Staff Pick: Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises” is more than a swan-song

By
From the February 27, 2014 edition

Hayao Miyazaki’s “farewell masterpiece” isn’t as overtly fantastical as the rest of his catalog of animated films, but it’s still generating considerable buzz as one of his best.

Some of that attention might be due to the swan-song nature of the film (though Miyazaki has since denounced his retirement).

I take it as a testament to the Japanese artist’s strengths as a storyteller. “The Wind Rises” is, essentially, a historical biopic about his countryman Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the English-language version), an engineer who loved flying, but whose poor eyesight prevented him from being a pilot.

Jiro instead starts designing innovative aircraft, and somewhere along the way falls for Nahoko (Emily Blunt).

The movie traces these developments with the eye for detail Miyazaki fans have come to love, weaving in historical events like the 1923 Kanto earthquake, the Great Depression, the tuberculosis epidemic and Japan's plunge into war.

See for yourself where this ranks among Miyazaki’s best when the English-language version opens at the Drexel on Friday.