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Purportedly Miyazaki Hayao’s last film (the famed anime director has made the same claim in the past concerning his 1997 film Princess Mononoke), The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ) is a fictionalized biopic on the life of Horikoshi Jiro, the aeronautical engineer who designed the Mitsubishi A5M and A6M Zero fighter planes that would be used by Imperial Japan during World War II. Beyond being a simple biography or docudrama, however, The Wind Rises is an examination of creative inspiration and also the loss of innocence. It may be one of, if not the most mature work of Miyazaki-san’s career, and if it is truly to be his last, it is a fitting final work, and a wonderful flip side to the more fanciful lightheartedness of his last work, Ponyo.
Beginning when Jiro is a young boy fascinated with aeronautics and the genius of Italian aeronautics engineer Giovanni Battista Caproni, whom, in a fantasy sequence, encourages the young boy to pursue his dreams of designing airplanes, The Wind Rises follows Jiro as he heads to university in Tokyo. On his train ride there, however, he is interrupted by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, which is how he first meets who is to become the love of his life, Naoko, who is traveling with a woman that breaks her leg. Jiro helps the woman and runs off in haste to find his university in flames where he helps save the school library.
Years later, Jiro is hired on at Mitsubishi to help them design their fighter planes, but they are dismal failures. The company sends him and his crew on fact-finding mission to Nazi Germany to study their advanced, all-metal airplane designs, and on leaving, Jiro is sent on westward to see the world, presumably for inspiration. Eventually, on return to Japan, while still on assignment from the Mitsubishi company, he will cross paths with Naoko and her father at their family run hotel. Jiro and Naoko fall in love quickly, and decide to marry, despite her ill-health, having suffered the same affliction that claimed her mother’s life only a few years earlier. The two marry hastily and Naoko, meant to convalesce in a sanatorium while Jiro returns to work at Mitsubishi is soon fleeing the confines of the facility to return to her husband as he struggles to complete the groundbreaking A5M.
Hardly the stuff of lighthearted entertainment that most children would sit through, this is a slow-paced and thoughtful drama that meticulously ponders life, how inspiration comes to an artist, and what becomes of an honest invention in the wrong hands. One theme that Miyazaki-san returns to quite often in The Wind Rises is how often inventions, such as the airplane, which have such potential for good, are often used for harm. And in this realization also lies another underlying theme that runs throughout the film – the loss of innocence.
Creativity is often associated with innocence, and in The Wind Rises Miyazaki-san contrasts Jiro’s childhood and his creative inspiration, often in fantastical dreamlike sequences where he communes with his childhood hero Cabroni, with the horror of what has become or what is to become of his inventions in the real world during his adulthood. This also speaks to Japan’s loss of innocence after going to war, “Japan will burn” is one premonition given to Jiro, and he sees his prized creations raining down around him in flames.
The Wind Rises is beautiful, often elegiac, sometimes inspirational and a little romantic, about love and art, and despite not being a fantasy, it is one hundred percent Miyazaki in its visual aesthetic and maturity of storytelling. A fitting end to a career, if in fact that is what it is.
The Wind Rises is one of Miyazaki-san’s most beautiful films visually, so it is fitting that StudioCanal have offered it up in this delectable 1080p AVC encodement on Blu-ray that provides a true reference quality image of its colorful, detailed, digital animation. The image is clean, crisp, free from artifacts, is bright, vivid, and a delight to watch.
The Wind Rises is one of those rare modern films that comes with a monaural soundtrack. It is provided on this Blu-ray Disc only in its original Japanese-language in LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit). It provides full-sounding dialogue and very good depth and separation of sound effects without any boxiness or clipping.
This being part of StudioCanal UK’s The Hayao Miyazaki Collection release, which has a separate bonus disc with extras, this disc itself has no supplements on it. There is an independent release of The Wind Rises in the UK, however, with bonus materials.
The Definitive Word
A dramatic and visual masterpiece from an animation legend, The Wind Rises may be somewhat too meticulous for younger audiences, but for those older lovers of animation who have been devotees of Miyazaki for years, they are sure to enjoy this latest phase in his career.
Editor’s Note: This review pertains to the Blu-ray Disc of The Wind Rises from The Hayao Miyazaki Collection by StudioCanal UK. There is also an individual release of The Wind Rises from StudioCanal UK.