Last year I made a post about Studio Ghibli’s upcoming movies and finally the time has arrived where I can talk about one of them in more depth. A couple weeks ago, the trailer for The Wind Rises was released and wow, I think it’s going to be a film that crushes our hearts. Maybe not quite Grave of the Fireflies level, but close.
From what I gathered from the film poster and the graciously translated trailer, the focus of The Wind Rises is the life of fighter plane designer Jiro Horikoshi. As is the nature of biopics, it covers the influences on his younger self to his older self, realizing the dreams those influences instilled in him; however from the trailer alone, his character design doesn’t seem to change all that much. That is to say, it doesn’t look like he ages at all. I know this is nitpicking, but if I’m watching a character’s life unfold on the screen, I’d like to at least be under the illusion that they’re growing in more than wisdom.
Yet, despite focusing largely on Horikoshi, the film is much more than a biopic on a single person.
Well, I hope it ends up being much more than that. With the addition of Giovanni Caproni, the founder of the eponymous Italian aircraft manufacturing business, Horikoshi, from a character standpoint, will gain a mentor figure and a teacher. For the audience, however, hopefully it will lead into discussions about relations between Japan and other countries during World War II. I think it would be interesting to see some of the possible conflicts of that time shine through.
What this film also seems to be is a kick in the pants from Miyazaki himself. After listing all of the tragedies Horikoshi had to live through—the Japanese Great Depression, the Great Kanto Earthquake, war—the line “how did Japan’s youth survive such a time” appears. And while, yes, this is a question that deserves to be explored, I think it gives off a sense that Miyazaki is somehow underwhelmed or disappointed by the current generation. Like he’s trying to encourage today’s youth from their inaction by showing the strength of the generation that had to suffer through so much, the generation that came before them. At the very least, this film has a very different feel than Grave of the Fireflies, despite depicting roughly the same period of time.
Could Miyazaki, in creating something so bright and arguably less realistic than Takahata’s film, be creating an idealized past that is ultimately false? Despite that I haven’t watched the film yet, I can’t help but feel that this will end up being the case. Though the tone of
The Wind Rises is undeniably more serious and less fantastical than Miyazaki’s other films, the idea that this film is to praise two people (Horikoshi and Caproni) means that it cannot take the emotional and creative risks that Grave of the Fireflies could. In the end, it’s a film about a person living through war and disaster rather than suffering through it, and this tonal shift might hurt the story more than it helps it.
After many rumors, it has finally been confirmed that this film is Miyazaki’s last. Although I’m saddened by his retirement, I’m glad he was able to end his amazing career doing a film about something he holds dear to his heart: aviation. Though the tone may be more ‘family friendly’ than one would expect, it’s still an important movie and once this film becomes available, I’ll definitely watch it. …I’ll just need to make sure I have tissues nearby when that happens.