anime may be Japan's first really big cultural export", Issue 3.04 - Apr 1995, Wired Magazine
  2. "1987 The Wings of Honneamise is released, making anime officially an artform." Richard Corliss, 'Amazing Anime', Time magazine; Nov. 22, 1999. Vol. 154, Iss. 21; pg. 94
  3. "What emerged on the other side is arguably one of the finest films ever to come out of Japan." Jeff Kleits 2008
  4. "The Wings of Honneamise (preceded by 'Royal Space Force' in the US) is one of those landmark films that everyone should see at least once. Released in 1987, a year before Akira landed, Honneamise is every bit as impressive both artistically and in concept."
  5. "Countless lists have this movie in the top 10 anime of all time. This movie is always sold out almost as soon as it hits the shelves. There is a reason for this. People love this movie. It is a thought provoking, deeply philosophical, and well written film..."
  6. Horn, Carl G. (1996). "Speaking Once as They Return: Gainax's Neon Genesis Evangelion". AMPlus. Pioneer was at one point to finance a sequel to Honneamise, written by Yamaga and directed by Anno, yet the project fell through because, Okada relates, Yamaga's heart wasn't in what he was writing; his script was becoming a parody.
  7. 1 2 "Gainax Makes Blue Uru Film with Honneamise Yamaga, Sadamoto". Anime News Network. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  8. "Anime Uk" (16): 8–11.
  9. "The Manga Entertainment DVD of Wings of Honneamise is widely reviled as a poster child for poor compression and authoring. From the horrific telecine to the double flagging, fake anamorphic and the ludicrous edge halos, many professionals I've shown it to couldn't believe it ever was released at all, as The VHS looks better in many cases."
  11. "...the print Manga have sourced shows frequent signs of ageing. Dust, hairs, cigarette burns (as they are known in the industry) at reel changeovers, it is all here and all faults make frequent appearances. There really has been zero effort put into remastering this print which is a great shame, and the encoding is again quite poor, resulting in a picture that loses out on a lot of detail due to an overall softness (edging on blurriness) that kills the kind of clarity this film requires...but on the whole for fans this release is a definite disappointment." DVDTimes 2001
  12. Brian Hanson stated simply that "the transfer looks like ass"
  13. "Maiden Japan to Release Royal Space Force Film on DVD/BD in October". Anime News Network. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  15. Ebert, Roger (May 12, 1995). "The Wings Of Honneamise". (originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times). Archived from the original on January 14, 2010. Retrieved January 14, 2010.
  17. McCarthy, Helen. 500 Essential Anime Movies: The Ultimate Guide. — Harper Design, 2009. — P. 30. — 528 p. — ISBN 978-0061474507
  19. Takeda, Yasuhiro (2002). The Notenki memoirs: studio Gainax and the men who created Evangelion. ADV Manga. p. 155. ISBN 1-4139-0234-0.
  20. pg 157–158 of Takeda 2002
  21. "Anno knew a guy from King Records named Otsuki, and as the story goes, the two were out drinking one day when Otsuki suggested to Anno that they work on an anime TV project together. Anno agreed on the spot, came back to the office and promptly announced it to everyone. Nobody even batted an eyelash. We just accepted it without further thought." pg 164 of Takeda 2002
  22. pg 165 of Takeda 2002
  23. "Lost Gainax Project Reborn".
  25. 1 2 "Gainax's Uru in Blue to Open Worldwide in 2018 with Short Next Spring". Anime News Network. Retrieved 9 September 2015.

Further reading

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