A fond farewell
Miyazaki bids audiences a poignant farewell in his languidly paced final film.
Back in 2008, Hayao Miyazaki wrote a manga series Kaze Tachinu
(The Wind Rises). The manga is loosely based on the short story The Wind Has Risen
by Tatsuo Hori and tells a fictionalised account of the life and times of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of Japan’s Zero plane.
According to Producer Toshio Suzuki, sometime over the summer of 2010 he suggested to Miyazaki that his manga should be the subject of his next film; something Miyazaki apparently refused to consider due to the adult themes of the story, until changing his mind about the idea and coming on board in December of that year.
Sitting down for a Studio Ghibli film, you already know certain things – you’ll get great animation, a top notch score, and an interesting story (that may well require a few tissues with which to discreetly daub any moisture coming from your eyes by the film's end).
The story and subject matter of The Wind Rises leans towards an older audience rather than the friendly generation spanning material for which the studio is typically known. There are no magical creatures or fantastical spells in the film; it’s anchored in history – set during the Taisho and Showa Eras of Japan building up to WWII. Though this being a Miyazaki film, you know there will be mechanical contraptions, flying, love, food and cigarettes.
In slices of time from his life, we follow Jiro (Hideaki Anno) from his boyhood filled with dreams of soaring through the air, to his college years, onto adulthood and his aeronautical engineering job at a plant in Tokyo. Along the way, we meet his love interest Naoko Satomi (Miori Takimoto), his best friend Honjo (Hidetoshi Nishijima), experience The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and take a trip to Germany.
Interwoven among the everyday, we have the (almost mandatory in a Miyazaki film) dream sequences where we meet Caproni (Mansai Nomura), the great Italian aeronautical engineer. Caproni is surprised to meet a Japanese boy in his dreams, ultimately realising airplanes are a dream they both share. While Jiro can soar and fly the planes he so dearly loves in his dreams, Caproni informs him that boys with glasses can never fly them – though that’s not so bad, as you know what’s better than flying airplanes? Designing them!
Jiro continues to meet Caproni in his dreams throughout his life where he poses the tough questions. The dream sequences are deliciously animated, taking full advantage on a medium that allows the impossible to be possible just with the stroke of a pen.
In addition to his story telling prowess, Miyazaki has always been brilliant with capturing mundane moments and exposing beauty hidden within. The Wind Rises
takes time to capture the first drops of rain hitting dry ground, the folding of a paper plane, and anyone lucky enough to have siblings will certainly recognise how true the exchanges between Jiro and his younger sister Kayo (Mirai Shida) ring right throughout their lives – no matter where you’re from.
As you’ve probably guessed, this screening is the original Japanese cast with English and Chinese subtitles, and not the Hollywood English dub released in North America.
This isn’t the strongest Studio Ghibli film, however, this is a studio that has yet to produce a dud. So, not being “the strongest” isn’t a criticism when you’re being compared with titans of animated film like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. It just means I won’t be clambering to own the DVD right away.
The Wind Rises has heart, truly amusing moments and leaves you with a lot to think about, especially when it comes to living. Would you want to live in a world without Pyramids?