“The Wind Rises” is such a beautiful note for Hayao Miyazaki to leave us on. It’s a bittersweet affair as a film and an animated feature, mainly because Miyazaki hasn’t lost his ability to tell stories. He’s the most incredible animator working today, and his retirement is heartbreaking because the man has many more years left to deliver lucid, entertaining and thought provoking stories to his fan base. “The Wind Rises” is not an explosive, fantastical exit for Miyazaki, but a respectful and quiet bow out. One that really does stick with you long after the credits have ended.
Director Hayao Miyazaki tells the story of engineer Jiro Horikoshi, a man that helped perfect the planes for the Japanese military. Much like Oppenheimer, he’s a man who had a great vision, and a wonderful ambition. And in the end, he became nothing much than a harbinger for death and destruction. Miyazaki’s film is sweet and very thoughtful in its display of emotions and in humanizing Jiro Horikoshi. Like everyone else, he was an inventor seeking to change the world and show everyone that he could offer something. Here, we meet Jiro as a goggle eyed young man who longs to fly planes for a living, and can only settle for making them thanks to his poor eye sight. During a train ride back to university, he meets gorgeous young Naoko on a crowded train that’s almost derailed thanks to a massive earthquake. The Quake spawns a humongous fire among Tokyo, prompting Jiro to help Naoko and her mother find safety and retreat to find their family.
When the pair are saved, Jiro leaves them to continue pursuing his ambition as an engineer, but spends years wondering what ever became Naoko. Jiro is a wide eyed individual visited by his favorite technical wizard Battisa Caproni, who visits Jiro in his dreams and ponders on why he wants to become an engineer. Jiro’s inability to decipher his own dreams becomes his undoing, as he dreams of amazing flying machines, all of which hold beneath their belly dark evil beings of destruction that inevitably drop down on to the land. Jiro is nonetheless driven his consuming ambition, and then decides to find more when he reconciles with Naoko years later. Their love story is adorable and incredibly touching as Jiro’s courtship of her is based around his charm, while Naoko is a fellow dreamer who wants to experience the most out of life. This becomes difficult when Jiro learns she’s suffering from tuberculosis and rushes to marry her before something terrible occurs.
This puts a terrible mark not only on their relationship, but on Jiro who can’t bear to part with his love, despite his friends and family urging him to take her to a sanitarium to be treated. Miyazaki approaches their romance with maturity and subtlety, allowing a very heartbreaking tale of two lovers that is ultimately broken by Jiro’s own ambition as a designer. He’s torn between his love of his wife and the sky, as Miyazaki paints the land as a vast and open space where anything is possible. The sky is often the dominating element of every scene, with vibrant blues, and billows of white clouds that often beckon to Jiro. “The Wind Rises” doesn’t compare to Miyazaki’s other masterpieces, as it’s much too long in the tooth, but it’s still a very touching and socially conscious exploration of a man with big dreams that were corrupted by war, and destruction. It’s a very good final act for an animator that’s changed the world with his stories.