Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnȇamise

On an earth-like planet where the technology is a strange mix ranging from late-Victorian to mid-20th century, Shirotsugh is a disengaged young man who unwillingly finds himself in the Royal Space Force of the Kingdom of Honnȇamise. Shirotsugh had hoped to join the Air Force, but his lack of academic ability thwarted his ambition; and his sense of alienation is aggravated by the fact that the RSF is treated as a joke,  only managing to survive due to the political connections of its commander, General Khaidenn. One day, while on leave with his friends, Shirotsugh encounters an intense, religious young woman by the name of Riquinni. Fascinated, Shirotsugh tries to strike up a friendship with her; he finds her idealism inspiring, motivating him to try and make a success of his career in the RSF – even though their differences in personality and worldview also create tensions between them. At the same time, in order to prevent the RSF from being shut down, General Khaidenn announces an ambitious plan to conduct a successful space launch – even though conventional thinking claims space flight is impossible. However, unknown to both Khaidenn and Shirotsugh – who volunteers to pilot the mission – factions within the government hope to manipulate the launch into provoking a war with Honnȇamise’s rival, the Republic of Ramada. As the launch date approaches and war threatens, the stakes riding on the RSF’s success escalate well beyond its own survival…

The debut feature production of anime studio Gainax – which would later achieve fame with the classic “Neon Genesis Evangelion” series – “Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnȇamise” was released in Japanese cinemas in 1987.  Presented in a classic hand-drawn animation style that was nonetheless unusually vivid and detailed for the period, “Royal Space Force” runs at just over two hours in length, and was the result of a production process in which the creators attempted to reject the established anime tropes of the period in favour of a more realistic depiction of issues such as social alienation. The narrative arc is at times convoluted and sluggish as it attempts to chart Shirotsugh’s transition from apathy to determined – if not necessarily naïve – industriousness; but his character is nonetheless well fleshed out and carries a certain humorous charm. The film also draws on the “space race” of the Cold War, and the decision to launch the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon earlier than scheduled (in order to forestall a feared Soviet space launch), as an illustration of the ways in which civilian science enterprises are often co-opted by the military-industrial complex. Only moderately successful and receiving mixed reviews upon its release, “Royal Space Force” has subsequently become an international fan favourite, and its place in the history of anime substantially reassessed by cultural historians.

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020. All rights reserved.