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The Best of 2013: 'The Wind Rises'

Property of Studio Ghibli
Property of Studio Ghibli
An animated biography based on Jiro Horikoshi, aeronautical engineer of early 20th century Japan

The Wind Rises

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The best animated film of 2013 is anime extraordinare Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises. Based on the life of aeronautical engineer, Jiro Horikoshi and his experiences as a young boy inspired by any possible thing that flew, which led to the beginning of his career as a designer for Japan's Zero bombers. Purported to be Hayao Miyazaki's final film as a director and his last manga-to-screen adaptation, Wind may also be one of the few films of this day and age made by an artist who still possesses an amazing sense of wonder and childhood innocence to his stories.

The film has some of the most beautifully animated, moving pictures as expected in any Miyazaki film. Every character and worldly thing flows with flexibility and pinpoint musicality. This film has similar concepts that Miyazaki has explored before: piloting as seen in 1992's Porco Rosso and the inevitably of chaos teeming all over 1979's Lupin the 3rd: The Castle Cagliostro. What makes this picture different from his others is its more mature, real world subject matter. Young Jiro experiences life through the eyes of an artist, dreaming up designs and meeting his hero Italian biplane designer Giovanni Battista Caproni in visions. These visions are some of the most hilarious moments of the film: Giovanni Caproni always referring to Jiro as “Japanese Boy” and teaching him that planes are not meant for war or profit. The dream sequences are more imaginative and detailed than any live action film could possibly create realistically. These moments are crosscut with the zaniest fast-asleep reactions of Jiro yelling in his slumber or nearly falling off roofs from sleepwalking. Still yet, he tirelessly survives the torment of Japan's famous earthquakes and is indifferent to the political changes within the nation, pre-World War II (in many ways like the titular character in 1965's Doctor Zhivago).

Jiro may be living up to a near-homophone/phonetic English interpretation [pronounced Gee-ro] of his name (an almost perfect combination of the word hero and Zero-- like the planes he would design, and like a hero, he fights for what he feels and thinks is right. Since he does not wish his planes will be used for war or profit, the neutral number zero becomes very fitting. Instinctually feeling is certainly an important aspect to his character as most of the legendary designer's revelations come to him through incredible optimism and inspired hope. Wind, however, is not a mere biography though. It is also a tremendously beautiful and deeply tragic love story. After a massive earthquake that emanated from the Sea of Japan (most likely based on the earthquake of May 23rd, 1925), Jiro meets a young girl named Nahoko. Their encounter appears to be destiny, tied to the beautiful breeze that Hayao Miyazaki makes a constant motif throughout the story. They constantly say goodbye and say hello again at various points in their lives, but Jiro soon learns that there are no goodbyes between them. It is a love of Jiro and the wind and Jiro's love for Nahoko whose free spirit is like the wind.

The American cast for the English dubbed version is quite impressive featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jiro (providing a rather tender voice than usual), Emily Blunt as Nahoko, John Krasinski as Jiro's intense best friend, Honjo, Martin Short as boss Kurokawa, Mae Whitman as Jiro's baby sister Kayo, William H. Macy as Satomi, Werner Herzog as the German side of the impending war as figurehead Castrop and Stanley Tucci playing Giovanni Battista Caproni with wonderful Italiano panache. If this does ultimately turn out to be Hayao Miyazaki's final film, it is a beautiful swan song.