Ghibli's New Movie Is Beautiful (But It Has Its Problems)

This past weekend, The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ), the newest film from acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki was released in theatres across Japan. But how does Studio Ghibli's latest film stack up against classics like Spirited Away, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and Princess Mononoke? Read on to find out!

This review contains spoilers about the general nature and background of the film.

Good — Historical Fiction

Set in first part of the twentieth century, The Wind Rises is a great look at Imperial Japan in the decades leading up to the Second World War through the eyes of aeroplane designer Jiro Horikoshi. It not only shows city and country life in Japan during this time but also shows major events like the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and its terrible aftermath. It is also a great look at the evolution of aeroplane design and all the little changes and inventions that took aeroplanes from the Wright Brothers’ original model to the fighter planes of World War II.

Good — Dreams and Inspiration

Unlike most Miyazaki films, The Wind Rises is set in the real world. Thus all supernatural elements of the film come in the form of dreams and daydreams. In these dreams, Jiro is able to interact with his inspiration on a personal level. Often this comes in the form of notable aeroplane designer Giovanni Battista Caproni — Jiro's childhood idol.

These scenes are the best part of the film; where he encounters fantastical aeroplane designs that could never work in the real world and is able to realise his ultimate creation, the Zero, in dream-form years before it is actually built.

Mixed — aeroplane Porn

If you've ever seen Miyazaki's previous work, Porco Rosso, you'll have some idea of how much he loves the planes of the 1920s and 1930s. But this film takes it to a whole new level. The Wind Rises is filled to the brim with planes of every shape and size and it is not ashamed to spend minutes at a time doing nothing but watching them fly in all their animated glory. If, however, that doesn't seem quite like your cup of tea, you may find parts of the movie more than a little boring.

Mixed — Narrative Convenience for the Sake of Melodrama

The Wind Rises is based on two things: the real life of Jiro Horikoshi — the creator of the Zero aircraft, and the novel The Wind Has Risen — the fictional story of a girl suffering from tuberculosis. For the most part, this mixing of the real world and the fictional works well, with Jiro's personal life centering around falling in love with the aforementioned girl and his professional life exploring the evolution of aeroplanes in the early twentieth century. The ending of the film, however, is such a clichéd, bittersweet tragedy — such an over-the-top piece of narrative convenience — that much of the emotional impact is lost.

Bad — Mouth-Made Sound Effects

The sound design in The Wind Rises is generally top tier, except in one reoccurring area. Sometimes, things like the wind, an earthquake, and a train engine are clearly done by someone making noises into a microphone instead of being a traditional sound effect. Worse still, not only are these mouth-made sound effects discordant with the rest of the sound design — and thus serve to pull the viewer out of the movie — they are also inconsistent in their use. Sometimes the blowing wind is a normal effect; sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the sounds of a plane engine is a normal effect; sometimes it’s not. This makes the mouth-made effects stand out all the more.

Random Thoughts

Unlike many of Miyazaki's movies, this movie is not going to be remembered as a great family classic. Children will simply find little in this movie to hold their interest. The film is the story of a man’s life, his dreams, how he falls in love, and nothing more. There is little action, and the incredibly beautiful and more than a little crazy dream sequences are few and far between.

Final Thoughts

As far as Studio Ghibli movies go, The Wind Rises doesn't reach the excellence of films like Spirited Away, but neither is it a terrible film. It is a decent slice-of-life tale that succeeds or fails based on the beauty of the animation and how interested you are in the subject matter. If you enjoyed the aesthetics of Porco Rosso or enjoy historical fiction dramas, be sure to check out this one.

The Wind Rises was released in Japanese theatres on July 20, 2013. No official Western release date has been announced.



    It can't be worse than Tales of Earthsea.

      I actually liked Tales of Earthsea, assuming you treat it separately from it's namesake books.

      I find the original stories better than historical or adaptions though.

    Interesting that you say "The film is the story of a man’s life, his dreams, how he falls in love, and nothing more.", since when I saw it over the weekend, everyone was given a post card with a QR code. It asked you what you thought the story was about and lets you contact the producer.

    Not saying that what you're saying is wrong, just that it looks like they were maybe trying for something more.

    I enjoyed the movie regardless, although less fantastical that I hoped for.

    Technically Nausicaä was pre-Ghibli. I think people come to expect things from Miyazaki and Ghibli but unlike Disney, to whom he and Ghibli are often compared to, they don't deliver the same shit repackaged over and over. He has his distinct way of story telling, but I think people expect every Ghibli film to be another Mononoke, Totoro or Spirited Away. I'm looking forward to this one!

    "Mouth-Made Sound Effects"

    I dont know why but I have in my head Strong Bad's voice from "Teen Girl Squad".

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