The Wind Rises

Kaze tachinu

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Writer: Hayao Miyazaki

English Dubbed Voice Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci, Mae Whitman, Werner Herzog, Jennifer Grey, William H. Macy, Zach Callison, Eva Bella, Madeleine Rose Yen, Darren Chris, Elijah Wood, Edie Mirman, Ronan Farrow, David Cowgill

Japanese Voice Cast: Steve Alpert, Hideaki Anno, Morio Kazama, Jun Kunimura, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Masahiko Nishimura, Mansai Nomura, Mirai Shida, Keiko Takeshita, Miori Takimoto,Shinobu Ôtake

Synopsis: A look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some disturbing images and smoking

Note: This entire review is based on the original Japanese version of the movie, as I wasn't able to catch the English Dubbed version of this. I do apologize, but I hope you all will enjoy the review anyway.

All I wanted to do was create something beautiful

Throughout the years, we've seen many great filmmakers come and go. Sadly, it's with a heavy heart, that Hayao Miyazaki is one of those great filmmakers that seems to be leaving us. For those who follow Japanese anime, then you might be familiar with some of his work such as "Spirited Away", "Kiki's Delivery Service", "Princess Monoke" and etc. Indeed, I think I speak for all anime fans, and movie fans in general, when I say that it'll be sad to see Miyazaki's genius go. Truly a great visionary if there ever was one.

And even though "The Wind Rises" didn't take home the Oscar this year, it was still the superior animated feature by far last year. The film is loosely based on real life historical figure, Jiro Horikoshi, who helped design various planes for Japan and Germany in World War II. Jiro starts off as a normal Japanese boy who dreams of designing airplanes someday, as he sees them as a work of art. Inspired by one of his idols over in the west, he pursues his dream in an effort to create something beautiful, as he so eloquently puts it.

Along the way, he eventually meets a young girl named Nahoko Satomi, who suffers from a terrible life threatening health condition, yet Jiro can't help but fall in love with her anyway. The film doesn't emphasize too much on their romance with each other, but from what we are shown, it's nothing short of heartfelt. As many of my readers know, very few love stories ever get to me emotionally, as I've grown all too accustomed to all the Hollywood tricks and whistles to get me emotionally invested into a couple's love story, yet this one managed to touch me very deeply.

Although the film does sort of rely on the notion of "love at first sight" that I tend to hate in most movies (especially animated ones), this one pulls it off nicely. Not because of how it's used or anything like that, but mainly because of how it shows their relationship develop over time, after they fall in love. When they first meet each other, it's due to an unlikely series of events that Jiro ends up helping Nahoko's mother, by carrying her to safety. And, it's even more amazing they managed to meet up years later by chance, as neither of them even exchanged names the first time. After they're reunited, it's nothing short of heartfelt. Sure, one can argue that the romance does seem a bit rushed, as most of it is developed off screen, but the few tender moments they do share with each other onscreen speaks volumes about their relationship.

In one scene for example, we see Jiro working on a blue print for a plane he's designing for the war, while his wife watches him work. She hardly says anything, but she does request that her husband hold her hand as he works because she doesn't want to be separated from him. Granted, it might seem like a small gesture, but it was a very tender scene to watch. We even see a moment when her health gets worse, while Jiro is forced into hiding because the authorities are after him, but he valiantly risks incarceration to be by her side again to make sure she's okay. Without giving away too much, the love story between these two is not only very heartfelt, but actually kind of touching; especially around the end of it. It's like watching poetry in motion. Although the love story shows very little, but each scene it does show tells us so much.

As for the rest of the story, it focuses on Jiro following his dream to design planes for a living, as he's been fascinated by them since he was a child. Sadly, he's unable to become a pilot due to his nearsightedness, but he views planes as a work of art in itself. Although this premise may sound a bit boring, but you'd be wrong to assume such a thing. The script is actually very well written, as it tells the story of a young man following his dreams to create something beautiful; while showing him getting involved in a tragic romance that's every bit as emotional. While I hesitate to say this is his best film that he's ever made, I will say it's arguably one of his most touching ones ever conceived.

As far as the animation goes, I have to say this is probably some of the best 2-D animated work that I've seen in a long time. Like all Miyazaki films, this one certainly oozes of creativity and originality in it's art direction that the animation itself makes it a work of art. The movie certainly has it's own unique charm to it. Not only capturing the look and feel of Japan back in the World War II era, but also managing to incorporate the fantastical elements that have made many of Miyazaki's films famous over the years.

You can definitely tell this film is drenched in Japanese culture, and the level of detail within the animation is simply breathtaking. The voice acting is amazing as well. I can't comment on the English dubbed cast, as I haven't seen the dubbed version of this, but the Japanese version features a lot of strong voice work though.

As Jiro eloquently puts it in this film, "All I wanted to do was create something beautiful.' In a roundabout way, that summarizes Hayao Miyazaki's entire career in a nutshell. Granted, I'm not going to claim that everything he's ever done was a masterpiece. However, it seems like when most movie companies release an animated feature these days, most of them do it with the mindset of making money. Hell, some of them don't even bother to put in that much effort into making a great cohesive narrative like those abysmal "Ice Age" films, as all that matters is how much money they make off of them. Yet with many of Hayao Miyazaki's anime films, you can always tell there's a large amount of effort on his part to tell a great story, while giving the audience something beautiful to watch.

Indeed, Hayao Miyazaki is a true creative visionary in every sense of the word. Like Jiro, Hayao seems to share the same creative passion to create something beautiful, and for the most part, he's succeeded in that. It's truly a sad day to hear that this might be the last time we'll ever see a new Hayao Miyazaki film again, but he certainly won't be forgotten.

For those who think movies aren't a form of art, then I challenge you to watch some of Hayao's best works such as "Spirited Away", "The Wind Rises" and "Princess Mononoke", as they're the living definition of art itself. Although I doubt this film will ever get the attention it truly deserves, but it's definitely worth checking out if you're into anime. Overall, I'd have to give this movie a four out of four, as this film is simply a masterpiece.

© 2014 Steven Escareno

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