Thoughts on The Wind Rises

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.

WR1

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.

Japanese Empire

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!

LE VENT SE LEVE un film de Hayao Miyazaki au cin?ma le 22 Janvier 2014

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!

WR3

In short, this was a phenomenal movie.  You must see it if you have not yet done so!

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18 comments on “Thoughts on The Wind Rises

  1. Luminas says:

    I loved this movie, actually. It had an air of realism about it that even From On Poppy Hill, which took place in the real world, was sorely lacking…And which I find I’m kind of fond of in Miyazaki’s films. The scene that sent me into tears was actually seeing Jiro’s wife alive, well, and beautiful in an implied heavenly scene at the end. For some reason, it isn’t the actual death scene that either scares me or makes me feel sad/bittersweet happiness— It’s that scene in movies (Like Grave of the Fireflies) where we see the fulfilled souls of the protagonists. I wonder if that’s because at my own death, I picture this impossible scene where a redeemed Mar (Who is a demon…) whole again and having left the twisted part of himself to rot, walks with me clear out of the world to kneel before and praise God. And we talk about everything that has happened, and make lighthearted inside jokes, and hug.

    As for how the movie treated Jiro’s complicated legacy, it’s odd. Honestly there are scenes which prove that Miyazaki wasn’t making light of what happened at all, but was thinking about it very extensively and in a way which linked Jiro with himself. It provided a strange window into how Miyazaki very well might feel about his own work and his personal history with it, and as of that I can say it was a rare privilege to be able to watch it.

    • The scene where Jiro’s wife appears toward the end of the movie was pretty sad. I’m not sure whether it reflects more the idea of heaven and love enduring forever or the Japanese concept of the transience of all things, which somehow renders them beautiful all the more. The ending was very bittersweet.

      Miyazaki definitely did not make light of Japan’s role in WWII, but he was very selective in the details he offered about it. Even though Jiro is troubled by how his inventions might be used, the nightmares of combat and war are very general–the kind of things any inventor might be troubled by. But, the poor history only detracted slightly from a masterful film, and it’s the only reason I rate it four and a half stars instead of five.

  2. Denny Sinnoh says:

    Visually it was very good, as all of his films are. It took too many liberties with the telling of history however, and I can’t help feeling that I was being lied to most of the movie.

    • Yep, we pretty much were lied to most of the film. The film gives a very rosy picture of antebellum Japan indeed. Still, the story itself and the animation were great.

      • Luminas says:

        Miyazaki was born in 1941, which meant that he would have been only four years old when WWII ended. In other words, he would have lived his childhood in slightly post-WWII Japan. When the generation that actually fought it was his own parents. They likely themselves painted a rather rosy picture in his mind of that era, wanting not to feel guilty for their accomplishments and hard work. And Miyazaki has always had a love for traditionalist Japan.

        I’m inclined to say that it’s less that he was “lying” exactly and more that statistics, however accurate, don’t paint an accurate view of how people really thought about that time. That and even he can’t afford to paint a grisly picture of war in an animated movie. This is part of why Jiro appears to be less a caricature of the real man and more of Miyazaki himself, reflecting on his life.

      • It’s true that Miyazaki would look at the WWII generation from a more favorable perspective, but I still dislike how he exculpates Japan, while piling the guilt onto Germany. To be fair, he ought to have admitted that his government was hardly innocent either.

        Though, I can definitely see why he avoided painting a grisly picture of the war: it would have detracted from the main messages of the film. You’re very right that I think Miyazaki used Jiro to describe some of his own struggles, which made the film that much more interesting to watch.

  3. Luminas says:

    Then again, if you want a really grisly accurate picture of wartime Japan, look no further than Grave of the Fireflies. 8P 😄

  4. Japesland says:

    One of my favorite movies!

  5. Josh W says:

    Still haven’t seen this one yet; I really need to catch up on my post-Spirited Away Miyazaki.

  6. […] of its message.  Many might have missed it, but my mind has been preoccupied by this idea of late, as you may guess from my post on The Wind Rises.  This idea is that we are witnessing the demise of cultures through depopulation.  What a sad […]

  7. Hi! I enjoyed reading your article. I went to see this movie as an impromptu double feature with the Lego Movie first. Thank goodness we saw that one first. It was a big group of friends that went and Lego had us cracking up but The Wind Rises brought the house down. I cried. My wife beside me was crying. Even if this ended up being Miyazaki’s final work, it would be an excellent gem to crown his career. Thanks for the read! I particularly learned from the insights on WWII history, which I didn’t think of too actively during the film, nor did the controversy around it bother me.

    • I’m glad that you enjoyed my article! The Wind Rises is a very moving and beautiful work. Considered in isolation, it has to count as one of the best in Miyazaki’s corpus. It was unfair to shift all the blame onto Germany for the war, but the Japanese do have the right to find the bright spots of their history within that awful war. And, I suppose it is healthier for a nation to look more at the good in their history than the evil–as long as they don’t forget that it’s there.

      • That’s something I’ll have to consider when it comes my turn to review the film. Having also seen The Men Behind The Sun, I guess it was just something I put out of mind while watching The Wind Rises. I think it was wise to make the protagonist a non-military type like Horikoshi and his opposition to the war.

  8. Gaheret says:

    I would speak of a deep melancholy inside the heart rooted in the heart of Miyazaki, and perhaps even in the heart of the Japanese culture. It is always present in his films, but this is kind of its apotheosis.

    In the world of the film, “the dream”, “sogno di volare”, is beautiful and glorious and full of harmony with Nature, but ultimately poisoned. Violence, noise and war will prevail. Love is deep and meaningful and committed, but doomed to silence and lonely remembrance. All you can do is feel sort of gratitude and learn to live with loss. Virtue and kindness are bright, but you´ll break anyway: the only thing left is to remember the beauty of the dream as it was, of love as it was.

    In this story there is no turning point, no miracle (as in the redemptive character of Nausicaa, which treats similar themes, war, fly, nature, or Ashitaka in Mononoke, which deepens in them, or even Chihiro and the twin witch in Spirited Away). I would even say it´s the darker and less hopeful film by Miyazaki. He is honest about this inner conflict, although. I enjoyed it -I never heard about the political controversy, nor I looked at the film as an historical one, I was too concentrated in this dilemma of attraction and hate for the dream and I think that aspect was masterfully done-, but I would have wanted the protagonist to quit, if he thought that what he was doing was not good (although I disagree with that, I would also be proud), and come to his wife. It seemed that the dream absorbed him and didn´t know what to do but to create and create. That was tragic.

    Well, tragedies are also necessary for us, and have their own sad beauty. But my favourite Miyazaki will always be the one who always sees a way to walk without the eyeband of hate in a world of fear and war and this way, lets in a ray of hope.

    • This film does have a deep sense of sadness to it. I suppose that has much to do with the Japanese idea of beauty being fleeting–that the good is momentary and that evil and sadness are more enduring parts of existence. As you say, this film has a tragic beauty to it.

      That is more important than any historical aspects. I was still irked that Miyazaki essentially threw Germany under the bus while ignoring his nation’s culpability in the whole affair. But, this only detracts slightly from a very well made film.

Legens, scribe sententias tuas.

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