Hayao Miyazaki has already gone down as one of the great, if not greatest, animated filmmakers of all time. With The Wind Rises, he chooses to end his glorious career which featured the likes of Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. Unlike Clint Eastwood, Miyazaki is apparently sticking to his retirement statement and making way for new animators, instead of staying around far past his welcome (although I think it is agreed that that wouldn’t ever be the case.)
The Wind Rises is a feast for the eyes. I have not seen this beautiful of animation for quite some time. Yet, curiously for his final film, it is his most naturalistic. There aren’t any floating castles, monsters, or lovable creatures, but instead we get a grounded group of animated humans who feel completely real. Considering it is a fictionalized biography, which is also curious since it isn’t really normal to have animated biopics, we cannot exactly stray into the unnatural, except for the dream sequences.
The film follows the life of Jirô Horikoshi, who wants nothing more in life than to build beautiful aircrafts. We see him from a young age fascinated by anything that flies. His dreams are filled with the impending doom that aircraft would bring, as well as visions of the future of flight. The story begins in 1918, which isn’t really clear in the movie, and by the end we are in 1932. One of the few qualms I had with this film is we are left to do the math ourselves as to the ages of our characters, because after the brief prologue in 1918, the characters look basically the same age, while we receive hints as to how much time is passed. It is a tale filled with love, change, war, and disaster, a truly “epic” animated film in my books.
The English voice-cast includes the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Mandy Patinkin, and Stanley Tucci, each providing a totally unique voice for the lovable array of characters. Martin Short does the voice of the short-statured superior of Jirô, who looks basically like a male version of Edna Mode from The Incredibles.
I will say that film struggles in its script. Some of the nuances are lost in translation and prove to be more cheesy in English than they probably would in Japanese which leads to some awkward dialogue situations. The other problem is that the script feels like it is too coincidental and accepting. Some of the instances feel rash and occasionally a character’s actions and behaviors feel rather foolish and ignorant about what is actually going on, but then again it is an animated film and it doesn’t really take too much away from the film as a whole.
Yet, in the end the film raises questions, just like the questions raised in Jirô as he realizes the things he is building are being used for war. Does creating our dream, even if it is causing pain through someone else, really constitute as a success after all? This is the guilt that Jirô eventually has to wrestle with as he begins to see that money, greed, power and war all can use things of beauty to create the exact opposite. It is painful watching something as elegant as an airplane be used for such destructive purposes, but even Miyazaki can still make it pleasureful for the eyes to watch.
The Wind Rises is truly Miyazaki’s swanvsong. His fans can rest easy knowing he ended on his consistent high note. Yet, it is sad that the world will no longer be graced by his indelible charm and ability to suck you into his worlds and letting you experience and feel things when you least expect to. You never want to leave the world’s he creates, they are so engrossing and inviting that you cannot help but feel like they should go on forever. Maybe that is why we do not receive any information at the end of the film regarding the fates of our characters, so the spirit of the Jirô, like the films of Miyazaki, could live on forever without really coming to an end. He made the choice of making this his last film, and he, like Jirô, succeeded in creating his dreams, every single one of those magical thoughts that will not soon be forgotten by those who have fallen in love with his library of great works.
So, if you want to see the last film of one of the most prolific and consistently masterful filmmakers, go check this one out, you won’t regret it.