The Wind Rises/Kaze tachinu (2013)


The Wind-Rises (2013)Widely seen as Hayao Miyazaki‘s farewell and indeed the last film from Studio Ghibli for the foreseeable future too, which is even more poignant when you look back at the incredible output of the Japanese animation studio. Traditional animation for feature films is indeed a dying art. Even Disney have stopped working in 2D, but that’s more to do with the critical reception, and more financial reward from computer generated animation. I wonder if that could be a possible new direction for the Japanese studio, who have triumphed for so long in the traditional media. I can’t honestly see the awesome wonder they create on the computer.

I remember catching a glimpse of The Wind Rises (2013) when I caught From Up on Poppy Hill (2011) reminding of the earlier Porco Rosso (1992) which also had a strong aviation theme. Unlike the majority of Ghibli’s film are centred around a female protagonist, The Wind Rises focuses on the dreams and aspirations of one male aeronautical designer, a brave leap for a company that for 20 years or more has championed the independence of the female. We have a dreamer in Jirô Horikoshi (Hideaki Anno) as a boy who frequently steps into his dreams of one day bringing to life his glider like plane, with the added dread that some how it would be a disaster. Sharing his dreams with personal hero, the Italian designer Giovanni Battista Caproni (Mansai Nomura) they meet several times throughout the dream in these dream sequences that explore Jiro’s inner mind, he deepest thoughts are set free. If only they two designers actually met in the real world?

Set during the build-up to Japan’s entry into WWII we find Jiro as a young boy who has big dreams which we see slowly come to fruition. Not before an incredibly animated earthquake sequence where he first meets the love of his life. It not all plain sailing for this couple. Focusing more development, drive and passion that sees Jiro and his friend Honjô (Hidetoshi Nishijima) starting out a juniors designers who are working on a winning design for the navy’s aeroplane fleet. I am already thinking forward to Pearl Harbour that pulled America into the war, but there is little talk of the war itself.

Build up begins when they two designers visit Germany in hopes of bringing technology back to fast forward development of their own planes. Tension is in the air, with Ghibli’s own version of the SS who already have a tight grip on the country for Hitler. We’re pulled out before it becomes too serious really, we don’t really receive the traditional history lesson in a pre WWII film, even from Japan’s point of view. Not like the heart wrenching Grave of the Fireflies (1989) that deals with the aftermath of the atom bomb. Focusing on the ambition of a designer who takes every opportunity to bring his sleek glider design to life.

The love interest doesn’t really take off until much later, first meeting her as a young girl who caught his hat, every time they meet is due to the wind bringing them together, it was mean to be. Its feels so natural, to see Jiro and Naoko Satomi (Miori Takimoto) who meet at a hotel by chance alone. All linked with the wind that determines the course of the film, Allowing for mad-cap designs take flight, really playing with classic designs. The fantastical of the mechanical that Ghibli are known for is paired back in this final film. They don’t want to show off in what is easily their swan-song, if that is what we have here. If we do get another Ghibli film it could be a few years yet. We have a graceful film full of wonder in the skies, celebrating a period on Japan’s history before things got messy for them.

This was indeed worth the wait, that little taster wetting the appetite of what is a graceful film that celebrates part of their aeronautical history. The animation is not as impressive as previously films, they didn’t to go over the top, instead emphasising nature, allowing us to see the wonders of the world from the sky. The choice of male protagonist goes against the tradition for the company and their environmental nature loving ethos, becoming more of standard film. We are not being delivered more of the same of what we have to expect in terms of plot elements, our expectations are instead blown away, quite literally at times.

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