Hayao Miyazaki, along with becoming the well-established premier creator of Japanese animation, has brought Japanese art and culture to American audiences in past decades like no one before him. His films have expanded what audiences expect when they see animated films, challenging viewers with a balance of the dramatic and the humorous and at the same time offering films that can entertain children as well as adults. Miyazaki recently announced he was no longer making full-length feature films and his last film, The Wind Rises, comes to theaters in the U.S. in February 2014.
Although most of his work has passed muster with both the box office and critics, Miyazaki has veered from the type of controversial films you might find in other major international directors, using myth and magic as tools to express ideas about relationships and the importance of the natural world. His new film appears to verge from the norm, as he documents the life of real-life Japanese engineer Jiro Horikoshi from boyhood to adulthood. Based on a short story by Japanese poet Hori Tatsuo, The Wind Rises follows Jiro through pre-World War II Japan, the country’s devastating 1923 earthquake, a tuberculosis epidemic, and hard economic times that preceded the war, as Jiro comes to be the creator of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane. The Zero was one of Japan’s most well-known tools of the war, used in kamikaze operations and its most successful fighting plane, having a kill ratio of 12 to 1 at the height of Japan’s brief period of air superiority.
Definitely not standard fare for animated films. But that just highlights Miyazaki’s genius–his ability to keep surprising and challenging his audiences. The Wind Rises had a brief release in the United States, meaning it qualifies for Oscar contention for the next Academy Awards.
Here’s the preview for The Wind Rises:
While you’re waiting for Miyazaki’s last animated movie, check out the other superb films he launched through Japan’s Studio Ghibli that we previously discussed at borg.com here: Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), and Whisper of the Heart (1995). Flying and soaring are key elements of many of Miyazaki’s past works, including his 1992 film Porco Rosso, so it’s not a surprise the writer/director honed in on a noted aircraft engineer as the subject of his latest work.
The Wind Rises is scheduled for a U.S. release February 21, 2014.