Walker Sayen ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Every new Hayao Miyazaki film is met with bated breath. From Princess Mononoke to Spirited Away to My Neighbor Totoro, Miyazaki’s studio Ghibli consistently turns out animated magic. His new feature, The Wind Rises, is no exception.
The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu in Japanese) is a fictionalized biography of aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi, who designed the Mitsubishi A5M that Japan used in World War II. In a world where “animation” seems to be synonymous with “kids’ film,” it is refreshing to have an animated film that also takes on a historical subject and tells a beautifully crafted story for adults as well as children. The film’s subject is presented in such a way that one often forgets they are watching an animated movie at all. Instead, the landscapes and people seem as real as those in other biopics such as Lawrence of Arabia.
Like all Miyazaki films, the animation is breathtaking. It presents exquisite images that could only be created in the world of moving drawings, from images of the Japanese countryside writhing during an earthquake, to a heartbreaking but beautiful image of blood spattering a watercolor painting, to planes rising into the sky, surrounded by pink and orange clouds. Images like these capture the amazing story of Jiro as he grows from a small boy captivated by flight to a man who wants to build beautiful planes, but is horrified by the fact that his creations will be used as missionaries of death. Some might believe the film glorifies a man who created weapons of destruction, but The Wind Rises is more complex than that.
The Wind Rises is about the struggles that artists face in a world where in order to be successful, they need funding from giant corporations and agencies, causing the art to be transformed into a product for the corporation’s gain. It is an interesting statement for what was thought to be Miyazaki’s swan song: as a filmmaker working in a system controlled by studios, he has had to fight to have his voice heard through the bureaucracy. The film may have a few bumps on its journey to depicting the sacrifices an artist makes in order to realize his/her dream, but overall, it is one of the best biopics in ages.
The film, at 129 minutes, is quite long for an animated movie, and sometimes it gets a little too caught up in the technical side of making airplanes, thus losing some of the emotional power of the story. The love story occasionally feels interrupted by a little too much excess plot that could have been cut down in order to streamline the film. Despite this, the relationship between Jiro and his wife, Naoko Satomi, is one of the sweetest and most genuine love stories told in recent cinema.
The Wind Rises is a unique addition to Hayao Miyazaki’s filmography. Most of the films he has directed are fantasies about magical lands that capture what dreams are made of, but The Wind Rises is a film about a real person that takes place in a historical world. Nevertheless, the film still manages to capture Miyazaki’s signature style because of the depictions of Jiro’s dreams of flight, allowing Miyazaki to create the fantastical imagery for which he is known. Thus, instead of creating pure cinematic dreams, as is his custom, in this outing he has turned dreams into reality.
Overall Grade: A-