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Anime / The Wind Rises

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...We must endeavour to live.

"Would you like to live in a world with or without pyramids?"
Count Caproni

The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu) is a 2013 animated film from Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. Said to be his last film until he announced that he would be working on another that will be his last, it is a highly fictionalised biography of Jiro Horikoshi, a gifted aeronautics engineer who is famous for being the chief designer of many war planes used by the Japanese military, most notably the (in)famous Mitsubishi A6M "Zero".

The story opens on Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Hideaki Anno in Japanese, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in English) as a young boy in rural Japan. His acute myopia makes it impossible for him to be a pilot. Inspired by a dream featuring Caproni, a famed Italian aeronautic engineer, he resolves to become a designer of airplanes — despite a prophetic warning from Caproni that such machines could be put to evil uses.

The film follows Jiro around the world and across the years in his life-long quest. He becomes an engineering student remarkable for his insight and his love of the art, which in this time period (c. 1925-1940) was in its infancy. Caught in the middle of a train trip by the Great Kanto Earthquake, he has a chance encounter with Naoko, the daughter of a wealthy family, and helps the girl and her maid find their way home before traveling on to the university... where he must promptly join the effort to keep it from burning down in the wake of the earthquake.

After his graduation, Jiro and his friend and fellow engineer Honjo are hired by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and sent to their aviation division in Nagoya. He struggles against the massive technology gap that separates Japan from America and the European nations, and in time is sent to their ally Germany to learn from their foremost aeronautical engineer, Count Junkers. Eventually he returns to Japan as a senior engineer at the company, still working on the airplane he can see in his dreams.

His company is struggling to gain a military contract in the midst of a stagnant economy, and they pin their hopes on Jiro's newest project. In the midst of this crisis he is reunited with Naoko, and learns that she has contracted tuberculosis and doesn't expect to live much longer. They beg for her father's permission for a hurried marriage and she joins him in Kyoto, despite the risks to her health. In the end, he completes the design he'd been dreaming of for years, but the test-flight that should be the greatest moment of his life is marred by tragedy.

In a Distant Epilogue, Jiro walks through the wreckage of his creations — destroyed by war, or dismantled by the terms of the treaty that ended it — and dreams again of meeting Caproni, who asks him, "Was it worth it?"

The Wind Rises was the final Ghibli film released by Disney in North America prior to GKIDS buying out the film license, and brought the North American distribution partnership between Disney and Ghibli to a close after nineteen years.

Definitely not to be confused with When the Wind Blows.

The Wind Rises provides examples of:

  • The Alleged Car: Or more accurately, the Alleged Plane. Many, as Japan was decades behind the major powers in terms of industry and aeronautic engineering at the time. Examples include A1N and B1M, as both struggle to take off and land on an aircraft carrier, spewing engine oil everywhere, including on Jiro and Kurokawa. Kurokawa even commented "that's what Japanese airplane/engine is" when riding on one.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Jiro often breaks promises to spend time with his sister to study aviation and later to work on his planes.
  • Arc Words: "The wind rises". Both the original French and the translated line is mentioned several times throughout the work. Also its following line, "We must endeavor to live", to a lesser extent. The former line is used to tragic effect in the very end, as Naoko tells Jiro, "You must live," as she is implied to be passing on.
  • Badass Bookworm: Even as a kid, Jiro is quite a bookworm, eager to read a foreign language aviation magazine. Furthermore, when he confronts some bullies, he neatly throws one over with a judo throw, and the scene immediately cuts to him with only a smug look on his face, suggesting he handled the rest of the fight with little difficulty.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The word kaze means either "wind" (風) or "fever" (風邪), giving a whole new symbolic meaning to wind in this film.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jiro finally fulfilled his dream of designing the perfect aircraft in his mind, and he is married to the woman he loves, Naoko. However, his designs are also used as war machines that brought death and destruction, first to the enemy and then to Japan itself. Jiro also neglects his dying wife in order to finish the design, and when she senses that she has little time left, she secretly returns to the sanatorium and dies away from Jiro, choosing to leave only happy memories behind. Jiro also states that none of the planes he designed ever returned home from the war. Additionally, it's implied that Jiro, much like Caproni before him, has lived past his engineering prime and will never surpass the limits of what they have already accomplished. Having resigned to these truths, Jiro agrees to relax with Caproni in their dream world.
  • Blood from the Mouth: "Naoko has had a lung haemorrhage."
  • Book Ends: Near the beginning of the film, Tokyo burns after the Great Kanto Earthquake. Near the end, we briefly see Tokyo burning again, this time after an American air raid.
  • Call-Forward: The designer of the "Nell" bomber says that it doesn't have enough shielding and after "two or three hits" it will "burn like a torch". This discussion is accompanied by a brief Flash Forward scene in which exactly that is happening when American fighters swoop down on a formation of Nell bombers. In reality, the Zero fighter fell victim to this same flaw later in the war.
  • Captain Ersatz: At Jiro's new job at an aeronautic factory, his grumpy superior, Kurokawa, looks nothing less than a Japanese version of Gilbert Huph in The Incredibles, albeit with a better professional attitude.
  • Caught in the Rain: Naoko and Jiro near the hotel, immediately leading to an Umbrella of Togetherness.
  • Classified Information: Naoko and Jiro are frustrated by the refusal of the German government to share any useful technological information. The secret police even try to stop them looking inside the Junkers G.38 which their government has been allowed to produce under license until Hugo Junkers himself gives his approval.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: The title, and by extension, the Arc Words come from a line in the French poem Le Cimetière marin "Le vent se lève !... Il faut tenter de vivre !". The poem is often quoted over the movie.
  • Composite Character: If you consider Real Life to be the source material of this, then Jiro Horikoshi is one, with elements from Jiro Horikoshi the aircraft designer, Tatsuo Hori the chain-smoking novelist with a fiancée who died from TB, and Miyazaki's father, the owner of a factory that manufactured parts for the Zero fighter. Miyazaki's mother also suffered from TB.
  • Cool Plane: Guaranteed given Miyazaki's love for aircraft and the occupation of the protagonist. Despite widely being considered the Magnum Opus of Jiro Horikoshi's design, the Zero does not appear in the movie until the very end. The plane showed on the poster, as well as being the centre of the last part of the movie is actually a prototype of A5M "Claude". Called Prototype Plane No. 9, it is apparently Horikoshi's favorite among all his designs.
  • Crossover: The German gentleman at the hotel is mentioned fleetingly to be Mr. Castorp. Hans Castorp is the protagonist of Thomas Mann's novel The Magic Mountain, and there visits a relative with TB at a sanatorium (and contracts the disease). Miyazaki's Castorp mentions the magic mountain several times, and his topics are sympathetic to Mann.
  • Cue the Rain: It pours after the 1MF2 crashes in front of the inspecting military officials, ending all hopes for Mitsubishi to secure a contract with the military, who opted for one of its rivals instead. During the scene, both Jiro and Kurokawa are soaked in the rain as the latter examined the wreckage.
  • Defector from Decadence: While vacationing, Jiro meets and befriends a strange German man who has apparently left Nazi Germany because he was disgusted by the changes happening there. This man also mentions Hugo Junkers, who had appeared briefly earlier, who in real life was forced out of his own company in 1935 because he was a pacifist and a socialist, and he didn't want his plane designs to be used for war.
  • Dream Intro: The movie starts with one, where Jiro, as a young boy, rides on his little plane mounted on top of his house and soars across the sky above the little town he lives by, only to be greeted by an ominous war machine, whose minions rams him down and ends the dream.
  • Dream Sequence: Used as a framing device to connect the fragments of Jiro's life together and to reveal the future.
  • Epic Fail: Jiro's hero, aeronautical designer, Giovanni Battista Caproni, finally has his dream plane out for a test flight: it barely ascends a few meters before it has a catastrophic structural wing failure and crashes into the water.
  • Face-Revealing Turn: Played for laughs when the "young lady" waiting in Jiro's room is not the mysterious woman who left the present for him at the university, but his grumpy little sister.
  • Foreshadowing: At the beginning of the movie, Jiro gets hurt fighting bullies and his sister asks if she needs to apply iodine to his wounds. Strange when you consider she's likely not even 10, but guess what her future occupation is? Doctor.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Kurokawa refuses to allow an unmarried couple to cohabit under his roof, so the response of Jiro and Naoko is to get married there and then. Kurokawa reluctantly agrees, but quietly urges Jiro to send her back to the sanitorium. He refuses as he knows their time together will be short and wants to spend as much time as he can with her.
  • Grand Finale: As the next film, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, was released in North America by GKIDS (who would eventually acquire all of Studio Ghibli's film and home media licenses), The Wind Rises serves as the last Ghibli film to be distributed by Disney.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language:
    • Count Caproni speaks Italian when he first appears in Jiro's dreams, albeit with a nigh-impenetrably thick Japanese accent. Stanley Tucci, an Italian-American himself, also speaks that particular language in the dub with an Italian accent.
    • The Arc Words are initially given in French.
    • The Germans in the film speak German despite being (apparently) fluent in Japanese. Castorp himself is voiced by German film director Werner Herzog in the English language dub, with his BBC flavored accent; he even sings Castorp's part in the film's rendition of "Das gibt's nur einmal". American Steve Alpert voices the part in the original Japanese dub.
    • The guests at the hotel Jiro stays in sing part of "Das gibt's nur einmal" together. Justified, as the song was actually quite popular in 1930s Japan.
  • The Great Depression: One of the scenes in 1929 shows a bank run near the Mitsubishi factory, showing that the Depression affected even Japan.
  • Happily Married: Jiro and Naoko, before Naoko's death at the end.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jiro and Honjou.
  • Historical Domain Character: Inevitable given the biographic nature of the work.
    • The protagonist, Jiro Horikoshi, was a Real Life aircraft designer under the employment of Mitsubishi, and is responsible for the design of various warplanes used by the Japanese military, most famous of which being the A6M Zero.
    • Jiro's friend and colleague, Honjo, is heavily implied to be based on Kiro Honjo, another Mitsubishi engineer who designed G1M reconnaissance aircraft and its bomber variant, G3M "Nell".
    • Jiro's superior, Hattori, is said to be based on Joji Hattori, another real Mitsubishi aeronautics engineer.
    • Caproni is a frequent guest in Jiro's dreams, serving as a mentor and inspiration for Jiro, and has a brief scene where he's present at the Caproni Ca.60's disastrous second flight where he destroys the footage (in real life, Caproni was delayed and wasn't present when it crashed).
    • Hugo Junkers also makes a brief appearance as Jiro and his colleagues tour in his aircraft workshop for technological exchange.
  • Imagine Spot: Aside from Jiro's dreams, there are several of these as Jiro thinks of an idea and then imagines it in practise.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Naoko, who has tuberculosis.
  • Irony: Honjo and Jiro complaining about Japan being a poor and technologically backward country, the exact opposite of how it's seen today.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Kurokawa, Jiro's senior/superior in the aircraft company. While he is harsh and seemingly negative most of the time he also tries his best to protect Jiro from the Secret Police, offers him (and later, his wife Naoko) a place to live, and serves as witness at their impromptu wedding. He also gives Jiro credit where it is due, as shown by him saying Jiro's self-held engineering seminar was "a revelation" despite his face looking angry as usual, and advises Jiro to avoid situations where he would be in competition with Honjo, as friendship is always more important.
    • Jiro's sister likewise acts like she's permanently annoyed with him, but she cares about her brother and especially Naoko.
  • Licked by the Dog: One of the clearest signs that Mr Kurokawa has Hidden Depths is the fact that he's Happily Married to Mrs Kurokawa, a very kind and caring woman and model hostess to Jiro and Naoko.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Throughout the film Jiro has dreams where he discusses airplanes with his hero, Italian aircraft designer Giovanni Battista Caproni, who believes that he is dreaming, making it ambiguous whether they are actually sharing dreams since we never see them meet in the flesh.
  • Manly Tears: Kurokawa, during the wedding ceremony.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: We first see Jiro as a boy with his dreams of flight.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • After some fun and games with hats blowing around on the train, the Tokyo earthquake.
    • Everyone is jubilant as Jiro's prototype is a success. We then cut to the firebombing of Tokyo, and Jiro walking across his field of dreams strewn with the wreckage of the warplanes he helped design.
  • Mountaintop Healthcare: Jiro's love interest Naoko contracts tuberculosis halfway through the movie and spends time in a mountain sanatorium, in one scene lying outside cocooned in thick blankets for the air. It doesn't help, and she dies shortly after leaving to marry Jiro.
  • The Napoleon: Kurokawa. He is short in stature and often short in temper.
  • Nice Guy: Naoko and Jiro are very sweet people.
  • No Antagonist: There’s no direct villain in this film. The conflict comes two of mankind’s oldest foes, war and disease.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Kurokawa is always seen frowning, even when complimenting someone. However, he's among those who laugh their heads off when they learn Jiro has a fiancé, stating he always assumed Jiro would marry an airplane.
  • Precocious Crush: Naoko had been in love with Jiro since the earthquake, at the time they were respectively 13 and 20.
  • Product Placement:
    • Jiro and Honjo work at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plant. Mitsubishi was also involved in every Studio Ghibli film as a member of its production committee since Spirited Away.
    • Another case of product placement (albeit for a now-discontinued brand) would be Jiro's Japanese cigarettes being branded Cherry; a real brand of Japanese cigarettes that were Miyazaki's preferred brand, before they were discontinued following radioactive contamination from the Fukushima incident.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Despite being a short-tempered boss, Kurokawa has a very reasonable judgment and is willing to listen to Jiro on his thoughts about the various projects Mitsubishi is working on.
  • Samaritan Relationship Starter: Jiro rescues Naoko's maid, but ends up with Naoko herself.
  • Secret Police: These cause difficulties for Jiro in both Germany and Japan. It's implied Castrop has to go on the run and Jiro comes under suspicion simply for having talked to him. Fortunately Jiro's superiors protect him until the heat dies down.
  • Scenery Gorn: The earthquake scene and subsequent destruction are stunningly crafted.
  • Scenery Porn: A signature of Miyazaki's. Any scene featuring flight is a particularly beautiful example. Even by Miyazaki standards, the animation is astounding. Among the best if not the best-looking animation ever. (And then you consider this was all done by hand, no computer assistance.)
  • Schizo Tech: Lampshaded: the state-of-the-art fighters are hauled to the landing field by oxen. This was the case in real life, as there were no proper roads between the factory and the airstrip, and they were still doing this as late as 1941!
  • Shipper on Deck: Castrop is the first to see the growing romance between Jiro and Naoko, even helping them convince her father to give his blessing.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • All planes shown in the movie existed in real life, and their depictions are accurate. Yes, even the gigantic airplanes in Jiro's dreams are real.
    • Engineering is accurate: the animation shows realistic airframes (including cutaway views) and depicts real problems (such as aeroelastic flutter) accurately.
    • Jiro may talk about wings being shaped like a mackerel bone, but we also see him filling pages with mathematical calculations. He's an engineer, not an artist.
    • The scenes at the sanitorium are quite accurate to the period the movie is set in. In the early 20th century, it was thought that high altitudes and fresh air helped fight tuberculosis infections, so sanitoriums were typically built in the mountains and patients were often kept outside, weather permitting. While those turned out to be mistaken beliefs, there was a a third reason for the treatment that did actually wind up being true: doctors of the day believed (correctly, as it would later be found out) that tuberculosis died when exposed to the sun. It turns out ultraviolet light (including sunlight) is an effective germicide and, for TB specifically, helps reduce the spread of the disease by up to 70%.
  • Skewed Priorities: After being smuggled out of the factory, Jiro wants to return to his apartment, where the Secret Police will undoubtedly be waiting for him, because he wants to remove his love letters from Naoko, as he doesn't like the idea of the police reading them. Everyone else just laughs their head off at the idea that Jiro has a Love Interest in the first place.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Jiro's prominent glasses exemplify this. Also consider Kurokawa, whose first introduction is as a comical troll, but whose glasses correctly predict later revelations. Later on we see him as a canny manager, and clever friend. Jiro's glasses are also used to bookend the movie. At the beginning they are seen resting at the head of his bed, and he puts them on. After his "10 years" as a designer, Naoko returns them there. The rest of the movie is essentially epilogue: the test flight remains, but Jiro's part is done and he won't see Naoko again.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Our hero Jiro smokes constantly throughout his adulthood, as do many of his compatriots. One scene is even devoted to Jiro bonding with Castorp over their shared taste in cigarettes. The film was criticized by anti-tobacco groups.
  • Snow Means Death: When it starts snowing up in her sanitorium, Naoko makes the decision to return to Jiro and spend what time she has left with him, even if it will shorten her life. It's likewise snowing during their marriage, highlighting their tragic romance.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Jiro has a friendly conversation with Castorp, but after Satomi's father arrives to deliver some news, Jiro looks back and discovers that Castorp has vanished, leaving only his stubbed-out cigarette behind.
  • A Storm Is Coming:
    • The title of the film is from a poem about grasping the opportunities that life presents, but when you know that the film is set in Japan from the 1920s to the 1940s, other interpretations also present themselves.
    • During the firestorm after the earthquake, Jiro has a vision of Caproni asking him if the wind is still rising. Jiro replies that it is a hurricane.
  • Take That!: The military are seen pretty much only as identical lunkheads whose talents lie in making loud noises and getting in the way of making planes. (But they're the only ones buying cutting-edge planes.)
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer shows Naoko coughing blood, revealing that she's dying.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: While Mr Kurokawa is a short, cartoonish-looking man, and ill-tempered at first glance, Mrs Kurokawa is a good-looking and gentle woman who you would be forgiven for assuming was out of his league.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: While Jiro Horikoshi actually existed in Real Life, and he did design the aircraft shown in the movie, his Love Interest is fictional. He had an older brother instead of a younger sister and was married throughout the war, ultimately having five children. He was also a non-smoker despite his frequent smoking in the movie. Honjo graduated ahead of Horikoshi from Tokyo Imperial University. Much of the portrayal of Jiro Horikoshi, especially in regard to his personal life, is based on Tatsuo Hori instead, to whom the movie is dedicated as well. Two of Tatsuo Hori's novels, Kaze Tachinu and Naoko are major inspirations for the film. There are also elements of Miyazaki's father, Katsuji, in Jiro. Miyazaki Sr. was an aeronautical engineer in the era and his wife had TB. Finally, Horikoshi continued his aeronautical engineering career after the war being on the design team for the 1962 NAMC YS-11, a civilian transport plane. It was supposed to show off Japanese technological prowess for the 1964 Olympics carrying the torch but that honor ultimately went to the Shinkansen and the YS-11 went into service just as the jetliners were beginning to kill civilian prop planes.
  • War Is Hell: While the film focuses on the creation of planes, Jiro's dream sequences occasionally show brief, but completely destructive, battles that use said planes.