The Wind Rises (PG-13)
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This is based on director Hayao Miyazaki's manga of the same name (which I haven't read), which itself was based on a novel called "The Wind Has Risen" (which I also haven't read). Before I watched this, I had no idea what it was about. I mean, I must have read about it around the time it came out (2014 in the U.S.), but by the time I saw it on DVD in 2022, I didn't remember anything. Nor did I bother to read the DVD case. It was enough for me that it's a Ghibli movie, and perhaps more importantly, a Miyazaki movie. (In fact, it was supposedly Miyazaki's final film, though in 2017 he announced he was coming out of retirement to make one more last film, which as of 2022 hasn't been released yet.) I thought the movie was very good, but I'm disappointed in myself for not liking it just a bit more than I did. (Actually, I kind of felt like rating it 2 and 3/4 smileys, but I decided to be generous and give it an extra quarter smiley. It deserves at least that much, probably more.) But I did have mixed feelings about the film.
It's a fictionalized account of a real world Japanese aeronautical engineer named Jiro Horikoshi, who we first see as a young boy and follow throughout part of his career, leading into World War II. (As an adult, Jiro is voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in the English dub.) I have no idea what he was like in real life, but the movie makes him seem like a very nice person, so you can't help but root for him... even though part of me was rooting against him. Because after all, he was designing planes to be used against the U.S. and its allies. Jiro didn't want to design fighter planes, but at the time, that was the only work there was for someone in his field, and he didn't seem to have major qualms about it. (On a much lesser note, I could mention that the men in this film smoke a lot.) Throughout his life, we often see Jiro dreaming (or daydreaming), and in his dreams he's sometimes visited by another real world airplane designer, an Italian named Caproni (Stanley Tucci). We also see just a little bit of Jiro's younger sister, Kayo, who grows up to be a doctor (voiced as an adult by Mae Whitman). A more important character is Jiro's frequently annoyed friend, Honjo, a fellow aeronautical engineer. And their direct supervisor, Mr. Kurokawa (Martin Short) is also important, because at one point the secret police are looking for Jiro, and Kurokawa lets him stay at his house to avoid them. (It never seemed clear to me why they were looking for Jiro, but from what I've read online, it was because of his association with a German man named Castorp, who is staying in Japan, and is opposed to the Nazis, with whom Japan was allied at that time.)
Anyway... I'm saying things out of order. Like I said, we first saw Jiro as a young boy. Later we see him as a young adult on a train, where he meets a young girl named Nahoko and her maid, Kinu (Whitman). There's an earthquake, and Kinu breaks her leg, so Jiro carries her home on his back. Later still we see Jiro working for an airplane manufacturing company (which the internet informs me was Mitsubishi). Eventually he and Honjo are sent to Germany to study the more advanced airplanes they have there, before returning to Japan. (I'm a bit confused about that, because there was a line about Jiro being sent West to see more of the world, but we never see any of that, and it plays no apparent role in his development as a character or an engineer.) After one of his designs fails, he takes the summer off at a resort that is owned by Nahoko's father, Mr. Satomi (William H. Macy). Nahoko herself is now a young woman (voiced by Emily Blunt), and she and Jiro soon fall in love. So that becomes a major storyline, apart from the story about Jiro's work designing planes. But I don't want to spoil anything about it. Eventually, though, Jiro has to return to work. And this time his design is successful. (Wikipedia informs me that it was the Mitsubishi A5M, a precursor to the more famous A6M Zero, which Jiro also designed, though I'm not sure we saw that in this film.) There's an epilog set after the war, but I wouldn't know what to say about that even if I wanted to.
Anyway, the movie has beautiful animation, as do all Ghibli films. It has good characters, and a decent story, even if as I said, my feelings about it were mixed. But those feelings were, as I also said, largely about Japan being on the wrong side of the war. The rest of the story was better, if even more poignant. And I don't know what else to tell you.