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Friday August 23, 2013 MYT 6:10:00 PM
Friday August 23, 2013 MYT 6:54:39 PM
by justin mccurry
Hayao Miyazaki's latest animated feature 'The Wind Rises' is a fictionalised portrayal of warplane designer Jiro Horikoshi.
Japanese nationalists and doctors attack the renowned animator’s The Wind Rises.
HIS latest film has taken almost 6bil yen (RM200mil) at the box office in Japan since its release last month and is a contender for the top award at this year’s Venice international film festival.
But Hayao Miyazaki, the legendary Japanese animator, has managed to anger everyone from doctors to political activists with The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu), his fictionalised portrayal of the inventor of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane, used to devastating effect by the imperial Japanese navy during World War II.
In making a protagonist of Jiro Horikoshi, whose planes took part in the attack on Pearl Harbour and in kamikaze missions, Miyazaki is being targeted by unlikely political bedfellows at home and abroad.
South Korean Internet users accused the director – who won global adoration with the more family-oriented fantasies My Neighbour Totoro and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away – of lionising the creator of one of the most potent symbols of Japanese militarism, and pointed out that among the workers who assembled more than 10,000 of the state-of-the-art fighters were forced labourers from the Korean peninsula.
Stung by the criticism, Miyazaki met South Korean reporters based in Tokyo to explain his admiration for Horikoshi. “(He) was someone who resisted demands from the military,” he said, according to the Mainichi Shimbun. “I wonder if he should be liable for anything just because he lived in that period.”
But they were most angered by an essay Miyazaki had written to coincide with the film’s release in which he condemned Japan’s modern-day drift to the right, including plans by the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to revise the country’s pacifist constitution.
“It goes without saying that I am against constitutional reform,” Miyazaki wrote in Neppu, Studio Ghibli’s in-house monthly magazine. In a thinly veiled reference to Abe, he went on to accuse Japan’s modern-day politicians of attempting to sanitise the country’s wartime conduct.
“I’m taken aback by the lack of knowledge among government and political party leaders on historical facts,” he said. “People who don’t think enough shouldn’t meddle with the constitution.”
The Wind Rises, Miyazaki’s first film as director since Ponyo in 2008, marks a departure from the fantasy-led animated films that have brought him critical acclaim and devotees around the world.
Aimed at a more adult audience, the film is his tribute to the “extraordinary genius” of Horikoshi, whose plane was widely regarded as the most advanced fighter in the world during the first half of the war.
In an interview with the Asahi Shimbun, the 72-year-old said he had “very complex feelings” about the war, adding that militarist Japan had acted out of “foolish arrogance”.
But the Zero, he added, “represented one of the few things we Japanese could be proud of – they were a truly formidable presence, and so were the pilots who flew them”.
Miyazaki, a warplane enthusiast since childhood, insisted Horikoshi was beyond reproach. “Jiro Horikoshi was the most gifted man of his time in Japan,” he said in a 2011 interview with Cut magazine. “He wasn’t thinking about weapons – really all he desired was to make exquisite planes.”
The Wind Rises should also come with a health warning, according to Japanese doctors who have criticised the director for his frequent portrayals of smoking. In an open letter to Miyazaki’s production company, Studio Ghibli, the Japan Society For Tobacco Control said the gratuitous depictions of smoking gave the impression that the tobacco habit was socially acceptable, even among minors.
In Miyazaki’s defence, the film’s many smoking scenes are at least a nod to the social mores of the times. The Wind Rises is set in the 1920s and 30s, before the harmful health effects of tobacco were fully known and when Japanese, among others, were enthusiastic smokers.
Despite Miyazaki’s attention to historical detail, the physicians were particularly unhappy about a scene in which the lead character smokes as he holds the hand of his bedridden wife, who is suffering from tuberculosis.
The Wind Rises attracted four million viewers in the first three weeks after its domestic release on July 20 and looks almost certain to become the biggest film of the year in Japan. An English-language version is not expected to appear until around the middle of next year. – Guardian News & Media
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Lifestyle, Lifestyle, Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises, warplane designer, Japan, South Korea, smoking
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