From time to time we all tend to ponder about death, where our life is going, our wishes, dreams, our goals. These thoughts linger in our daily existence, it's simply how we choose to interpret and deal with them. While some people choose to live a life of taking no risks and playing it safe in order to protect themselves and guarantee a comfortable existence, other people throw themselves at the unknown in pursuit of their passion, regardless of the consequences.
Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises delves into the story of Jiro, possessed with an insatiable desire to quench a thirst for aviation despite his poor vision. The movie follows him over the course of a few decades, starting from the birth of his dream until it's fruition, following inspiration that comes to him in a dream from a famous Italian designer called Caproni.
I'll be honest, Studio Ghibli's last few features definitely had a very understated feel, including Arrietty and Up On Poppy Hill. In terms of their narrative and emotional aspects, they both offered offered much milder experiences compared to what we'd come to expect from the studio. I went into The Wind Rises with similar expectations, and was absolutely blown away.
The movie feels like a culmination of all of Miyazaki's efforts so far, offering a truly bittersweet tale (I don't know what other word would describe it best) that showcases his mastery of capturing the nuances and subtleties of human interaction and relationships. His characters never feel larger than life, and that makes them ever more relatable, even when their intentions are less than noble. That's one thing I've always admired about Hayao, his grasp on empathy.
Jiro himself is an idealistic and imperfect character, ever steadfastly pursuing his dream of aviation amidst a very rocky time in Japan between World War I and II. Time and time again during the feature we are reminded of an excerpt from a French poem: The wind is rising, we must try to live while he faces the ups and downs of a true whirlwind of a life.
Through dream sequences that follow him from childhood to adulthood we are offered some of the most unsettling revelations, including realizing that his only way to pursue his dream of aviation would involve creating them for wartime purposes. Even knowing that Japan would ultimately burn as a result of the war and his contributions, Jiro is unrelenting till the very end, finding a way to see beauty in an invention that would ultimately bring little benefit to humanity. This is further sold by the fact that he seems to spend most of his time daydreaming, perhaps implying he never had a really solid grasp on reality to begin with.
The movie delves into his romantic endeavors with a lovely girl called Naoko as well (Which I don't want to spoil), which ultimately ends up defining how imperfect, yet endearing of a character Jiro is. No matter your background, I feel that this movie will affect people in many different ways depending on their life experiences. As a possible farewell piece for Miyazaki, I got the feeling that perhaps he managed to use Jiro as a vessel to express some personal thoughts regarding his career as well, which made it an ever more poignant, incredible viewing experience.
I don't even believe in God, but I just want to say bless him for bringing the joy of Studio Ghibli to us over the years, and hopefully many more to come. Without any hesitation I feel like The Wind Rises marks the apex of his directorial and narrative efforts, and is probably one of the best animated features I've ever had the joy of watching. Experience it.