Miyazaki Mondays: The Wind Rises

For this week’s (final “for now) Miyazaki Monday is the 2013 film The Wind Rises:

The Wind Rises is based on a true story.  It centers around the life of Jiro Horikoshi.  Jiro lived in Japan in the early 20th century.  He loved flight and grew up during the early years of aviation.  He longed to be a pilot but unfortunately had bad eyesight.  Instead, this drove him to being a designer and became fascinated with making planes.  Growing up, he read aviation magazines.  Inspired by these magazines, Jiro would dream about meeting famed Italian aircraft designer Giovanni Caproni.

Years later, Jiro traveled to Tokyo by train to study engineering in university.  It happened to be during the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake that devistated the country.  He would help a young girl named Naoko and her maid get to safety and to Naoko’s family.  After studying at university, Jiro is hired by Mitsubishi to help design fighter planes and is sent to Germany to study abroad.

While on a retreat trying to find inspiration for a new fighter plane design, Jiro runs into Naoko.  Naoko’s family help run the retreat.  The two fall in love.  However, Naoko has tuberculosis and makes it difficult for the two to be together for long periods of time but Jiro loves Naoko.  He also loves airplanes and continued to try and design the best plane.  That would eventually lead to the Mitsubishi A5M, the predecessor to the A6M.  That plane is better known as the Zero, which was the plane used by the Japanese during World War II.

This film was a swan song for Hayao Miyazaki.  He announced publicly in 2013 that this would be the last film that he would direct.  While he had “retired” in the past, most people believe that this is his last film.  The film is based off a manga written by Miyazaki which itself was loosely based on the short story The Wind Has Risen written in 1937.  This film is truly a mix of fact and fiction.  Jiro’s public life (his design of planes and such) is true, his private life (relationship with Naoko) was fictional.  This doesn’t detract from the story in the least.

It was released in Japan on July 20, 2013.  It went on to be the highest grossing film in Japan for 2013.  It also was featured at several film festivals including Toronto International Film Festival and Venice International Film Festival.  Walt Disney Pictures held the North American distribution rights and did it through its Touchstone Pictures label.  The English dub featured Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci, Elijah Wood, Jennifer Grey, Mandy Patinkin, Werner Herzog and William H. Macy.  It released in theaters in North America in select cities on February 21, 2014 before nationwide on February 28, 2014.  As of last count, the film as grossed over $132 million dollars.  It also received several awards and nominations including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature.

This is a very bittersweet film in a lot of ways.  It is some of Miyazaki’s best work and it will be his last with his retirement.  The relationship in the film between Jiro and Naoko is bittersweet because they love one another but tuberculosis kept them apart.  Jiro want to design planes for beauty and they end up being used for war.  If Miyazaki wanted to fly off into the sunset, then this film is the right sendoff.  It is in my top 3 favorite Miyazaki films and should be one that any film fan should see.  I cannot wait until it comes out on Blu-Ray and watch it again and again.

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