Monday, May 23, 2016

The Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki

I brought home The Wind Rises because it is the last film written and directed by master filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki, before his retirement. By the end of the movie my husband and I were both crying and I was informed that I was, "not allowed to pick anime anymore."

I have been an avid Miyazaki fan since I first caught pieces of Spirited Away on TV as a preteen and I enthusiastically dedicated myself to seeing as many of his works as I could. When I heard about his planned retirement and impending final movie I was simultaneously crushed and filled with enthusiastic anticipation. I knew Miyazaki would make a grand exit, and he did not disappoint!

The Wind Rises is a historic drama with an unusual protagonist; Jiro Horikoshi, the eventual designer of the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero. The fighter plane made most famous in World War II. This is especially surprising if you know much about Miyazaki, as he is an extreme pacifist. In fact, many of his works feature strong peace and even anti-war messages. Somehow, The Wind Rises does not deviate from this standard.

In the film we follow the life and career of Jiro's pursuits as an aeronautical engineer. Jiro is guided and driven by his dream of the famous Italian aircraft designer, Giovanni Battista Caproni. He is amazed by the aeronautical advances of Germany and the United States, and longs to create something innovative that his country can be truly proud of. Jiro has no designs for war, but sees the developing tensions in the world he lives in and expresses reservations about what his machines may one day be used for.

Throughout the failures and accomplishments of Jiro's work, Miyazaki interweaves the story of his romantic life; meeting and marrying his true love. This is the part of the movie that really got the tears flowing. My solace is that after watching the film, I did a little research and found that Miyazaki took a few creative liberties and that the real Jiro's personal life wasn't quite so tragic.

This was a truly beautiful film. I was stunned as I realized who the protagonist was and awestruck at the beautiful and heartfelt way Miyazaki portrayed this man. The animation was visually striking and created a sense of serenity throughout the film.

If you enjoy Miyazaki's story of flight in The Wind Rises, look for his other works Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Porco Rosso. Or, start where I did in my Miyazaki journey, and watch Spirited Away. These amazing films and more are available at your local Virginia Beach Public Library location.

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