Kyle J. Steenblik

The Wind Rises to such great heights.

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kaze_tachinu_ver5_xlgThe Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu) is in every respect a beautiful film, a magnificent film for fans of animation, history, and love stories. It is a visual symphony on film. It rises and falls in torrents of beauty and emotion crashing before your eyes. If you allow it, the film will carry you away, and return you ever so slightly different. It is difficult to remain untouched by the films of a craftsman such as Hayao Miyazaki. The Wind Rises was to be his final film, and it was a triumphant finale. Thankfully, he has once again rescinded his cruel threats of retirement.

This animated feature is one of the rare films from Studio Ghibli intended for an adult audience rather than their typical child audience. As such, the themes are more mature, and the story is less fantastical. It wouldn’t be a Miyazaki film without some fantastical elements, but these are sequestered to the dreams of Jiro, where he explores his designs and collaborates with his mentor. While the story true to the historical elements, the romance and relationships are naturally dramatized, out of “necessity” according to Miyazaki.

Jiro Horikoshi, dreamed about flying, in one dream he meets Count Giovanni Battista Caproni, an Italian plane designer. Caproni tells Jiro that building planes is better than flying them and Jiro decides he will build planes. Years later, Jiro, an engineering student is traveling back to Tokyo from a holiday, when he meets a young girl named Naoko on the train. When the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 hits, Jiro rescues Naoko and her maid and brings them home. When Jiro begins work for an airplane manufacturer, he travels to Germany to do technical research when their current fighter projects end is failure. During this time, Jiro realizes he has no desire to build war machines, but this is the only way to continue his dreams.

Years later, he is appointed chief designer of a fighter plane for the Navy. After the failure of his prototype, Jiro visits a summer resort to refocus his attention. While there, he runs into Naoko again and they quickly fall in love. However, Naoko reveals she is stricken with tuberculosis, and refuses to marry until she recovers. While Jiro returns to his work, Naoko visits an alpine sanatorium after suffering a lung hemorrhage. Her stay is brief as neither Naoko nor Jiro can bear to be apart.

Naoko moves in with Jiro, who is a guest in Jiro’s boss, Kurokawa’s home where they are married. Even though Naoko’s health continues to deteriorate, she and Jiro enjoy their time together, the one lending strength to the other, right up to the day of the test flight of the prototype of Jiro’s Mitsubishi A5M.

The English voice-over cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Werner Herzog, William H. Macy, Darren Criss, Mae Whitman, Mandy Patinkin, Jennifer Grey, Stanley Tucci, and Elijah Wood. The cast carries the weight of the story, and propels the charterers through the years of relationships without distracting from the artistry of the medium. I am usually more inclined to enjoy a foreign film in the original language with subtitles. However, the voice-over work here is superb and adds a wonderful dimension to the film, allowing the audience to appreciate the animation fully.

The Wind Rises is an exquisite film that should not be missed by Miyazaki fans. Be wary, this is, as I said before, not a children’s film. While it is not at all inappropriate, by any means, the themes and history require a level of maturity to fully understand. For fans, 10 out of 10, for everyone else 9 of 10.

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