"The Wind Rises" is an odd film. It tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the famous Zero fighter plane that was used by Japan in World War II. Unlike many biographies, however, this one doesn't really go for a realistic feel. "The Wind Rises" instead feels more in line with the fantastical films that Hayao Miyazaki, its director, is known for. Yet, we still know that this story is somewhat true and that this man was real. World War II is certainly no work of fiction either. So, there is an odd feeling watching this movie at times in that it is filled with moments of whimsy that contrast with the seriousness of the times.
"The Wind Rises" is animated in the typical fashion of a Hayao Miyazaki film. It is nice animation, but I won't say it reaches the level of beauty that some of his other movies do. It is also odd sometimes to see such serious images in this kind of animation style. This animation style is usually used to show things cute and fantastical and not, for example, a fountain of blood. The normally cute animation style may make that particular disturbing image even more disturbing than if it were done with more realism, I suppose.
Hayao Miyazaki has said that this will be his last directorial effort which makes a somewhat somber movie even more sad. Hayao Miyazaki is an amazing talent and I, for one, have enjoyed all of his films. He has made some of the greatest animated films ever and his mark on animation will forever be felt.
Now, that said, how does this film stack up? Well, I won't say this is my favorite Hayao Miyazaki movie because it isn't. In fact, I would put this movie on the lower end of his filmography. "The Wind Rises" definitely creates a darker and generally somber atmosphere that is fitting for the era being portrayed. To this end, I think Hayao Miyazaki has shown a side of himself that he hasn't really put on screen before. However, he still injects fantastical elements into the story and he still utilizes the same style of animation. While I found this interesting, I didn't totally think it worked for me.
While dark, it should be said that "The Wind Rises" is a lot more humorous than you would expect a story in this setting to be. There are many moments of laughter throughout, but some of it, I wasn't sure was totally intentional. Yes, there are funny character moments, but sometimes I felt people were laughing at things that seemed serious. I generally like things that have a mix of serious and silly, but here I found that there wasn't a consistent balance between the two.
If this really is the last directorial effort from Hayao Miyazaki then I would say that it is not the worst way to go out. This is not his strongest effort, but it is still an interesting and enjoyable film. "The Wind Rises" is not a total success, but it's not a failure either. "The Wind Rises" is merely good enough which, unfortunately, doesn't fit with the usual impression of Hayao Miyazaki's films. So, this is not the film that Hayao Miyazaki will be remembered by, but it is not going to tarnish his legacy either. It's just a shame to think that we won't see his vision on screen again. I guess the lesson here is that we will always have his other works and that maybe that is good enough.