Sometimes I think that the part of my brain that should have emotions is missing. This was especially true when I was younger—I never got sad because nothing was sad, it was just stupid. Marley & Me? I mean, sure I understand why it was supposed to feel sad, but I felt nothing. This isn’t so much of a thing anymore; as I’ve come into adulthood I’ve found that I’m actually pretty normal in a lot of ways, especially as far as my emotions go.
And oh boy, did The Wind Rises give me emotions.
(Because this movie is relatively new, I’ll write the first half of my review spoiler free, and I’ll make it clear where the spoilers start. Keep in mind that the thing I loved most about this movie is a spoiler, so there’s that.)
I’ll say it now to get it out of the way: the animation is incredible. You knew that, it’s a Studio Ghibli film. That said, this movie is great in a lot of ways. It’s color palette is fresh and inviting, and in a way provides a very liberating feeling. The vibrant blues and greens do a great job at shedding optimism in a world at war.
The movie also does a great job with its characters. It’s strange, because I don’t perceive the protagonist to have any character flaws whatsoever, and the film is very much about him. But there is no bad part about himself that he is working to overcome, he’s just trying to be an artist while the rest of the world is using him for his genius. He’s very personable and the fact that the movie revolves around him is just relaxing in a way I can’t quite describe. It’s the same feeling the colorful and carefree color palette provides.
The other characters are great, too. I’m terrible with names, and since it’s been a week since I’ve watched it I already can’t tell you the love interest’s name, but she and Jiro’s bosses characters were also really well done. Miyazaki tows a fine line between stereotypes and archetypes here, but in the end he does a really good job with making these characters more than who they are to the plot while also making them easily accessible by making you think they’re stereotypes before you get to know them.
My one critique is that early on there are a lot of time jumps. Three, I believe. I’m much better with faces than names, but since the faces kept changing, it took me a while to get a hold on who was going to be important throughout the movie. I’m also still a little lost about what the love interest’s dad’s involvement with everything was. I’m sure it would be obvious if I rewatched it, but that was one thing that did not stick once I’ve had distance from the film.
Overall, great movie, a work of art in a lot of ways, you’ll probably cry.
Okay, spoilers ahead.
I don’t usually like romance plots in any movie, main or subplot. They often feel cliche or convoluted to me, or unrealistic (which is the worst). I have a hard time relating to most of them, which makes it hard to even enjoy any. This one, though. This one got to me.
Jiro runs through the garden because he’s worried his fiancée is sick. When he finds out she’s okay, he says “Sorry, I’ll use the front door next time.” She smiles and tells him the garden is faster, to which he replies “Garden it is.”
This moment does a lot, but most importantly it subtly shows that they truly love every split second they have with each other, to a point where they want as many of those split seconds as possible. That’s really heartwarming. The two had many interactions like this throughout the movie, but this one was my favorite.
The Wind Rises has several themes going on at any given point in time, and it juggles them well. I find it fascinating that the main plot of this film deals with Jiro’s life as he contends with what is the hardest, most productive, most loved, most cherished, and most heartbreaking years of his life all at once. He sought to make an amazing plane, and he did, but they were all taken from him. He met the girl of his dreams (literally), and nothing stood in his way, but did they live happily ever after? Well… well, no, not at all.
The last scene. I have explained it to two people, and the first time I got choked up and had to stop talking because I almost started to cry. (I’m not a “manly man” that hides his emotions, but the only time I’ve actually cried in the last three years was when my cat died.) You know a movie does a good job when you can’t even talk about it without getting emotional.
The movie is just a work of art. It’s beautiful in every way—animation, sound design, plot construction, voice acting—everything.
She was beautiful. Like the wind.