Since 1985 Studio Ghibli has been producing beautiful animated films, and thankfully over the last decade the West has begun to appreciate their magic. Co-founder and leading light Hayao Miyazaki’s is unquestionably the greatest animator of all time, producing such marvels as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away and Princess Monroke. Whilst in many senses these are children’s films, his work is underscored by strong underlying environmental and social themes. His final work (Warning: he’s said this before) The Wind Rises is in my mind his most complete film; a parting masterpiece and one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen.
The Wind Rises is the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II. Jiro dreams of designing beautiful airplanes, inspired by the famous Italian aeronautical designer Caproni. The film follows him from childhood to his final accomplishment during very dark and deprived times in Japan. Along the way he meets his future wife Nahoko, is often accompanied by his best friend and fellow aeronautical engineer Honjo, and constantly runs foul of his uptight boss Mr Kurokawa.
There are many underlying themes bubbling below the surface of The Wind Rises. The beauty and power of nature, along with man’s destruction of the environment have been regular features of Miyazak’s work. As have the notion of a lost childhood through several generations in Japan due to war and Depression, and the pure innocence of love. However, The Wind Rises is primarily about a person following their dream, even when that means their creations being twisted into killing machines. He’s definitely put a bit of himself into his final work, and it feel almost autobiographical in a sense.
As always, Studio Ghibli have amassed a talented group of voice actors for the English Language dub including John Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci, William H Macy and the one and only Werner Herzog. The Wind Rises looks incredible, is beautifully scored and the attention to detail is extraordinary. It is far and away the most complete Studio Ghibli film in terms of plot, narrative and drama; feeling like a labour of love from the Japanese master. As the curtain falls on the career of the greatest animator, he ends how he began – on a high note.
The Wind Rises is in cinemas now.