Despite being released theatrically in the US way back in February, my family just got the chance to see The Wind Rises this past Saturday evening. I have to admit that I had written off being able to see it in a theater and was very surprised to see that a local art center was screening the movie. It was an extremely lucky turn of events since this coming Thursday (April 24) is the final showing before they switch to a different movie.
The Wind Rises is a fictionalized biography of airplane engineer Jiro Horikoshi. It begins with Jiro as a young boy, dreaming of soaring in the sky on a custom airplane. He is abruptly awoken when he is bombed mid-air by a huge airship above him. Undeterred, he borrows an English-language aviation magazine from a schoolteacher and, with his trusty dictionary, finds out about an Italian designer named Caproni. While reading, Jiro falls asleep and meets Caproni in a shared dream between the two enthusiasts.
The movie then skips ahead to a time when Jiro is in university. During a train ride back into Tokyo, Jiro meets a young woman, Naoko, and her maid just minutes before a huge earthquake hits. (This is the Great Kanto Earthquake that took place in 1923.) As the passengers disembark in a frenzy, the maid breaks her leg. Since Jiro is such a good guy, he carries the maid on his back through the mass of people, past the massive fires in Tokyo, and into the relative safety of Naoko's family. He leaves without even giving anyone his name so he can fight to save the books at his university from being burned to ashes.
Fast forward again to Jiro and his friend, Honjo, working at an airplane manufacturer. The two are working on a fighter design, which ends in failure. The company loses the contract and sends the two engineers to Germany to do technical research. During this time, he once again meets Caproni in a dream, where they have a philosophical conversation about the beauty of aircraft. Shortly thereafter, Jiro is promoted to chief designer for a fighter plane contract from the Navy. This also ends in failure. Jiro heads off to a summer resort in order to get his mind back on track.
While at the hotel, Jiro once again meets Naoko. As the two spend time together playing with paper airplane designs and taking walks, they fall in love. However, Naoko has tuberculosis and refuses to marry until she is well again. Jiro returns to Tokyo to once again design a fighter plane for the Navy. This time, the secret police are searching for him so he is forced out of his apartment and into the home of his supervisor, Kurokawa. Naoko, meanwhile, has holed herself up in a sanatorium in order to recover from her condition until she can no longer bear to be away from Jiro and travels to Tokyo to join him. Kurokawa refuses to let the lovers stay under his roof unmarried so they have an impromptu wedding ceremony.
The newlyweds live with Kurokawa even though Naoko's condition is deteriorating. Jiro must finish the designs on his latest creation. Despite his long workdays, they enjoy their time together.
I don't want to spoil the ending of the movie so I will end the synopsis there. Everyone in my family enjoyed the movie. I didn't expect my daughter to like it very much since she prefers movies like Kiki's Delivery Service or Ponyo or Spirited Away. This one is a little more...boring compared to the previous Miyazaki works. There is no real antagonist. No one to root for or against. It is just the story of a boy trying to make his dream come true. There are some very emotional scenes but they are handled very well. Not your typical Miyazaki fare but a good movie nonetheless.