Hayao Miyazaki’s latest work “The Wind Rises” will be screen on Dec. 7 at 1:30 pm and Dec. 8 at 8:00 pm at LA EigaFest.
By American Mishima
How far would one go to follow their dreams? This is the moral dilemma vividly told in the 2013
Ghibli / Toho Studios animated masterpiece written & directed by famed animator & filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki in what he declares to be his last film which has been described as a animated historical fantasy. The Wind Rises follows the real life aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi who developed Japan’s most famous fighter plane the Mitsubishi A6M Zero into the historical chronological order of Japan’s airplane development and that of the fictionalized personal life of the plane’s chief designer.
Inspired by the manga and further based on the short story by Tatsuo Hori, Miyazaki sought out to create the world of Pre-War Japan. Starting in the Taisho Era we are introduced to Jiro as a young boy who dreams of climbing atop the roof of his rural family home and taking flight aboard a small bird-like airplane which he alone pilots over the pastoral picturesque countryside of Japan. A literal flight of fancy any boy could have had dreaming of soaring through the skies. But then his dreams are intruded upon by the dark specter of a large Zeppelin with Iron Crosses raining down bombs destroying Jiro’s beautiful dream. It is the first of many dreams Director Miyazaki will take the audience through to illustrate Jiro’s moral dilemma he had yet to understand. And to set upon this vision Jiro is inspired by the latest aviation magazine that features an article of the famed real life early Italian aeronautical engineer Giovanni Battista Caproni.
At first Jiro dreams of seeing skies filled with heavy Italian bomber planes lumbering overhead. But when Caproni makes an unexpected appearance demanding to know what this young Japanese boy is doing in his dream, the two realize they both share the same dreams. And then Caproni makes one observation of the near-sighted boy. “You’ll never fly with bad sight. But that does not mean you can not design planes that will!” Upon awakening, young Jiro declares to his mother that he will become an aeronautical engineer! From that moment forth, Caproni serves as both inspiration and as his dream mentor who will advise him throughout the film’s progression thus embarking Jiro onto a quest to build the airplane of his dreams. But as fate would have it, Jiro would not embark on his quest alone.
It is by fate that Jiro rides aboard the train to the University where he catches the attention of a young girl named Naoko Satomi. But before the young engineering student can get acquainted, tragedy strikes in the form of the Great Kanto Quake of 1923. As the train was forced to come to a halt, it’s boilers became in danger of blowing thus forcing the evacuation of it’s passengers. In doing so, Naoko’s handmaiden’s leg is injured. Jiro comes to their aid and without giving his name delivers Naoko and her maiden to their family home in Uneo. As Jiro returns to the university he is joined by his chain smoking friend Kiro Honjo (designer of the GM4 bomber) who had exhaustively saved the mountains of text books from the burning buildings that have engulfed both the university and the Tokyo Cityscape in flames and ash. While Honjo is convinced that Tokyo is finished, it is Jiro’s mentor Caproni who asks him “Hey Japanese boy! Does the wind still rise?”
Like Tokyo itself, Jiro’s dreams of becoming an engineer are revived with new life and vigor. But as he continues on his path he has not forgotten the young girl he had met on that train and is further thought of when a mystery woman delivered a token of gratitude for saving the Satomi girls. Instinctively, he races home to his apartment to find the woman but instead discovers his own younger sister Kayo awaiting to scold him for not visiting home. It is Kayo’s desire to become a doctor and in such Jiro offer’s his support so she may go on to study medicine. A decision that will play an integral role in his future.
Upon graduating university, Jiro lands himself a job with Mitsubishi. It is there he meets his new boss Kurokawa. Mr. Kurokawa is short in stature and large on demands as he tells Jiro on his first day that he is late. “Late? I was told to come anytime in April.”-“If we told you April that means get you here in March!” Kurokawa scolded. Undaunted, Jiro gets right to work on a airplane strut he has been handed by his boss as a test to which he knows is an inferior design. As Jiro later dines with his old classmate and fellow engineer Honjo, he discovers the curved shape of a Mackerel bone in his Saba dinner. This proves inspiration for a flexible strut design. But ultimately, the plane breaks apart in flight nearly killing the pilot leaving Jiro with a moment of doubt when out of nowhere his old mentor Caproni appears. “What kind of world would you like to live in? Do you prefer one with pyramids or with no pyramids? You know airplanes are fated to slaughter and destruction, So what kind of world would you live in?” asked Caproni. “I prefer one with pyramids,” answered Jiro. And in such he remains ever committed to designing the perfect airplane. But as the Army contract is awarded to a rival aircraft company, Jiro and Honjo are sent to Germany to obtain license to Junkers designs.
While Germany displays it’s most technological achievements in aeronautical design, it proves to be a very unfriendly place. At this point of the story history will recall the rise of the Nazi party, it’s thugs and racial attitudes are present even if the Swastika and uniformed storm troopers are not. The visiting Japanese Engineers are not given the welcome or access to the all metal Junkers planes they were promised. In one unauthorized up close inspection of a partially disassembled wing, Jiro realized just how far behind Japan was. Honjo complained how in Germany the plant is right next to the air field and planes are towed unlike in Japan where their planes are pulled by oxen. It became Jiro’s mission to somehow close the technology gap.
Upon Jiro’s return to Japan, he is awarded the position of chief designer for a new Japanese fighter commissioned by Japan’s Navy. But for some unknown reason, Kurokawa and the Company’s president has to smuggle Jiro away from the plant as he is now wanted by the Special Police. Kurokawa decides to send Jiro to hide out at a countryside resort until the situation dies down. It is there while making paper airplane models he catches the eye of a young woman. She turns out to be none other than a grown up Naoko who instantly recognized Jiro. And thus begins a most romantic courtship as the two become reacquainted. But as fate would have it, not only were they brought back together, the appearance of a strange German Engineer named Castorp seeking to forget Hitler’s thuggery who prompts Jiro through German song that “This moment will not last Forever.” Seizing upon that notion, Jiro spontaneously asks Naoko’s father for her hand in marriage to which she joyously accepts. But before bliss can ensue, Naoko reveals a most tragic revelation. She like her mother has contracted tuberculosis and wishes to live apart until she can be healed, something no one wishes to acknowledge can be done.
As Jiro comes ever closer to making his design prototype of the Mitsubishi A5M (the fore runner of the A6M Zero) into a flying reality, Naoko’s condition becomes worse. Noako decides to leave the Sanatorium and join Jiro still in hiding at Kurokawa’s house. Not approving of an unwed couple living together, Jiro and Noako ask the Kurokawa’s to marry them which his boss reluctantly agrees. Knowing fully that she will die Jiro declares that every moment is precious. This of course does not sit well with his sister Kayo who as a medical intern knows her condition is far worse than Naoko admits to. “This marriage will end badly,” she warns. And in a tearful gust of wind, he knows.
Much has been said of The Wind Rises from the usual bitterness of Beijing to the constant condemnations of Korea. All from which critics have likely not seen this film nor will do so under the same tired old cries of Japan trying to gloss over it’s wartime past. In regards to this film, none of these things are true. Jiro is haunted throughout the film by apocalyptic visions of Japan’s inevitable fate. And as Jiro contemplates the cost in human lives his creation had swallowed, it is his dream mentor Caproni who reminds him that in the end he had achieved his dream to build a perfect plane. And in doing so we can say in the defense of this film to it’s American critics who demand to know “why would you want to make a film about a man who built the plane that killed so many Americans?” Miyazaki could quote the real life Jiro Horikoshi when he most famously said; “All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.”We could not agree more.
American Mishima is the creative work of Louis Edward Rosas