Sep 18, 2013
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I had the good luck to be able to watch The Wind Rises on the big screen in a theater not long after it screened in Japan, for it had a theatrical release in Korea. Although due to the amount of controversy it was generating among Korean audiences (and a fair amount of hate, which I found was a bit too overblown after I finished the movie), the movie was only available in a few select theaters, I say it was quite worth the long trip I made to find a theater that screened this movie.
So, The Wind Rises is a movie that focuses on
a man named Jirou Horikoshi, the designer of the A6M Zero fighter plane of World War II, notoriously known for its use in the kamikaze, or suicide, missions back in the war.
That said, this is far from a biographical movie. It's a fictional work loosely based around the historical figure known as Jirou Horikoshi. Wikipedia classifies this movie as an "animated historical fantasy film" and I think that classification fits the bill perfectly.
The story focuses on the life of Jirou Horikoshi and the romantic relationship between him and a woman named Setsuko, who suffers from tuberculosis. Overall, I felt the pacing of the movie was pretty well done, starting from childhood and slowly progressing through different stages of his life in a very fluid manner, although there were moments that felt rushed from time to time (the romantic relationship between Setsuko and Jirou for example).
The animation was of course amazingly detailed and well done (I loved how they paid attention to giving the animation depth; little mannerisms like a guy habitually shaking his legs under the desk while he’s working or the main character’s suit crumpling up when he sat down on a stool). One other thing I loved were the “dream sequences”, basically portraying Jirou’s dreams in a very surrealistic manner, as they were very vibrant and made for perfect transitions between different parts of the movie. These things, combined with an amazing soundtrack that fit perfectly with the mood (as expected of Hisaisi Joe), made some scenes truly amazing. Well, I had expected nothing less from Ghibli and Miyazaki Hayao, but even with that in mind, it blows you away.
The characters are overall unique and likeable. We also have some glimpses of other historical figures such as aeronautical engineers Giovanni Batista Caproni (who serves as a role model of sorts in Jirou[‘s dreams] in the movie), and Hugo Junkers. And of course there’s Setsuko, the lover of our man, Jirou. The romance in this movie of course tugs right at your heartstrings. It's not burningly flamboyant nor overly exciting; rather it is one of those faint, calm romances that makes you feel calm and happy inside. It makes you shed a few tears (and be on the brink of shedding more on other occasions) for the romance for it was absolutely beautiful and heart-wrenching.
(Fun fact: Giovanni Batista Caproni’s aircraft manufacturing company, Caproni, manufactured a plane called the Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli, which served as the inspiration to Ghibli’s name)
On a side note, the voice acting by Anno Hideaki (famous for being the chief director of Evangelion TV and movie series) I thought was quite amusing; it fit the out-of-it character of the main character pretty well, although at the more emotional moments of the movie, it lacked depth.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable 2 hours. It made me laugh, it made me cry at the right moments, it made me stare at the screen with a slack jawed expression because some scenes were just too beautiful.
Finally, I found the criticism and controversy it’s generating (especially in Korea) was a bit overblown. If anything, I found it to be quite critical of war and Japan attacking other nations (at several points in the movie, the characters say that Japan is going down a path of ruin [along with Germany] ).
I think it’s best to enjoy this as a piece, a work of art, rather than read too deep into it. I advise you to watch it just as a story of the life and love of a man who simply loved aircrafts.