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.