The Wind Rises

A young engineer dreams of designing the greatest aircraft in Hayao Miyazaki’s last (*cough*) movie.


“Airplanes are beautiful, cursed dreams, waiting for the sky to swallow them up.”


Based partly on the novel A Wind Has Risen and on director Hayao Miyazaki’s own manga The Wind Rises is an animated biopic that tells of Jiro Horikoshi, who dreams of becoming a pilot but whose eyesight prevents him from achieving his ambitions. After dreaming of famed Italian aircraft designer Giovanni Battista Caproni he trains in engineering and begins designing planes for Mitsubishi, where he starts to work towards improving Japan’s air force all while war is threatening to break out around him.

Knowing as little as I do about the life of Jiro Horikoshi, I’ll look at this film solely as if it was a purely fictional piece. It helps to learn that a few events are fictionalised, and the film’s duetoragonist – Jiro’s love interest Nahoko – is an invented character only loosely based on Jiro’s actual first wife. So how is it? Well, after films like Porco Rosso (which was also set during the same period), The Wind Rises is definitely the culmination of Miyazaki’s cinematic love affair with aircrafts, and the passion really shows.

As expected, Studio Ghibli delivers a masterpiece of stunning animation and background work, which service a touching story of a guy who’s doing his best to make his dreams a reality. The sheer amount of work it would have taken to animated every gear, exhaust and propeller on the planes is baffling and the entire thing moves so smoothly there’s no way the studio’s animation team was paid nearly enough for it. The slightly exaggerated and cartoonish way everything moves reminded me of old school Ghibli, when they weren’t afraid of going a little over the top with their animation and as a result The Wind Rises never gets too boring.

This comes as a bit of a relief, in fact, as many of the scenes are pretty slow going. As one expects from a Ghibli drama, there are times when you wonder whether this needed to be animated or not. The fact that the protagonist is a real person, and as an extension all of the places and events are based in reality to some degree, adds a level of verisimilitude that compliments the already gorgeous, atmospheric scenes. Many of the low-key events in the story are given extra weight due to this fact, and character investment is also heightened somewhat.

That said, the studio’s biggest flaws are present, even now. Jiro, while being immensely likeable, isn’t particularly interesting. The source materials and Miyazaki’s love of planes turn Jiro from a regular man into a bastion of goodness, always coming up with solutions to problems and facing everything head-on with his chin held high. Maybe he was, I don’t know, but it’s obvious that Miyazaki idolises him. A lot of people in the movie are a bit flat in that regard, and really only have one or two emotions throughout, leaving them a touch forgettable. This is especially notable in the women of Ghibli movies, and Naoko/Nahoko (depending on your version) is a big example of that. Her design is uninspired – in a movie where everyone is recognisably different – and her personality so generic that there’s almost nothing about her that stands out.

While the flatness central characters is a bit of an issue, and there are times when the dream sequences (while stunningly animated) drag on a touch, those problems thankfully do nothing to undo the otherwise fantastic experience of watching a studio once again absolutely crush it in almost every other aspect. As a snapshot of 1920s Japan, it’s incredibly pleasant to watch and once again the studio’s attention to detail is mind-bending, giving us a film that feels more real than countless other live-action historical pieces. Considering it was about a guy I knew nothing about, working in an industry I care little for, I’m surprised how hooked and emotionally invested in it all I was, especially in its final few bittersweet minutes. And if that’s not a testament to the soaring heights we’ve come to expect from the studio, then

Verdict: Occasionally slow but always gorgeous to watch, The Wind Rises may not be the most fantastical or dramatic, but it works excellently as a both a simple drama and a sweet tribute.

Overall entertainment: 7/10
Violence: 0/10
Sex: 0/10 (only after marriage!)
Weather: 10/10
Le vent se lève: Quoted about a million times
Artists: Only creative for ten years. Better get working!

—————

The Wind Rises (2013)
Also known as: 風立ちぬ
Japanese

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writers: Tatsuo Hori (novel), Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay)

CAST Hideaki Anno – Jiro Horikoshi
Miori Takimoto – Nahoko Satomi
Hidetoshi Nishijima – Kiro Honjo
Nomura Mansai – Giovanni Battista Caproni
Masahiko Nishimura – Korukawa
Stephen Alpert – Castorp
Morio Kazama – Satomi
Keiko Takeshita – Jiro’s mother
Mirai Shida – Kayo

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