The Wind Rises

I dropped our third Netflix DVD – The Wind Rises – into the mailbox on my way to the bus stop this morning. Phillip and I watched it last night.

To be honest, I put this movie on our Netflix queue mainly for completeness. I love Studio Ghibli films, and this was one I hadn’t seen. The story didn’t sound all that interesting: “Inspired by” (whatever that means) the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the engineer who designed the Mitsubishi “Zero”.

But, this is Studio Ghibli, so even if it’s a not-very-accurate biography of an airplane designer, it’s going to be pretty to look at, at least. Plus, it’s about an airplane, and Studio Ghibli was named after an airplane (the Caproni Ca. 309 “Ghibli”), so, obviously, love went into the project. So, I put it on the queue.

I won’t say I loved The Wind Rises, but I sure liked it a lot.

Phillip prefers anime that’s fantasy-based. I prefer anime that looks like real life. The Wind Rises gave us both. There are some marvelous dream sequences, in which Jiro Horikoshi meets his inspiration, aircraft engineer Giovanni Caproni, who mentors him on the physics and philosophy of flight. There are marvelous sequences of engineers working out the puzzles of early aircraft design with slide rules.

As Jiro works his way through his career at Mitsubishi, many sub-plots pop up along the way: a younger sister who wants to become a doctor despite their father’s objection, an earthquake in Tokyo, the political tension surrounding the rise of the Nazis, the mistrust the Germans had for their allies in Japan, Japan’s mistrust of its own citizens, and a wife with tuberculosis.

Some of these sub-plots were brought up and then mysteriously dropped: Jiro promises his sister that he’ll talk to their father about her medical career, and then we don’t hear any more about it for most of the movie, until the sister causally mentions that she’s an intern. Secret police show up looking for Jiro, the company promises Jiro that they’ll hide him, and that’s the last we see of the secret police. This is why I didn’t quite love this film.

At the heart of it, though, is Jiro and his team designing faster, lighter, stronger aircraft. (I love the scene where Jiro explains to his bosses that’s he’s designed a stronger joint, while the moving joint appears in three dimensions over the engineering diagram.) The fact that these engineers were designing war machines seemed to be beside the point. And to counter all that technical talk, there is the family drama involving Jiro’s sister and his wife. It is an emotionally moving film.

And, as is typical with Studio Ghibili, the animation is stunning. It beats me how anyone figured out how to animate clear sake being poured into a white cup.

Next on the queue is Horns.

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