Given the challenges encountered, Jiro wisely takes this to heart. For he will experience the 1923 Kanto earthquake, the Great Depression, a tuberculosis epidemic that affects the love of his life, and world war. In addition, despite his desire to become a pilot, his weak eyesight prohibits his realizing that ambition. Inspired by the contemporary Italian engineer Caproni who says, "Inspiration unlocks the future; technology eventually catches up," Jiro turns his passion and talent to airplane design.
The story follows Jiro's dreams, both literal and figurative, as events present his imaginative ideas. About halfway through the film, the plot shifts to his romantic interests and slows down, but through every minute, the animation remains extraordinary in every detail: the power of the earthquake, the depiction of people's breath, steam from a train, smoke from a match, the movement of water and clouds, sunsets, the shifts of camera angles.
Some have criticized Miyazaki for choosing as his subject a fighter plane designer, but the values espoused here are entirely admirable. Jiro promotes love and friendship, damns bullying, offers food to the hungry, and is unhappy "his aircraft are destined to be used as tools of destruction." The truly sad note is that Miyazaki, now in his 70s, has announced this is final film. He has given us "Princess Mononoke," "Ponyo," and, my favorite, "Spirited Away." He has inspired many animators who will work to honor his legacy. "The Wind Rises" is nominated for this year's Best Animated Feature Academy Award and has won numerous other awards this past year.
This English dubbed version of the film originally in Japanese showcases a fine job by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jiro, John Krasinski as Jiro's friend Honjo, Emily Blunt as love interest Nahoko, and Stanley Tucci as Italian engineer Caproni. Check listings for a cinema near you for "The Wind Rises."