Now that this review has reached the highest levels of pretentiousness in just one paragraph, I can finally introduce "The Wind Rises", the latest film from Hayao Miyazaki. "The Wind Rises" was just this Sunday nominated for Best Animated Feature, having been released already in Japan, and last fall given an extremely limited subtitled run in New York and Los Angeles in order to make it eligible for Oscar contention. At the end of last month it was given another dubbed release, first only in major cities, and then a wider one across the United States. Yesterday I finally got a chance to see it. This review easily could have come out months ago, but I knew a proper Hayao Miyazaki film experience could not be enjoyed online or from cheap torrents. I have never actually seen Hayao's work in theaters, and that was something that I had to do once before I died - I still have centuries of life left to live, but there's no reason to put off something as important as this.
"The Wind Rises" is a very loose adaptation of the life of Jiro Horikoshi (played in Japanese by none other than "Evangelion" creator Hideaki Anno), the aeronautical engineer who was the lead designer of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the main Japanese fighter aircraft in WWII, and one of the greatest fighters of all time. Miyazaki fictionalizes Jiro's personal life, creating a female love interest, Naoko, based upon the main protagonist of the 1937 Japanese novel "The Wind Has Risen" ("Kaze Tachinu") by Hori Tatsuo, from which this movie gets its name. Jiro is a young man in love with the air, fascinated by plane designs, who wishes to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Italian WWI bomber engineer and pioneer of air travel, Count Giovanni Caproni. Despite the film being Miyazaki's most grounded yet - a very serious adult drama taking place almost entirely in the real world - Miyazaki indulges in his own whimsical instincts by having Jiro meet with Count Caproni in their dreams, where the old Italian mentors the young Japanese boy, as together they ride their dream aircraft to a both violent and beautiful future.