I had the pleasure of watching The Wind Rises from Studio Ghibli during its original theatrical screening back in 2013, and it was a marvellous cinematic experience that really left a lasting impression. Watching it all over again in this Blu-ray release proved to be just as absorbing and magical as the first time. This is a two hour film with a slow burn pace, and yet every inch and moment of it will draw you in. The fact that it can do so on a second viewing is a real indication of how great this animated epic is. The Wind Rises comes from the mind and genius of Hayao Miyazaki, and this film is another glowing accomplishment in his already legendary and unparalleled resume of animated classics… if not his very best one.
In this film Miyazaki challenges himself by stepping away from his comfort zone to create something that is a jarring departure from anything else he has ever done. The Wind Rises is a historical animated biopic, chronicling the life Jiro Horikoshi, a Japanese aeronautical engineer/designer who created some innovative fighter crafts for Japan during World War II. The Wind Rises follows the man’s journey from boyhood to adulthood, with some welcome fictional liberties taken by the director. Some might find this to be a strange subject matter for a Miyazaki film, let alone a Studio Ghibli animation, but it becomes clear very early on that the life and character of Jiro was very important and inspirational to Miyazaki. As you follow the protagonist’s journey through the ups and downs of his life, you can’t help but relate given how it’s so grounded in reality. The Wind Rises almost feels like Miyazaki’s dream project, an ambitious undertaking to retell the story of someone that perhaps he saw himself in.
Of course, fans of his past work will likely get caught off guard when they first experience The Wind Rises. It’s the furthest thing from the display of lucid, abstract, and vivid imagination found in past Miyazaki directed films like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo. That said, The Wind Rises is about chasing a dream, seeing the world with childlike awe and wonder, and dedicating one’s life to realize a childhood dream. It recreates the phases of Jiro Horikoshi’s life, starting with him as a child with a naive dream, and then following him all the way through university, his career, and his family life. In the midst of all this the movie is punctuated by dreamlike sequences, which in the end don’t feel fictional at all, because as a visionary and dreamer it is only natural for Jiro Horikoshi to daydream and fantasize. The Wind Rises does a convincing job of getting into the mind of someone with so much creative spark and ingenuity.
Jiro’s love for designing flying machines is grounded in the bitter-sweetness of reality. Due to the circumstances of his era, his path to realizing his dreams would place him in a less than ideal situation. Jiro’s career may have allowed him to fully live his dream of designing aircrafts, but unfortunately his work was used as weapons for war. It presents a situation that we can perhaps all relate to, where we find our craft and passion being utilized and presented in a less than ideal manner, and more often than not we don’t really have a choice to change that. Seeing Jiro live with this dilemma is interesting, but now matter what the end result may be, Jiro finds himself loving the creation and design process alone. Perhaps this was enough for him to accept the circumstances and his role.
You don’t need to be appreciative or knowledgeable of aeronautics to enjoy The Wind Rises, because that underlying theme is only used to express something far bigger. It gets into the nitty gritty of the artform for sure, but it does so in a way that will spark your interest and teach you or a thing or two, without boring you with the jargon. Planes were born out of the innate human desire to venture into the uncharted, and seeing an innocent childlike fantasy of living in the skies drive Jiro and his journey, is what really shines about The Wind Rises. Now because of his eyesight Jiro can never fly a plane, and yet seeing him understand the feeling and sensation of traversing the skies regardless is truly inspiring.
There’s a lot you can take away from The Wind Rises, but for me personally it made realize something important, which is that technology is temporary and replaceable but sound and beautiful design is eternal. This rings true when you think about any discipline or craft. Like Jiro, Hayao Miyazaki too made sure his creations were built to last forever. The astounding visuals and intricate cinematography will guarantee that The Wind Rises will not age a day even after two decades. It’s a gorgeous work of animation from start to finish, with every inch doing an excellent job of immersing you into its setting and story. The music is breathtaking too, infused with French and European musical influences to create an aural masterpiece that really drives home the emotion of the story and its characters.
Studio Ghibli continues to deliver the best English dubs in the business thanks to a celebrity cast of voice actors who really invest in their respective roles. The star studded English dub cast of The Wind Rises include the likes of Joseph Levitt, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Martin Short, and William Macy. Studio Ghibli spares no expense or resource to ensure the best possible translation of their characters, making The Wind Rises a film that you should almost watch in English by default.
The Blu-ray release of this amazing film comes accompanied with a generous helping of special features and extras. Apart from the usual trailers, TV spots, and storyboards, the disc also includes a press conference with Miyazaki and the team behind The Wind Rises. Clocking at nearly 1.5 hours, this is a brilliant extra where the director speaks at great length about the ins and outs of the film. There is also a neat ten minute video where you get to see the English dub cast talk about the film and their respective characters, and it’s really cool to learn how invested the actors were. Still it’s no surprise really, because their performances were nothing short of great.
The Wind Rises is not only the biggest departure from Miyazaki’s past work, but in my mind this is his most mature, provoking, and inspiring work to date. It almost feels like Miyazaki’s decades spanning career built up to what is quite possibly his quintessential magnum opus. His illustrious career and collective experience were the key ingredients that allowed him to create what, quite honestly, feels like the movie he always wanted. Make no mistake, The Wind Rises is one of the greatest work of anime that should be championed for decades to come, and this Blu-ray home release is the best possible way to experience it right now. No matter how many times it’s told, and in whatever shape or form, the boyhood dream come true is the single greatest story ever told… and The Wind Rises is an exceptional exemplar of this.
You can pick up a copy of this wonderful film at Madman’s Online Store.