Hayao Miyazaki is a director obsessed with flight. You can see it in every animated film that he directed throughout the years at Studio Ghibli with the various aircraft he has designed and the joy he brings to characters flying and these are films that truly soar. Considering his love of flying and airplanes, it made sense for him to direct an animated film like "The Wind Rises", a film focusing on the fictionalized life of engineer Jiro Horikoshi and based on a book called "The Wind Has Risen" by poet Tatsuo Hori. It's a film that's quite possibly the most mature film that Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have made and it's yet another strong film within their catalog that really left a powerful effect on me as I watched it. This is a very beautiful and emotional film.
Ever since he was a young boy, Jiro Horikoshi (Hideaki Anno) has been obsessed with airplanes and dreams of one day getting to work with them. While his nearsightedness prevents him from being able to fly a plane, he decides to go into designing them, especially after the dreams he has with his idol Giovanni Caproni (Nomura Mansai). As he reaches adulthood, Jiro finds himself at work at Mitsubishi where he designs airplanes where he sets to design a plane that is truly beautiful working alongside Kiro Honjo (Hidetoshi Nishijima), and from there, we see his life throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s trying to get the perfect plane which would soon be used in World War II while soon encountering a woman from his past named Nahoko (Miori Takimoto) that he soon will fall in love with.
When this film premiered at the Venice Film Festival back in 2013, Hayao Miyazaki made the announcement that this would be his final film and that he would be retiring. He had said this many times before in the past starting in 1998 after he finished "Princess Mononoke", but it seemed like this time it would really be his last. Now that it's been ten years later, we now know this film isn't his last film as he is hard at work on another animated film which I'm excited to watch whenever it's finished, but even if this film was indeed his final film, it would've been a truly great one to go out on. This is such a rich animated film from start to finish that I was deeply moved while watching. I can understand why Hayao Miyazaki was attracted to this story has been in love with airplanes as a young boy with his father owning an aircraft workshop that built planes for the Second World War and I could understand his attraction to the book and its views on life since Miyazaki has strived to understand the meaning of it in all of his films. If anything, the two stories were a perfect marriage to each other and Miyazaki spins them together into a beautiful fantasy about dreams and life itself. The whole film is infused with a dream-like quality which you can see from the very start as we see a young Jiro dream about flying an imaginary airplane around the rural countryside before the crashing reality hits him in that he can't fly due to his nearsightedness. In fact, I can say that I feel the film is a bit of a cautionary tale about how dreams can not take you all the way as well since we know the plane Jiro is designing would indeed end up in the war and knowing how the war ended for Japan is definitely tragic. Not to mention, a really devasting scene near the end of the film that I dare not spoil for those who haven't seen it. If anything, it makes the emotional scenes feel that much more beautiful. It's also the most mature animated film that Miyazaki has made as well as despite the fantastical elements, there are still a lot of down to Earth themes with the topics about how Japan has fallen behind in the technology race at the time and their intentions to beat Germany as well as the emotional scenes between the romance of Jiro and Nahoko, though I'll talk more about that when I reach the characters. The only problem I had with the story is that I do feel the pacing can be a bit sloppy at times and I was confused about when certain moments were occurring at which point in time since the passage of time happens a lot during the film, but the overall beauty and emotion kept me hooked.
As far as the animation goes, it's easily my favorite thing about the film. This is easily one of the most beautiful-looking films that Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have ever made and considering the animated films they made, that's saying a lot. There are so many gorgeously designed scenes in this film with particular highlights including the many dream sequences that Jiro has within the film that were filled with so much color and detail. My favorite sequence was of the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923 as it is so gorgeously drawn that it really captures how devastating and scary it was since buildings are flying and crumbling everywhere and fires rage with purple smoke all over Tokyo. The airplanes as well are splendidly designed and you could see the care Miyazaki put into making each one look superb. This entire film just looks superb. This brings me to talking about the characters who all are lovely. Jiro is a compelling protagonist to watch as we see him figure out the plane he so desperately wants to design. I admire his determination throughout the film to reach his goal and I do think the bonds he shares with the characters are truly special. From his friendship with Kiro who is trying to build his own plane to his relationship with his young sister Kayo (Mirai Shida) who wants to become a doctor, and of course his romance with Nahoko. This was easily what got me emotional about the film the most as their love feels truly special when the couple first meets on a train to the very end which leads to a truly bittersweet ending that will leave any viewer emotional. No one writes romance like Miyazaki and their romance was truly the heart of the film.
In the end, "The Wind Rises" is truly a beautiful and emotional animated film. The story is rich with emotion and beautiful scenes, the animation is some of the best to ever come out of Ghibli, and the characters are wonderful. This is once again another big winner from Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki that I strongly recommend. It's another animated film that rises among their very best work.