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ANIMATED `WINGS’ NEVER QUITE TAKES FLIGHT

SHARE ANIMATED `WINGS’ NEVER QUITE TAKES FLIGHT

Fans of Japanimation will no doubt be pleased with "The Wings of Honneamise," a distinctive piece of work that is loaded with the kind of detailed art for which this form is famous.

There's no question that there are stunning set-pieces here, but if you are not a fan of Japanimation in general, "Wings of Honneamise" probably won't convert you. In terms of narrative storytelling, this one is as muddled as many of this genre, and the character animation is far from the Disney standard of fluid motion.An offbeat mix of futuristic and antiquated elements (think "Blade Runner"), the setting is apparently some sort of parallel world. Or perhaps it is meant to be a "what if?" premise - what if the Earth's industrial revolution had unfolded a bit differently?

The central character is Shiro, who, when the film opens, is a low-grade cadet who longs to be a pilot. But scholastically, he's at the bottom of his class and as a result, he lands in the Royal Space Force. This might not seem so bad on the face of it, but in this world space has not yet been conquered and potential astronauts seem prone to fatal accidents.

The first half of the film follows Shiro as he goes through various cycles of preliminary training and then, after he volunteers to be an astronaut and becomes something of a national hero, there is equal time given to his accelerated training and the building of the spaceship - a warship - that will propel him into outer space.

Meanwhile, a secondary plot has Shiro infatuated with Riquinni, a young woman who preaches religion on the streets, lives in poverty with a young girl she cares for and sits back as society tends to kick her around.

Initially, Shiro is more curious than anything else, but as he comes to understand Riquinni's sincerity, he gradually falls in love with her.

While "Wings of Honneamise" does have some bloody moments toward the end, it generally manages to avoid the pitfalls that often plague Japanimation - gratuitous gore, sex and nudity. But there is an unfortunate scene late in the picture, where Shiro attempts to rape Riquinni . . . though he has second thoughts before going through with it. Of course, it is up for debate as to whether Riquinni is actually saved because Shiro has second thoughts or because she hits him on the head with a frying pan.

Yes, wacky humor - and some of it may be unintentional - does crop up here and there, and there are moments when the English dubbing seems at odds with the visual action, whether because of specific dialogue or its delivery.

But the real reason to see this film is for its spectacularly detailed animation. In that regard, there's some real eye candy here for your perusal.

"The Wings of Honneamise: Royal Space Force" is unrated but would probably get an R for that attempted rape scene, as well as some violence, gore, profanity and nudity.