Kaze Tachinu (2013)

We all know that Hayao Miyazaki is deeply obsessed with airplanes, blimps, or any machinery of aviation. This obsession reveals itself as various flying objects in his works. Sometimes, they are merely products of his imagination, such as Möwe in NAISICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND, the castle in HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, or Kiki’s broom in KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE, but in many cases, his obsession with early aviation history manifests, as amphibians and speed planes in PORCO ROSSO. He likes to draw large biplanes, triplanes, or any other exotic airplanes from the first half of 20th century, paying extra attentions to details. He painstakingly animates this sense of ‘lift’, weightlessness at takeoff, or sense of wonder during flying. So, it is no surprise that Hayao Miyazaki’s new film is based on the true story of Jiro Horikoshi, the legendary Japanese aircraft designer. It has been debated, however, how Miyazaki would handle the most critical topic about this hero of Japanese aviation technology: he designed many of the successful fighter airplanes during Sino-Japan War and Pacific War, including Mitsubishi A5M fighter, ‘Claude’ and A6M fighter, ‘Zero’. The latter has gained notoriety for being the instrument of military madness; they were the symbol of Kamikaze attacks in the last days of the Pacific Theatre. We speculated how Miyazaki, known for his strong pacifist philosophy, would handle this topic, especially when the current political climate in Japan is leaning toward ‘re-militarization’, i.e. enabling ‘the right of collective self-defense’. In essence, his inner child loves to draw planes, to animate them, and to make them fly in his imagined world, while his adult mind tells him they are the devilish instruments of mass murder. How does he resolve this conflict?
Well, he didn’t. Sort of. And come to think of it, he didn’t have to.

KAZE TACHINU starts with Jiro’s encounter with the pioneer of aviation, Giovanni Battista Caproni, in his dreams. This encounter in Jiro’s dreams recurs throughout the film, and the fabricated Caproni becomes Jiro’s inspirational mentor. His life trots through the turmoil of 1920’s and 1930’s: Great Kanto Earthquake, Depression, road to fascism and subsequent war. Jiro, always a polite young man with thick glasses, is described as a a cool-headed genius of aviation technologies, rarely expressing interests in politics beyond a few words. The main plot is tied to the romance between Jiro and Naoko, a young lady Jiro meets in a fashionable resort hotel during vacation. We feel the ethical theme of conflict between love of aviation (Jiro’s life is aviation) and creating the weapon, but just the feel. Rather, it is more appropriate that we see the world through the narrow view of Jiro’s, concentrating on his own life, his own job, and his own obsession. Strange feel of detachment, slightly disorienting sensation, like breathing through the womb of daydreams lingered after. I don’t know, but I always feel Miyazaki creates the intricately-built world of imagination, which ends where his pen stops. Nothing beyond. It is his powerful narrative that puts us into this cardboard world. It continuously fascinates us, and overwhelms us.
This is the most beautiful animation ever put on the screen. It was produced with meticulous care, stroke by stroke, with little aid from modern visual effects technologies. Even the last credit rolls are written by hand, so each character is different. Clouds are painted with brushes, not by the 3D modeling of vapors. Noises of airplane engines were done with human voices, not with the synthesized sounds. Miyazaki and Ghibri tried very hard to create imagination, not an entertainment. This is the labor of love. This would have never been done in Hollywood. This would have never been done in any other Japanese anime studios. Hideaki Anno, who supplied the voice of Jiro, himself said he wouldn’t make this kind of film. In a sense, KAZE TACHINU is the ultimate result of evolution of old-school animation. That’s why I wonder where Miyazaki and Ghibri would go from here. More than twenty years ago, Miyazaki said, “they should quit making those animes with a girl blustering a machine gun implanted in her arm”. Well, they didn’t. These animes are produced one after another, consumed one after another, and reproduced one after another. Miyazaki is still trying very hard to create something that is not meant to be consumed. But the problem is, we, consumers, devour everything. Like No Face in Miyazaki’s SPIRITED AWAY. 
(風立ちぬ, THE WIND RISES, 2013)
Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by Toshio Suzuki
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New Film by Hayao Miyazaki

KAZE TACIHNU (風立ちぬ, The Wind Has Risen), the new film by Hayao Miyazaki in 5 years, opened in theaters today. Miyazaki, the creator of notable anime films such as MY NEIGHBOR, TOTORO and SPIRITED AWAY, wrote and directed this story of the real airplane designer, Jiro Horikoshi (1903 – 1982). Jiro Horikoshi revolutionized fighter airplanes of Japanese Imperial Army and Navy, the most notable example being Mitsubishi A6M carrier fighter, ‘Zero’. The story follows Horikoshi’s life in the time of Kanto Earthquake, subsequent totalitarian regime and the war.

Miyazaki, an advocate of the Japanese Constitution, has been especially vocal against the political climate in Japan these days. The Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his LDP has proposed the revision of the Constitution, in an attempt to institutionalize the military and to “Japanize” the current practice of human rights and freedom of speech. Miyazaki calls this policy “out of question”, and criticizes Abe’s economical reformation and energy policies. It is as if the release date of the new film was planned to coincide with National Election for the House of Councilors. Gibli’s monthly publication, NEPPU, went viral over last week. July issue collects essays by Miyazaki, Takahata and other Gibli creators, expressing the strong opposition against Shinzo Abe’s politics. In this context, this new film is fascinating. It focuses on the character, who created the machinery of the war. On the other hand, it celebrates the life despite the time of confusion and horror.
Japanese society today somewhat resembles to that in the decades leading to WWII. Revisionists are everywhere from TV to bookstores, claiming no such thing as Nanjing Massacre and Comfort Women. Japan was rather a victim of international Imperialism than an aggressor. The Constitution was not our own, imposed on us by U.S. These ‘political’ claims are spewed over Twitter, Facebook or 2ch. Every week, the hate groups rally in the Korean Town with “Kill the Koreans” signs. Amidst all this, the film is released. I don’t know how this film and Gibli’s courageous stand on political issues would fare in this strangely bleak age of stagnation and simmering anger.

Ozu’s color films to be restored

According to Tokyo Shinbun, NFC (National Film Center) in Tokyo announced the plan to restore Yosujiro Ozu’s four color films, such as AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON and LATE AUTUMN, using the state-of-art digital technology. These films are already showing some decay and fading. To restore the color of these films, it is necessary to collect the knowledge of the people who were involved in Ozu’s production directly. Archivists are alarmed of the loss of such knowledge, since these ex-staffs are becoming too old.

This program is the part of 110th anniversary of Ozu, and these restored versions of the four films will be shown in the retrospective in November this year.
Takashi Kawamata (87), the chief assistant cinematographer in Ozu’s later works, recollects how Ozu worked with color films: “Ozu-san preferred “half-asleep” AGFA film stock to KODAK, since the latter made the sky too blue. He was so obsessed with red, and spent many hours to decide where to put the red pot in AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON.”
The films are digitally restored to Fujifilm’s ETERNA film stocks, which are said to last more than 500 years. This is the first time the product is used for the feature-length film restoration.