Listen up: Japan’s Hayao Miyazaki, a world-class master at hand-drawn animation, is hinting that The Wind Rises may be his last full-length feature. The hell, you say. In a Hollywood world of animation flash and glitz (did you endure The Nut Job?), the delicacy and dazzle in the work of Miyazaki, 73, is to be treasured.
Among his 11 features (2001’s Spirited Away earned him an Oscar), The Wind Rises may come as a shock for fans of the kid-friendly, pro-feminist, deeply pacifist Miyazaki. The story is inspired by the life of aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by anime whiz Hideaki Anno), who worked on the infamous Zero fighter plane used in the attack on Pearl Harbor. But politics withdraws in the face of Miyazaki’s belief in the soaring allure of flight, previously referenced by the filmmaker in Castle in the Sky and Howl’s Moving Castle.
Jiro is caught between wars, living through the Depression and the rise of fascism. Miyazaki presents the Kanto earthquake of 1923 in a sequence that stands with the best and most devastating in animation history. He also falls in love with the consumptive Nahoko (Miori Takimoto), a doomed romance that drags on the film’s momentum but contrasts tellingly with Jiro’s dream of flight as a thing of beauty, not destruction. It’s a big story, and in this landmark film Miyazaki is up to every demand. Sit back and behold.