Last Level Press

Film Review: The Wind Rises (JPN Dub)

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo

I’m more than convinced that a man like Hayao Miyazaki will let nothing short of death keep him from creating visual and cinematic pieces of art.  But in the event he will keep to his word, and he truly retires from animation? The Wind Rises would certainly be a good swan song for the master animator and director. It is a film about passion for what you love, about dreams in dark and terrible times, and how reality unfortunately limits us in what we want to do.

Relating already, aren’t you?

While Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are best known for their imagination and creative style, The Wind Rises is more of a grounded film, much like the previous Ghibli film, From Up On Poppy Hill. Unlike Poppy Hill, The Wind Rises has some of the creativity you would expect, but within dream sequences; airplanes that wouldn’t normally work or look too fantastic will operate as their creators envision them. Outside of the dreams of Jiro Horikoshi, the world of prewar Japan is poor but industrial, and yet still amazing to look at. One noteworthy moment is during the Great Kanto Earthquake, in which there is a great visible wave of energy that permeates throughout the mostly wooden Tokyo, which is destroyed by sudden upheavals of land, a visible representation of an earthquake that one could imagine is how one might describe such a powerful natural event. The style of the world and environment can only be best described as Ghibli, in the same way a Disney or Pixar film can be best described by saying it’s from them; you know it when you see it.

“For the last time, this isn’t the Tiny Bronco!  Stop chasing us!”

The music for the film has a lot of focus on accordion, perhaps to focus on the use of air being its primary means of functioning, and does its job to fill in a light and somewhat idealistic tone through what can be seen as controversial film, since our protagonist is a man who designed airplanes that were demanded by a deeply militaristic, imperialistic, and fascist Japan to wage war. It seems rather appropriate, since this version of Jiro is a passionate dreamer who wishes to do nothing more than to go and design the best airplanes he can, but must do so knowing that people will die. Though I never make mention of sound effects, mostly because there is never any reason to do so, it should be noted that many sound effects for the earthquake early in the film and of the airplanes are done using human noises… or rather, it sounds like someone is making the sound effects with their mouth. It gives them a strange, cartoony sound, but somehow works in its favor to give them a sense of character, perhaps to express how they’re not simply tools to Jiro, and shouldn’t be treated as such, but ultimately are at the hands of the Japanese Navy.

“You can fix it, right?  We’ll be around in the morning to pick it up.”

The story is admittedly not Miyazaki’s best. While the man does love his silent moments to allow the film to breath and simply be, the pacing just feels like it can drag on longer than it really needs to. In a strange way, this is probably the most mainstream film Miyazaki has made: there is a love interest for our main character, he’s the center of attention, he is cheerful and talented, he has a dream to make beautiful creations, and he does fulfil the dream… albeit in a rather dark fashion, and ultimately results in the deaths of thousands that we never see. There is no strange world to discover, no spirits or magic, no environmentalist tones, nothing bizarre or beyond the realm of possibility. The only truly strange thing is that Jiro has dream conversations with his idol, the Italian engineer Giovanni Caproni, but even then that can be excused, because dreams are a realm of limitless possibility not confined to the rules of reality.

Due to an unforeseen circumstance, I ended up watching the Japanese dub of the film, so my interpretation of the film is limited to the original voice cast rather than the English dub. I try to avoid Japanese dubs because I don’t speak the language nor have a good indicator of what would constitute as bad acting for the language, but I can say that it wasn’t bad. I couldn’t really catch anything that was overtly hammy or made me think, “oh, that person tried too hard.” One big surprise for me was to see that the man who played Jiro was none other than Hideaki Anno, the man who created Neon Genesis Evangelion. All I can really say was he sounded good, and he sounded younger than I thought he would sound. Everyone else… uh, certainly did their jobs, and performed splendidly!

Don’t look at me like that!

It can be said that if this isn’t Miyazaki’s final film, it is most certainly his pet project that illustrates just how much the man loves flight. Nearly every Miyazaki film has had either an environmental theme or a scene with flying. To Miyazaki, flight is about freedom and what it represents to people. I think it’s safe to say that while Jiro Horikoshi is a real historical figure, the way he is portrayed is more of a proxy for what Miyazaki believes he was like outside of the development of fighter planes: he was a dreamer who knew that reality would drag him down, a passionate man who loved his craft, and wanted to spend his “ten years” of creativity wisely. Perhaps the master knows he reached his peak a while ago, yet continues more out of love for his craft than anything? Whatever the case may be, The Wind Rises is ultimately a bittersweet experience.

Rating: 7.4

Visuals: 10
Audio: 8
Narrative: 5
Acting: 6
Atmosphere & Experience: 8

Editor’s Note:  Mr. Miyazaki has since  rescinded his “retirement” announcement

following this film’s release.

Final Verdict:


  Director: Hayao Miyazaki

  Producer: Toshio Suzuki  

   Studio: Studio Ghibli

  Release Date (U.S.): Feb 21, 2014

  Release Date (E.U.): Feb 28, 2014

  Release Date (JP): Jul 20, 2013

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