The Wind Rises (2013)

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Written by Tatsuo Hori, Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by Toshio Suzuki, Seiji Okuda, Naoya Fujimaki, Ryoichi Fukuyama, Koji Hoshino, Nobuo Kawakami
Starring Hideaki Anno, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Miori Takimoto, Masahiko Nishimura, Mansai Nomura, Jun Kunimura, Hrvoje Klecz, Mirai Shida, Shinobu Otake, Morio Kazama, Keiko Takeshita, Mayu Iino, Kaichi Kaburagi, Maki Shinta

“If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.”

–Charles Lindbergh

Synopsis

Volant mechanical grace takes flight from his afflatus and unceasing trials during the decadal apex of myopic aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi (Anno), when he dreams as since his childhood of fantastic, lofted colloquy with aviatic pioneer Giovanni Battista Caproni (Nomura), courts his ailing ladylove Naoko (Takimoto), designs Mitsubishi’s innovative A5M, A6M “Zero,” J2M “Thunderbolt,” and A7M “Strong Gale” fighters, and privately reprehends his empire’s needless poverty and senselessly self-destructive bellicism.

Script

Aeronautic preoccupations are observable in many of Miyazaki’s past pictures (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, Imaginary Flying Machines), culminating in this animation of his eponymous manga, in which professional accounts from Horikoshi’s memoir Eagles of Mitsubishi are integrated with the semi-autobiographical, romantic tragedy of Tatsuo Hori’s The Wind Has Risen, and the director’s plentiful, personal, fanciful contrivances as a singular fictionalization. Horikoshi’s requited devotion to his craft and lover alike radiate fervently in word, deed, intimation, and aeolian metaphor, despite the tribulations and formal restraint of his age.

Direction, animation, designs

Hundreds of painted backgrounds, thousands of cels in and without motion, and largely inconspicuous CG were created with physiurgic, bodily, often diagrammatic detail so meticulous whether minute or massive that every shot bears and merits scrutiny. Environments, architecture, vesture, and vehicles of Japan in the late Taisho and early Showa eras, and of the NSDAP’s hostile, industrially superior Germany are depictured with an unmatched fidelity. Across peaceful, windswept countrysides, over cities burning from bombardment or earthquake, in bustling offices, and bedrooms still and somber, Miyazaki’s conventional compositions mesh well with others daring, as in stunningly animated volitations and crashes of winged prototypes, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and Horikoshi’s imaginary dreams and reveries.

Vocalizations

Not a word’s misspoken by a suitable cast consisting of headliners and seiyuu. Anno voices Horikoshi with humility and humanity inevident in his own output since the early ’90s, or whenever addressing his fans or critics. Spoken by Takimoto, his gentle, gracious sweetheart’s sweetness affects achingly. Ears needn’t be keen to recognize the voice of Mitsubishi’s chief engineer as that of old Kunimura, or of Horikoshi’s closest schoolmate, then colleague as dashing leading man Nishijima. Both Horikoshi’s ambitious sister and dwarfish manager are spunkily vocalized by Nishimura and Shida, respectively.

Conclusion

Like those of its allies and enemies during World War II, Japan’s history in the 21st century is marked by thitherto unimagined advancement and catastrophes. Miyazaki is hardly the first to recount in this setting how war despoiled and deferred the technological promise of modernity, or how true love steels against hardship, but few movies have expounded with such ardor the conception of the airplane as mensural and mathematical compromises, fastidious draftsmanship, volatile curvilinearity, harmony of airborne beauty and function. By merging some of the great aeronautic achievements of an ill-advised war with a celebrated prewar novel’s genteel pathos, Ghibli’s master again lays bare the powers of the mind and the heart.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Porco Rosso.

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