Studio Gainax’s most visible pre-Evangelion project in the West was a meditation on spirituality, technology and man’s future in space.
The Royal Space Force is an embarrassment to the military, a funding black hole to the public, and its dress uniform an affront to fashion. The unit exists on a whim of the royal house, and is filled with misfits and dreamers. It is only during a war that the government sees a use for the Space Force: initially as a PR morale-boosting exercise, then as a system to deliver weapons into space.
Recruit Shiro Lhadatt is challenged then inspired by an encounter with a devout religious woman, Manna Nonderaiko, and he volunteers to be the world’s first astronaut. What follows is an exploration on the path taken by a humanity driven by dreamers but at the mercy of political manipulation and exploitation. Gainax creates a world that is so familiar yet so different in every detail, from stick-like currency to the concertina-like folds of its newspapers.
Although its languid pace can lead to distraction, Wings of the Honneamise runs the full gamut of human emotion. Its kaleidoscopic ending celebrating humanity’s achievements remains emotionally resonant to this day.