Release Date(s)2013 (September 22, 2020)
Studio(s)Studio Ghibli/Nippon Television/Toho (GKids/Shout! Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
“The wind is rising. We must try to live!”
As a young boy living in Japan in 1916, Jiro dreams of beautiful airplanes. Inspired by tales of the great Giovanni Caproni in borrowed aviation magazines, Jiro decides that he’s going to become an aeronautical engineer. Several years later, Jiro is riding the train back to his studies at Tokyo Imperial University when the Great Kanto earthquake strikes. In its aftermath, he meets a young girl named Naoko, and ends up helping her (and her injured maid) through the devastation back to her family. More years pass. As the Japanese economy falters in the late 1920s, Jiro and his friend Kiro are hired by Mitsubishi to work on the company’s aircraft design teams. Jiro dives right in and quickly proves his value with hard work and innovative thinking. Jiro and Kiro are soon sent to Germany to study aircraft technology, where they encounter much suspicion and witness a Gestapo raid. Jiro is unsettled by all this. But while he knows that the aircraft he’s developing are “cursed dreams” destined to be used in war, he perseveres. As Caproni says to Jiro in his dreams: “I prefer a world with pyramids in it.” So when, upon his return, Jiro is tasked with leading a design team to build a new fighter plane for the Japanese Navy, he commits to give the project his all. Then one day while on retreat, Jiro encounters Naoko once more, now a beautiful young women. Naoko has never forgotten Jiro and the two quickly fall in love, but not before she reveals that she has tuberculosis. This matters not to Jiro—as with his work, he commits to her fully. So as the world plunges into war, Jiro struggles to realize his dream of building a beautiful airplane, sacrificing everything but his love for Naoko to do the very best job he can.
Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises is a singularly unique film among his body of work, very much the culmination of his long career. It’s been criticized in some quarters for ‘romanticizing’ the life of the real Jiro Horikoshi, but it’s important to note that Miyazaki is not attempting to make a biographical film here. Rather, he’s trying to illuminate what he sees as a deep problem in modern industrial society. The essence of this can be found in a quote by Horikoshi that inspired Miyazaki to make the film: “All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.” The real Horikoshi was obviously an aeronautical engineer in WWII who, as a young man, wanted to make the very best aircraft he could. Unfortunately, that very best aircraft turned out to be the deadly Type 0 Carrier Fighter or the “Zero” as it’s known in America. It’s unclear how much Horikoshi actually regretted the result of his life’s work, but that’s not really the point. The details of his life as depicted in The Wind Rises have been greatly fictionalized—not to gloss over his actions, but rather to better allow Miyazaki to explore how and why the innocent dreams of childhood can sometimes be perverted by society at large into terrible things. It’s worth mentioning that this film is based in part on a novel by the poet Tatsuo Hori, concerning a woman in a sanitarium with tuberculosis—clearly the inspiration for the character Naoko.
It’s also apparent to me that The Wind Rises is a deeply personal film for Miyazaki. He seems to have imbued the character of Jiro with some of his own emotions and traits. I suspect Miyazaki is examining something of a contradiction in his own life: Since he was a child, he’s had a deep fascination for war planes (the name of Studio Ghibli comes from the Caproni Ca.309 “Ghibli” aircraft—and obviously Caproni appears as a character in this film), yet Miyazaki considers himself a pacifist. The older he gets, the more such things seem to trouble him, so he’s using his films to explore them. Are Jiro’s choices right or wrong? That’s not the real question. Whatever else they may be, Miyazaki seems to be saying, Jiro’s choices are deeply human. Anyone can find themselves living in tough times, amid larger events that are out of their control. But when this wind rises, good or bad, we must face it head on. Sometimes, it’s not enough to just survive. You have to really live.
GKids and Shout! Factory have released The Wind Rises in a new Blu-ray edition with stunning video quality. Much like the 2014 Disney release (reviewed here on The Bits), this disc is simply gorgeous, presenting the original hand-drawn animation in full 1080p HD at the proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio. I’m a huge fan of traditional animation—I much prefer it over modern CG. For me, it’s just so much more artistically expressive, personal, and human. Every bit of the love and care that Miyazaki and his animation team have put into this film is apparent here, in crystal clear detail, with bold, vibrant colors. Blacks are deep, the color palate is rich, and there’s nary a bit of artifacting.
Audio-wise, the GKids disc is equally pleasing. Both the original Japanese audio and the English dubbed track are available in 2.0 “dual mono” (traditional in Japan for a film like this) in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio format. The quality is excellent for a mono mix, with clear dialogue, atmospheric sound effects, and composer Joe Hisaishi’s score well blended. Though I would never choose to watch the film with the dubbed audio, the Disney produced track is of good quality too. It was directed by Gary Rydstrom and features the voice talents of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Werner Herzog, William H. Macy, Mandy Patinkin, Stanley Tucci and others. I appreciate that many Americans don’t like reading subtitles, but trust me—a foreign film is always best experienced in its native language.
To that end, optional subtitles are available here in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (for the English dub track), English for the Original Language Version, and French. Better still, the English for the Original Language Version subs are the same ones found on the Studio Ghibli Japanese BD release (they were done by a company called Aura, with dialogue translation by Jim Hubbert and Rieko Izutsu-Vajirasarn). This is important, because they appear to be more comprehensive and better reflect Japanese cultural context. There are key differences between this track and the translation subs found on the Disney BD: When Jiro and Naoko speak French briefly upon first meeting, the Aura subs present (but do not translate) the French text properly, while the subs on the Disney Blu-ray did nothing at all. These Aura subs also translate the end credit song lyrics, whereas the Disney subs again did nothing. I’d like to offer my thanks to Shout! and GKids for correcting Disney’s carelessness.
In terms of special features, the new Shout!/GKids release includes the following:
- Behind the Microphone (HD – 10:47)
- 10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki documentary episode (Episode 4: No Cheap Excuses – HD – 49:32)
- Flim Completion Press Conference (HD – 82:47)
- Feature-Length Storyboards (HD – 126:33)
- Original Trailers & TV Spots (HD – 12 in all – 9:30)
In order to properly evaluate the quality of the bonus features on this Blu-ray, it’s worth comparing them to those on the original Japanese Blu-ray, which was produced by Studio Ghibli. The Japanese disc contains the complete screenplay, the film presented in storyboards, a 5-minute featurette on singer Yumi Matsutoya (who wrote the closing credits song), the film’s 83-minute completion press conference with Miyazaki, actor Hideaki Anno (who voiced Jiro and is also a director whose work includes the live-action Shin Godzilla and the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion), and Matsutoya, 3 Japanese theatrical trailers and 9 Japanese TV spots.
Disney’s 2014 Blu-ray retained the Japanese storyboard version of the film, as well as the original Japanese trailers and TV spots. It also retained the 83-minute press conference, which is fascinating because in the course of the interview, Miyazaki offers numerous insights about his inspirations and motivations behind the film. There’s also a poignant moment near the end when Anno reveals that he considers Miyazaki his mentor, and you can see that there are tears in Miyazaki’s eyes. Disney’s disc omitted the Japanese screenplay and the piece on Matsutoya, but added Behind the Microphone which is a look at the efforts of Rydstrom and the English voice cast to create the dubbed English audio.
GKids and Shout! have essentially carried over all of the extras from the Disney Blu-ray and added something new: an episode of NHK’s 10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki documentary series, directed by Kaku Arakawa. The series has four episodes in all—only Episode Four is included here, as it deals directly with the making of this film. (The other episodes—which focus on the making of Tales from Earthsea, Ponyo, and From Up on Poppy Hill—haven’t been released on disc yet here in the States, but you can view them for free online on the NHK website). The GKids/Shout! package also adds a DVD version of the film (with some of the same extras), as well as a booklet with a written statement by producer Toshio Suzuki and Miyazaki’s own Director’s Statement—a nice touch.
Hayao Miyazaki is a masterful filmmaker at the top of his game, arguably the most important figure in animation today. After completing The Wind Rises in 2013, he officially announced his retirement… and subsequently un-retired in 2017. Now 79, he’s once again hard at work on his next film, How Do You Live?, an adaptation of the 1937 Japanese novel of the same name by Yoshino Genzaburo. Judging by the title, it would seem to be an extension of the themes he began exploring here.
Though loosely based on a real person in a realistic setting (and certainly his most mature work), The Wind Rises still offers wonderfully fantastical elements in Jiro’s dream world—beautiful animated moments that are pure Miyazaki. Ultimately, The Wind Rises is a film for our age. It’s about how ordinary human beings rise to meet challenges, defy adversity, and truly live amid turbulent times. It’s also a film I’ve come to appreciate more with time, for every year it seems to be more relevant. Like all of GKids and Shout! Factory’s recent Studio Ghibli Blu-ray re-issues, this disc is truly the definitive U.S. release of the film. As such, it’s highly recommended.
- Bill Hunt