The anime movie, Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises), released in Japan in 2013 was the last film directed by Studio Ghibli‘s Hayao Miyazaki before he retired in September of the same year. The story is based on the real life of Jiro Horikoshi, the aircraft engineer who designed the Mitsubishi A5M and A6M Zero, which were used during World War II.
As a boy, Jiro dreamed of becoming a pilot, but was discouraged because of his myopia. The young Jiro would read English aviation magazines in his spare time in order to learn about airplanes and flying. After reading about the Italian aircraft designer Giovanni Caproni, Jiro meets him in a dream and convinces him that being an aircraft designer would be far better than just being a pilot. Inspired by Caproni’s words, Jiro is determined to dedicate his life to becoming an aircraft designer and to build a beautiful airplane someday.
**THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD….**
Jiro moves to Tokyo to study engineering, and later gets a job as a junior aircraft engineer at Mitsubishi, which was commissioned by the government to make fighter planes for the impending war. Because of his hard work, dedication, and genius in his field, Jiro is sent to Germany to study German aviation technology and design in order to improve their own. After several failed attempts at designing an airplane to be used by the Japanese Navy, Jiro and his team finally succeed in designing what would later become the best carrier-based fighter in the world.
Though mostly about Jiro’s life as an aviation engineer and his participation in the military project, Kaze Tachinu also touches briefly on Jiro’s private life, particularly his relationship with Naoko, a girl whom he met while on a train to Tokyo, right before The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 hit. After assisting Naoko and her maid get back home during the chaos of the catastrophe, Jiro leaves hurriedly to assist in his university. They don’t meet again until almost 10 years later, while Jiro was vacationing at a summer resorts after one of his prototypes failed a test flight. Naoko recognizes Jiro as the boy who saved her, and they spend time at the resort getting to know each other, and later fall in love. Jiro asks Naoko to marry him and she accepts but not before telling him that she has tuberculosis and must go away to seek treatment at a remote mountain facility.
While Naoko rests in the mountains, Jiro continues his work in the city, but would often worry about Naoko’s health. Naoko, also worried about her worsening condition decides to go to Jiro in the city. Aware of their limited time due to Naoko’s declining health, Jiro and Naoko decide to get married and live together in the city, spending what little time they had with each other.
Finally, after countless hours of hardwork, Jiro and his team finally design a prototype that more than meets everyone’s expectations. During the test flight of his prototype, Naoko secretly leaves their home to return to the mountain facility, but unfortunately does not make it; her death felt by Jiro as a strong gust of wind just as his prototype lands successfully.
Kaze Tachinu is a sad and beautiful movie that is quite serious, compared to other Studio Ghibli films, with themes that might not be as interesting or entertaining to children. Jiro, as an aircraft designer later struggles between the desire to fulfill his dream, as opposed to the implications of building a superior airplane for the government, which he knows will be used to cause destruction and the death of millions. Though he worked closely with the military, he was opposed to the war and to the ultimate fate of his beautiful airplanes.
Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises), 2013
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Animated by: Studio Ghibli
Animated movie; 126 minutes
Personal rating: 4/5