Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast Headliners: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Stanley Tucci, Martin Short, Emily Blunt, John Krasinksi
Original Japanese Release Date: July 20, 2013
Original American Release Date: February 21st, 2014
Seen: March 2014
Seen: March 2014
Hayao Miyazaki is a man who has crafted some amazing stories and world. These anime films, often made by his associates at Studio Ghibli, are truly gifts to everyone else. Unfortunately he has claimed that this latest film, The Wind Rises, is likely his last work in anime as he retires to other things. I can say that he goes out on a high note, as always.
The Wind Rises has some unique distinctions about it compared to most Ghibli fare. It is a biographical true story of aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is the designer of the famous Zero fighter craft that the Japanese used in World War 2. The story covers key years and events in his life. Jiro lived through important events such as the 1923 Kanto Earthquake, the early rise of fascism at home and Germany, and eventually his role in producing craft for World War 2.
But it is not a “World War 2 movie” since Jiro is only ever on the periphery of it. Those troubled times are instead seen through the story of this man and his dream. The design and evolution of aircraft might sound like it may be a boring subject, but the movie makes it fascinating and you feel a passion for it just as Jiro does. It’s incredibly interesting to see the process on how aircraft, and the country of Japan, evolved from its feudal ways into the modernized military it had in World War 2.
Most Ghibli films show fantastic worlds, creatures, and a sense of surreal escapism. These are not very present in The Wind Rises considering its biographical nature. However the art, visuals, animation, and environments are stellar as usual. There is magic from that, making the real country of Japan as tranquil as can be. Fans looking for whimsical fantasy might find this to be a negative point but there is still a sense of appreciation that Miyzaki has for his homeland. Like Jiro (who is arguably a hero to Miyazaki), the director puts great honor into the love of his country, and one would argue into the wonder of aircraft.
The film’s highlights are when Jiro dreams of HIS hero, Italian aircraft designer Giovanni Caproni (voiced by Stanley Tucci. The other roles such as Emily Blunt’s Naoko , John Krasinki’s Honjo, and Martin Short’s hilarious Kurokawa and JGL as Jiro are decent but mainly benefited by the usual Ghibli dialogue pacing. Tucci put in a special passion). These dream sequences are filled with some great messages for Jiro’s story, and showcase wonderful what-if designs that Jiro and Caproni show off to each other. These Caproni segments are simply a delight, and the film wouldn’t be the same without them. Classic Ghibli moments.
The rest of the story is pretty solid, from Jiro’s schooling to rise through the industry. Jiro has a romance with Naoko who would become his wife. This side plot is incredibly emotional and filled with feeling, perhaps the best handling of romance that Studio Ghibli has done from I’ve seen. What’s good is the blending of Jiro/Naoko’s trials through Jiro’s work on improving his aircraft projects. Sometimes however one plot will be focused on a bit more than the other so it feels a bit unbalanced.
Overall the movie manages to make a real person in Jiro, a real setting in 1930’s Japan, and a real subject in aircraft designs all feel pretty magical. It’s not a short film at over two hours, but the touching tale is well made and covers a wide range of emotions. The story, production, musical score, and artwork make it feel like typical Ghibli even with the subject matter. If this is really Hayao Miyazaki’s farewell to anime, it is a good way to go. 8.05 Out of 10