The Wind Rises (2013) Review

The Wind Rises Review: 

A Master Animator, an Old (School) Asian Man, a Father.. Looking Back at His Life and Saying His Good Byes

Hello. This is a Prof AKIA Talking and I am re-releasing thsi review of the last animation masterpiece from the MASTER, Hayao Miyazaki becasue I just got the Blu ray mailed from America!
I have seen the movie more than 10 times now and 4 times in the theaters.

I cried every time. Yes, I cried like a baby and I’m not ashamed.
The third time I was a little cried out but the fourth time was something new too. 
In any case,


A movie about WWII Japan…

Before going into the movie, I think I will need to talk about how Japan is seen via the eyes of Koreans. A lot could be said of the relationship between Korea and Japan. As neighboring countries, it is a complicated relationship even without the “little” thing about the occupation which lasted for several decades.

Korea was the one directly connected to the China which was the cultural center of Asian and Japan was the island which had to get Chinese ‘high’ culture second hand via our hand me downs.

With the occupation of Korea by Japan during first half of the 20th century, the Korea and Japan relationship has become permanently scarred with blood and resentment even to this day. It has become a key characteristic of the Korean national identity.  As a result, Koreans tend to be biased against the Japanese. At the same time, we admire and feel inferior to post-war Japanese culture.

Things are never as simple as you would like it to be.

As a result of this complication relationship, Koreans tend to lash out whenever Japan attempts to reevaluate its identity beyond the confines of the “War criminal” label we put on them. The movie, “The Wind Rises, is no exception.

And, from some of the reviews out there, it seems that the U.S. also has this tendency.

For myself, I come from a generation detached enough from the occupation and pissed off by the military government which always used Japan as a scapegoat for everything. Thus, we see Japan separate from the past. For us and myself,

Japan is a collection of people who are like us in a lot of ways and also differ in others. However, the only truth about the Japanese is that they are people who are trying to live life in the best way they can.

In other words, they are like us, Koreans and even Americans.

Well to a degree… I am not totally a saint.

I viewed and am reviewing “The Wind Rises as a person looking into someone else’s life and not as a Korean who is mandated to judge the Japanese. 

To be frank, it would be hypocritical to judge so.
I am just a person. They are just people.
One should not expect more from others than what you expect of yourself in the same situation.

Before proceeding, please watch the trailer for “The Wind Risesin order to situate yourself in the wonderful world of the movie. Here is a link to the trailer.

The Plot
The Wind Risesis the most personal movie made by the director, Hayao Miyazaki. Even though the movie is set during the decades immediately before World War II, it is not about the war. It is just about a person named ‘Jiro Horikoshi’ who was an aeronautics engineer in pre-war Japan and nothing really more.

Director Hayao Miyazaki

As a character, ‘Jiro Horikoshi’ is a nice but rather dull person with only one real passion in life. It is to design marvelous airplanes that the world would notice and admire. In any other way, he is rather non-extraordinary.

He is just a typical educated Asian male of his time.

The Wind Risestraces his life from childhood to adulthood as he becomes a Master airplane designer and even finds love while trying to live in turbulent pre-war Japan. In other words, “The Wind Risesis about how a man, ‘Jiro Horikoshi’, obsessed with mastering an art form, lived put on the screen by an Old master, Hayao Miyazaki, ready to put down his own craft forever.

More specifically, it is the tale of an ‘old school’ Asian man told by on an ‘old school’ Asian man.
You get how this is going?
Happiness, Passion, and loss…
At the end, it can only be a tragedy…

’O sole mio sta nfronte a te!
Hayao Miyazaki is a director of contrasting influences. While being the most Japanese-like Japanese director, he is also fascinated by western cultures.

Just watch most movies of his portfolio.
Most of them are set in a European setting.

In the area of cinema, Hayao Miyazaki had been influenced by European cinema from the 60s and 70s. His movies are leisurely paced with time for the scene to breathe and soak into the minds of the audience. In contrast, Hollywood movies seem frantic and plot obsessive in comparison. This European cinema influence is not something surprising since it is the same for a lot of Asian cinema. Even Korean cinema still carries on its European influences especially in the area of cinematography.

The Wind Rises” shows a lot of Italian cinema influences throughout the movie. Those movies tend to incorporate more silent movie techniques rather than heavily depending on dialogue. “The Wind Rises” even has a decent number of Italian dialogue lines with Italian characters. This is interesting since this movie is very Japanese in its setting and themes. As his last movie, Hayao Miyazaki seems to be trying to give credit to the influences that helped him be who is today by telling a story about a very Japanese character and the European influences which inspired him which are primarily Italian and German. 
‘Jiro Horikoshi’ idolizes the designers Giovanni Battista Caproni of Italy and Hugo Junkers of Germany.

Giovanni Battista Caproni

Hugo Junkers

This is rather refreshing to a Korean as we are at the stage of development in which we blatantly deny any outside influences in order to find our own identity.

While “The Wind Rises” is more grounded than most of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, it still does not feel like a movie of this age. It is so beautiful and melancholy. In a lot of ways, “The Wind Rises” feels like a movie out of the ‘silent movie era’ in which movies were shown with an accompanied musical band. In the place of dialogue, music in combination with beautifully animated scenes acts to convey what the director is trying to say.

And it is enough!

The musical score is excellent and once again provided by Hayao Miyazaki’s long term partner, Joe Hisaishi.

I love the old Italian movie like theme playing throughout the movie!
Will be getting the OST.

Through the movie, dialogue is sparsely used as a specialized tool to covey more weighty meaning. This is actually good for the English version of the movie since the “Star-studded” voice cast range from mediocre to bad. The protagonist is voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and he is more bad than mediocre. While he is a talented actor, he cannot really bring to life the subdue dialogue of ‘Jiro Horikoshi’. It is just ends up boring and flat.

It is a shame!
However, you can get over it after a while because of the sparse use of dialogue.

The animation is top-notch as always. Hayao Miyazaki’s movies are the only animated movies in which characters actually have body language. This is not a common thing in the area of animation since the cost of this level of detail must be astonishing. It makes the world of the movie feel real even though it is animated in the “now” old fashion hand drawn style. 

The Wind Rises” needs this realism since it is telling a “real” story about “real” people.
Well real in the figurative manner.

Cultural Parallels on how men live
While reading up on the early reviews regarding “The Wind Rises”, I saw a lot of mentions about the whole ‘artistic’ mind set of the character in the movie. While these opinions are valid, I think that they are only getting half of the point.

Yes, “The Wind Rises” is about an artist’s struggle to realize one’s art in an imperfect world. It is about the compromises one needs to make. At the same time, it is about how a man lived his life. More specifically, it is about how a Japanese man of the ‘old school’ lived his life. This is where the cultural differences limits one’s understanding of the movie.

There is a drastic difference between West and East on ‘what is the ideal way men live their lives’. “The Wind Risesrepresents the ideal of, at least, Japanese and Korean men’s way of life of the past and, to a degree, of the present. The movie that contrasts this ‘ideal’ and represents the American ‘ideal’ would be “Up” by Pixar.

Up and “Middle class American” men
The Wind Riseshas a lot of parallels with the first 10 minutes of another animation master piece, “Up”. Here is a video link to an abridged version of it if you haven’t seen it or it has been a long time since you’ve seen it.

The first 10 minutes of ‘Up’ traces how the protagonist grew up with the dream of exploring the world, fell in love, and lost his wife. It is a tear jerking tragedy so common of just normal life.  If you enlarged that 10 minute journey to a feature length, you would have something similar to “The Wind Rises”.

However, it would only be the same.

Up” embodies the “middle class American” male way of living. The protagonist of “Up” had dreams that he never pursued. If you really watch the first 10 minutes of ‘Up’, you will catch on to the fact that there was no real reason for the protagonist not to have pursued his dreams.

His wife also shared in his dreams.
They were not wealthy but were not settled with crippling credit card debt like many of us.
Since his wife could not have children, there was nothing tying them down.

Our protagonist did not pursue his dreams because he was never meant to do it.

He is a “middle class American” male after all.

The pursuit of a dream requires time and effort. In most cases, these requirements come into conflict with other stuff such as settling down and spending time with one’s significant other. These other stuff is what defines the “middle class American” male way of living.

You go to your children’s social events.
You spend time with your spouse and actually remember your anniversary.
You are actually there when your children are born.

This actual sharing of one’s life with one’s loved ones is a key value of “middle class American” male way of living. However, this does not leave room for grander ambitions. Thus, “middle class American” men tend to settle into a life of pleasant obscurity. This is what happened to the protagonist in the first 10 minutes of ‘Up’.

And like life, even that pleasant obscurity ended. After he got old and became a widower, he had only his memories left. Thus, it was a tragedy! The rest of the movie, ‘Up’, was about learning to getting over it and move on!

“The Wind Rises” and Asian men
There is an interesting line in “The Wind Rises”. If I paraphrase it, it would be

“It is ironic that, in order to spend all our time at work, we need a good family at home.”

This is in contrast to ‘Up’.

When you watch the movie, “The Wind Rises, our protagonist ‘Jiro Horikoshi’ is very neglectful to his family by western standards. He never sees his parents and the only real contact he has with his family is his sister who basically acts as a go-between since ‘Jiro’ is so preoccupied by his work. Even when his wife is suffering from a terminal illness, he keeps working and barely sees her although he writes all the time.

This is not because he does not love his family.

At heart, ‘Jiro Horikoshi’ is a very loving person. ‘Jiro’ acts in this manner because it is or more accurately was the ideal manner in which Asian men lived. Men were supposed to chase after grander goals than what could be found within the confines of a home. The family was your support system and nothing really more. Things like love and affection were additional luxuries.

It was very common for men to not see their children being born.
It was common for one’s children to not really know their father.
The fathers were more of a guest than a member of the family.

The movie, “The Wind Rises, ends sometime after the war when ‘Jiro Horikoshi’ is looking back at ashes of his career and his country. The only thing he has left is the airplane designs he created. Thus, “The Wind Rises”, is also a tragedy albeit a beautifully animated one.

The Tragedy of Living as Men
Comparing “The Wind Rises” and the first 10 minutes of “Up”, which one is more tragic? Would it be “Up”? While both of them lost their loved ones and had no children, the protagonist of “Up” actually spent more time with his love than ‘Jiro Horikoshi’. However, is the length of time a good metric in this situation? This is a difficult question. The answer may depend on what cultural zone one is located in.

For myself, The Wind Rises” is more tragic since it is very personal. While seeing ‘Jiro Horikoshi’ on screen, I see get a glimpse of the director himself. During a 50 year career, Hayao Miyazaki was involved in 17 feature films and several TV shows and mangas. You just know that he missed a lot of the events in life outside of his work. You cannot become what he is today without dedicating most of his life to it. His family is just a support system for his first love. “The Wind Rises” is his movie which is trying to ask the question of whether it was worth it. The answer he gives is more melancholy than cathartic.

I shed a tear for him.

However, what gives
The Wind Rises” its true powers is that it is more personal than being a reflection on one person’s life. The Wind Rises” is not just biography of ‘Jiro Horikoshi’. It is our story, we men of Asia. We are the ones who were told to live for the greater goal while ignoring the other “less” important things in life. We are the ones who end up feeling that we missed out on something very important at the end of our quest for the grand goal.

“The Wind Rises” is the story of all fathers that collapse and died on the job.
 “The Wind Rises” is the story of all fathers that never got the chance to know his children.
“The Wind Rises” is the story of my father who I barely saw while I was growing up.
It is also a story of myself who tried to live in the manner of our fathers and could not keep it up.

“The Wind Rises” is about our accomplishments, our joys, our loves, and ultimately our regrets. It is about us trying to live a life style that requires a lot and, at the end, is more likely to be a waste of time and effort on something that does not really matter. Well, at least for most people.

Hayao Miyazaki may be an exception.

At the end
The movie “The Wind Rises” is about many things.
It is about the artistic pursuit. 
It is the responsibility of the artist.
It is about love.
It is about a turbulent time period.

Ultimately “The Wind Rises” is about dealing with the tragedy of life via a master of animation reflecting on his own life. While he is now the master of his craft, no one could say that Hayao Miyazaki was not filled with tragedy.

Hayao Miyazaki grew up in the post-war Japan represented by the resentment of the youth towards the older generation. He dabbled for a long time with socialism like many youth of his generation to overcome the sins of their father. This is shown in many of his earlier movies. However, ultimately he denounced socialism like most people of his generation and had to come to terms with this.

Now at the end of his career, Hayao Miyazaki is trying to come to terms with his life and we, including myself, shed tears for him and all of our fathers who lived in the manner that our society demanded of them.

And I also shed a single tear drop for myself…the son..

 “The Wind Rises” is a masterpiece of animation and I wish this review does it justice.

Score: A+   or 10/10

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Reviewer: AKIA Talking

The pictures and video used in this review are done for criticism purposes and are the properties of those copyright holders. This is review is mine.
Copyright@AKIA Talking 


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