When the slate was announced for TIFF 2013, their guidance served me well since it prepared me for the swan song of anime virtuoso Hayao Miyazaki. The titan of Studio Ghibli – he who has brought the world SPIRITED AWAY, PRINCESS MONONOKE, and MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO – announced just days before TIFF 2013 began that THE WIND RISES would be his final animated feature. So I consider myself lucky that I was able to jump on the chance to see this final offering in a theatre while I had the chance.
THE WIND RISES is something of a bio-pic about Jiro Horikoshi. Jiro was the designer of an important piece of Japanese history – the Zero fighter that would be instrumental in Japan’s efforts in WWII. This film shows follows Jiro from childhood into adulthood, charting both his inspiration and perspiration that led to him creating something so iconic.
Admittedly, even with the crash-course in anime I took last year, I was ill-prepared for what THE WIND RISES would bring. There are no fanciful scenes of otherworldly events…no curious creatures that dot the story. While the story is broken up by a dream sequence or two, the dreams are only discernible by the fact that the character who speaks to Jiro is long-dead. If the film has a counterpart, it’s probably GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES…but even then, this film comes as a lower-boil.
With all of that said, the film is splendid. It is built on poetry and philosophy, with a story where one can clearly see the threads of a man who sees the end of the road coming. It casts a weary eye on the consequences of our creations, underlining that the men who build these marvelous airplanes are not the men who fly them…nor are they the men who will decide where they will be flown. Over and over, we are given images of man taking flight, and man crashing to the ground. If there is any better metaphor for one artist’s career, I’m pressed to come up with it.
THE WIND RISES was my third experience with anime at TIFF (after STEAMBOY and FROM UP ON POPPY HILL). While I came away from it less amazed than the core of my syllabus last year, it certainly brought me the closest I have come to the wonder those iconic films gave me. I’m happy to have spent two hours soaring through those clouds, and walking along those hills.
It may not have been my perfect goodbye to such a talented artist…but then, goodbyes are usually imperfect, aren’t they?