The Wind Rises

Posted by DiGiKerot in One shots at February 12, 2014 on 7:12 pm


There was a screening of The Wind Rises, supposedly the last film to be made by infamous director Hayao Miyazaki, as part of the Glasgow Youth Film Festival this last weekend. We’ll see how that whole “last film” thing goes, but being the only currently scheduled UK screening of the movie in the UK until it’s general release in May (months after the rest of the English speaking world, annoyingly), I figured I’d drag myself up to Scotland.

I kind of feel like I’ve done the whole cycle on Miyazaki at this point. Getting into anime in the mid-nineties, and living in the middle of nowhere, the Ghibli theatrical output was one of those things I’d heard about existing In Theory, but was the kind of thing that you’d only actually be able to get ahold of if you “knew someone”, as fansub distribution in the day so often went. Through sporadic TV broadcasts and theatrical festivals, by 2001 I’d managed to catch pretty much all of the studios output, however, and I rather liked it.

Then there was that Howls Moving Castle thing. I genuinely thought that was a terrible movie. Awful. It soured me to the point that I’ve still not actually got around to watching Ponyo.

The Wind Rises is not Howls Moving Castle, thankfully. It is, in fact, a pretty good movie.

The history of aviation is not really my thing, nor is the minutiae of World War 2, particularly in the Pacific theatre, so I have to confess much of the movies context is a little lost on me. I recognise, academically, that the film is about the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the fellow who eventually went on to design the (somewhat infamous) Zero fighter, set against a backdrop of Nazi’s and increased Japanese militarism, but much of what was going on here was new to me, and as a result I can’t really make any kind of real judgement of any of the socio-political issues some see it was raising. This rather leaves me with nothing especially constructive to actually say about the movie.

It did manage to not particularly be the movie I was expecting, though. There was a lot of talk whilst the movie was out in Japan about how theaters where having to signpost that the movie wasn’t for children, and such I’d assumed rather assumed the movie would something of a dry affair. This wasn’t really the case – whilst it’s certainly a serious movie, and much of the movies back-quarter is straight-up kind of depressing, there’s an awful lot of levity to the proceedings. Some of this just comes from the fact that Jiro’s immediate boss is a short fellow with a comically over-animated floppy haircut, but there are also a number of fantasy segments in which our protagonist dreams of meeting the Italian aviation pioneer Giovanni Battista Caproni, always portrayed as an eccentric and over-the-top fellow.

These dream sequences do give the movie the opportunity to break the movies reality, but more than anything, it’s where the movie gets to wallow in the studios history a little. The movies opening features a handful of cuts which seem intentionally reminiscent of a number of famous scenes from Porco Rosso (imagery from which is further evoked elsewhere later), whilst others feature background characters who are not unlike Ma Dola and her gang from Laputa.

Mostly, though, it’s a grounded, though not humourless, drama. Whilst I don’t think it’s the greatest thing Miyazaki has ever made (Porco Rosso continues to stand head-and-shoulders above all else for me), he does manage to construct a compelling enough narrative out of Jiro’s life story. Even as someone who isn’t particularly interested in aviation, there’s something evocative about airplanes, and Miyazaki manages to portray what could easily have been a bunch of guys staring at blueprints in a visually compelling fashion, particularly in the way he chooses to portray mechanical faults.

I guess saying that the animation quality is excellent is obvious enough to the point of redundancy when it comes to talking about Miyazaki pictures, though there’s some really astonishingly complex full-screen animation in a few cuts during the Great Kanto Earthquake which standout as a particular highlight.

On the sound perspective, the music is good, but, again, that’s rather expected. Hideaki Anno, the Evangelion director who somehow found himself being the voice actor for the movies protagonist, isn’t half as bad as I’d been told to expect. This isn’t to say that he is great – there’s some immediate dissonance between his voice and the design of the character he is playing, and his inflection isn’t exactly dynamic – but the former you get used to, and the later isn’t that unbearable.

The engine noises, however, never cease to be hilarious. For those unaware, rather than using actual audio samples or recordings from actual engines, they decided to replicate the engine noises by force of human mouth. It’s literally layers of a guy going “wub-wub-wub-wub” into a microphone. It sounds about as silly as you’d expect.


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