Review: The Wind Rises

72 year-old Hayao Miyazaki’s last and retirement hand drawn animation film “The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu 風立ちぬ)” is an inspirational film with a very beautiful love story based on the life of the famous Japanese WWII fighter plane Mitsubishi Zero’s designer Jiro Horikoshi.

As usual, Miyazaki’s life time obsession with flying and the wind are obvious and his clouds, landscape, wooden houses are again stunningly detailed and beautiful. There is no magic nor spirit in the real life story this time but a simple and passionate young engineer’s dream with the Italian fighter plane designer Giovanni Battista Caproni who inspires and mentors him since he was a child.

The film is well made, the teary love story between Jiro and his wife, is powering throughout the entire film, but the feeling toward to the war is often unclear and contradictory on all counts. Miyazaki has repeatedly used French poet Paul Valery’s “The wind is rising! . . . We must try to live! (Le vent se lève! . . . il faut tenter de vivre!)” and blames Japan’s high expense to purchase German warcraft technology instead of improving poverty and reconstruction after Japan was struck by the 1923 earthquake, but he’s highly enthusiastic about the fight plane’s development and mentions the plane is to fight their enemies. Jiro meets a German expat, Castorp. They sing ‘Das Gibt’s Nur Einmal (There’s Only One time)’ and Castorp also quotes Thomas Mann’s novel ‘The Magic Mountain’, warns that the war started by Germany and Japan will lead them to ruins. But on the other hand, Miyazaki never explains that those young japanese engineers’ advanced technology work is going to become countless deadly weapons, nor why the police is after Jiro.

Miyazaki admits that his deep fascination towards the Mitsubishi Zero is due to his father who used to work in a factory where they produced parts of this plane. He has also tried to purchase a restored Zero as a personal collection item but was refused by his wife. He said in a recent interview. “A generation of Japanese men who grew up during a certain period have very complex feelings about World War II, and the Zero symbolizes our collective psyche,” & “Japan went to war out of foolish arrogance, caused trouble throughout the entire East Asia, and ultimately brought destruction upon itself… For all this humiliating history, the Zero represented one of the few things that we Japanese could be proud of.”

Despite of Miyazaki being famous for his liberal political point of view, and his anti-nuclear statements, the film has raised not only record high box office in Japan, but also many controversial reactions in Japan and in most of the Asian countries which were cruelly destroyed and suffered countless deaths by the Japanese army invasions during the wars.

And despite of the fact that Mitsubishi Zero is the infamous fighter plane which bombed United States at Pearl Harbor and later the Kamikaze’s Power Dive like rain drops to sink the Allies aircraft carriers and battleships at the end of the war, Disney has purchased the right to distribute “The Wind Rises“ in the North America. More controversial reactions to be expected after it screens at Hawaii Film Festival on October 10th, the theatrical limited-release in NYC and LA for Oscar qualification on November 8th. and the nationwide release in February 2014? – Shumaï Chou