The Wind Rises

We went to see Hayao Miyazaki’s last film last night, and it was not as good as much of his other work, I think. I liked Spirited Away, Totoro, and Howl’s Moving Castle much better. This one was a bit similar to the Indonesians naming their battleships after two terrorists who bombed the Macdonald House in Singapore – The Wind Rises was about prewar Japan, with particular focus on Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Zero Fighter plane that is so famous in our social studies textbooks. Horikoshi himself was opposed to the war, which probably explains the dream sequence at the end where he somewhat regrets his unintentional role in assisting the Japanese army wreak mass destruction in other weaker countries.

The movie paints a pretty rosy colored picture of this guy, one whose main passion is airplane design – flush rivets, retractable wings, and mackerel bones. The other full metal body planes designed by Germany and Italy as illustrated in the movie were really clunky and ugly, but were cooed over by the Japanese engineers of that era. The movie also pictures Jiro as a regular salaryman who loves his wife and whose sense of wonder at great feats of engineering is almost child-like, one whose dream of building beautiful, cleanly designed planes was hijacked by the military for their own ends.

I don’t know, I don’t like my worlds of excellent Japanese anime and Japan’s role in WWII to merge. I think of them as completely separate entities, although obviously they are not. I don’t think it was a very good subject choice for his last movie – his animations have always handled serious themes (Nausicaa, Princess Mononoke, etc.), a lot of aviation themes (Porco Rosso, Kikki’s Delivery service, which I hear is going to be made into a movie with real actors), but of all the Studio Ghibli animations I enjoy those that are more fantastic than war-rish. I think of Japanese animators quite separately from Japan’s history, as if they exist in a race of their own: a weird, disturbed people whose creativity eclipses their ugly past.

This movie has won numerous awards but I thought it was slow-going, I didn’t enjoy a lot of the cheesy dialogue (is it meant to be consumed ironically?) or the completely redundant love story that reeks of a bad Korean drama. Perhaps I have become too shallow to get these kinds of movies but I also don’t really understand the choice of subject matter. Is it like a posthumous apology? A kind of excuse making, portraying the vast numbers of Japanese people who were just “caught up” in the war without really intending to be involved? Why couldn’t M. be proud of any other feat of Japanese engineering that had no relation with the war? There are plenty of those.

I don’t get it.

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