The Wind Rises


Release: Friday, February 21, 2014


Hayao Miyazaki’s final film is poetry in motion. It was also Oscar-worthy this year, receiving a nomination for Best Animated Feature. Unfortunately the spotlight fell upon Disney’s Frozen in a move no one is really going to call surprising. It is unfortunate only because this is a film that deserves more than just the tip of the hat. Its a hats-off kind of motion picture event, not just because of the gorgeous animation but due to its epic sweeping narrative that has the presence of mind to include a heartfelt romance, engaging historical context and a dreamlike, thought-provoking perspective.

The Wind Rises is the Japanese artiste’s eleventh outing as a director whose filmography dates back to 1979 and includes the likes of critically and commercially successful animations such as Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso and Spirited Away. If Miyazaki’s other works are as colorful and emotionally satisfying as this film — and according to major sites, they seem to be that way — we are looking at a unique director insofar as he’s in a tier of consistently satisfying filmmakers that a great many will fail again and again at breaking into.

His swan song concerns the fascinating life and career of a hardworking and intelligent Japanese youth named Jiro (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the English language version), as well as his quest for finding love and happiness in the arms of a woman.

The film opens with a young boy going for an early morning joy ride in a single-propeller plane mounted to the top of his parents’ home before things take a turn for the ugly. As it so happens, this all occurs in a dream sequence. One of the focuses of Miyazaki’s film is that Jiro tends to live a life filled with these. Unfortunately he is also acutely near-sighted, a condition that disqualifies him from ever becoming a pilot. So he decides to dedicate his life to working on planes. In time he would carve out a career as one of the world’s leading aerospace engineers. His efforts almost single-handedly propel his country into the forefront of technological advancement during the years of World War II.

The Wind Rises is filled to the brim with gorgeous animation. You’d have to dig deep to find another film not made by this master of animation that is as vibrant and passionately detailed as it (okay, one that’s also not this year’s Oscar winner). The sky is a robin’s egg blue canvas upon which planes streak like paintbrushes in little strips of white, diving and soaring. The places in which major character developments occur epitomize the romanticism in Miyazaki’s farewell film. Sunsets bleed oranges and reds. After watching, one tends to carry around in their memory vivid snapshots of the film’s strongest images, including the one found on the movie poster.

Color doesn’t just apply to the artwork, though. Characters bubble with eccentricities, and this includes our protagonist. Although Jiro remains as a relatively static character in terms of his genuine likability and affection for aircraft, it’s his obsession that makes him a curious specimen. As previously mentioned, he daydreams often and is frequently teased about this by some of his peers, including another brainiac named Honjô (John Krasinski). Jiro’s boss straight out of school is a comically short and ill-tempered man (Martin Short) who grows to appreciate Jiro as a company asset. This man’s greatest quirk is his hair, bouncing up and down whenever he moves or yells. Other, lesser characters are also imbued with some cartoonish elements as well.

What really distinguishes this anime, though, is its level of realism. A great many films that fall into the category of ‘anime’ tend to really overdramatize the stories they tell — such is the appeal of the genre. Characters’ voices are manic, their mouths and bodies move frenetically and the action surrounding them often can be chaotic to the point of causing headaches. By contrast The Wind Rises is patient, perhaps even a little plodding at times. At over two hours in length, it’s a sprawling journey that not only pays homage to a troubled nation in a time of great crisis, but one that features a tender love story at its center.

When in the earlygoing Jiro helps save a young girl named Naoko (Emily Blunt)’s maid by carrying her from the site of a train accident following a massively destructive earthquake, he seems to win her affection then and there. It would be many years before a chance run-in with the same woman, Naoko, would reunite the two. The couple’s passion for one another feels real and honest; sweet and worth the time required to buy into it.

Slow pace aside, The Wind Rises is a breathtaking production wherein style beautifully complements the spectacle.


4-0Recommendation: Here is a thoroughly engaging film that many should spend the time watching, in whatever format they possibly can. It’s historically significant and emotionally rewarding. I, for one, have a great deal of homework to do as I attempt to go back and invest myself in Miyazaki’s other equally praise-worthy films that have been created over the course of several decades.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 126 mins.

Quoted: “Airplanes are just cursed dreams, waiting for the sky to swallow them up.”

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21 thoughts on “The Wind Rises

  1. Superb stuff here mate. Don’t think we get this for another couple of months, and even then it’ll likely be overlooked by my local cinema, but I really want to check it out. I’ve only seen a couple of Ghibli films but I love what I’ve seen.


    • This was my introduction but I’m with you. I was very much impressed by what is put out here, and by the seems of things, Miyazaki is one brilliant and consistent director. I simply can’t wait to check out his others, prob starting with Spirited Away. 🙂


  2. I am so looking forward to this movie. Like you said, the realism, emotional and historical significance is a great reason to relish a unique entry like this one from Miyazaki. Can’t wait to see this. Awesome work, Tom!


    • Hey Victor, thanks so much man. I am excited for you, cuz I know what its in store for you! 🙂

      If you’ve seen any of his other work, you won’t be disappointed in the slightest.


      • I do own most of his films but I do also need to re-visit a few of his older titles. Guy’s a genius. 🙂


      • So I’ve read. Across the board he’s had critically and commercially successful releases. I can’t really name too many directors (of the genre, especially) who is this consistent. It’s impressive. Too bad this is likely his final outing. He’s retiring, right?


  3. I’m somewhat interested in watching this, considering Levitt is doing the voice-over, and I remember liking “Spirited Away”, as a child. The slow pace warnings are making me hesitate though, because I start most of my movie watching at 1 or 2 am on most days. This means that snail pace films make me sleepy, and should be watched strictly during the day. So my question to you is Tim, will it make me sleepy? Or will I be so intrigued that the snail pace will not effect me?


    • If you’re like me, a slower-paced movie later at night is almost impossible to get through so I’d def recommend catching it early in the afternoon or something. It’s a very good movie, but the pacing was a semi-big issue that dropped it from a perfect score. All other aspects of it though were handled with aplomb. I loved it. I can’t wait to get to Spirited Away, either.


      • Yeah, slow pace means I usually pause it or leave to the morning. Or if it is very long, such as “Blue is the Warmest Colour”, which I most recently could not watch in one sitting, despite liking it. I will have to watch this though, as well as that other new popular animated film. Ernest & Célestine!


  4. You really need to invest some time into Miyazaki’s back catalogue. There are so many treasures to enjoy. You’ve done a bang up job with this Tom. God, I hope it’s not his final film, but if it is his legacy is assured.


    • I definitely intend to. I was blown away by The Wind Rises. (Dammit, I just can’t away from the puns!!!)

      Next on my ticklist is probably Spirited Away, heard nothing but glowing things about it. Glad you liked the post man. THanks kindly as always


  5. Great review man. This opens here soon and I will definitely be checking it out (assuming the subtitled version is getting released). Your comments about the epic narrative have me even more excited.


    • Thanks a lot man, I do hope you enjoy it. I would presume the English language version would be released near you, I think the original Japanese version with subtitles was released only in that country and China. Not 100% sure on that, though. Either way, it is indeed an epic that more people should see.


  6. I like this one, too. Though not as much as you. I think Naoko (who is the girl he helped, not the maid – not sure whether or not that’s what you’re saying in the last full paragraph) and her romance with Jiro, in my opinion, is not well enough developed to communicate the supposed depth of their love. But the animation is gorgeous and Jiro is very interesting. On this points I totally agree.

    Have you seen other Miyazaki work?


    • I actually have not but my goal is to get to that right away! Also, thanks for the editing tip. I’ve gone back and hopefully it’s more clear now.


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