Writer reviews Miyazaki film ‘The Wind Rises’

Jessica Long

While others partied it up in Panama City Beach or spent the week catching up on sleep, Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises” had its North American debut.
The movie was released in Japan in July of 2013.
This movie was highly anticipated because despite his numerous announcements of retirement, Miyazaki never truly quits; he vehemently assures this is his last film regardless of those people close to him who are not so sure it is. Along with the release for “The Wind Rises,” the release of Isao Takahata’s “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” was slotted right along with it—a double feature of the two artists’ works that hasn’t happened since “Grave of the Fireflies” and “My Neighbor Totoro” debuted together in April of 1988—but sadly, the release date for Princess Kaguya was pushed back until fall of 2013.
The film itself is based on the original manga written by Hayao Miyazaki in 2009. The manga, in turn, was loosely inspired by “The Wind Has Risen,” a 1936 short novel written by Tatsuo Hori. During a recent interview with Anime World Network Miyazaki talked briefly a young boy who is the inspiration for the entire story concept.
He wouldn’t release the name or how he knew the boy because the boy doesn’t even know the story is for him.
For being the first film Miyazaki has solely directed since “Ponyo” in 2008, his art and animation style has not suffered one bit. The art style and concept were realistic; similar to “From Up On Poppy Hill,” the collaborative work between Miyazaki and his son, Goro. This contrasts most all of his other films that tend to have fantasy or supernatural elements; “Princess Mononoke,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” “Spirited Away,” and “Howl’s Moving Castle” to name a few.
His unique way of breathing life into the characters went full force when portraying Jiro Hirokoshi, voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a boy who grows up in a provincial Japanese town near the start of the 1920s. Jiro grows up with the dream of designing planes.
History plays a huge role in this movie. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 is the plot device that introduces him to his love interest, Naoko Satomi who is voiced by Emily Blunt. Also, Jiro makes fighter planes for World War II.
The history behind tuberculosis in Japan and the practices that involved a hopeful cure are also features. The controversial topic of the Japanese assisting Nazi Germany weighed heavy on Miyazaki’s mind during the making of the movie. He was unsure of whether or not Americans would accept this movie as well as they have his other films.
Originally, Miyazaki wanted his last film to be “Ponyo 2,” but his producer urged him to create “The Wind Rises”. Despite critics and politicians who questioned why Miyazaki would make a film highlighting “killing machines” he proudly stated in an interview featured in Asahi Shimbun that the Zero fighter plane “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’s admiration for the planes of the 1920s and ‘30s is nothing short of well-known, as you can see in “Porco Rosso,” so his statement should not come as a surprise. His target audience for this film was not his younger but his older audience, who would understand the historical and more bittersweet aspects.
The theme of the airplanes ties into the sound used for them. A lot of the sounds for this film are not made traditionally or even realistically. The origin of the noises such as the engines for the planes or locomotives, the wind, the earthquake and such are really people. Some view it as a detraction. The only real problem with this effect is that it was not consistent. Sometimes a traditional sound would be used for the wind, but other times it was a person blowing into the microphone. It kept it light-hearted in contrast to the more serious nature of the plot.
The music for this film was created by big name Joe Hisaishi, who has composed the music for most of Miyazaki’s films.
The plot itself was interesting but extremely slow. For a movie lasting a little over two hours, the plot was crammed into the last 30 minutes of it; typical of most Miyazaki and Japanese films in general where the plot is not the most important aspect but what is happening and how the character’s conquer what is set before them or evolve over the course of the film. This is one of the few, if not the only, Miyazaki films where romance is implied and visibly seen. Miyazaki has been quoted to say that he does not believe “that just because a boy and girl appear in the same feature, a romance must ensue.”.Instead,  he wants to portray a relationship where “the two mutually inspire each other to live.” He said he believes this is closer to portraying true love.
Overall, the film was not Miyazaki’s best. While in the theater I probably would have given this film a 6 out of 10, at best. After watching it again and having looked into it a bit more, I can firmly give this an 8 out of 10.
The plot wasn’t organized well and I felt like I looked down at my phone more than a few times to see when it was done, but by the time it picked up Miyazaki had my heart fully in his grasp not only because of the advancement of the plot but because of how absolutely beautiful the animation is. The detail and time that he always puts into his work was evident.

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