The Wind Rises is the final film of animation great Hayao Miyazaki, one of the founders of Studio Ghibli. The project is different from many of his past films and animation in general because it’s a fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi. Jiro was a Japanese plane designer known famously for the Zero Fighter that wreaked havoc on the US forces in the pacific theater. While the film alludes to the eventual consequences of his designs, its much more focused on Jiro’s passion for aeronautics and the difficulties of creating these planes in Japan where they still used Oxen to pull planes to the test runway.
The film employs a visual style that changes drastically based on location. Japan features many different locations, but the green grass and blue sky are maintained in focus except when the characters are in Tokyo. Compare this to a visit to Germany where the film’s colors become more bleak and grey which seems to represent the industrial boom and direction Germany was beginning to take before World War II. Then there is the style of Jiro’s dreams, which are colored with a beautiful display of pastels. The dream sequences also feature more classic cartoon like animation compared to the very detailed animation of the rest of The Wind Rises.
The dubbed U.S. version of the film was able to acquire good actors to voice the characters with Joseph Gordon Levitt voicing Jiro, and Elijah Wood and Emily Blunt also putting forth good performances as the two main supporting characters. The mesmerizing voice of Werner Herzog makes a small appearance as well. While I usually prefer to watch subtitled versions of foreign films, Disney and Studio Ghibli always do a good job finding talent for their dubs.
Overall the film was a joy to watch as it hits all the right notes. It has moments of romance, triumph, sadness, and at the end a major moment of retrospection.