Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Wind Rises - Hayao Miyazaki's swan song?

The Wind Rises (2013)
Animation, Biography, Drama, 126 minutes
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Starring the voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci, Mandy Patinkin, Mae Whitman, Werner Herzog, Jennifer Grey and William H. Macy (English dub)

The trailer for The Wind Rises only hints at some of the film's secrets, but it's worth a look if you are completely new to the works of director Hayao Miyazaki. This is not a slick Disney production in 3D with modern graphics, but a softer 2D watercolor piece. All of Miyazaki's movies use this style and it can be disappointing for some. I find it utterly beautiful.

If you are familiar with Miyazaki, the important thing to note is that The Wind Rises is different in tone to all of his established classics. This is a movie set in the real world, and it tells the story of, Jiro Horikoshi, who designed Japanese fighter planes during the second world war. I was worried that the story might disappoint, as I love Miyazaki's fantasy worlds, but all of the magic was present.

One thing I should mention immediately is that this is not a story that is likely to engage young children in the way that Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro, or Kiki's Delivery Service did. The two main themes are Jiro's passion for his work, and his love for a woman. People usually expect something light and family-friendly from animated movies, but this one includes a heartbreaking death and feelings that the very young would probably not understand.

Miyazaki uses a number of dream sequences to establish Jiro's passion for his career, so you'll see him walking along the wings of planes designed by his Italian hero, Caproni. Jiro gains experience by working in European countries, and we watch him and his friend develop their young careers.

One of the most charming things in the film is Jiro's love for Nahoko. The two have a chance encounter on a train when he is a boy, and he ends up saving her and her mother when an earthquake devastates their surroundings. Again, these scenes might worry or confuse small children.

The detail in the animation is incredible, despite the old-fashioned style. Miyazaki often puts in seemingly unnecessary detail, but it adds realism to the story. Watch the small stones rolling when someone jumps off a train and you'll understand what I mean. Another thing that adds to the depth of the story is Miyazaki's willingness to address issues that are rarely explored in the animated form. For instance, one major character suffers from tuberculosis, which afflicted Miyazaki's own mother from 1947 to 1955.

I hope that I'm not persuading you to give this film a miss with all the dark subject matter. It's an incredibly beautiful story with characters you'll really care about. The English dub features an incredibly strong array of talent and it works wonderfully. When Frozen wins the Oscar in a few hours from the time of writing, I won't be surprised, but The Wind Rises is just about perfect and deserves to win.

The story affected me deeply and I had to fight off tears in places. If I had been watching at home by myself, I would probably have been sobbing by the end. But that would be because of the extraordinary beauty present in the film and its characters, rather than true sadness.

If this is to be Miyazaki's final film, it's a great way to end a magnificent career. I was totally engrossed for two hours, just as I have been in the vast majority of his other films over the years. The Wind Rises might be remembered as his Grave of the Fireflies, but that shouldn't prevent you from seeing it. It's further proof that animation can be important as well as entertaining. 

Overall score 5/5

Return to index of every review on the site.


  1. Yes! I'm so glad you gave it a perfect score. I think it will be remembered as one of Miyazaki's masterpieces :)

    I've nominated you for a Liebster Award!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as I did, Ben. I agree that it would be a great way to bow out, but I hope he reconsiders, or at least helps with a screenplay or two. The romance was very powerful and real. Thanks too for the nomination. I'll try to work on that this weekend.