This review may contain spoilers.
Hayao Miyazaki’s 2013 The Wind Rises tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, a famous plane engineer who helped design airplanes for Japan (who were very behind-the-times in terms of technology) that were used during World War II. He works hard and even manages to find love in a girl he helped during an earthquake, and who suffers from tuberculosis. Jiro is a dreamer who wants to create planes, and due to his love for this endeavor tries to move past the idea that they are going to be used in war.
(side note: It’s interesting to see such a plot used in a Japanese animated film when a few months back there was a similar plot and theme used in One Piece involving Frankie and his penchant for making weapon-clad ships).
Now on to the review itself. The Wind Rises was said to be Miyazaki’s swan song, but it might also be one of his best films. Not resorting to excessive comic relief or slapstick humor, this is an animated film that takes advantage of the medium to enhance the beauty that would have been nullified in live action. It is the kind of animated film I desperately want to see emerge here in America.
The animation is stunning and helps pack an emotional punch. It also enhances the overall surrealist nature of the film by making both the dream scenes and the real scenes feel apart of the same universe while also being able to tell them apart from each other.
It is further enhanced thanks to a wonderful score by composer Joe Hisaishi, which is so good I honestly feel it could have warranted an Oscar nomination had Academy voters not held such a bias against non-Disney-produced animation (or really, animation in general). I was also highly impressed with the cinematography, and how Miyazaki used it to seamlessly guide the film from bright to dreary.
The flight sequences, the dream sequences, the scene with Jiro and his work partner walking down the streets of Germany together, the earthquake — these are just some examples to demonstrate not only great framing and lighting in The Wind Rises, but also the variety that Miyazaki is able to pull off.
It is also interesting to see a film that takes place around the events leading up to World War II, and have the primary source of conflict be happening within Jiro, as he strove to be the best engineer because of his love for planes despite his sorrow that they were going to be used in warfare.
The film does an excellent job playing with visuals and sound to give us a film that touches on all ends of the emotional spectrum. On one hand there are graceful flight sequences, especially those that occur in Jiro’s dreams with a master Italian plane engineer. You even get those quiet, simple moments shared between Jiro and the girl he loves.
On the other you have sheer brutality, such as is depicted through the earthquake. With the sky filled with grey, suffocating clouds of smoke, and sounds akin to a monster growling beneath earth’s crust, you feel the impact of the disaster without on-screen blood or death. Not that I disapprove of showing death, but so few directors are able to convey the terror of a tragedy without resorting to such images and to see Miyazaki do so with such ease is remarkable.
All in all, this film turned out to be even better than I imagined it would — and this is coming from somebody who is a massive Miyazaki fan.
Now I feel bad for my brief stint of fanboying after I first saw Frozen for the first time back in 2013, and my desire to see it win the Oscar because “The Wind Rises” is actually a far better film. Now I need to see Ernest and Celestine….
You can also find this review on my Letterboxd profile here.
“The Wind Rises” imdb: www.imdb.com/title/tt2013293/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt
“The Wind Rises” wiki: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wind_Rises