[EVA] Carl Horn, "No Longer At Ease: The Wings of Honneamise", Animerica

Gwern Branwen gwern0 at gmail.com
Sun Oct 2 18:44:52 EDT 2011

pg 67, _Animerica_ volume 4, issue 2

# No Longer At Ease: The Wings of Honneamise

By Carl Gustav Horn

    Sold thru: Manga Entertainment
    Format: English VHS / Subtitled VHS
    Price: US $19.95/$24.95
    Length: 119 mins.
    Release Date: On Sale Now
    Catalog No.: 7-800-634-797-3 (8) / 7-800-635-253-3 (6)
    Notes: By Studio Gainax

A long-suffering partisan of _THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE_ (and its
co-producer), Bandai Visual's Shigeru Watanabe, was recently asked
why, in his opinion, American fans - who have voted _HONNEAMISE_ their
top anime film in the last three annual `rec.arts.anime` polls -
seemed to hold it in so much higher regard than those in Japan, where
it proved profitable only seven and one-half years after its release.
It's not an easily answered question; Mr. Watanabe could only opine
that American anime fans are on the average older, and therefore,
presumably, more open to sophisticated material.

A number of American fan observers of anime, such as Gerald Leung and
Emru Townsend, have written at length on the complex subtleties of
_HONNEAMISE_ - its modes of expression, ethical presentation, and
symbolic structure. But merely examining the superficial aspects of
the film indicate reasonable grounds for the film's status: its
unmatched level of art direction that created an entire imaginary
world down to the smallest detail, the boldness of its concept, the
association many American fans feel with _HONNEAMISE_'s 'Generation X'
protagonists, and of course, the association the fans feel with
Gainax, the studio of _otaku_-turned-pro who created the film.

Gainax associated itself strongly with _HONNEAMISE_; the film's tiny
"Royal Space Force", ridiculed by a society that doesn't believe in
space travel, is a metaphor for Studio Gainax itself, the band apart
in a society that doesn't take anime seriously. When the protagonist,
Shiro, is the surprise volunteer to be the first man in space, he must
overcome the considerable doubts of his own friends, reflecting the
anime industry's own lack of ambition.

The story of the film is *how* the first man goes into space, with all
the ensuring technical, political, and ultimately *moral* questions
Shiro must face on the road to the rocket; the question of whether he
can mature gets linked to whether mankind in general can grow up and
*both* questions are contained within that poised by Gainax in making
_HONNEAMISE_: Can *anime* grow up?

Those who are encountering _HONNEAMISE_ for the first time are advised
that while the English dub contains certain merits - its (generally)
good casting and superior voice direction helps to bring out qualities
subtitles can obscure, such as the film's humor - the script for the
dub contains a number of changes from that of the subtitled version
that alters Yamaga's narrative intent. Some are relatively minor
(three references to economic conditions in society) whereas some -
such as Leiqunni now blaming herself for a notorious incident in the
film - brought contempt from many film critics during its U.S. tour
and chagrin from those fans in the audience who, unlike the critics,
knew the original dialogue.

Most serious, perhaps, are quite deliberate changes made in Shiro's
moral assessment of himself in the bazaar scene and in his closing
monologue which tip the delicate secular/religious balance of the
original (the spiritual aspects of _HONNEAMISE_ have come in for
criticism even among fans; yet Shiro merely prays - in the anime
version of _NAUSICAA_, the heroine dies for the sins of humanity and
is resurrected to fulfill a prophecy!) into the latter camp, another
change that produced negative critical attention.

The final scenes of the film, where Leiqunni is the only one in the
crowd to notice the change, seem unintentionally prophetic of
_HONNEAMISE_'s legacy, for the film, like Shiro, changed history
forever - the history of anime as a medium, which grew up so much in
its 119 minutes - yet it was a change unacknowledged by so many.
Yamaga, speaking of world history, once observed that the price one
pays for progress is sometimes a very personal and painful one, but
could as well have been speaking of the price he and Gainax would pay
for _HONNEAMISE_. "But we must pay it", said Yamaga, "or things will
never be better than they are." _HONNEAMISE_ is not an easy film for
many people to like, yet it earned respect because it puts you no
longer at ease. That is a hard gift to accept, but it is perhaps the
greatest one.


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