Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Kaze tachinu/The Wind Rises (2013)

When my brother came back into town recently, he gave me a few movies to rent.  Knowing that he and I both like Studio Ghibli movies, I also rented The Wind Rises.  It turns out he had already seen it.  I still ended up watching it, but he warned me that it was a little more political than he would have liked.  I’m not entirely sure that political is the word I’d use.

The movie is about Jirô Horikoshi.  As a young boy, he wants to be a pilot.  The only problem is that his nearsightedness precludes him from doing so.  So, Jirô does the next best thing; he studies so that he can design planes rather than fly them.  He reads about Count Giovanni Battista Caproni and subsequently has dreams about him and his designs.

Jirô graduates and goes to work for Mitsubishi.  He’s torn because he wants to design aircraft but knows that they’re being used for war, as Mitsubishi’s contracts (and Jirô’s projects) are for the Imperial Army and the Imperial Navy.  This is something he discusses with Count Caproni in his dreams.  There’s also the issue of Japan being 20 years behind Germany technologically.  It’s something that he and a friend discuss regularly.  Jirô has the chance to study German designs and it does help, but there’s still the gap.

I think this may be what my brother was talking about.  Jiro seems to lament that his country is so far behind.  There are several scenes where he talks about it.  Jirô did eventually go on to design several aircraft that, while not perfect, were used by the Japanese military.  However, the Japanese military is shown moving planes to the test site with beasts of burden.  The Japanese planes are made primarily of wood rather than metal and alloys.

I’m not sure how much of this is accurate.  Apparently, the account of Jirô’s life is somewhat fictionalized.  The use of animals for transporting the plane and the use of wood could have been true or they could have been hyperbolic.  I don’t know enough about Japanese history to be certain.  At the very least, it would seem that Japan has a bit of an inferiority complex.

I also found it odd that Jirô’s sister seemed to be angry all the time.  Mostly, it’s Jirô’s fault for not meeting up with her on time, but she didn’t seem to calm down.  I’m not sure if I was missing something.  It may be to contrast with Jirô’s always being calm.

It’s interesting to note that Miyazaki’s father manufactured parts for planes, which explains why so many Studio Ghibli films involve aviation.  It also explains why you may catch Miyazaki’s name on an airplane in one of his movies.  In fact, Miyazaki Airplane manufactured parts for the Mitsubishi A6M "Zero", one of the planes that Jirô designed.

I get that I’m probably missing a certain amount from a cultural perspective.  Still, it’s a great movie.  If you’ve seen any Studio Ghibli movies, you know that the animation is excellent.  I’ve heard that there’s a rule that animators keep the use of computers to a minimum and this is no exception.  There is a bit of war shown, even though it focuses on the design aspect of the plane.  There is some imagery that won’t be appropriate for small children and there are some subjects that they won’t understand.  The movie is rated PG-13, which seems about right.  Most teenagers and above should be able to handle the subject matter.

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