At last, I have managed to watch Miyazaki’s latest, but no longer final, film, and my biggest regret is not to have seen it in theaters. The animation and sound effects held me spellbound. I also loved the manner they included foreign languages and how they intimated that the characters communicated in a foreign language even though Japanese is spoken on screen: one or two lines would be spoken in the foreign tongue, but then the characters would conclude the rest of the dialogue in Japanese. My friend found this method jarring, and it did take a little time to accustom myself to it; but, it was a nice technique overall. Most striking for me was that the Italian lines were spoken with heavy accents, while the seiyuu spoke German pretty fluently. Despite the sounds of Romance languages being closer to Japanese, the seiyuu’s pronunciation of Italian produced snickers while their skill with German produced awe.
Many of my dear readers remember the controversy surrounding The Wind Rises when it was released. The film was accused of glossing over Japanese war crimes and its complicity in starting WWII. To the critics’ defense, most of the blame for the war is placed on German’s head, while Japan is characterized by Jiro Hirokoshi’s best friend as a poor country trying to become as prosperous as Western nations. Neither of these assertions are strictly true, save for the fact that Japan had been seeking parity with Western countries since the advent of the Meiji Era. But, they had generally succeeded by Hirokoshi’s day. Remember that Japan had wiped the floor with Russia during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). This was contrary to many predictions that Russia would prove victorious. Also, Japan, in imitation of the powerful nations of the West, had established colonies across the Pacific and into Asia prior to WWII–not exactly something of which a poor country is capable.
On the other hand, it is time to stop berating Germany and Japan for the crimes of seventy years ago. People note that Japan has never properly apologized for its war crimes, but Germany’s admission of guilt seems to have gained it but little respite from the country’s critics. (One would think that Germany had suffered enough for its crimes, especially with 11 million Germans dying after WWII through starvation and policies of revenge followed by some Allied countries–the U.S.S.R. in particular. But, I digress.) These criticisms come from the same ideologues who attempt to reduce U.S. history to slavery, the mistreatment of Indians, and dropping the atom bomb. Focusing on only darkness leads to unhealthy self-hatred, and we may see the effects of it in how hard the general population decline in first world countries have hit Germany and Japan. Every nation’s history includes light and darkness. The good in a nation is far more important than its darkness: how much poorer the world would be without Germans and Japanese!
Speaking of the good, the story in The Wind Rises was quite poignant. Miyazaki harps on one of his favorite themes: never letting go of one’s dreams and one’s love. One becomes engrossed in Jiro Hirokoshi’s dream of building a masterpiece of aviation, and one’s heart feels for him and his wife’s brief marriage. The dream sequences added a nice aura of fantasy to the grim reality of the day, especially to the ugly fact that Hirokoshi’s plane–the Mitsubishi Zero–would be used in war. At least, this was a grim reality for Hirokoshi: I think that it is an honor to create anything used for the defense of one’s country, which includes the creation of weapons for her defense–even one I despise as much as the Zero. Would that an American filmmaker made a tribute to John Browning for his many contributions to America’s arsenal!
In short, this was a phenomenal movie. You must see it if you have not yet done so!