This is a tough one to write. I really thought it could be easy. I have seen Miyazaki’s movies again and again and know them fairly well. The themes, the tendencies, the characters; all of that stored away and ready to be used on a new canvas. Enter The Wind Rises. Miyazaki’s latest (and final) feature film and one that is different from the rest yet so familiar at the same time.
The Wind Rises follows Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) an aspiring airplane engineer who eventually is the creator of the Japanese Zero fighter, which is used in World War II. Along the way he meets many friends including Honjo (John Krasinski), Kurokawa (Martin Short), and Castorp (Werner Herzog) while also meeting the love of his life, Nahoko (Emily Blunt).
While Jiro’s relationship with Nahoko picks up in the second act and is the main story throughout the rest of the film, I found the most enamoring was Miyazaki’s clear (and most personal) showing of love for creativity and imagination. Jiro did not go into engineering looking to make war planes to use to kill other men, he did it because he had a love for aviation and with his spirit guide, Caproni (Stanley Tucci), he was able to hone his skills and create his masterpiece.
This love for the creative mind was the true romance of the film, especially since the “true” romance felt rushed and underdeveloped. I didn’t have anything against Nahoko but I never felt a full connection with her because she did not seem hashed out as a character. She is quickly introduced and they fall in love, which I can buy since it is a movie, but she also didn’t have any defining qualities outside of her condition and love for Jiro which is something that Miyazaki usually is skilled at doing, creating fantastic female characters.
Instead, Nahoko seemed more Disney-fied and was very one dimensional. But this didn’t hurt the film in my opinion because like I said, the true love was in the form of creativity and imagination. Jiro’s passion was with flight and creating airplanes and watching him develop that passion through victories and defeats was utterly satisfying for me.
Much like the rest of Miyazaki’s work, the film was gorgeous with the scenery around the story being some of his most beautiful. Even more train sequences with Jiro rolling through the countryside showed off the immense talent that Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have for creating luscious, beautiful landscapes even in a real world environment like Japan.
But why was this hard to write? Because it was tough to put my feelings for the film in words. Miyazaki’s films are something deeply personal to me and watching his work possibly come to an end is saddening. His ability to world build is un-paralleled in Hollywood, especially in the animation sphere where creativity can be hard to come by.
While it isn’t nearly one of his best works, it was a personal one to him. You could feel him putting himself into Jiro’s shoes. A creative mind that sometimes had to do stuff he didn’t want to in order to achieve his creative dream. Luckily for him, he did have a lot of freedom at Studio Ghibli and his movies show it.
It is saddening to see him leave but I feel like he left on a perfect note. A different, more mature ground that shows that while he may be going out the door, he still knows how to surprise us and gave us a film that I think will grow with age.