Review of The Wind Rises

Studio Ghibli’s most recent animated production, The Wind Rises, is now showing at Regal Cinemas on G Street in downtown Davis. The film is Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s final movie of his career and is perhaps one of his best pieces yet.

Miyazaki, writer and director of the Academy Award-winning film Spirited Away, has brought forth themes of love, growing up, feminism, good vs. evil, environmentalism, flight and reality vs. fantasy over the years in all of his movies and The Wind Rises is no exception. The Wind Rises imagines the life of Jiro Horikoshi, a real life aeronautical engineer from the 1950s who designed aircrafts used by the Japanese army in WWII. The film, though based on historical events, is whimsical in quality and invites the viewer into a highly aesthetically appealing experience.

The film beautifully intertwines the ideas of flight and love into one in the same for young Horikoshi. It explores the difference between Horikoshi’s ambitions to create beautiful aircrafts and the reality of how his designs will actually be manipulated by those in power. The Wind Rises offers a balance between visual pleasure and a complex emotional rollercoaster.

Horikoshi learns to love people as he loves airplanes when he meets Naoko Satomi, a young woman dying from tuberculosis. He realizes the planes he designs are inspired by the same passion he feels towards Naoko. As he learns his aspirations to create stunning aircrafts must be surrendered to those in power for the purpose of war, he simultaneously learns to deal with the imminent loss of ailing Naoko. The interactions between Horikoshi, Naoko and his aeronautical dreams are intricately paralleled to one another and convey the idea that emotional attachment of the human spirit to anything must be learned as well as unlearned, but should always inspire one to live life to the fullest.

The animation itself slightly differs from that of Miyazaki’s previous films, but with good intent. The physical motions of the characters and environment in the film are less precise and exceptionally fluid. The fluidity of the animation is meant to parallel the freedom of air travel and the dream-like atmosphere that Horikoshi has molded for himself. The actions of the characters and the motion of the environment almost meld together, blurring the lines between individual events and moments in time, creating an ambiguous reality. The film pushes the notion that what we hope is real and what is actually real is never concrete or definable and that one must construct their own reality in order to survive.

Amongst the gorgeous animation, historical occurrences and serious existential issues, Miyazaki manages to keep the film light-hearted, incorporating comical relief. Viewers will enjoy Kayo, Horikoshi’s sassy (as well as goal-oriented and independent) younger sister, Castrop, a German man who despises Hitler but is madly in love with the idea of being madly in love and Kurokawa, Horikoshi’s tiny wise-cracking boss with a substantial bowl cut.

Funny, aesthetically pleasing, romantic, sad and inspiring, The Wind Rises is nothing less than one more of Miyazaki’s naturally flawless creations, and unfortunately, his last. He has truly left all he has to offer in his final film and I recommend everyone see this movie if they get the chance.