The Wind Rises (Japan: Kaze tachinu), 2013.
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
Starring Hideaki Anno, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Miori Takimoto, Masahiko Nishimura, [For English dub]: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt and Martin Short.
A profile of Jiro Horikoshi (Anno/Gordon-Levitt), a Japanese engineer who designed fighter planes during World War II.
The swan song of Hayao Miyazaki…say it ain’t so!! Still, Clint Eastwood made a similar remark about retiring after Gran Torino (2008) and has still carried on. So maybe we haven’t seen the last of Miyazaki; it wouldn’t certainly be a huge loss to cinema and animation if it happens to be true. If Miyazaki has finally taken leave on his Ghibli efforts, what a way to go out. The Wind Rises is not the best the studio has produced – just because the man is leaving the business there is no need to get hyperbolic – though it is a spectacular film, full of beauty and maturity.
We’ve come to expect a lot of fantasy from Ghibli, as well as social commentary (Grave of the Fireflies, for instance). This film falls into the latter category, centring on themes of war, love and career endeavours. Occasionally we move into magic-realism and dreams elements, fleeting and interjecting only in the lightest fashion – tonally, The Wind Rises is perfect. When Miyazaki and his team get to work on these types of screenplays (with this being an adaptation of Miyazaki’s own comic) there is always a heap to take away from the final film. The innocence of protagonist Jiro, and his sheer enthusiasm for aviation, is a wonderful facet to hold on to throughout the film. It may be that Ghibli is often too adult for child audiences, and The Wind Rises will be lost on kids under age 13. Those reaching that pivotal teenage stage should see this to understand what it means to find joy in life. You can sense Miyazaki’s own youthful ambition and thanks to his career in nearly every scene and in parts of Jiro.
Of course, there are moments of peril, loss and tragedy, spurring so understandably from the World War II setting. We begin by learning that aeronautical fanatic, Jiro, is short-sighted and could never pilot a plane. It’s a harsh blow to the notion of dreams, yet in true Miyazaki style we look past that, to triumph in the face of adversity. Characters come and go through Jiro’s life, with not everyone making a firm impression. With Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbour Totoro, the smaller the character list, the easier it is to form a relationship with the leads and plot. The Wind Rises is partially let down by an age-advancing narrative that introduces and drops a lot of supporting roles, whilst focusing on a lovely if somewhat dull main character.
However much you engage with the story, there is nothing to detract you from the visual majesty. Studio Ghibli are so rightly famed for their hand-drawn animation (with some CGI assistance implemented), and it’s the reason Disney honcho John Lasseter became so close with the company – it harks back to a Golden Age of animation. Nearly every frame is made up of pastoral landscapes and colours to completely dazzle you. You can see it as bright and beautiful, picturesque and profound, and sublimely sketched – it is, in sum, pure art. For fans of animation craft, or someone who looks for splendour on the screen, The Wind Rises (as well as the rest of the Ghibli catalogue) will evoke a powerful reaction.
For whatever follows on, The Wind Rises has, for now, magnified the genius of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli once again. Constructed with great care, with a perspective on the sky whilst keeping its feet firmly on the ground, it has the markings of an exacting filmmaker. We salute you Miyazaki – this certainly maintains your legend.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Piers McCarthy – Follow me on Twitter.