At the start of the US version of the The Wind Rises, the distributor is Touchstone Pictures. At the start of the Japanese version, it's Toho Studios. I smiled and chuckled when that shining Toho emblem blazed away before the Totoro of the Studio Ghibli mark. The Touchstone Picture mark didn't do anything for me. Will my reaction color how I perceived the US dub versus the original Japanese soundtrack? Of course it will!

The Wind Rises is the last film directed by the great animation director, Hayao Miyazaki. He sails off to retirement with my favorite of his. It beats out Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke as a film. That's because Miyazaki finally tells a story that could've been done as a live action film, and he makes an anime highly similar to something Satoshi Kon would've done. Miyazaki fulfills my tenant of a great animated film: using the animation medium to tell mature stories. The film is not one of his flights of fancy, but a well grounded story that soars because of his deft touch.

The film is about the aeronautics designer for the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces, Jiro Horikoshi. He designs planes for a living and his designs rained death and destruction on the world. Except that Jiro is a gentle soul only designing airplanes for their majesty in flight and not for their destructive nature. His superiors direct him to make them so; he makes them so that they are elegant. One of the critiques of the film is that Miyazaki lightly touches on this aspect of the creation of war machines, yet in every moment of planes engaging in war Miyazaki, through Jiro, shudders and recoils at the thought of using such beautiful machines for such ugliness.

Jiro is an engineer who expresses his creativity through the designs of his craft. That his works of art cause death and destruction do not take away from the diligent and excellent work he does. The engineer's job is to design. It is not to lead a nation to war. To complain about Horikoshi's work is to complain as if one had the higher moral authority. Yet, who can do such a thing? We all have ugliness somewhere in our nation (see 12 Years A Slave).

The film follows Jiro as a young dreamer to the wizened, middle aged man father of the Zero. It deviates to tell of Jiro's love with a younger lady. She completes him and pushes him to finish his work. She also is sickened by tuberculosis so their love is tragic.

Miyazaki has made a great film which time will only validate as such. I was saddened that Disney's Frozen beat it out. The category of Best Animated Feature Film should be renamed as Best Cartoon because I doubt that Frozen is a better film. I doubt that it is any better than the Lion King, and I'm not a big fan of hakuna-matata.

I'm glad I caught The Wind Rises in the theatre. It was at the Charles with the Japanese version and Hunt Valley with the US voice cast. Both were sparsely attended. My favorite sequence in the film is the Great Canto Earthquake especially the sound of it as it crashed through the land. *GOONG*

5 of 5 stars.

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