“The Wind Rises”: Brilliant Film Confronts Tough Questions

“The Wind Rises: Brilliant Film Confronts Tough Questions”, published in map magazine in August 2014

From 1979 to 2014, Hiyao Miyazaki directed and produced 26 anime films, including the highest grossing film in Japanese history, Spirited Away, which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. His films are known for their beautiful portrayal of spirit worlds, nature, and strong female protagonists. Yet, if he had been born 38 years earlier, would Miyazaki have been known as a war-time propagandist?

His final film before retirement, The Wind Rises, is inspired by the life of Jiro Horikoshi, one of the leading designers of Japanese World War II war planes. Summarizing the theme of the film, the Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun wrote, “I wonder if he [Jiro] should be liable for anything just because he lived in that period.”

That the film glorifies the creation story of a Japanese war plane has prompted some criticism. Heck, the film was even criticized by anti-smoking activists for its frequent portrayal of characters smoking. That seems like a trivial point in comparison to the war question. Nonetheless, it encompasses the issues raised in making a movie about this time in Japan. A film about the 1920’s and 30’s without people smoking would be just as inaccurate as a film that ignores the war industry or retroactively portrays all the characters as bad.

Full article: “The Wind Rises”: Brilliant Film Raises Tough Questions