Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Hideaki Anno, Miori Takimoto, Morio Kazama
Running time: 126 mins
Plot: Unable to pilot fighter planes due to an eye defect, a young Japanese boy named Jiro follows in the hallowed footsteps of a famous Italian plane designer and becomes an aeronautical engineer. An ill-fated romance and WWII complicate things.
Academy Award winning animator; illustrious illustrator; mangaka maverick – Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki has had a phenomenal career, and it’s sad to see him leave the world of feature films for the grey havens of retirement. Miyazaki’s final animation, The Wind Rises, is a stunningly crafted love letter to his other obsession: the aircraft. In contrast to some of Miyazaki’s most popular works The Wind Rises hovers well within the realms of reality, carrying with it some dark political undertones in the cargo bay.
The screening to which this review pertains was of the original Japanese release, but many may end up watching the Americanised version dubbed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt, among others. For some that may actually be preferable; less reading means more time spent looking at the pretty pictures. Ghibli’s fluid animation is, as ever, artistically inspired and utterly charming but the plot is by no means light: A Spitfire romance is nipped in the bud by a deadly disease and earth shattering disasters leave thousands dead or homeless. Being set in 30s/40s Japan, there are hints to the subjugation (read: sexual enslavement) of a generation of ‘comfort women’, and it glosses rather neatly over the whole nuclear issue; ‘Things sort of fell apart towards the end, though’. Amongst this soul rending rubble The Wind Rises’s central characters remain irritatingly optimistic. At one particularly intolerable point, soon-to-be weds Jiro and Nohoko actually point to a rainbow, smile, and beam up at it for nearly ten seconds. Nearly ten!
Hardcore Ghibli fans will disagree but The Wind Rises is not of the same quality as Miyazaki’s most popular films. Myths and monsters are what he does best (Monoke being a personal favourite), and his poetic exploration of the otherworldly in Spirited Away – for which he won his only Oscar – remains his masterpiece. Superb animation aside, the story flaps about like a paper aeroplane in a hurricane while the saccharine sentimentality will be too much for non anime lovers.