Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise should have been nearly a perfect movie. It’s beautiful, it’s dramatic, it has likeable, full, human characters and a rich world. It even has rocket launches, which are invariably dramatic and cool.
But it isn’t perfect. It’s not even, in the end, all that great. And all it took was a single scene…
The movie tells the story about a Kingdom’s attempt to launch a manned mission into space, the first in the world. They are at war with a nearby Republic, which becomes more and more present in the story as the movie goes on, a nice bit of metaphor showing not only the encroaching danger, but the ramp-up to history and the main character’s increasing involvement in the program.
Shirotsugh (Shiro, for short) is a lackadaisical member of the long-running and much-maligned Royal Space Force. Abandoned by his friends after a night on the town (they to their paid women, he to his wand’rings), he comes across a young girl (Riquinni) preaching about the sins of mankind (a pretty blatant anti-war message dressed up in religious evangelism). He becomes besotted with her, and visits her at her cottage (she’s passing out flyers for a meeting; needless to say, nobody else ever comes by and this part of the plot isn’t really explored). The two talk, and when she expresses her joy and hope at his work with the Space Force, he resolves to become better than he is–to the point of volunteering to be the first human being in space.
Eventually, Shiro is turned into a major celebrity, and as he becomes aware (through protests and questioning reporters) how the political machinations and socioeconomic impact of the space program are being felt by the common person, he falls into a sort of depression and hides himself away at Riquinni’s house. She shows him kindness, feeds him, gives him a place to stay, allows him to remain silent in his own thoughts, and generally plays the good Samaritan to a T.
In return, he attempts to rape her. If that sounds apropos of nothing, it’s because it is. She fends him off by clubbing him in the head with whatever’s handy, and the next morning is not only all smiles, but apologizes for hitting him. Ignoring the ought-not-to-be-ignored message of “victim blaming is okay, nothing bad ever happens from attempted rape”, it’s heavily implied that they might form a real relationship in the future.
After that point it’s all “attempted assassination plots” and “launching the rocket when war is almost literally on our doorstep” and blah blah blah. As a knower of stories–to say nothing of my status as a human being–using rape (even attempted rape) as a means of adding seriousness to a story without proper build-up and consequence, or especially as a clumsy and ill-considered try at showing the darkness in the human soul (even in nice guys like Shiro), is actually offensive to me–I am offended by the insult to my intelligence, my capabilities as an interpreter of stories, and my concepts of human decency as they apply to characterization and foreshadowing.
That is not to say that a rape scene is not doable in a fictional scenario–Future Diary/Mirai Nikki rides the line between excessive sexual assault and plot-related same, generally falling on the latter side of the boundary line–it’s simply so horrific a situation that many hack writers use it instead of thinking.
Imagine this: instead of attempted rape, why not show conflict in the relationship? Twist the knife by deriving that conflict from what should be bringing them together: he’s a celebrity, she’s a street preacher, but they can both share feelings of helplessness, he because he’s a propaganda piece, she because nobody listens to her (they’ve already established by that point in the film that society prefers insulation and technological convenience while ignoring the dark side; even the rocket program itself is being used by the Kingdom’s government as a means of provoking war by launching from a DMZ with the Republic). They’ve already argued about compromise versus moral certitude, so that argument is perfect (if rather simplistic) foreshadowing. Those mutual feelings of helplessness can be unleashed upon one another and cause conflict that way–you know, with emotion and appropriate characterization and showing how conflict resides in the human soul both individually and writ large, a relationship showing its cracks set against the backdrop of international conflict.
And the worst part is, the scene has essentially no impact on the rest of the movie–Shiro goes back to being his happy-go-lucky self, more or less, save a few lines about “do you ever think you might be a bad person instead of a good person?” If it must be there, this almost-rape scene, then let it ruin his life. Make him nigh-suicidal, enough to risk his life in an untested rocket produced by a program that is established to be rather terrible at launching rockets. Make his crumbling relationship echo the dissolution of the uneasy peace between the Kingdom and the Republic. Do something with it to justify how you ruined a character and then gave it no impact by handwaving it away through unjustifiable victim-blaming (and no, a few token lines about how “I don’t know what came over me” and “You didn’t actually do anything anyway” do not excuse either the act itself or the sudden clifflike character change).
So Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise is a beautfiul movie that could have had deep things to say about humanity. Instead, it’s a perfect example about how all it takes to ruin an apple is the half a worm wriggling in your face.