"I personally sense a camaraderie with Miyazaki's films;
I understand what he's doing.
But when it comes to Takahata or Oshii, I just don't understand what they're trying to do.
I have nothing against what they do, it's just that I don't understand."
-Hiroyuki Yamaga, Animerica Vol. 6 No. 5 (1998), p.12-
In an interview with Carl Gustav Horn, Horn makes a striking comparison of Yamaga to the auteur greats including Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Oshii and Isao Takahata.
Whilst Royal Space Force: The Wings Of Honneamise is indeed a minor classic in the legacy of anime, it seemed a bit premature to crown Yamaga with such esteemed company at the time. I certainly do not want to take anything away from Yamaga's talents or his achievements because he is indeed someone that deserves recognition for taking the reins and leading the charge on what amounts to the very first major film by Studio Gainax. It's no small feat and the film stands on its own as an artistic giant among films even pre-dating Katsuhiro Otomo's recognizably larger classic Akira (1988).
Certainly the maturity and breadth and scope of Royal Space Force: The Wings Of Honneamise and the notice it achieved cannot be discounted. Heck, I recall seeing it on racks at the now defunct Circuit City upon its release here in America to DVD and that was a pretty mainstream outlet for its time. Customer service was so abysmal there no wonder it was doomed. Best Buy seems destined to follow for the same reasons.
Yamaga would also later direct an episode of the phenomenal Gurren Lagann and continue to work in anime, but never again attaining the heights of The Wings Of Honneamise or the heights of those with whom Horn made his comparisons.
Keep in mind the interview took place in 1998 and the scope of work and the paths and trajectories carved for each of the four men has certainly altered their legacies accordingly. But Yamaga does not fall within the same arena with the achievements of those aforementioned directors. Still, one can certainly appreciate Yamaga's thoughts here. His work is most recognizably aligned with the spirit and inspiration of the kind of film directed by Miyazaki.
Yamaga's victory with The Wings Of Honneamise is indeed giant and noteworthy. Many would relish such an artistic success. And historically Yamaga's film will always have a place among anime's very best next to the very best directors.