I am a huge fan of Studio Ghibli films, so I was very excited to finally be able to see The Wind Rises, the final (or is it?) feature directed by the now mostly-retired Hayao Miyazaki. I missed it in theaters (it was a very short run in my area), and the times it was showing never matched up with when I could go. I also wasn’t expecting to be able to review it here, but a significant portion of the film is devoted to fantasy dream sequences, so it’s in on a technicality.
The story focuses on Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Mitsubishi A5M and A6m fighter planes–the latter commonly called a “Zero”–used by Japan during part of World War II. It is only very loosely based on his life, though, as Miyazaki took great liberties in his manga (on which the film is based). This is not a biography in any but the broadest terms.
The animation, as expected from master animator Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli, was of the highest quality. Great care was taken all through the film to make sure everything looked just right. The clouds were gorgeous, the scenery was beautiful, and Miyazaki’s love of the airplane in all its forms was readily apparent. The imagery was vivid and eye-catching, with incredible detail in all the right places.
The music worked well with the animation, and Joe Hisaishi’s masterful handling of the score added a richness to the film. Hisaishi easily managed to catch the right mood for each scene, and this was a fitting final feature collaboration with Miyazaki. I’m sure I will be enjoying the soundtrack for many years to come.
I was disappointed, however, that the story in The Wind Rises didn’t live up to my expectations. The plot was very disjointed, and the frequent fantasy dream sequences only made things worse. Often, I wasn’t sure whether something was in a dream or in real life as Miyazaki seemed to go between real life and the dream world with little or no transition. I actually found the dream world (and especially Caproni) to be more interesting, for the most part.
I also found Jiro, the main character, to be less interesting than many of the secondary characters. Caproni leapt off the screen every time he appeared, and even Nahoko, quiet as she was most of the time, drew my interest more than the two-dimensional characterization of Jiro. Perhaps this was accurately portrayed, though, as the lives of engineers are not often interesting enough for a film plot these days.
The Wind Rises will be the last feature film directed by Miyazaki, according to the director himself. If this turns out to be correct (since he’s announced his “retirement” more than once), I will be disappointed because it wasn’t a stronger film. I don’t regret my time watching it, however, as there was enough to keep an animation fan and soundtrack fan happy during the film. I weakly recommend it because it’s worth seeing for those elements.
Release Date: July 20, 2013 (Japan)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Language: Japanese, English
Original Language: Japanese
Original Title: 風立ちぬ (Kaze Tachinu)
Alcohol/Drugs: 2 (a lot of smoking, some social drinking)
Sexuality: 1 (implied but off-screen sex)
Violence: 3 (scary imagery (earthquake/fire aftermath), scenes of war, planes crashing, secret police)