Miyazaki’s Mag­nif­i­cent Coda

The Ja­panese mas­ter’s fi­nal fea­ture, The Wind Rises, is a beau­ti­ful, ma­ture work of art as well as a deeply per­sonal one. by Charles Solomon

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The Ja­panese mas­ter’s fi­nal fea­ture, The Wind

Rises, is a beau­ti­ful, ma­ture work of art as well as a deeply per­sonal one. by Charles Solomon

Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises has en­joyed ex­cep­tional crit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial suc­cess. It was the No. 1 box of­fice hit in Ja­pan in 2013, earn­ing more than ¥1 bil­lion (over $10 mil­lion)—the first film to do so since Miyazaki’s Ponyo five years ear­lier. USA To­day critic Claudia Puig said, “The film, like the wind it ref­er­ences, has won­der­fully soar­ing se­quences.” Ken­neth Tu­ran wrote in The Los An­ge­les Times, “To see The Wind Rises is to si­mul­ta­ne­ously mar­vel at the work of a mas­ter and re­gret that this film is likely his last.”

The Wind Rises is also one of Miyazaki’s most per­sonal films, in­cor­po­rat­ing childhood mem­o­ries and fa­vorite themes. Yet he had to be talked into mak­ing it by pro­ducer Toshio Suzuki. Miyazaki’s long-time friend and col­lab­o­ra­tor, Suzuki dis­cussed the film in a re­cent tele­phone in­ter­view from Stu­dio Ghi­bli, as­sisted by trans­la­tor Rieko Izutsu-Va­ji­rasarn.

“The Wind Rises be­gan as a manga Miyazaki was draw­ing for a minia­ture mod­els mag­a­zine. It was just a hobby; he had no in­ten­tion of mak­ing it into a movie,” Suzuki ex­plained. “I knew that he wasn’t in­ter­ested in mak­ing it into a movie, but I thought that he should cre­ate a film about some­thing he loves. The first time I sug­gested he turn The Wind Rises manga into a movie was in Au­gust, 2010—and he got re­ally up­set with me. I tried to per­suade him many times, and each time, he would get mad at me. But in Oc­to­ber, Miyazaki fi­nally said, ‘OK, I’ll see if we can make it into a movie.’”

For the film’s sce­nario, Miyazaki looked not only to the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the de­signer of the WW II A6M Zero Fighter, but to The Wind Has Risen, Tat­suo Hori’s melan­choly novel about a writer and his tu­ber­cu­lar fi­ancée at a moun­tain sana­to­rium. The novel, which takes its ti­tle from a line by Paul Valéry, “Le vent se leve, il faut ten­ter de vivre” (“The wind rises, one must strive to live”), re­calls Thomas Mann’s Magic Moun­tain (which Miyazaki also ref­er­ences). Af­ter two months of think­ing, writ­ing and draw­ing, Miyazaki cre­ated not one, but two sce­nar­ios.

“I’ll never for­get, it was on De­cem­ber 18, Miyazaki brought in two film ideas. Plan A was a story about the pro­tag­o­nist Jiro Horikoshi and Ital­ian engi­neer/de­signer Baron Caproni; Plan B, a love story be­tween Jiro and Naoko,” Suzuki con­tin­ues. “Miyazaki brought th­ese two ideas to me

and said, ‘Which one do you think would be a good movie?’ I sug­gested com­bin­ing them, and 10 days later, he came back with Plan AB, the merger movie.”

Cre­at­ing The Wind Rises re­quired both di­rec­tor and pro­ducer to draw on deeply mov­ing per­sonal mem­o­ries. Suzuki, who be­gan his ca­reer as a jour­nal­ist, has writ­ten about the emo­tional im­pact of a se­ries of in­ter­views he did with pi­lots who had been as­signed to kamikaze mis­sions, but whose lives were spared be­cause the War ended be­fore they were sent on sui­cide raids. His rec­ol­lec­tions of those con­ver­sa­tions led him to con­tinue pres­sur­ing Miyazaki to make the film.

The vi­sions of de­struc­tion Jiro and Caproni ac­knowl­edge their beau­ti­ful planes will cause, echo the dev­as­ta­tion wrought by the mon­strous God War­riors in Nau­si­caä of the Val­ley of the Wind and the fiery ruin the wizard un­leashes in Howl’s Mov­ing Cas­tle.

“Miyazaki was born in 1941, which means he was four years old when WW II ended. He was a res­i­dent of Tokyo, which was sub­ject to re­peated air raids and bomb­ings. Miyazaki’s

“Miyazaki was born in 1941, which means he was four years old when WW II ended. He was a res­i­dent of Tokyo, which was sub­ject to re­peated

air raids and bomb­ings. Miyazaki’s ear­li­est mem­ory, from when he was four years old, is of a city burn­ing af­ter an air raid: That’s why th­ese

scenes re­cur in his work.”

ear­li­est mem­ory, from when he was four years old, is of a city burn­ing af­ter an air raid: That’s why th­ese scenes re­cur in his work,” Suzuki adds re­flec­tively. “Our gen­er­a­tion is the last to have been scarred by the War, so in our daily talks, we of­ten dis­cussed the Pa­cific War.”

As he worked on The Wind Rises, Miyazaki found him­self in a cu­ri­ous po­si­tion: A paci­fist who de­spises war and par­tic­i­pated in anti-war protests as a high school stu­dent, but who loves fighter planes. The di­rec­tor re­al­ized

—Toshio Suzuki, pro­ducer, The Wind Rises

that the con­tra­dic­tions he dis­cov­ered within him­self were shared by many oth­ers who lived through the War. They loved beau­ti­fully de­signed ma­chines, but hated the wars they were used in. He felt it was an iden­tity is­sue many Ja­panese face, so the movie would raise ques­tions they could re­late to.

Jiro Horikoshi ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­larly con­tra­dic­tory feel­ings, and one se­quence of The Wind Rises shows his fel­low-engi­neers hiding him from the dreaded Spe­cial Higher Po­lice

de­ployed by the mil­i­taris­tic Ja­panese regime dur­ing the ’30s and ’40s.

“When Miyazaki thought about the Pa­cific War, he knew there were peo­ple who were op­posed to Ja­pan go­ing to war,” Suzuki says. “But peo­ple who raised their voice in protest were thrown into jail. Jiro’s life rep­re­sented what a lot of Ja­panese peo­ple had to do un­der those cir­cum­stances: put their best ef­fort into what they did best, even though they might not like it. Jiro’s call­ing hap­pened to be cre­at­ing fighter planes.”

“On March 11, 2011, we had a ma­jor earth­quake in Ja­pan, cre­at­ing a sit­u­a­tion that echoes the times de­picted in The Wind Rises. Miyazaki thought what the Ja­panese peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enced in the re­cent earth­quake re­called how the Zero Fighter plane helped to bring their coun­try to ruin. He thought au­di­ences in Ja­pan could un­der­stand and share the des­per­a­tion and dis­ap­point­ment Jiro felt.”

Some view­ers mis­un­der­stood Miyazaki’s evo­ca­tion of Horikoshi’s life, and he was un- fairly crit­i­cized as a right-wing na­tion­al­ist. The con­tro­versy ex­panded when Miyazaki, Suzuki and stu­dio co-founder Isao Taka­hata pub­lished es­says in the July is­sue of the Ghi­bli mag­a­zine Neppu declar­ing their op­po­si­tion to Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s ef­forts to change Ja­pan’s “peace con­sti­tu­tion.” The is­sue quickly sold out and the es­says were posted online by pop­u­lar de­mand. Suzuki con­cludes, “Miyazaki never thought that he should turn his per­sonal thoughts into a com­mer­cial movie, but I think The Wind Rises touched his most sen­si­tive

feel­ings.”

The Wind Rises had an Os­car-qual­i­fy­ing in Novem­ber. Dis­ney will re­lease the U.S. ver­sion of the film in the­aters on Fe­bru­ary 21, 2014.

Charles Solomon is a his­to­rian, critic and au­thor of books such as The Art of Frozen and The Art of the Dis­ney Golden Books (April 8).

Hayao Miyazaki The Artist’s Way: In his orig­i­nal pro­posal for The Wind Rises, Miyazaki wrote, “I wanted to por­tray a de­voted in­di­vid­ual who pur­sued his dream head on. Dreams pos­sess an el­e­ment of sad­ness, and such poi­son must not be con­cealed…yearn­ing for

Bur­den of Dreams: This re­port­edly fi­nal work by Miyazaki cen­ters on the life and dreams of Jiro Horikoshi, Ja­pan’s great aero­nau­ti­cal engi­neer, whose most cel­e­brated air­craft was the Zero figther plane that attacked Pearl Har­bor.

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