Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Wind Rises (2013) as an ode to mortality

It was in France quite some time ago that I was acquainted with anime, manga culture and boys who loved playing video games. Interesting boys, in general, sometimes even exciting. At a later point,  when I realised that they were more boys than men, I felt disappointed. C'est la vie, I guess.

Spirited Away (2001), Howl's Moving Castle (2004) and that anime version of Metropolis  (2001) made my heart beat fast back then. Same goes for Akira (1988) -how did it slip my mind that as a child I was given a View-Master and an Astro Boy reel; that was the humble beginnings of my love for that which does not exist. It was Candy Candy who taught me romance, after all.

French boys are all around these days, but they grew up. They even learnt how to hide their liking for anime and video games. And Hayao Miyazaki created this other imaginary boy, Jiro who is dreaming of airplanes and seems to be very much like Peter Pans who don't want to grow up. The character Jiro Horikoshi is loosely based on the life of an engineer of the same name who designed Japanese fighter planes during the World War II. 

Jiro in The Wind Rises (2013) -title borrowed from a poem by Paul Verlaine which goes: "Le vent se lève! il faut tenter de vivre!" (The wind is rising. We have to try to live!) - is dreaming of flying planes as a child and finds peace and solitude on his home's rooftop, until he finds out that he's nearsighted. Amending his dream, he wants to design those "beautiful dreams waiting to be swallowed by the sky”, and as a student he daydreams when eating mackerel of the curves of his future planes, similar to those of fishbones. He succeeds in working for a company making war planes, and in fact his success gives a controversial feeling overall; in essence he is helping people kill and getting killed, but I guess fulfilling one's dream is the pointer here and not the unpleasant details. Too much analysis spoils the whole thing, as it's hard to believe that the boyish, sweet character that Jiro is in the film could actually design the  Mitsubishi Zero airplane used by Japan for kamikaze operations.

But well, sweet characters could do wicked things, just because circumstances lead them to (Wicked, the musical evolves around the same theme more or less) and in real life people  tend to disregard the consequences of their actions. Humans as we are -Jiro being literally nearsighted can be used as a great metaphor: he is nearsighted/oblivious, when it comes to the use of his well-designed dreams, as well- we are unable to grasp the whole picture; we stick to our tiny concerns. Jiro is unable to save the world -if he wouldn't design the lethal plane, someone else would-  the same way he's unable to save his fiancé who suffers from tuberculosis. Being the opposite of omnipotent, the opposite of just and wise, that's what being mortal stands for, after all.

* Whimsical film by Hayao Miyazaki who announced it will be his last (hopefully we will take it back). Inspiring imagery and music (which go on for a tad too long in my humble opinion) made The Wind Rises the biggest grossing film by Miyazaki  ever and earned him numerous nominations, among others one in the Best Animation Film category at Academy Awards this year. We have yet to see how this works out.

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