Thursday, October 23, 2014

[Movie] The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises is a 2013 Japanses animated historical drama film by Studio Ghibli. It was also written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. I took interest in this movie because even though it's a fiction, it actually based on a real person named Jiro Horikoshi. I've always like animated biography like this one. And Jiro Horikoshi was the designer of Mitsubishi A5M and Mitsubishi A6M Zero from the World War 2 Pacific Theater. Although in this anime, the characters personal life was completely fictionalized.

The story began in 1916, where the young Jiro Horikoshi dreamt of being a pilot, but his poor eyesight forbids it. He spent his time reading magazine about aeroplane, and tried to improved his eyesight by stargazing.

As far as the eyesight exercise went, one night his sister joined his stargazing and told him that the shooting stars were beautiful, except Jiro couldn't see them. Afterward, he had a dream where met the famous Italian aircraft designer named Giovanni Battista Caproni. In his dream, Giovanni showed him the beauty of building planes where the builder will get the chance to fulfill his own heart desire in the plane's design. Jiro asked Giovanni whether he could ever build a plane because he obviously will never fly a plane due to his nearsightedness. Giovanni responded to him by saying he himself is not a pilot, but an aeronautical engineer who can turn dreams into reality. Jiro woke up with a new determination, he too will become an aeronautical engineer.

The story is fast forwarded seven years later. It was during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, where Jiro, a student of aeronautical engineering, was on his way to the Tokyo Imperial University by train. He met a young girl named Nahoko on the train, where the earthquake hit them causing the train to halt in emergency. He helped Nahoko and her maid to escape the predicament, and went on his way to the University that was badly damaged by the disaster.

The entire city was in flames, but as the gale blew over, Jiro found a postcard with Giovanni picture on it. He daydreamed about Giovanni with his newly invented aeroplane, and Giovanni asked him if the wind still rising. And Jiro responded that the wind is now like a gale. Giovanni advised him to continue living, if he wanted to fulfill his dream. The scene here may looked a bit weird, but there is a reason why the earthquake at that time is called the Great Kanto Earthquake. Over hundred of thousands of life lost during that catastrophe.

The story fast forwarded again for a few years, where Jiro graduated and join Mitsubishi aircraft manufacturer company in 1927 with his close friend, Kiro Honjo. Kiro Honjo is the person who designed the Mitsubishi G3M, the Imperial Japanese bomber and transport aircraft. Jiro however was assigned to the a fighter plane design team.

They both worked together although in different department, and shared the same dream of making better aeroplane. They both express different opinion about many things, one of it was the progress of Japan itself. Japan was in the verge of massive industrial revolution, but their economy were stressed to the point of breaking apart.

Kiro commented on how they still use oxen to haul their latest aircraft, saying that despite their technological advances, Japan is still backward in so many ways. Their airfield for aircraft testing was also a flatland grazing ground for the oxen. They had a late night discussion where Kiro told Jiro that their country paid a lot of money for German technology, so much that the amount can actually feed the hungry population. He was burdened by the irony that when they worked so hard for advanced aeroplane, they actually too poor to make it a reality.

But a job is still a job, Jiro and Kiro were sent by their company to Dessau in Germany for technology transfer and production license for a Junkers aircraft. At that time, Japan were aiming to built aeroplane with all-metal construction. However, their German counterpart were too tight-lipped to reveal their secrets. They also encountered a Gestapo, German Nazi secret police, night raid afterward, implying the brewing storm.

Back to Japan, Jiro is promoted to chief designer for fighter plane sponsored by the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was in 1932 that Jiro designed the Mitsubishi 1MF10 aeroplane. Although the design was advanced, it was rejected by the Navy for not meeting the performance requirement of the specification.

Afterward, Jiro visits a summer resort where he met Nahoko again. Nahoko had become a fine lady, and both of them become engaged. However, Nahoko refused to get married because she has tuberculosis and wanted to wait until she recovered. It was also in that summer resort that Jiro met with Hans Castorp, a German tourist, who seemed to know a little bit too much.

Hans Castorp was critical of the Nazi regime, and revealed that he had come to Japan to 'forget' things. He assist in Jiro and Nahoko romance, before disappearing to avoid arrest by Japanese authorities. Having a connection with Hans Castorp, Japanese authorities also seeks Jiro out but his supervisor hide him so that he could concentrate with his work.

Meanwhile, Nahoko health deteriorate even further. Fearing that there wouldn't much time left, they both get married. Though Jiro's sister, who became a doctor, warns Jiro that tuberculosis is incurable and doesn't want his brother to suffer a broken heart. But Jiro remained steadfast and spend some time with his newly wed wife.

Jiro left for the test flight of his new prototype aircraft, the Mitsubishi A5M. At that time, Nahoko secretly return to the sanatorium and leave letters for Jiro, her family and friends, sensing her own end drawing near and wishes Jiro to remember her the way she was. Jiro was distracted by a sudden gust of wind, almost sensing Nahoko's death, while he was on the test site. Even though his prototype was successful, he felt that he lost something else instead.

The film ended with Jiro walking on a field filled with wrecked aeroplanes. It was during the World War 2, where Jiro's inventions where put to use by the Japanese government, as instruments of war. He had a dream again, and met with Giovanni again. He expressed his regret for the turnout of his dream, but Giovanni comforts him by saying that his dream of building incredible aeroplane was realized nonetheless. Then a group of Mitsubishi A6M aeroplanes, codenamed Zero, flew past them. Giovanni praise him for such magnificent aeroplane, but with heavy sigh, Jiro replied that not a single plane returned.  Jiro's wife, Nahoko appeared, and encourage him to continue to live his life to the fullest.

Although this film had sparked some controversies, especially because the whole plot was revolving around a man who contribute to the creation of war machines, even though the protagonist personal details were highly fictitious, but I think I can relate the story. In real life, Jiro Horikoshi himself is actually quite critical to the Imperial Japanese government. It was revealed from his personal diary that he was strongly opposed against the war carried out by his own country, and never believed that they even had the chance to win the war. All he ever wanted....


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