Oneamisu no Tsubasa

Tagged: Film

["The Wings of Honneamise"] Animated film (1987 Japan). {GAINAX}, Bandai Visual, Tōhō Tōwa. Directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga, starring Leo Morimoto, Mitsuki Yayoi. Screenplay by Hiroyuki Yamaga. 119 minutes. Colour.

Shirotsugh Lhadatt (Morimoto) is a hapless, directionless youth who becomes one of the test subjects in his kingdom's rickety, underfunded space programme. A dead-end propaganda exercise by a distracted government, the mission seems doomed to failure until Lhadatt and his colleagues decide, seemingly on a whim, to take it seriously even if nobody else does. The countdown to the first launch begins as invaders from a neighbouring republic launch their assault (> Slingshot Ending).

A triumphant genre piece, Oneamisu no Tsubasa is one of the best examples of Anime sf, notable in particular for its exquisitely detailed alien world-building, in everything from language to telegraph poles to spoons. Suffused with incisive commentary on Religion and Politics, this theatrical film began life as a relatively low-cost straight-to-video project for the sf fans of the Gainax company, with the working title of «Ōritsu Uchūgun» ["Royal Space Force"]. However, the project was soon bloated with investment capital at the height of Japan's 1980s economic boom (> Bubble E Go! Time Machine Wa Drum-Shiki), leading to numerous investor interferences and upgrades to budgets and expectations – including an airline sponsor's insistence that the word "wings" be in the title, and a new producer's recommendation that since Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä ["Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind"] (1984) had been a hit, the title should be changed to "The Something of Something".

Although easily conceived on one level as a comment on the US-Soviet space race, Oneamisu no Tsubasa, like several other products of the Gainax studio (> Shinseiki Evangelion) (1995-1996), may also be articulated as an allegory of its own creation, as a group of no-hopers are unexpectedly given control of futuristic toys by cynical money-men, but resolve to put their passions and opportunity to good use. As fans-turned-professional, the Gainax studio staffers excel at valorizing sf Fandom itself as a higher life-form with the "right stuff" to save mankind, as alluded to in a joyous closing credits sequence that takes mankind from the Stone Age into orbit (> Evolution).

The film won the Media Seiun Award in 1988, but had accreted so many investors that it took seven years to earn back its costs as Japan's boomtime economy plunged into recession. A sequel, «Aoki Uru» ["Blue Uru"], set 50 years later and possibly involving First Contact, was planned in the early 1990s but shut down due to lack of funds. [JonC]

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