The Wind Rises: Miyazaki’s Commentary of Art and Passion

Some Ramblings about Miyazaki

I’ve posted some things about Hayao Miyazaki’s first earlier works this year and I plan to do that when Flying Phantom Ship appears in disc form. For now though, let’s go completely to the other end of what was Miyazaki’s “last film” before he retired and came back again. You know, like a revolving door at this point.  We all know that Miyzaki is working on another film right now, so the title of last is dubious right now. But this is the last film he has created right now and it’s such an interesting choice for how I think. To me, it feels like something that is very far away from Miyazaki’s elements that he likes to work on. That is what is so fascinating about it.

But it does feel like a passion project. It has a lot of Miyazaki’s passion behind it. Especially regarding flight because it features the man behind the design of the Japanese fighter the Zero, Jiro Hirikoshi, as the main character. There are also a lot of biographical things in this film like the love interest characters dying of tuberculosis like Hayao’s mother and so many other things. So in some ways, it feels like a recollection of Miyazaki’s life that he wanted to tell in his own sort of way. Also, you can tell that this is a passion project he wanted his friends to join in because he and HIdeaki Anno have a good relationship and Anno voiced Jiro in this movie.

Talking About The Wind Rises’ Story

Starting in 1916 during WW1, The Wind Rises starts with a very ambitious boy who has a dream. As I already spoiled, Jiro HIrokisho is that young boy and one day he wants to become a pilot. Well, his nearsightedness changed that fact and so his new dream is creating a flying machine. Seven years later, He travels by train to Tokyo to be a student at the Tokyo Imperial University. In dramatic fashion, this was the day of the great Tokyo Earthquake of 1923 in which he meets a nice girl, Naoko, by helping that girl’s maid with a broken ankle survive the affair.

Afterwards, the two do not meet for a number of years. But Jiro works hard to become a student and discover some secrets of creating the latest airplane that is available with the current level of technology that Japan is at. Jiro does join a new engineering firm to deal with that. WW2 itself comes into play to where Jiro’s dream is twisted around from peace into war. Also, Jiro does meet Naoko along the way many years later while recovering from another airplane failure and everything just gets crazier and crazier for this young man.  Not in all good ways.

The Love Story?

I’m just going to admit this, I do not think that Miyazaki is good at writing romantic chemistry between two characters. That was fine in a lot of works because romance was never the point of his adventure stories. The main point of his stories were about the adventure the characters were facing and then a romantic attachment came second. That isn’t the case this time around. Jiro and Naoko spend a shorter amount of time with these characters meeting with them following in love in a quick manner because the story felt like it needed it. Which was strange considering that in his other movies, the romantic pair is around each other most of their films.

It gets worse when Naoko isn’t as strong of a female character in the style that Miyzaki likes writing his characters. In fact this time around, this girl gets the usual sort of anime disease where they are going to end up dying in the end to motivate the main character into doing or feeling something they didn’t get before. In the end, I just don’t like it at all. As I’ve already mentioned, it already feels awkward and wrong. Is it ok to step out of one’s comfort zone later on in one’s life? Sure. Just not like this because it feels more standard boring film then exciting Miyazaki.

The Environment?

Like a lot of Miyazaki movies, there is some play on the development of the environment vs a fully built and industrialized sort of environment. It is just a thing that Miyazaki likes because he has a thing for nature. Nothing wrong with that because nature and forests are great for the Earth and just really pretty and comfy. Still, the dynamic of this film is a bit different then usual. It is not nature good and industrialized civilization bad completely even if there are so many hints put onto what this film is trying to say. This is all pushed by imperialism, even if the film doesn’t say it because it was relevant to history, and the coming World War Two.

So in this film, the less industrilized Japan wants to be like Nazi Germany and it does happen. Canon. So there is a more real world context compared to the words that Mizyaki and Studio Ghibli create for their stories. Jiro and others live in this land of people living outside where Tokyo and some other cities are more modern city wise, but Japan is filled with farm lands, farm animals, and a very lack of gray, cement, and metal put into so many things. We also see what it takes to get from one place to another. War, imperialism, and fascism because we all know what Imperial Japan was like from history records. It’s so weird seeing this in a real world context because it’s very much grab your collar and making a goofy expression kind of awkward. 

War, Technological Advancement, and Artistry

I’m not going to lie here, the march of technological development is the most interesting part of this film for me. Jiro living in a more rural environment and the Japanese have to use oxen to move the test airplanes into a very specific place to fly them. It took three days and that was pretty stunning to me. It felt like a detail that only someone who researched how Japanese were like at this point. There was a great feel of authenticity behind it all that just works so well. Unfortunately, maybe there is something to be said about technology being advanced by war.

This is pushd a bit further for when Jiro and his friends show up in Nazi Germany to investigate and look at the planes being produced in Berlin. Heck, it even mentioned the heater in the German room Jiro and his friend were keeping them warm during the winter in Japan. It’s crazy and in some way, that emphasizes a point towards war pushing people into technologically advancing faster and feels like that is the point where this film is going and trying to say, yet is not because this is just one side of what this film is trying to say about this concept.

One of the largest parts of this film is its discussion on dreams versus the reality thus leading to the reality in order to get at least some of Jiro’s and other people’s dreams out there. Jiro just wants to create an incredible airplane. It’s all he wants to do. There are so many parts where Jiro has a dream about what the great Italian aircraft engineer Giovanni Battista Caproni was trying to make in his own dreams. The two of them have a connection to each other and share the idea of just wanting to create the greatest airplanes ever.

So that is the major conflict right now. For now, Jiro will help create the Zero and work for the Japanese Imperial Forces. For now, he will see his airplane fly off into the distance and eventually kill lots of people. But that airplane did not help Japan win World War 2, only to fight it. The reality is that now his time in the sun is over and maybe he will create something newer in the future to follow his dream. It feels like the sort of thing that an artist would face. A creator sometimes has to do what a major party wants the creator to work to afford the funding to work on the next project that could be their own. Or not. The creative field, whether Airplanes or movies, is hard.

Wrapping Up The Wind Rises

This film looks great. That’s to be expected because it’s Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki has a very specific level of quality that he wants his work to be at and that always leads to some eye droppingly good work even at the expense of working himself too hard. So many details shown with these planes in small parts that can and possibly do fly apart. Or so many elements of these cool shots of nature and different areas in history. The one thing that bothers me is that the character designs are typical Ghibli characters with some historical references. They don’t work for this film for me because this is a grounded film, not a full on adventure. I am biased on this, but it misses something here.

That’s how I feel about the film too. It is a film that works with Miyzaki trying to play with tone and other things he doesn’t usually do. The problem, from my perspective, is that you can tell he is out of his box. It’s a very bold film that features history in scary moments that are awkward, even if he doesn’t completely mention it, but it feels odd. The girl at play there is just kind of wrong because there is barely anytime to here and she is more of a tragedy bomb then a character. There are great things around artistry and trying to create art but having to give into a larger business to produce it, which are good too. So it is a very mixed film, but I generally enjoyed it. Generally good even if there are missing things on this.  

2 comments

  1. It is fascinating to think about how little mechanization occurred in Japan prior to WWII. This was even after all the effort to modernize starting in the Meiji Era. The Zero was one exception since that fighter was superior to any Allied aircraft until the Corsair and the Hellcat came around.

    Setting The Wind Rises in a historical setting was definitely an interesting choice for Miyazaki since most of his works are fantasies. History constrains one to some degree, such as Hirokoshi’s wife dying of tuberculosis when she did. The one thing I didn’t like about the film was how it subtly blames Germany for Japan getting into the war. Japan saw the war as helping their empire. Anyway, this was still a great movie.

    Liked by 1 person

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