A little Japanese boy walks atop the wings of one of Giovanni Caproni’s impossible aircrafts. This dream would be the first of many. “The wind is rising! We must try to live!” A fitting way to start what seems to be master filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s final film. The Wind Rises is a sweeping, dream-like epic that chronicles the life of the infamous Jiro Horikoshi, chief engineer behind the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane used prominently throughout World War II. Though there is little discussion of the forced labor Mitsubishi employed at the time, Miyazaki deftly blurs the lines between a beautiful dream and terrifying reality. The Wind Rises is truly masterful.
The film traces through much of Japan’s grief-stricken early 20th century. From the devastating Kanto earthquake of 1923, through the tuberculosis epidemic that swept Japan, to the onset of World War II. The pulsating earth as the Kanto earthquake ravages Tokyo is breathtaking, leaving the horrifying sight of flames engulfing a people and a culture etched in the audience’s mind. The escape from this horrifying reality is the lush landscape of Jiro’s dreams. Beautiful, sweeping canvases of the imagination, on which Miyazaki traces Jiro’s progression from the Little Japanese Boy with an uncontainable passion, to the man who would invent tools of destruction.
In spite of what he created, at least according to this fictionalization of Jiro Horikoshi’s life, his single-minded compulsion for perfection, to carry out his dream, is absolutely stunning. We watch Jiro as a young boy, ambitious, with little time for a kid sister far more boisterous than himself. Translating an English aeronautics magazine word by word in his spare time, the seed is planted. He dreams of magnificent aircrafts alongside Caproni, and wakes with a feverish drive to create. As he grows older, he attends University, and takes a position working for Mitsubishi, where history would be made. Would you like to know more…?