A look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.
*le sigh* Here we are, at the last of the Studio Ghibli films I have lined up on the to-watch queue. I suppose it seemed fitting that my last movie to view happens to be Hayao Miyazaki’s last feature film 🙂 *sobs*
The Wind Rises felt more in the vein of From Up on Poppy Hill (review) and Whispers of the Heart (review), albeit with some fantastical dream sequences that is totally Miyazaki. The movie follows Jiro Horikoshi from his childhood, dreaming of planes, to his adulthood when he works at a company designing and studying planes. I don’t know much about planes so it was interesting to see the trial and errors that went into designing the planes, the difficulties they had with the Germans and gaining a glimpse into their designs, and so forth. The politics hovers in the background, but it’s pretty remote, touching in at key moments, but otherwise the movie focuses on Jiro’s work. I don’t mind this, except it’s weird because I know in the backdrop the politics should’ve played a far more pressing role in the story. But anyway…
The artwork, as always, is wonderful to watch. There’s also this harrowing sequence early in the film depicting the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that left me all D= The way the artwork captured the experience of such a massive earthquake and the detail put into the scenes was just wow. It really felt like you were there. The movie as a whole seems pretty serious in tone, but there are some light-hearted moments, like the dream sequences, that off-set the dramatic moments.
Jiro is a wonderful character, who perseveres into a career involving the thing he loves–airplanes–despite of his near-sightedness and the challenges in making his dreams a reality. I love how his dreams are not only fantastical–including conversations with his idol, Giovanni Battista Caproni–but also shows the way his mind works, imagining up the planes he wants to build, but then as soon as he realises it he recognises the challenges and problems with the designs. People around him marvel at how lost he can be in his own thoughts but he has such an imagination and such a way at approaching problems.
The secondary characters were also interesting, from his forwards-thinking friend Honjo to his snappish supervisor Kurokawa. The German vacationer Castorp freaked me out at first but I grew to love him. And then of course there’s his romance with Nahoko, always meeting her at times when the wind rises. It was a very sweet relationship, but I wished they had more scenes together.
I think this was the biggest quibble I had with the movie, if any. It was a wonderful movie to follow and watch unfold, but because it was covering such a huge amount of time in Jiro’s life, especially key moments in his career, a lot of the scenes are touch and go. His sister pops in here and there, and his relationship with Nahoko only takes a more prominent note in the latter half of the film. Jiro had a bit of a run-in at one point with the Imperial “thought police” but that danger didn’t last very long or had a larger impact in later events. I can see why for time’s sake certain elements were foregone with but I can’t help but feel like there were a few gaps here and there and that the overall storytelling could’ve been a little tighter.
Despite of this, The Wind Rises was a wonderful film. It’s quieter and less fantastical than some of Miyazaki’s outings, but it’s nonetheless quite an experience to watch. It’s also a piece of Japanese history leading up to the war that I don’t know if the general audience is aware about, that element of wanting to catch up with the Europeans advancements-wise but also the rate in which Japanese society modernised within how many decades (see the comparison between Jiro’s childhood and his adulthood). Highly recommended 🙂