A cinematic genius’ swan song

Edward Valencia, Writer/Parents and Teachers Editor

The Wind Rises, the new animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, was released in theaters on Fri., Feb. 28. The film is a story about an ambitious plane engineer living in 1930s Japan. Hayao Miyazaki has directed other critically acclaimed films such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Castle in the Sky, but he has stated that The Wind Rises will be his final film. The film is a fitting farewell to a cinematic genius that awed moviegoers for over thirty years.

The film, despite being made in Japan, is dubbed in English. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, and Martin Short voice the main characters of the movie. The movie is based on Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Gordon-Levitt), who is an engineer in 1930s Japan. The film begins with a brief look at his childhood in 1918, when he first dreams of building airplanes, and jumps forward to Jiro as a college student, when a devastating earthquake strikes Tokyo. He helps a family get to safety, and unbeknownst to Jiro, this event will soon change his life. The majority of the film focuses on Jiro’s struggles to modernize Japanese aircraft as the Great Depression hits and militarism rises. As Japan slowly becomes more militaristic, Jiro and Honjo (voiced by Krasinski), debate whether to continue building airplanes, as they will be used to kill people in other countries. While they dislike Japan’s use of their planes, they decide that they want to pursue their dreams of building aircraft. The film ends with Jiro dreaming about his planes lying in a heap of debris after World War II, but is happy to have achieved his dream of building planes.

The Wind Rises is a memorable film and a fitting end to an innovator’s career. The film is well paced and keeps the viewer’s attention. Throughout the film, the tone changes from childhood optimism, despair, and finally joy. There are several points in the film where the animation creates breathtaking scenes, whether it’s a burning Tokyo, or a vast blue sky over a large grassy plain. The film has a mature tone, dealing with themes such as war, death, and disaster. The film lags at certain points, as the tone frequently shifts from Jiro’s engineering struggles to his newlywed wife who has fallen ill. It is hard to determine whether this film is an artsy, whimsical pre-teen film, a drama about a man who has inner doubts about his engineering pursuits, or a romance about a man and his ill wife. Regardless of the frequent plot shifts, the film manages to balance the story and keep the audiences attention.

Miyazaki’s films have garnered critical acclaim and achieved box office success in the United States. One should wonder whether these types of Japanese films will ever reach the U.S. again, as most animated films are now made with computers and digital equipment, and even by American standards, the hand-drawn Japanese style of animation is considered outdated. This film proves that this style of animation can still produce beautiful imagery, and will resonate with audiences for years to come.