Legendary director Hayao Miyazaki directed his final anime movie, The Wind Rises, and made the announcement that he decided to retire from this movie-directing business. It was shocking, yes, but at least he didn't go away without at least leaving behind an epic masterpiece.
The Wind Rises is based on the true story of Jiro Horikoshi, a Japanese airplane designer responsible for building the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, that warplane which has become the cause of many deaths during WWII. Well, at least only half of it is true: much of Jiro's past life was fictionalized for dramatic purposes, and the movie's storyline itself was actually a loose adaptation of Tatsuo Hori's novel, Kaze Tachinu
("The Wind Has Risen"). Also, in real life, Horikoshi doesn't like smoking, which this movie certainly depicts a lot
of it. The movie also features Italian airplane designer Giovanni Battista Caproni, who appears in many of Jiro's dream sequences.
The movie's visuals are breathtaking. All of the airplanes featured in the movie exist in real-life, too, even the massive all-metal Junkers G.38 and some of Caproni's bizarre airplane designs, all of them reproduced in intricate detail. Every scenes of flight are magical, as expected, considering that this is a Studio Ghibli movie, and Miyazaki really loves to include many flight-based themes in his movies. And it's all in traditional 2D animation, which is quite a feat, considering that animation these days are done digitally.
The sound design for this movie is highly unusual. If you listen carefully to the audio, you may notice that many of the sound effects sound... human. That's because they are
: human voices are used as sound effects for planes and locomotives, and even the earthquake scene, which really made it sound like mother nature is angry. Also, another unusual choice is Miyazaki's insistence to film the entire movie in mono. Considering that most of us are more used to stereo audio these days, it kinda feels a little awkward. It's also a shame because the official soundtrack which came with my DVD copy of the movie is in clear stereo. Maybe Miyazaki deliberately did this as an homage to early sound movies, which have mono audio.
As expected, this movie is not without controversies. Apart from lots and lots of smoking featured in this movie, this movie is also being criticized for the mere fact that a warplane designer is the main character; among the workers who helped to build the Zero warplanes are Korean and Chinese forced laborers. That, and the Zero is often seen as a terrifying symbol of Japan's aggression during WWII. Miyazaki has made it clear time and time again that he's a pacifist, and that this movie is not about war, but about a man who only wants to realize his dream of building airplanes during the time WWII inevitably happens. It should be noted that the real-life Horikoshi himself strongly opposes the war.
Despite these controversies, The Wind Rises went on to become the highest-grossing movie in Japan in 2013. It is certainly Miyazaki's best movie, and quite a fitting farewell masterpiece as he retires as a director. I'm giving this movie 8 out of 10 stars.
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