Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Wings of Honneamise: Royal Rape Force

[This was originally intended as a review of The Wings of Honneamise, but it turned into a diatribe about the film’s most controversial scene and how anyone who defends it is intellectually dishonest or just human filth. The following article discusses the movie's depiction of sexual assault. Please take precautions if you find that disturbing.]

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise is often praised as one of the most compelling creations of Japan’s animation industry. In 1987, it stunned many with its gorgeous visions of another world’s first steps into outer space, and it's praised as a monument to the creative heights that animation can reach when freed from commercialism and pandering.


It’s also one of the biggest fuck-ups in the history of animated cinema. I’m not talking about the film’s finances; it did well enough at the box office and only failed to break even because it was so incredibly expensive in the first place. No, I’m talking about the film’s drastic, ill-advised, and misogynistic detour off a cliff.

Honneamise is an amazing film at first. Set in a world that’s Not Quite Our Own and looks it, the movie follows a would-be astronaut named Shirotsugh Lhadatt. Shiro’s introduced as a goofball slacker in his nation’s ineffectual Space Force, which hasn’t gone into space and, at best, only manages to get its test astronauts electrocuted by their own urine bags. One night, Shiro meets a religious young woman named Riquinni when she’s handing out alterna-world Chick tracts in the street. Her piously supportive attitude inspires Shiro to volunteer as the Space Force’s next astronaut.


What follows is a film that initially seems far from the usual anime nonsense or mainstream family-oriented schlock. For one thing, Honneamise has some of the most amazing visual world-building I’ve ever seen in a movie. The entire setting is comparable to Asian-American nations of the 1950s, but it’s re-imagined in stunning completion, from the cityscapes and vehicles down to the coins, the spoons, the clothing, the TV weather broadcasts, and the origin myths. It’s the sort of movie that reveals new things each time you watch, because there’s too much well-animated detail to take in at once.

Honneamise is also a refreshingly sedate story. Instead of pointless or gaudy imagery, it opens with Shiro reflecting on how he just drifted into the Space Force, and it follows with a fascinating montage of this alternate world’s journey toward powered flight, set to the staccato overtures of a Ryuichi Sakamoto soundtrack. From there, the movie roams through Shiro’s humdrum life. He’s no action-film centerpiece, and his days are spent clowning around with the other Space Force goons and trying to circumvent Riquinni’s strict views on romantic abstinence.


But a problem arises for our main character. In the midst of the Space Force’s efforts to put him up in orbit, Shiro loses his confidence in the program, realizing that it’ll do little to ultimately improve life in his country. He turns to Riquinni, whose house has been bulldozed by creditors, and her passive attitude frustrates him. Clearly, he is a troubled individual, carrying an inner conflict that represents the existential turmoil every member of this sad human race must confront in some way. And Riquinni, with her perpetually self-humbling views of the world, can’t really help him.

So how does Shiro deal with this? He tries to rape her.

Yep. One night, Shiro lurches, as if in a trance, over to Riquinni while she’s changing clothes. He throws her on the ground and forces himself atop her, to put it delicately. He appears to come to his senses moments before she clouts him with a candlestick. Then he makes a goofy face and passes out. Because attempted rape is WACKY!


The next morning, Shiro follows Riquinni out of the house and apologizes profusely (in the English dub, he says “I just couldn’t help myself”). To his shock, she apologizes for clobbering him upside the head, and explains that he needs to forgive her so she can forgive herself. Bewildered, Shiro wanders back to the Space Force.

There are many reasons director Hiroyuki Yamaga and Gainax put these scenes in the The Wings of Honneamise. They show Shiro’s weakness, his self-doubt, and his growing disdain for Riquinni. They demonstrate how he’s incapable of accepting the weight of the future he’s chosen for himself. They capture the savagery inherent in human nature and the necessity of overcoming it. That's what some critics say, at least.

Honneamise’s rape scene is frequently defended by fans of note. Carl Horn, an esteemed anime-industry veteran, explains in a series of Usenet posts that Yamaga was showing Shiro’s failure to grasp his own destiny and Riquinni’s inability to do the same for hers. He maintains, at length, that “Yamaga knew what he was doing.”

Translator Neil Nadelman conveys a similar sentiment here, quoting Yamaga as saying that “The assault and its aftermath was there to put the final knife into the possibility that Shiro and Riqunni could ever have a full and balanced relationship with each other. Riqunni's failure to admit to herself what Shiro had tried to do showed that there was no longer any possibility of communication.”

In the film's commentary track, Yamaga also explains that he wanted to depict an unpredictable relationship between a man and a woman, a relationship that rejects the typical movie romance. The rape attempt was effectively the first case of what anime fans would later label the “Gainax Twist,” a turn of plot that the studio often uses to screw with the viewer’s expectations or nerdy predilections.

None of these arguments really explains why Honneamise had to use a rape attempt when there were dozens of better ways to express the themes underlying Shiro’s personal downfall. The commentary track is of limited help here. Yamaga and assistant director Takami Akai, the other Gainax member on the track, discuss the buildup to Shiro’s attack on Riquinni and how it was “difficult to explain to the animators.” But what explanation does Akai offer when Shiro hurls her to the floor and mounts her? He reminisces about how he wanted to use the animation cels of the scene as “promotions or gifts” but that people stole all of the production materials showing a bare-breasted Riquinni struggling beneath her attacker. Clearly, the people behind this movie had their priorities straight.

Then there’s the aftermath of the assault, during which Akai points out that Riquinni reveals herself as a “strong woman” by completely forgiving Shiro and saying that it was her fault. So, depending on your interpretation, the film’s leading (and only) adult female character is a fundamentalist lunatic willing to immediately overlook a horrible event, or she's a woman who shows perseverance and robust spirit by BLAMING HERSELF BECAUSE SHE WAS ALMOST RAPED. Holy fucking shit.

In truth, Honneamise is ruined not just by the near-rape, but by the film’s subsequent handling of it. Following his conversation with Riquinni, Shiro finds his way to his Space Force compatriots and, in a conversation with his friend, openly wonders if he’s a good or bad person. The problem here is that Shiro, at his most troubled, seems only slightly ill at ease. He doesn’t act like a man who just tried to force himself on a woman. He acts like a guy who just cheated on his taxes or ran over a squirrel on his drive to the office. I’ve heard that one cut of the film deletes the rape scene entirely, and I have to wonder if the typical viewer would notice, because the film deals with Riquinni’s attack by simply bustling on its way through a street-sweeper chase and fighter-plane dogfights and symbolic montages that don’t seem affected by it in the slightest.

Furthermore, the movie still insists that the viewer care about Shiro in some way. He obviously isn’t supposed to be a blatant, stand-up-and-cheer hero of any sort, yet Honneamise continues to focus its story around him with the implicit assumption that he’s still an ambivalent and intriguing enough character to shoulder the movie’s conflicts. If we’re not expected to root for him, we’re still asked to stay interested in him and what he’s doing. And that’s asking a lot when the movie’s shown him trying to rape someone. When Shiro emits his message about prayer and loss while he’s in orbit, it seems rushed and inauthentic, because he hasn’t truly dealt with his actions. And neither has Honneamise at large.


Maybe, just maybe, there was a subtler, more artistically solid, and less woman-hating way to show Shiro and Riquinni’s relationship self-destructing. Yes, Yamaga, you wanted to shake the viewers and break with convention and freak the hell out of those stodgy anime-industry squares, but you did it with such a ham-fisted, sexist misfire that I’m always surprised when anyone claims to like The Wings of Honneamise without adding “except for…” and some description of the rape scene.

Yamaga apparently included the scene in his movie without anyone stepping in and objecting, and that remains a testament to just how much of a boys’ club the anime industry was in the 1980s and still is today. There might be more defense for his choices if he’d gone on to an illustrious career, but that didn’t quite happen. Other Gainax directors made their marks on the anime industry with other projects, including Hideki Anno’s Evangelion and Kazuya Tsurumaki’s FLCL, but Yamaga never again got as ambitious as he did with Honneamise. He co-wrote Gunbuster (uncredited, for some reason) shortly after, and Gunbuster is a crowd-pleasing puffball in which huge robots and girls in combat leotards save the human race, all without being raped. Yamaga also co-wrote Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket, generally considered the best of the Gundam franchise, though he’s only credited with the screenplay while someone else did “series composition.” Perhaps the director ignored his suggestion that the lead Gundam pilot be nearly raped by the Zeon soldier with a crush on her. A decade after this, Yamaga returned to directing anime with the reprehensible Mahoromatic, which has everything wrong with modern anime, and the forgettable attempted comedy of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi.

Many overlook this when praising The Wings of Honneamise. Even today, the movie is often lionized without anyone acknowledging how much the rape scene damages everything. Some reviews wave it aside or ignore it completely. Others lament the fact that Gainax isn’t going further down the path blazed by Honneamise. Gainax’s subsequent series, from Gunbuster to Nadia to Gurren Lagann, are often made with comfortably mainstream appeal. Yet even in the bizarre extremes of Evangelion, there’s nothing quite as degrading as what Honneamise does to Riquinni. Yes, anime fans, it’s truly a shame that Gainax is longer using rape as a conveniently sectionalized character-development device. You can still find plenty of awful, awful anime that does just that, but it’s never another prestigious, big-budget film that emerged just when anime needed an art-house champion.



Perhaps it seemed worthy of unrelenting plaudits to the anime fans of 1987, but I can’t believe so many modern critics ignore how Honneamise at first emerges as wonderful movie only to turn into yet another case of WHAT THE HELL, JAPAN. Stereotypes of Japan and its nationwide Issues With Women are invoked frequently, and they’d be annoying here if Honneamise didn’t uphold them. Roger Ebert mentions the rape scene in his review of the movie, linking it to the "sudden sexual violence" common in manga and anime. While I imagine some fans must have bristled at comparing such a brilliantly textured film to violent porn comics, the truth is that Ebert was on the money.

On the subject of stereotypes proven accurate, it doesn’t speak well for anime fans when they defend the movie’s marginalizing of sexual assault as a statement about the disintegration of a relationship. Only in the anime industry would a director show this by having a man try to rape a woman, and only in anime fandom would people view the results as anything but a terrible idea.

I’m bothered by Honneamise’s ugly, mishandled scene even more because the film is utterly spectacular up to that point. It’s an entrancing, wonderful tale, built from thoughtful personal moments, broad visions of a beautifully drawn world, and even low-brow comedy (I’ve heard Animal House inspired at least once moment in Honneamise). It’s unlike any other animated creation, and in my teenage years I counted it among my favorite movies; not my favorite animated movies, but my favorite movies, period.

Yes, there was a time when I liked Honneamise completely, when I thought that the attempted rape was meaningful expression that wouldn’t have worked any other way. Then I watched the movie again and again. I read the defenses of it. I listened to the commentary track. And you know what? There’s no excuse for the rape scene, and there’s no reason to stand up for it. All evidence suggests that Yamaga, in fact, did not know what he was doing. If Yamaga knew what he was doing, he wouldn’t show Shiro only mildly shaken by a brush with becoming a rapist. If Yamaga knew what he was doing, he and Akai wouldn't have considered giving away production cels of a woman being violated.

Most importantly, if Yamaga knew what he was doing, he wouldn’t use the scene to symbolize the despicable failings of one man, perhaps of all humanity, and then treat it purely as symbol. Because once you’ve shown a rape attempt like that, your film is no longer the story of a morally conflicted man and the flawed progression of the human race, framed by a quest to reach beyond a planetary cradle. It becomes the story of a man who tries to rape a woman who’s so warped (or SO STRONG) that she instantly accepts blame. It also becomes the story of a director who destroys what might have been the best animated film ever.

18 comments:

Sean said...

So I'm guessing you didn't care much for A Clockwork Orange.

Botoggle said...

I'm actually kind of really disappointed to see this from you — you're normally a much more reasonable sort of guy. I share your distaste for the scene and the act committed within, but to say that the scene completely eliminates not just any worth for the main character, but any interest in following him for the rest of the film is an incredible overreaction. I'm not defending the act by any means, or the violation of my post-Western values, but I don't expect the characters in the media I enjoy to be perfect people — that'd be really fucking boring.

octa said...

I don't understand why the whole movie is being downgraded by one bad scene. It's a terrible, unnecessary, scene that deserves no defense. However, the movie stands tall in its own right and no one should be dissuaded from seeing it for one scene. You seem to think sexism and depictions of base cruelty are unique to Anime but I can think of examples from religion to arthouse movies made both in the states and abroad. Heck, how about Tijuana Bibles?

“…stereotypes proven accurate,” is just a cheap shot by the way. There is more evidence against these stereotypes than for, but your one sentence seems to lump the whole industry in with a single scene in a movie.

Not your best article.

Kid Fenris said...

Sean: I actually like A Clockwork Orange! Blah blah blah consistent dark absurdist humor versus cheap fake-meaningful shocks blah blah blah someone review California Crisis please.

Botoggle: I agree that flawed characters are interesting, but a work must adequately explore those flaws. I don't think Honneamise does.

octa: I believe a single scene can bring a movie down, particularly when it's a scene that changes the tones of many others.

Daryl Surat said...

Because attempted rape is WACKY!

Hey, now. Wait just a second there. Are you trying to insinuate that it's NOT?

Because them there's fightin' words. Listen. We've been over this: rape is HILARIOUS (but only as a theoretical concept). If rape was somehow NOT hilarious, then Detroit Metal City, Dirty Work, and Sarah Silverman's part in The Aristocrats wouldn't be funny. But they ARE funny.

Therefore.

wintermuted said...

I think the most important element that must be considered here is historical context. As mysogynistic, and odd as it may seem, the period in which this scene was animated was quite open to violence towards women. Heck, as much as we'd like to sit on our collective high-horses, context and intent are often the most important parts of any completed work. Even if we ourselves do not agree with what appears onscreen, it is important to look at it from the character and the time in which the work was made. Hell, even Nakata's RINGU resorts to slapping your ex-wife silly when she's hysterical and yet it's taken in stride. Again, while we're taken aback by the scene, we're not supposed to be okay with Lhadatt's actions. Ultimately, that is the general point of the scene. It is also more of a confirmation of the dysfunctionality of their relationship. He is incapable of looking at a woman without "expecting" something, and thus makes a colossal fool out of himself once his doubts reach a troubling impasse.- Sacrifice for all, or give in to more basic desires. It is also possible that he, himself had been unsure of their relationship, and took a massive bad left in order to see where he stood. Not defendable, but certainly realistic.

Perhaps I'm just a lover of character ambiguity, and this is a prime example of it in a beautiful film that could easily have done without it, but is all the more fascinating because of it.

Doc Sane said...

Wow...

20-odd years on and people still can't wrap their heads around the "rape" scene in which there was no rape, the assaulter never even took his clothes off, and who stopped the whole assault before he actually got knocked out. That's right, folks, if you watch the scene again, Shiro himself stops the attack right before Riqunni brains him with that...candlestick/whatever the hell it was supposed to be.

Sorry, Kid, the film isn't misogynistic. Riqunni isn't a failure in life because she's a woman. She's a failure because she invests all her hopes on other people and other ideas and nothing in herself. Her relationship with Shiro is one in which both are looking for a messiah in the other. When Shiro runs off to her shack, he's desperate to find a deeper meaning for his life than what he sees as an empty mission into orbit. The problem he finds is that her life is empty. She preaches to the crowd, but really has no ideas of her own to offer them. Shiro spends the entire film going from person to person, asking them what life's all about, and he gets several little speeches from Dr. Gnomm, Gen. Kaiden, Matti, and even freaking Yanalan on the launch gantry the night before. But from Riqunni? Nothing. Silence. Maybe a little soup, but no little speech about how she sees the world and definitely no attempt to move the relationship to a level beyond their sick codependency. I always viewed his assault (and it's assault, not rape.) as his desperate, deranged attempt to get Riqunni to engage with him on some level. Her only really proactive moment in the film was her hitting him with the candlestick-thing, and then she won't even talk about why he did what he did, show anger, or even acknowledge that he'd done anything wrong. Why? Because just as Shiro sees her as his ticket to enlightenment, she sees him as her connection to a world where people try to change their destinies. To even admit that he wasn't the hero she saw him as would be like denying her God, so she just ignores it and turns it around so that she's somehow the one who did something wrong.

The scene is important. In fact, I'd argue that it's vital, because up to that point, Riqunni was a sort of crutch that Shiro leaned on to justify what he was doing. When he saw that she really offered no answers, going so far as to just ignore the obvious, he leaves her and goes back to try and get his life in order on his own. That final speech he makes in orbit is basically his manifesto to the world telling the listeners that we need to stop and appreciate the deeds we do because they are what give meaning to our existence. Because that's the theme of the film: we create meaning in what we do and in our intentions. The launch of the capsule was an entirely political stunt, one which had no clear purpose and which was used in the end as a pawn of diplomacy, yet the reason it was a noble enterprise was because those who believed in the program felt that the act of getting into orbit was its own justification. It became one more scene in the march of progress montage at the very end, simultaneously the pinnacle of their world's development and yet just one more vital moment on a long path. Hence Shiro's plea for everyone to stop and give thanks. He recognized that this was something that would "get them into the history books" and wanted everyone to appreciate that the human race had reached one of those pivotal moments in history.

Up in orbit, he gains a moment of enlightenment. Down on "Earth," Riqunni is still preaching to a crowd who doesn't care, but Manna is out in the field, contemplating the stars. There's hope in Manna's future, but really none in Riqunni's. And Shiro wouldn't have figured it out had that whole messy, abortive assault scene hadn't happened.

(To be honest, I find Manna to be the most interesting character in the entire story, and she has almost no dialogue.)

There. I've defended the scene. Have at me, sir!

- Neil Nadelman
(Who has thought about this film way too much over the years)

Kid Fenris said...

wintermuted: I agree that the film could've done without the scene, but I don't think it lets Shiro stay ambiguous. Instead, it makes him much easier to detest.

Neil: It's called a rape scene in passing because it's about rape, no matter if that rape is merely attempted or subsequently prevented. Do you seriously think it's not a rape attempt because Shiro doesn't disrobe (all rapists strip before their crimes!) or see it through to some legally defining violation? Wow.

Anyway, your description of Riquinni and Shiro's relationship reminds me of why the (attempted!) rape scene is a bad idea: it reduces the complexity of that relationship to bizarre shock value. You don't really explain why an attempted rape was the ideal way (or even a good way) to bring the movie's themes to a point. Everything you mention (Riquinni's self-defeat, Manna's subtle potential) could've been conveyed in better, subtler fashion.

The film attempts to use sexual assault as a dramatic catalyst, but it fails to confront or understand how such an incident could affect a woman and her attacker. That, I think, is misogynistic. It's perhaps the result of ignorance more than active disdain, but that's no excuse.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the DVD commentary track, you say, "Yamaga discusses the buildup to Shiro’s attack...But what explanation does he offer when Shiro hurls her to the floor and mounts her? He reminisces about how he wanted to use the animation cels of the scene as 'promotions or gifts' but that people stole all of the production materials showing a bare-breasted Riquinni struggling beneath her attacker. Clearly, this is a director with his priorities straight."

Yamaga--the writer and director--doesn't talk about the cels or giving them away; it is Akai who does, nor does Akai offer this remark as an explanation for the assault, a topic he instead discusses with Yamaga in the shots leading up to it, and after.

You say, "Then there’s the aftermath of the assault, during which assistant director Takami Akai, the other Gainax member on the commentary track, points out that Riquinni reveals herself as a 'strong woman' by completely forgiving Shiro and saying that it was her fault." But here is what Akai and Yamaga actually said at this point:

Akai: This is my favorite Riquinni scene, where she exudes her strength to go on living this way...

Yamaga: She realizes that she can no longer be with Shirotzugh.

Akai didn't say anything about her forgiving Shiro or saying it was her fault, but having "strength to go on living this way." What way? It's not going to be with Shiro any more, says Yamaga; this is not a woman going back to a bad relationship.

I cannot help but view your discussion of the commentary track on "Honneamise" as superficial, highly selective, and, as noted above, inaccurate. It does an injustice to a rightly-praised aspect of the otherwise problematic Manga Video DVD release, just as I believe your article does an injustice to the film as a whole. You paint an image of Yamaga and Akai making light of Riquinni and Shiro, when in fact both of them are interested in these characters as thinking, feeling individuals, strange, lonely people, poor at communicating, often self-deceptive, yet guided by beliefs and ideals, and it is something they discuss at length.

--Carl

Kid Fenris said...

Carl: I'll assume that the "Carl" here is Carl Horn, who worked on the Manga DVD itself, and I'll fix my mistake accordingly.

However, the point remains that someone, an assistant director on the film, was willing to use scenes of attempted rape as promotional gifts. What's this? An animation cel of a half-naked woman thrashing around to escape a would-be rapist? Oh, Akai, you shouldn't have!

Furthermore, Akai's view of Riquinni showing "strength" to continue her life, apparently a life of denial and religious self-loathing, also remains bizarre and insulting. It's inconsistent with fan interpretations of the film intending to display Riquinni's flaws as well as Shiro's in the face of the attempted rape. One simply doesn't display "strength" by doing what Riquinni does.

While the commentary track has many interesting points, I believe it also reveals Yamaga and Akai to be clueless about just what monsters they were loosing upon their film by having Shiro sexually assault Riquinni. Like the film itself, the commentary track doesn't address the issue properly.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's much of a statement against misogyny to say that you "actually like" A CLOCKWORK ORANGE but consider HONNEAMISE "degrading." In the former film, Alex is part of a gang that regularly assaults and rapes for fun, or to show "consistent dark absurdist humor," as you put it. And with Alex, it really is for fun--he's dismissive when his droogs tell him they should start getting serious as criminals ("if you want pretty polly, you take it"). The only reason he stops temporarily is because he's psychologically conditioned to; at no point in the film does he wonder if he's evil, and the film ends with the suggestion he'll soon be back to his old self--"I was cured all right."

Then we have Shiro in HONNEAMISE, an ordinary person, certainly not someone who revels in hurting others. What he did was wrong (he certainly thinks so), but it was not in the context of a lifestyle where he regarded any woman he likes as a potential rape target. The film doesn't go into "Singin' in the Rain" when he assaults Riqunni, nor do we get to see him artistically snip off her clothes with scissors, as we would see in less misogynistic films, with their dark absurdist humor. Of course, Shiro, unlike Alex, doesn't actually rape anyone, and Shiro, unlike Alex, stops himself at the last moment, and Shiro, unlike Alex, clearly realizes he's done something terribly wrong. Nevertheless it is HONNEAMISE that is degrading. You are correct that the scene is a shock; where you are wrong is in thinking that its meaning is fake, or that it is cheap--on the contrary, the film has clearly paid a heavy price, then and now, for choosing to include it. It is the farthest thing from fan service.

It is true that Riqunni is the only adult major female character in HONNEAMISE, but she is not, as you say, the only adult female character. There are three older female characters in important scenes--the priest conducting the funeral service at the beginning, the reporter who tries to get Shiro to comment on the social issues surrounding his space flight, and the national guard officer who informs the launch control team the site is under attack. At least one of the crew on board the Kingdom's naval vessel monitoring Republic air movements is a woman. Female announcers are also heard in the newsreels of both the Kingdom and the Republic. The distribution of gender roles in the world of the film does not seem especially more reactionary (and is perhaps is a bit more progressive) than that of the late-'50s/early-'60s developed world; that is, of the technological era it evokes. Sexual display is not emphasized in the clothing of either men or women--there is a general impression of bagginess and drape for both genders. The character designs, are, famously, not even cute.

Very notably for an anime, and most especially for a Gainax anime, there is no real fan service in HONNEAMISE; not even in the one place you would expect to see it, the district where sex is sold, and where Riqunni preaches--where Shiro in fact first meets her, and where he eventually joins her in preaching, as part of the sequence of events that leads to the scene under review.

I am inclined to see Akai's remarks about the cels as referring to the notoriety of the scene, not as evidence he thinks the assault on her is A-OK. Nevertheless, however one wishes to read the implications of his remarks, it should also be borne in mind he was one of three assistant directors on the film. Besides Hiroyuki Yamaga, the writer/director, its co-producer Toshio Okada, and character designer, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, have also expressed extensive opinions on the film. What I am trying to suggest is that Akai's views (of which I have a different interpretation than you, as I do for the film as a whole) are also one view among several.

--Carl

Kid Fenris said...

Carl: Returning to A Clockwork Orange, it and the Wings of Honneamise are very different films. A Clockwork Orange builds a grotesque and exaggerated future, one where Alex’s debauchery clashes against the bizarrely banal tone of the authority figures around him. The movie’s entire game lies in taking a completely loathsome individual and manipulating the story to the point where the viewer could conceivably feel sorry for him (though I never did) while also pointing out the failures of a society that allows Alex’s horrible acts one way or another.

Also, Alex’s brutal rape of a woman has enduring consequences. He's later tormented by the woman’s husband, who, in testament to the film’s twisted world and inherently tragic tone, is written off as a lunatic by the authorities. The movie is perverse and arguably misogynistic, but it all serves a consistent and deliberately troubling purpose. In other words, it knows what it’s doing.

(Granted, I don’t know about the kids who dress up as Alex for Halloween, much like people who cosplay as Pyramid Head, the Silent Hill rape-monster.)

The Wings of Honneamise is inconsistent. Its world is devoted to convincing realism (hence the lack of preposterous anime hypersexuality), and its humor consists of gentle visual wit or raucous yet harmless Animal House gags. The attempted-rape scene breaks that focus, but the movie then encapsulates it and seeks a return to the more even pace it had before, evidenced in Shiro’s only-kinda-shaken attitude. He's not as horrible as Alex, but he's treated far nicer (and with less irony) by the movie he's in.

One could see the averted rape as some huge prank on the viewers who thought Honneamise would play out with Miyazaki-like earnestness (the “Gainax Twist” and all that), but it still leaves the rest of the movie in pieces.

Regarding women in Honneamise, let’s be honest: isn’t there a minimum of development before someone’s considered a proper “character” in a film? The priestess, the reporter, and the field commander are all one-scene talking heads (or two-scene at best), while only the soldier is named and only the reporter’s dialogue reflects anything resembling a personality. Moreover, they could just as easily be male characters within the context of the story. The doctor’s widow is almost a more important female character; though she has no dialogue that I can recall and appears only in one scene, the film lingers on her in a way that’s clearly supposed to show something to Shiro or the viewer.

Having limited female characters doesn’t automatically damage a film (one of my favorite anime movies is Jin-Roh, after all), but it reinforces the argument that Honneamise, though it was originally called The Wings of Riquinni, is ultimately a boy’s story.

I agree that Honneamise’s setting is not misogynistic, and I can understand why many prefer it to Gainax’s subsequent profusion of leotards and plugsuits and maids and biker-punk-space-barbarian aesthetics. However, I maintain that the film’s particular use of attempted rape is degrading.

Do other members of Honneamise staff discuss the rape scene or the film’s dramatic themes? I was disappointed that the booklet from Bandai Visual’s Honneamise DVD discussed frame-by-frames of the rocket launch more than the storyline.

GAINAX said...

you must be a virgin

Kid Fenris said...

Note: After extensive investigation, I have come to suspect that the above comment was not left by an authorized representative of Gainax.

Anonymous said...

pretty sure if you got hit in the temple with a candlestick you'd have a pretty goofy look on your face too.

just sayin.

Anonymous said...

This review is made of fail. I don't think the author should be allowed to review anything anymore. To be so unable to deal with the scene, to be so unable to understand why the scene happened... and for the reviewer to allow this important, albeit uncomfortable scene to make him ignore the entire rest of the film suggests to me the reviewer is a child. Please stop using up internet space with your uselessness. I will not sign my name to this because you don't deserve to have it.

Anonymous said...

A lot of dudes would be frustrated if you're not getting any from this chick you like. They might even resort to a form of rape or harassment if they're in the edge or frustrated about themselves enough. In a way, this isn't as far off from reality as some think, making the main characters a lot more human in their failure to accept the things around them.

It wasn't even rape, it was attempted rape.

And it may make sense that the reason she's the one who's apologizing is so that she's already apologizing for the both of them, as she thinks he's a great guy - (probably the only guy who bothered to follow up on the flyer she's giving out, and even help her spread the word), and she's trying to get that incident off her mind so that it doesn't further damage how she thinks of him, even though their potential relationship is already awkward and broken at that point.

Anonymous said...

Didn't see anyone else say this, so here's my interpretation: prior to the attempted rape scene Shiro actually says to Riqunni that "no one should force her around" or something to that effect when her house has been demolished. It's said almost as a principal. The attempted rape, in my opinion, was intended to show that Shiro's principals -- and his preconceived notions -- were now a thing of his past, AND that in leaving his previous self he was at risk of becoming a worse person but he didn't, because of Riqunni's kindness and "purity" (he stated he had stopped because she smiled at him, although in terms of animation it looks like she just looked him in the eye).