by Candice Frederick

Every so often comes an animated film that is so much more than family entertainment; more than just colorful, prettily drawn graphics over which children can gush. Those films are too often identified as "the new Lion King" or "the best animated movie since The Little Mermaid." But The Wind Rises, from the critically acclaimed director of Spirited Away, is a statement piece--a film that needs no qualifier or precedence. It is simply magnificent.

Inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's manga of the same title, and loosely adapted from the short story The Wind Has Risen by Tatsuo Hori, The Wind Rises dramatizes the true story of Jiro Horikoshi, the chief engineer of many Japanese fighter planes during World War II. Presented as a historical fiction tale told in spectacular dream sequences, the film depicts his life as a nearsighted young boy in Japan with aspirations of becoming a pilot who ultimately inspires those around him by pushing the boundaries and becoming someone much greater.

What would you do if you could do anything? That's one of the questions the film asks as audiences become entranced by this glorious story bursting with hope, determination, and success against the odds. When we meet our young hero, Jiro, he has almost come to terms with the realization that he won't ever become a pilot because of his nearsightedness. But after one fantastical meeting with an early 20th century Italian aeronautical engineer, Giovanni Battista Caproni, who appears literally out of the blue after Jiro falls asleep one day, the young boy's outlook completely changes. Caproni, as Jiro comes to call him, becomes a dream tour guide, showing Jiro that his life is not determined by his challenges. In fact, in this dream world Jiro has the freedom to go far beyond the limits of reality where his options are limitless. There he is not bound by his age, shortcomings, or even racial barriers.

The latter is one of the film's most galvanizing concepts, as it allows for the viewer to move even further into the fantasy and sink deeper into the story's objective. Caproni takes Jiro under his wing, and as Jiro grows older and excels in the field of engineering, he earns the respect of not only his Japanese peers back home (including his scrutinizing boss Mr. Kurokawa), but he piques the interests of German competitors during a time when political and cultural turmoil are at an all-time high.

Balancing accelerating career accomplishments with a soft romantic angle, The Wind Rises surges forward with the blossoming romance between Jiro and a young woman he meets on a particularly blustery day in Japan named Nahoko. With the backdrop of war and increasing civil strife (illuminated by the exquisite art design and musical score), their love for one another shines that much brighter and transcends distance, realms, and even disease (Nahoko is later diagnosed with a lung hemorrhage).


Candice Frederick is a former editor for Essence Magazine and a NABJ Award recipient. She writes the film blog Reel Talk, is a contributor for Black Girl Nerds, and serves as co-host of “Cinema in Noir”. Follow her on Twitter @ReelTalker.

Either at the top or the bottom of the piece should probably mention that this is a cross-post, re-published with permission and include a link to the original post:

This post has been re-published with permission by Reel Talk. Jiro's expansive journey into the bowels of his imagination opens the hearts and minds of audiences, encouraging us all to dream a little bigger and fly a little farther. The voice actors who breathe life into these marvelous characters--including Kayo, Jiro's loyal sister-- offer a sense of humanity in light of the film's wondrous and sometimes solemn nature. A beautiful--and now Oscar-nominated--swan song from Miyazaki, The Wind Rises is a breathtaking ode to what is and what could be. It's the ultimate underdog story that teaches us that even when "the wind is rising, we must try to live."

The Wind Rises will be released in U.S. theaters February 21st. Watch the trailer:

This post has been re-published with permission by Reel Talk



Candice Frederick is a former editor for Essence Magazine and a NABJ Award recipient. She writes the film blog Reel Talk, is a contributor for Black Girl Nerds, and serves as co-host of “Cinema in Noir”. Follow her on Twitter @ReelTalker.