Jumping from Nausicaa, we skip three years into the vast future of 1987. Gainax has now existed for a couple years now while they’ve helped other studios with the products, like working on some of the mechanical design in Double Zeta Gundam, they haven’t let the world know that they existed yet. That’s what this film was for. With Gainax kicking into full gear with Hideaki Anno in a special effects and sort in the animation design crew role, Royal Space Force was the most expensive anime film in existence at that time. Well, before Akira came out a year later and blew up. It cost $800K yen in 1987 money, so mind blowing-ly expensive. Of course, the film did underperformed at the box office. What is wild about this to me is that it’s the most Un-Gainax thing that I can think of. Why? I don’t think because it fits their later company profile at all. You know their usual tropes of fanservice in character and references, waifus, and so on. I guess they were going for something more mature to start out on and it didn’t work out that well. I wonder would Gainax would be like if it was successful.
Just like everything else I like, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise has a large amount of lore behind it. This film takes place on an alternate Earth where technology for space flight has just become possible kind of. It still cost their government tons and tons of money and resources for it to even be possible. Money that could be spent helping it’s people. At the beginning of this film, two industrial nations are in a big of a cold war situation alongside their border with the conflict heating up hotter and hotter every single day. The country that Royal Space Force takes place in is the Kingdom of Honneamise. It’s well established from a people and technological level throughout the film. On the other hand, the secondary country is just called The Republic. And while we see their technology and their assassins in Honneamise itself, I can’t say that we truly understand them as much as the other.
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise doesn’t have much characterization in it. Relationships between characters are there, but they don’t feel like anything because they don’t have any depth. The characters exist just to make the plot rocket go. The only character that has any sort of arc is our main protagonist, Shirotsugh Lhadatt or Shiro for short. While his characterization does go somewhere and he finds his motivation, that didn’t stop me from realizing that his arc is also the Space Force’s arc. He’s just a personification of how the Royal Space Force is developed in the film for the audience. What I’m trying to say is that Shirotsuguh is an audience avatar. I do admit that there are other aspects involved in his character like how goofy, scared, depressed. I don’t think that the rocket programs feel emotion usually. The stories/Shiro’s arc was more of a vehicle for Gainax animating the hell out of constructing a rocket and other things then anything else.
Let me attempt to make my case for this argument. In the beginning of the film, there is some quick exposition about how Shirotsuguh because his grades and he didn’t have the motivation to join the military or anything else. That’s a lot like the Space Force itself. Until Shirotsuguh finds the motivation to be the pilot of the rocket into space, then nothing else moves forward. As he gains pride in himself, the Space Force puts all it’s effort into building the rocket where you can see each meticulous stage of the rocket itself being built. After reaching a certain level of notoriety and fame, Shirotsuguh loses the pride in himself again when the people question the space programs budget, the space program is given a terrible launch location by in the terrible demilitarization zone between the two war moving countries. Something about making the launch an international incident to cause a war. Then lastly, when Shirotsuguh finally pushed for the rocket to be launch despite the war that was happening around them, then the rocket launched and everything was a success. It’s not one to one exactly, but a lot of his personality perfectly syncs with the show’s developments.
Shirotsuguh’s motivation to do anything doesn’t from himself, but from the belief of one, young religious woman, Riquinni Nonderaiko, and her adopted daughter. I can’t help but say that their relationship is problematic. Maybe that’s even the less Shirotsuguh is a bit of a bro/scumbag so when he sees this Riquinni handing out leaflets for her religious propoganda, he comes to her in the mind of “her being pretty hot”. Riquinni isn’t dumb and knows that why Shirotsuguh is in her house, but her saying things about Shirotsuguh’s job of going into outer space was absolutely wonderful pushed him to become an astronaut. So yeah, he did all this to impress a woman. I guess there are worse motivations then that, but that’s where all the horribleness starts.
When Shirotsuguh was down on himself and his luck, he started to rape Riquinni while she was changing clothes. I say started because she put a stop to it. It’s honestly a moment that doesn’t deserve to be in this film. Even if it was an inciting incident that opened his mind to how much of a scum bag he is, as can be told from his horrified reaction when he apologized and her responsive of she shouldn’t have fought him off to ensure his happiness happy. It’s still an absolutely horrible reacion and moment. If there is major part of this film that would be apart of it’s downfall, it’s those two scenes. I wouldn’t call Royal Space Force an advocate for sexual assault because of the character reactions at hand, but it’s still a part that pushes Shirotsuguh to be a better person and pushes him toward the space launch again. “Because Rape” is never a good explanation for anything. Just so much Gah from the older ways of thinking in display here.
It’s hard to follow a paragraph with horrible material like that, there are some massive selling points that need to be mentioned in this film too. The main selling point of Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise are the visuals. As still one of the most expensive anime films in history, it’s a beautifully detailed movie. I don’t just mean that in terms of backgrounds, character designs, action, and so on, but also from the realistic world that it builds. Yes, all of those things are great to establish that Royal Space Force sense of being a foreign world. A very hard thing to do from a mechanical perspective because of how much easier it would be just to copy things from ours, yet the film is able to do it. From The Kingdom of Honneamise’s building designs to how they use metal rods instead of coins, everything is so well done and thought out that you can believe everything this film is delivering to you.
Some other special mentions need to go to all tech involved in the spaceship design too. Apparently, Gainax’s production crew took a trip to the United States to get a larger picture of how rockets are designed and launched and you can honestly tell just by watching this film. There are a lot of realistic preperations and test sequences in this Royal Space Force. Rocket engine tests, the structure of the rocket built right in front of your eyes, space suit construction, multi G tests to get Shirotsuguh ready for the G forces involved in getting him into the atmosphere, and tons of seemingly accurate launch procedures too. If you watch Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise for this material, then you won’t be disappointed.
Would I recommend watching Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise? Generally, yeah. If you are in it for the film’s story, world construction, and it’s mechanical designs, then this film will exceed every thought pattern in ways you wouldn’t think possible. If you are here for the amazing characters, then you might see something a lot more then disappointment. The problematic elements along with the character’s being a vehicle for Royal Space Force’s plot and everything else isn’t going to be that much of a selling factor for you. I was honestly in the film for a lot of it’s hard science stuff myself because it’s amazing, but that’s just me. In general, it’s ok I suppose.