Last night my husband took me to see The Wind Rises in theaters. I’ve been a fan of Studio Ghibli films for a long time, so I was excited to watch the latest film.
I admit I didn’t know a lot about the movie before going into it. I knew it was based in Japan during the war and the main character was interested in airplanes – but that was about it.
After watching the film, I was impressed with how much history it portrayed: the great Kanto earthquake, the great depression, the tuberculosis epidemic, and Japan’s involvement in the war.
Additionally, I was surprised at how adult this film is. When I watched From Up on Poppy Hill, I enjoyed its lighthearted approach to delving into a person’s life. It was a child-friendly film that could easily be watched by families of all ages.
While The Wind Rises has a similar approach to following its main character Jiro around, the concepts it covers are serious and might not be appropriate for children. It’s a clean movie, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable showing a child a movie that delves into natural disasters, poverty, disease, and death unless the child is capable of fully understanding what is being presented.
If you are hoping for a child-friendly adventure similar to Studio Ghibli’s other films like My Neighbor Totoro, then you might be disappointed with The Wind Rises.
I have to admit, The Wind Rises was so beautiful it moved me to tears.
It’s An Observation of Human Life
Studio Ghibli has mastered turning an everyday individual’s life into a heart-felt and touching story. Something as ordinary as making and eating dinner (which would be considered slow and boring in some other movies) is transformed into a work of art.
From the beginning of the movie, each scene establishes empathy with the main characters. You feel what they feel because you often do the same things they do: dream of doing something bigger, work with individuals who don’t think the same way you do, go to school, eat food, fall in love, etc.
All throughout the movie, I put myself in the characters’ shoes, and by the time the credits rolled around, I was filled with bittersweet emotion – happy for Jiro’s desire to live the rest of his life and sad for all the experiences that lead up to that point.
It’s an Exploration of Sound
The music also contributed a lot to my emotional roller coaster. The music has a classical feel to it, adding a timeless charm to the film. Many Studio Ghibli films leave you humming several of the bars just because they’re so upbeat, catchy, and easy to remember. However, The Wind Rises doesn’t rely on themes but rather on moods. The music accents the events rather than standing out; it blends with the scene so all you remember is the beauty instead of a chorus.
Additionally, many of the sound effects were based on human voices – the sound of the plane engines starting up and the the planes flying, or the groans of the buildings as they caught on fire, for example. This added a unique twist to everyday sounds that made me want to pay more attention to what was going on – everything felt new and thus deserving of a new perspective.
It’s a Unique History
While the emotional investment is certainly impressive, I think the historical aspect adds a great deal to the movie. This film was probably the most historically accurate film Studio Ghibli has produced. While there are a few fantastical elements common to Studio Ghibli movies, they’re not the main focus of the film and only apply to character’s dreams and daydreams. The rest of the movie focuses on what it’s like to live in Japan during the 1920s-40s.
We see how the people around Jiro have to cope with the collapse and subsequent burning of their homes during a natural disaster; we see children taking care of children because parents are too poor to help; and we see how adults push and shove to find a job. Furthermore, many main characters smoke on a regular basis, simply because that’s what a lot of people did during the time period.
I also loved the development of aircraft. My grandfather was a mechanic during WWII, so seeing the characters in the movie discuss flush rivets and support beams brought back a lot of personal memories of him. I was fascinated with how the technology adapted, changing from canvas material to all-metal aircraft.
I thought it poetic how Jiro admired the perfect curves of a fish bone and how it applied to flight. It was especially touching to note the development of planes wasn’t to build bigger and better weapons but simply to build better airplanes. It was the government and the military that wanted the big guns; the engineers were simply excited to have the opportunity to develop planes with less drag and more speed.
I feel The Wind Rises is an excellent movie – definitely worth watching.
It is not for everyone, as it touches a variety of topics that are serious in nature and different from the typical Studio Ghibli movie. However, if you’re prepared to invest a few hours into learning more about history and humanity, then you should check it out.
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