Something in the Air: Hayao Miyazaki's long-awaited "The Wind Rises"
by Graham Fuller
Published: June 25, 2013
Fighter plane engineer Jiro Horikoshi. Courtesy of WikicommonsJapanese television has started airing a teaser trailer (below) for “The Wind Rises,” the first full-length film directed by Hayao Miyazaki since 2008’s “Ponyo.” It opens in Japan on July 20. Adapted by the animation master from his nine-part manga mini-series, published in Model Graphix magazine, the movie is a part-imaginary biopic of the aircraft engineer Jiro Horikoshi (1903-82). Among the fighter planes Horikoshi designed was the highly maneuverable, carrier-borne Mitsubishi A6M Reisen Zero that did such damage during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The movie will not apparently glorify the courage of Japanese pilots, however, but explore the sources of Horikoshi’s inspiration as an innovator and his troubled conscience as an inventor of a machine used for death and destruction. The story is fused with the lyrical tale of the woman artist whose struggle with tuberculosis is described in Hori Tatsuo’s serialized impressionistic novelette “Kaze tachinu” (1936-37), which translates as “The Wind Has Risen” and gives the film its Japanese title. A supremely elegant prose stylist, Tatsuo was himself tubercular and died of the illness at the age of 48 in 1953. (Masatoshi Akihara’s 2010 film “Sei kazoku — yamatoji” was also based on a Tatsuo novel, 1932’s “The Holy Family.”) Born in 1941, 11 months before Pearl Harbor, Miyazaki grew up sketching planes — his father was the director of an aircraft parts manufacturing company that made rudders for Zeroes. His 1992 movie, “Porco Rosso,” based on his watercolor manga, is about a former Italian World War I fighter ace turned bounty hunter who has been transformed by a curse into an anthropomorphic pig. Set mostly over the Adriatic in 1924, the film is partially an anti-fascist fairytale, though Miyazaki said its politics were complicated by its coincidence with the Bosnian War. Miyazaki depicted carpet-bombing in the war sequences of 2004’s “Howl’s Moving Castle.” His short 2006 manga “A Trip to Tynemouth” chronicles a journey he made to England to research the fighter planes in the late Robert Westall story “Blackham’s Wimpy,” about an RAF crew flying a British Vickers Wellington bomber that’s haunted by the ghost of a German pilot during World War II. Imagining a meeting with Westall, Miyazaki drew himself as a pig and Westall, with whom he goes for a pint and a stroll, as a terrier. Whether or not “The Wind Rises” addresses nationalism, imperialism, and the disputed issue of fascism in 1930s Japan, it will clearly afford Miyazaki an opportunity to ponder again such familiar themes as the clashes between pacifism and militarism on one hand, and technology and nature on the other. The trailer indicates he hasn’t neglected Horikoshi’s innovations — true to life, Miyazaki’s Zero has folding wing-tips that suggest a bird’s feathers.