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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Wind Rises (2014) Anime movie review



Overall verdict: 9.5/10

The Good: spectacular hand coloured artwork, lifelike animation without CGI, heartwarming story, smart humour, themes touching on the price of chasing one's dreams, energetic and vibrant tone despite lack of action. 

The Bad: flat acting from main lead character, repetitive musical themes.

3D Readiness: none.
IMax-ability: Beautiful animation and art may make this suitable for iMax screen

******************************Review*****************************
So, a movie about the engineer who created the scourge of World War Two's pacific arena: Japan's Zero Fighter. One may not expect a fully positive reaction about such a story. The zeros were after all highly feared and brought a swift Japanese domination to East Asia. Yet through the masterful visual storytelling of anime maestro Hayao Miyazaki, this story is adapted into a timeless tale about one man who dared to dream and dared to chase that dream, for better or for worse.

Jiro Horikoshi is a boy with ambition. He aims to create the most advanced aircraft in the world; not as weapons of war but as constructs of beauty of splendour compared to the pyramids of Egypt. Spured on by vivid visions of his hero, a classic italian plane designer named Caproni, Jiro chases his dream. Yet events in life threaten to crush those dreams. First, a disastrous earthquake and fire in which Jiro's selfless nature touches the heart of a girl named Naoko. Then, when he finally lands a job with an aircraft manufacturer, his projects are plagued with failure after failure. A fateful encounter with Naoko years later lands the young couple deeply in love. Jiro, now torn between his ever more time consuming dreams and his steadily weakening wife,  has to bear the full consequence of the choices in his life.

The Wind Rises is the much advertised swan song of Hayao Miyazaki. And boy does he go out with a good one. Miyazaki peppers this movie with studio Ghibli's little touches of fantasy, particularly in the dream sequences. Easily his most heart wrenching story, the tale of Jiro is emotionally powerful with some genuine tear jerking moments. Although devoid of action, the story moves at a brisk pace through Jiro's life. The fun comes from the various colourful characters Jiro meets along his journey. From his future darling to a quirky German man critical of Hitler's regime, all these characters lend colour to what could have been a dull biopic.

To present this lively vision, Studio Ghibli utilises 100% hand drawn and coloured animation. Immediately, the animation has the look of the old classics while still being able to stand toe to toe with modern anime. It is almost lifelike in how smooth the movements of the characters are. Character designs are simple, yet the level of detail shows that the studio spared no expense on the animation. Visual metaphors abound and certain scenes are given some exaggeration as if coloured by Jiro's own emotions and imagination. The result is a beautiful, dynamic, and refreshing visual style that complements the story.

The Wind Rises is surprisingly loaded with symbolism and easter eggs for long time anime fans who are willing to dig deeper. In a way, the story of Jiro and the aeroplane mirrors that of Japanese anime and possibly Miyazaki's message to a new generation of anime creators looking to follow in his footsteps.

Like the Zero Fighter, anime started off content with copying the style of western cartoons. Through some brave pioneers pushing the boundaries, anime evolved into its own style and like the Zero Fighter, surpassed its western contemporaries. In the dreamscape, Caprioni talks to Jiro of retiring and how Jiro should continue to chase his dreams despite the fear that his designs would be used for war.  That's Miyazaki speaking; encouraging new creators to find their own style, forge their own stories, and no matter how companies may twist the medium to its own selfish gain, animation will always be a thing of beauty. Fitting then that Hideaki Anno, controversial creator of infamous anime such as Gunbuster and Neon Genesis Evangelion, be the one to portray the voice of Jiro, a similarly controversial figure in history.

A minor flaw with the movie would be the main character. Jiro himself is a little bit of a bore. He is the boy scout who stands up for the bullied, the smart savvy man who leaves his rivals speechless in an argument. All this is not helped by Hideki Anno's flat and emotionally deficient delivery of Jiro's lines. Thats what you get when a director tries to be an actor. The initial romance between Jiro and Naoko may also come across as mind numbingly cheesy, but their eventual life together and trials they face is a big emotional payoff.

 A bittersweet little yarn with all the makings of an anime classic, The Wind Rises proves that hand drawn 2D animation still has a place in a market saturated by 3D CGI and increasingly flashy computer coloured anime. Watch it for the tragic love story, the colourful characters, the symbolism and deeper themes. As the wind rises, so too does the standard on which good anime is measured. 

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Entertainment: A
Story: A
Characters: A
Animation: A
Art: A
Music: B+
Voice work (japanese): A-
Replay Value: A
"Brains": A-

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