The Wind Rises (2014)

The Wind Rises (2014)

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Those crazy Italians were at it again.
Those crazy Italians were at it again.

Twitter Plot Summary: A Japanese airplane designer laments over their use as war machines as WW2 looms.

Five Point Summary:

1. Using just human voices to create sound effects is a bit creepy.
2. The Zero’s look really nice.
3. A city is on fire, but people aren’t apparently that bothered by it.
4. Consumption seems to be a recurring theme in 2014’s movies.
5. Fantasy sequences with giant planes and an Italian airplane designer? Odd chap.

The Wind Rises marks Miyazaki’s eleventh animated feature film for Studio Ghibli, and if reports are to be believed then it will also mark his last. Whilst this is a shame, all good things must come to an end. It’s a very personal story as far as Miyazaki is concerned, covering his concerns over retirement with his love of airplanes. Following Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the famed Mitsubishi Zero airplane – Japan’s equivalent to the Spitfire if you want to draw comparisons – we see him grow up from being a short-sighted boy who wants to fly airplanes to an adult who does the next best thing: design them. The disparate attitudes towards flight and combat are explored as Jiro dispairs at airplanes – beautiful creations – are used for destruction and violence. But then in his dreams he meets Italian designer Caproni who argues that the world is still a better place for having them.

Adding a somewhat creepy edge to proceedings is that all the sound effects have been created using human voices. The earthquake and resulting fire in Tokyo has a haunting quality to it as the wind breathes through the streets. The creation of the Zero is mixed with Jiro’s interest in Naoko, and the resulting tragic love story that ensues. It’s a story of hope in spite of any loss you may experience, and pushes the audience to consider making the most of your life by seeking out your goals no matter what has or potentially could happen.

Little did he realise that his stalker was an airplane.
Little did he realise that his stalker was an airplane.

Breaking up the real world narrative are a number of fantasy sequences with Italian aircraft designer Caproni. Perhaps tellingly there is a pertinent line of dialogue about designers only having 10 good years in them – a reference to the fact this is Miyazaki’s 11th Ghibli feature, perhaps? Given that he was originally due to retire after Princess Mononoke was released in 1997, it could be seen both as an apology and an acknowledgement that, if The Wind Rises doesn’t meet the same level of quality as his previous films, you know why it falls short of Miyazaki’s usual standards. That is never a concern though, the story moves at a nice pace and is filled with characters the audience can care about, whilst retaining the usual themes and motifs that are common throughout his work.

It’s gratifying to know that Miyazaki has not bowed to the pressures of the modern world of animation and make everything in 3D, either in terms of the animation style such as in Disney’s Tangled or Frozen, or by making the audience slap on some glasses that cause 30% light loss. This is a resolutely 2D film and is all the better for it. The animation is crisp and frankly delightful, and it’s a shame that we don’t get to see more animated films released in this style any more. At least we know we can rely on Studio Ghibli to deliver the goods. Time will also tell if Miyazaki’s retirement remains permanent.

Score: 4/5

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