Saturday, August 31, 2013

Star Quest: The Wings of Randy Wilson

We have an absurd amount of anime at our disposal online. Even beyond the numerous shows that companies stream for free, there are those devoted nerds who track down obscure releases and offer them for mockery and edification. You can see many of these relics on YouTube or at the anime convention panels that specialize in such things. Heck, we can even download an amazing Prince of Tennis fandub once suspected lost to the ages. That’s historical preservation for you.


However, there’s one especially mysterious release that, to my knowledge, never found its way online: Star Quest. Its story begins with Gainax’s uncompromisingly ambitious Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise, which was a really big deal back in 1987. My opinion of the film is not entirely praise, but there’s no denying the imaginative vision that Gainax brought to the movie. It’s the tale of another world’s first manned spaceflight, and just about every scene gives off the fascinating air of a reality that’s not quite ours but every bit as flawed. Honneamise caught the attention of many fans when it debuted in 1987, and a North American outfit called Go East Productions snapped it up and renamed it Star Quest.

Star Quest involved more than a title change, of course. Go East dubbed the film with a noticeably different script, changing a good deal of the dialogue and most of the names into a strange mix of Westernized titles and fantasy neologisms. Honneamise avoids any obvious Japanese or American names, cheating only by nicknaming its protagonist Shirotsugh Lhadatt “Shiro.” The Star Quest dub dispenses with most of this. Shirotsugh becomes Randy Wilson, pious street preacher Riquinni becomes Diane, and General Khaidenn becomes General Dixon. Oddly, the planet itself gets a name in this new dub: Eeya. Eeya indeed.

According to esteemed anime historian Carl Horn, Star Quest premiered on February 19, 1987 at Mann’s Chinese Theatre (now known as TCL Chinese Theatre) and never again appeared in public. Longtime anime collectors reportedly have copies of the film, but no clips or other records are available online. Contemporary reviews of Star Quest are also hard to find, but there’s an interesting account in the second issue of Anime-Zine. An article by Toren Smith recounts the plot of Honneamise and spends two pages explaining some of the differences between the original script and Star Quest.


Smith’s examples reveal a considerably different tone to the movie. Star Quest breaks the film’s mood almost instantly, with the main character describing his planet of Eeya just before he gives his name as Randy Wilson. For a denizen of a planet with an unimpressive space program, he sure knows a lot about its astrogeographical location. Likewise, Randy’s orbital homily at the end of the film is a lot longer and preachier than Shiro’s speech in Honneamise.

Go East Productions is nearly as puzzling as Star Quest. Horn’s old Usenet post links the company to My Little Pony, but it’s hard to find any firm details about the group (which shares a name with several unrelated outfits). Both Horn and Smith credit the Star Quest script to Budd Donnelly, whose IMDB page links him to ‘70s B-movies like Cinderella 2000 but not Star Quest. It’s a forgotten film, and by all available accounts it deserves that fate.

Yet Star Quest seems an interesting relic in the history of bastardized anime. It’s not just a meddlesome dub. It’s a full-scale rewrite of a film that, in its original version, tries to encompass the whole of human progress and civilization. How did Star Quest handle that? How did it approach the attempted rape that, in my opinion, wrecks the movie? How did it translate scenes of a rival nation’s leaders, who speak in a subtitled fictional language? It may be that we’re all better off not knowing, and of course that’s why we want to find out.

3 comments:

ArnoldRimmer83 said...

The more we hear how bad something is, the more we want to see it. Its like Jerry Lewis' The Day the Clown Cried. Our curiosity overwhelms us.

And so it is with this dub. I hope the Star Quest version leaks out someday. It would be interesting/amusing to see how much of the story is changed.

gangrelion said...

Haha! Believe or not, I watched this years ago on TV! It was on a weird channel in cable TV. There was this show called "Japanimation" that showed many random animes with english dub. It was also there that I watched Tank Police for the first time. Since it was the american version, the opening song had no vocal. Good and crazy times! Thanks for the nostalgia!

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Well at least someone had a chance to see it at all. This is the sort of thing where the best we can hope for is a screener copy or a workprint copy to surface at all (had been in that business for years myself). These of course would be tapes mostly made for internal/promotional uses and often carry all sorts of clutter on the screen in the form of time codes and "Property of" messages.

The film itself (having read about it) sounds like something out of "Warriors of the Wind" in terms of adaptation and expectations. This was still not a decade that appreciated anime at all than the decade that followed.

Lea Hernandez told one interesting thing related to this film involving one Gainax employee having been in LA at that showing and overheard one of the Hollywood guys involved with the dub having told a friend something like "Yeah, you know it really needed to be fix, it wasn't that good, how it was in Japan is not really that important."

She felt that Gainax in those days was rather in over their head when it came to how they wanted to get their films and other projects accepted in the US as what they had with operating a US subsidiary of General Products. She felt as a company, Gainax was very disorganized back then, especially with making foolish business decisions such as getting Wings of Honneamise dubbed as "Star Quest". You can hear a lot about this in this ANN Cast interview...
http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/anncast/2014-03-07